I just casually googled someone’s house today, and discovered it’s for sale.
The realisation hit me that it’s for sale because she’s dead. Though she’s likely been dead a while, it still reduced me to crying on the sofa for a few minutes.
There’s a theory that everything is on the internet, somewhere. But it’s not. Some things are hidden away in the corners of Scotland and memories. No matter how much I google, there’s no pictures of the pond, or of Mrs McCulloch herself.
I keep thinking ‘She was at least seventy’ but that was 20 years ago.
20 years and some of my clearest memories of that time are of her, and Glenrazie house. There used to be a sign with ‘Glenrazie house’ on it, where that white stick is, in the picture.
We’d rented a holiday caravan from her, every year, from before I could remember. My first stuffed toy was a cat that I called Razie, which she gave me at 3 months old. I’ve still got Razie.
She’d pick me up from my holiday caravan (the only one, tucked away behind her house) and take me for a morning walk round the pond almost every day that we were there. It has capital letters, those words; The Pond. We’d take her dog, Bobby. I had no concept that Bobby was an actual people name, and insisted that he was called that because he bobs up and down when he runs. He must have been at least seventy too, in dog years.
I’d babble away like four year olds do, insisting on counting all the slugs we’d walk past, cramming brambles into my mouth. (did I babble? I remember being scared of her, in a vague grown-up-who-i-don’t-want-to-offend sort of way.) Sometimes we’d be back from the beach, or fishing, early enough to take another walk in the evening, round the local woods and I’d get to ride in her car (my mind is conflicted between a sensible little white hatchback, and a big fancy white thing with a giant front bonnet. I suspect it was the former but felt like a limousine because it was a big event for a four year old) but it’s always The Pond I remember best.
The Pond seemed completely round, sunk in the bottom end of a big sloping field, surrounded by tangles of bramble bushes. There’s those purple flowers that look like little harmless thistles, bullrushes, a plastic heron stuck half way out. A vaguely scary bit where you have to walk over a dam built on the far end, looking down at the hole made by the overflow pipe. There’s a boat, upside down on the right hand side of the pond, never used when I was there. Covered in black paint that got sticky and hot in the sun.
Every story or essay in school that I could manage to vaguely link to the subject, and I’d start it by describing the journey up the tree-lined road to the house, the last corner where my brother David and I would compete to see who would see it first. The journey up the driveway, stopping as she’d come out to say hello before we’d carry on up to the familiar crunching sound of the gravel drive to our caravan.
Ten years of holidays, give or take one, we spent in her caravan, the front windows looking out over the pond. There was an Orchard full of the best plums I’d ever eaten,and the best grass I’ve ever sat in, probably because it was all moss. A herb garden over the wall in front of the caravan that we didn’t dare go into. Woods full of rhododendron bushes. And the field. Two ponies lived there, Scooby, who was big and grumpy, and Hazel. Hazel was short and fat and the feature of every game about ponies I ever made, year round. I used to ride her around the pond every so often, and bring her carrots and polos every day.
Mrs McCulloch must have put up with a lot, two children running around, climbing on her hay bales, plaiting ribbons into poor Hazels hair all the time, picking glittery stones out of the walls of their stable. She never minded, always encouraging us or telling us something new about the area or the ponies.
I remember a cat called Mittens, who would sometimes sit on assorted walls (I want to google it to show you exactly what the walls looked like, as they’re everywhere in Scotland, but it wouldn’t be right if it wasn’t THE walls) just looking large and shiny. We took our cat with us a few times, and hoped no-one would mind. No-one did.
I remember being invited into her kitchen for cans of coke, and perhaps biscuits. Though I feel like this is David’s story more than mine. There was a lot of turquoise in the house, but other than that, it’s a blur. Still, turquoise, grey and white reminds me of the house.
I remember the patterns on the furniture, plates and curtains in the caravan. The pattern on the spoons and the moss outside. The exact type of bushes that went round our garden. The old tyre she’d turned into a sand pit.
I remember that the thing I wanted most in the whole world was one of the buttons on her cardigan. It was made to look a bit like green opal.
I still want one.
We stayed there for two weeks every August, until I was at least 11. Then the caravan got old, or mouldy, and she stopped renting it out. We’d still come and visit, but it wasn’t the same.
Eleven years of two week holidays. 22 weeks. About an hour a day of pond-walking time, and I’ve spent less than 24 hours with this lady in my life.
I’m going back there, this year. To go to the same beaches and lochs and rivers and little seaside towns. They all look just about the same, on google. But this is proof (I nearly wrote ‘living proof’) that it won’t be. It won’t be the same, and it’ll never go back to being like it was. That’s okay, because I’m 24 and there’s a whole world out there. I just hope she knew (and I think she did know) how much of an impact she’d made on my life. I’m going to remember all this, hopefully forever.
I’m going to hope it’s still on sale, and try to get to the Orchard, if not the Pond, for one last look around.