Richard Lutz continues his route through Lockdown Land.
“And this is for Ida,” I’m told by shopkeeper Paul from Paul’s Little Shop and Cafe. “She’s a wee dear.”
And she is too. Her groceries, part of my morning volunteers route, includes four small bottles of lemonade, The Herald, the weekly Ayrshire Post and a handful of those big hefty breakfast rolls which one half of Strathcarrick calls Glasgow Rolls and the other half defines as Morton Rolls.
Whatever the name, they’re either Ordinary or, ominously, ‘Well-fired’ which means burnt to be-jeesis. The take up for these rolls is fifty/fifty. Whatever they’re called, whatever their baked condition, they could down a diving gannet at 250 metres. And with sausages or bacon and slavered in warm butter, they are unputdownable.
Ida is not in the well-fired school of rolls. She comes to the front door for her delivery, bird-like, leaning on a walking frame, a frail quiet voice, skin now noticably coloured by an unknown medical regime. When I return to Paul’s for the next load for Upper Strathcarrick where the houses have names, I agree with him that Ida is, indeed, a wee old dear.
“Aye, she is,” he says sifting through piles of potatoes, lemons, string, Scottish newspapers, detergents and handywipes, “and you should meet her mother.”
I head north on The Beach Road to drop off deliveries to Uphill Cottage. May lives there. She is really Mary. But then again, someone confided that’s her real name is Margaret. It seems every time I deliver her cigarettes, her fruit juice, her Daily Express and her litre of milk, she has a different name.
May comes from a farming family. She knows her planting. It’s a tricky time of year, she tells me. It’s not only the temperature (which has suddenly dipped from balmy warmth to bloody cold) or the wet but how those knife-edged winds dry everything out from the lettuces to the pansies. It roars in from the Irish coast, funnelling into the Clyde Estuary on the Scottish west coast.
“You have to get it just right.” And just how do you know how to get it just right? “Well, you don’t get it wrong, do you?” And with that she takes the heavy bags from me, leaving me to head off for Dennis’s caravan, where he combs his hair a lot.
Last stop is Bill McB. He’s doesn’t like gardening. He’s always been a rock type of person, having chipped out a very successful career in the quarries. He’s the kind of man who always would like a good solid chunk of Dumfriesshire granite or Ayrshire sandstone in his hand rather than a dose of loam or compost. He actually seems chipped from rock. He walks slowly now, weighted by illnesses. But he looks across his immaculate front lawn to the blue blue sea, now as quiet as an unused mirror sitting in a child’s hand. Buoys and lobster pots are at a standstill, the air so still that they cast shadows in the flat water. Across the estuary is Arran, with its island mountains that jump just about 3000 feet from shore to sky.
“How can you live anyplace else?” Bill asks as he casts a fading eye west to Arran. For a minute, he seems to have forgotten the world of rocks, granite, of sandstone and age.