Ruth Clifford: May this New Year bring you “moments”
When I look ahead to what I hope 2014 will bring, I look back on what “made” the other years; those moments that stand out against the ebb and flow of time. Instantly, memories spring forth, crystal clear slices of life that are so evocative that I’m back there again.
I am 12 years old and in a car above a precipitous drop to a tiny beach in Scotland. My sisters and I are sitting, arms crossed, staring out of the windows, seething at yet another squabble. Today was supposed to be a beach day, but the sky is slate grey and the wind is howling. The waves below are sky-high and terrifying. The tension in the car is on a knife-edge. Dad suddenly yanks open the door, sending gusts of wind into the car, hurls himself over the abyss and dives head-first into the waves whooping. We all watch stonily, arms still crossed, silently daring each other to follow suit. I’m not sure who breaks first, but in an instant we are all out of the car and into the waves, screaming with delight as we attempt to body-board the icy water. I feel pure happiness.
I am 15 and walking around the city walls of Saint Malo after a delicious meal, during which my dad, meaning to describe himself as full ‘plein’, actually told the waitress he was pregnant in faltering French. Leaning against the stone fortress wrapping the city, I watch the waves crashing ceaselessly below. The stone is warm under my palm. Tongues of light start to break across the sky, erupting into the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen– all crimson, gold and heart-breaking light. I have prime-time viewing, on the edge of this ancient city shrouded in sun and night.
I am 22 and leaning over the side of a ship, staring into the inquisitive, fearless of eyes of a polar bear. It struts up and down the iceberg below, wriggling its enormous, fluffy bottom and flicking its tongue out to taste my scent. The Arctic sea stretches out, a jigsaw of white ice, cracking and fracturing beneath the heaving weight of our ship. My hands are freezing under my gloves, my eyes are tired from the rude awakening of the polar bear call, but I can’t feel any of that- it’s just me and the bear; a meeting of two different worlds.
I am 23 and sitting in a bar in Franz Josef, New Zealand, with two wonderful friends I’ve met travelling. I’m holding a cool glass of white wine and listening to a musician called Gideon. He’s a one man band and sings so sincerely and hauntingly, travelling with his music on the kindness of others. He’s singing a song about his step brother, who turns out to be a crab, and we are all laughing. Tomorrow, I’m going to climb the daunting Franz Josef Glacier, but right now, all I care about is the music and the wine and the company.
I am 25 and lying on my belly on a big flat slab of rock by a lagoon on an island in Croatia. The sun warms my back and the stone underneath me radiates heat on my tummy and legs. I squint up at my boyfriend who is attempting – and failing – to climb a rope swing in the middle of the water. The water underneath the rope is so deep that it’s black. Fathomless. But no matter how many times he falls off, he just keeps hauling himself back out again. I go back to my book, smiling.
So here’s to a 2014 of more travel moments and moments full stop. Experience, embrace and enjoy. Happy New Year.