Fear has many eyes and can see things underground
Miguel de Cervantes
On Halloween, the parents sent their kids out looking like me.
There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls but there are also nights on the hill with Bob (if only the man vowelled) when there is no silence at all and the dark moonless night was all the more accentuated by Bob conversing with bits of twig, places where there used to be gorse, fences and stiles and a cow on the other side of a fence, oh aye and occasionally with me. There are three stages to madness of course. Firstly talking to yourself, secondly being answered back and thirdly not agreeing with the answers. Given what Bob and I were heading out to do I was glad that he didn’t appear to be answered back and that I had the lighters.
Having cycled out to Casa CaliBob at Woodhouselee, Bob and I set out into the dark of the Pentlands through the cattle churned fields of shin deep mud (thigh deep for Bob) whilst Willie led an assorted group of old hands (some very old) and new bloods on a circuit over the hills from Flotterstone. The farmer had ripped out the substantial areas of gorse which had previously covered the hillside so it was a bit disorientating as any battle between memory and reality can be but provided Bob with lots of chums (bits of wood) to talk to until soon we arrived at our destination: Castle Law Hill Fort and the souterrain subsequently dug into it probably for grain storage and the like. The site was first developed around 500BC (before Cali) when Bob was just a lad and started out simply as a farm which it is again now.
Reverentially, Bob and I decorated this deeply historic site with bits of cheap Halloween tat, flashing skulls and lights, skeletons, bats, etc. then repaired outside for the main event … the fireworks!
I’d lugged up a barrage firework about the size of a small TV (and about the same weight) and another one about the size of Willie’s head (much lighter of course). The aim was to set them off as the runners ran down Castlelaw Hill. Aye of course no sooner had we got the fireworks set up on the outer lip of the defensive ditch, than it started to rain and we had to scramble to keep the fuses dry.
Soon I began to see lights which Bob couldn’t see. Not my spell of madness but simply being taller I could see the occasional light as it crossed the saddle three quarters of the way up Castlelaw. Bob moved up the raised inner ditch of the hill fort and soon saw the light. Someone reached the summit and we saw the arc of their headtorch light as they turned back towards the runners behind them. The glow on the summit widened as others arrived and we watched as a long caterpillar of lights wound down the hill towards us and then we set off the fireworks, at least I did as Bob couldn’t get his to light and so a bit too close to the shooting fireworks Bob and I struggled to light the second one in a crick-crackling chiaroscuro of colour and light.
The last firework abandoned we were joined by Cali (who had cut off early from the run) and repaired to the souterrain suitably bemasked and bemused to greet the runners mostly dressed as ghoulies and ghosties who bumped into the souterrain in the darkness. Then it was off down the hill for the usual good craik, conversation and conviviality in the Flotterstone Inn which kept me warm for most of the subsequent cycle home.
There’s a Scottish saying that goes “From ghoulies and ghosties and long leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us! But I’m not so sure … Having encountered several of them tonight during and after the run whatever other company would you want to be in as long as the long leggety beasties can run?