VICTORIA BEESLEY: William Grant Foundation Residency, 2019

I’m five months pregnant. / I’m sitting in my car in a layby on the A9. / There’s steam coming from the engine. / It’s raining. / Every time another vehicle drives past my car shakes. / I’m waiting for the AA. / This is not how I imagined my week in the wilderness beginning.

The fire is burning. / My dinner is warm. / The compost toilet has been christened. / It’s still here. Quiet. Only the birds to listen to. / Feelings of anxiety at being remote, alone, have subsided. / I’m relieved. Happy. / I’m here.

Aside from the obvious (food, water, shelter, warmth), what are my personal essentials for solitary happiness?

  • Slippers
  • A radio
  • Loo roll
  • Soap
  • Medicine
  • Occasional phone signal for contact with my family
  • An activity: books, crossword, knitting, fetching water, building a fire
  • Kindling (I have learnt that I am not adept with an axe).

Writing in the bothy. / Trying to work a sticky, complex, big idea out of my brain and onto the page. / Like I’m chipping away with a pick axe. / Tap. Tap. Tap. / Where is the drama? Where is the drama? Where is the drama? / Blank page in front of me. Its blankness growing by the hour. How can that be possible? / (We’ve already established I’m not very good with an axe, even if it’s metaphorical).

Take a break. A walk. Get wet in the rain. / The more time I spend here, the more nature sneaks its way into my psyche. / I haven’t seen anyone for four days. It’s just me and trees, wind, birds, the river, bugs, rain. There’s a feeling of being at the mercy of nature more here. Like it could take over me if I stayed long enough. Nature in my everyday life is so controlled, so distant in my mind even when it’s physically near. Here, my only immediate relationship is with nature and I feel simultaneously empowered by it and terrified of it! / And this brings a new idea. / Back sitting in the bothy. Words filling the page. I’m excited. Happy. Relieved. / Nature is driving me on. Sneaking its way onto the page. Becoming a character. Providing the drama. I like this. / The words streaming out of me now. They’re queuing up to be written down. I’m having a lovely time!

All too soon… / I’m sitting in the car. It’s fixed (I hope). I’m about to drive home. / Will I make it home without breaking down? / Will I preserve the peace, tranquillity, space of the bothy… If only in my mind? / Will I miss showering outside? / Will the ideas forged here keep growing? Will the pages keep getting g fuller? / I hope so. / Wish me luck.