Beatrice was propped up on hospital
pillows. She was anxious, fiddling with
her freshly bandaged arm. She sprung
at me for information. I assured her that
Uncle would be fine. I have been so
worried. Poor Father alone all night
on that horrible mountain. It must have
been unspeakable. The colour had fled
from Beatrice’s face. She was re-living
her Father’s horror. I said something
inane about this being the holiday from
hell, but Beatrice wasn’t listening.
I wasn’t permitted to travel
in the helicopter. As it span
away, we moved slowly down
the mountain. The morning was
beautiful. I could see the lake
stretched out below, a gorgeous
shining ribbon. It was hard to believe
yesterday’s misery had ever happened.
Vivienne said she’d drive me to the
hospital. It was in Kendal. The name
sounded familiar. We motored along
windy lanes. Vivienne cursed the blind
bends, driving erratically. I wondered
whether we’d become another casualty.
I didn’t sleep a wink. I lay rigid in my
makeshift bed, desperate for the dawn
to come. When a measly light finally
fingered the drapes, I was thoroughly
fatigued. I thought how the day would
caress Uncle’s stubbly chin, shine on his
cold, cramped limbs. I wondered if he’d
found shelter, behind a rock, or down a
craggy gully. I heard soft, gruff voices
below. The rescue team were stirring.
I dressed. The men were donning their
gear, slurping at mugs of black coffee.
Vivienne was rallying around, preparing
an impromptu breakfast. We ate hurriedly.
It was time to set out.
We found Beatrice crouched behind
a big black rock, shielding herself from
the buffeting wind. Her lips were ghostly
blue. Her speech was slurred. I thought it
must be hyperthermia. There was no sign
of Uncle. The mist was dissipating. Two
burly men wrapped Beatrice in a tinfoil
blanket, and escorted her slowly down
the mountain. The light was fading. It
was almost dark. What if Uncle had
wandered from the path, or stumbled
into a crevice? Our leader halted, and
debated with his colleagues. My stomach
sank inside me. The men patted their big
hands, stomped their cold booted feet.
Our search had been called off. Until the
Beatrice had disappeared. She’d been
trudging along behind me, but the mist
had cowled her completely, and she was
gone. I thumped Uncle’s shoulder. We
both shouted Beatrice’s name, but there
was no reply. The weather worsened.
We’d need to raise the alarm, call a
search party. Uncle tried his mobile
phone. There was no signal. Augustus,
you will need to go down the mountain,
and summon help. I nodded. The wind
caught our hurried farewells, tossing them
around, until they were indistinguishable
nonsense. I straggled back downhill.
Soon, Uncle’s stocky figure was
swallowed by the flying mist.
I slept heavily and late. I was oblivious
to the tree roots gnawing into my spine,
and the earthy smell pervading our tent.
When I unzipped the flap and stepped
outside, Uncle and Beatrice were
preparing breakfast in bright sunlight.
Good, Augustus, you’re awake. I hope
you’re not suffering any agues after last
evening’s drama. I assured Uncle that I
was perfectly well. That is good to hear.
Because today, the weather being so fine,
I had thought we might all climb that peak
across the water. Uncle pointed to a
cloud-capped hill. The view from the
summit will be absolutely incomparable.
Beatrice chuckled, then smirked. It was
agreed we’d go.
Suddenly I was caught between two
paddle steamers. The huge wash
threatened to capsize my tiny craft.
I struggled to right myself with the
paddle. I could feel my heart crashing
inside me. Uncle was making ridiculous
gestures. I signalled back, and lost my
balance. I was tipped into the lake. It
was like an icicle had knifed me. The
water was frigid. After an eternity, my
life-jacket buoyed me up. I spluttered
and snorted and shivered all at once.
Uncle was beside me, fishing me from
the opaque depths. I scrabbled at the
bobbing hull of my overturned canoe,
but I couldn’t get a foothold. Uncle
righted my boat, and I was there.
I was trembling helplessly.
Two red canoes bobbed on the water.
Uncle rubbed his hands together. We
strode along a brief pier, and I scrambled
inside. It was a rocky business. But I
didn’t overturn my boat. Uncle made
sweeping gestures, instructing me how
to handle the paddle. It was surprisingly
simple. I pushed off, and we were floating
on the gentle current. There was a lot of
traffic on the lake. A big pleasure steamer,
many smaller leisure craft. I didn’t much
like rowing. The paddle bit into the sore
callouses on my palms. But Uncle was
having a ball. He sliced through the water
like a magnificent swan. The shore grew
We were to camp beside the lake,
which was a long sliver of silvery water
between pastel-green hills. It had an
opaque look, like it might be haunted
by water monsters. I didn’t quite trust its
gentle surface. We motored through a
picture-postcard village, searching out the
camping grounds. The hedge-lined lanes
were surprisingly busy. Beatrice squealed
out. Uncle slowed the car, and pulled off
down a gravel track. We had arrived.
There was a small, quaint lodge straight
ahead. We all got down from the car,
stretching our stiff limbs. Uncle guffawed
heartily, clapping his hands. I could espy
a small village of erected tents in the
I had done nothing to deserve such
misery. I’d heard of stowaways climbing
up into the landing gear of long-haul jets.
At high altitudes, they would go into
suspended animation, and fall out like
frozen popsicles on landing. I could be
one of those daredevils. Imogen and I
would be spectacularly reunited. I
entertained notions of a grand life in
the Gulf. But the ghoulish spectre of
the Davenports curdled my fantasies.
They would surely scupper all my crazy
plans. They despised me, and my
middle-class sensibilities. It would be
best to forget everything.