Kate follows a raven up the hill, he seems to be waiting and coaxing her on, and then after she falls he hovers around, waiting to peck out her eyes she muses, but in her delirious state she imagines him taunting her:
"Another mistake, says the raven, shall we make a list? We could go all the way back, couldn't we, tell me, Kate, what was the first mistake you ever made, would you say? What poor choice set you on the path to where we find ourselves this evening? School, she thinks, school was all mistakes, though whether this night was determined by the time I left school - Raven, you're not my mother, you're Miss Boucher, aren't you, Miss Boucher who told me off in front of the whole canteen on my first day because my shoes were the wrong colour and she wasn't interested in my weird duck-feet and my mother's admittedly hereditary last-minute approach to matters such as shopping for school uniform, it's as if both of us and probably now poor Matt as well think that if we ignore for example Christmas or summer or the beginning of the school year it might go away and we won't after all need presents or sunscreen or the right shoes, which isn't entirely mad because the end is nigh, we do know that, and if we're about to die in a nuclear war or that one where the magnetic poles swivel which she always imagines as the planet flipping, Australia on the top and Greenland on the bottom and all the fuses in the world blowing like fireworks as the planet spins through the darkness, or a more conclusive plague than the current slow-burning one or any of the many other reasons for the streets to run with blood, who wants to have spent their last days of ignorant normality looking for navy lace-up shoes in a size 2H?" (p.114-5)
And as she struggles to reach shelter and drifts in and out of consciousness he harangues her further:
"So yes, mistakes: the two big relationships of her life, her education, the lack of a carer, not to mention not being a great mum, not really understanding how to be a mum until it was probably too late because don't they say it's the first thousand days that determine the course of a child's life, Matt's future already damaged by her drinking coffee in pregnancy and crying when he had colic, not to mention not being a great daughter either, not to mention failing to cope with lockdown even though she hasn't been sick, hasn't lost anyone, and not only failing to cope but actually failing to isolate herself when told to do so, not to mention failing to go home before dark, not to mention failing and falling off the rock, yes, you could say there were mistakes.
Breathe through the pain, but it's the sort of pain that stops you breathing." (p.139)
Lovely atmosphere and the insides of people's heads, which works well in a book that has not much is happening, and of course taking place during lockdown when people were very physically isolated from each other. It is weird for me to read a novel like this; lockdown did not happen for me, I went to work, where social distancing barely happened, and did not get any of that navel-gazing time when everyone was wiping down their shopping and looking out of the windows and counting how many times their neighbours left the house. And it feels strangely all so long ago now. Has life returned to 'normal'? In some ways yes. I still have a 'wash your hands' reminder sign up in the hallway.
Anyway, Kate sings to the raven, and she mentions this song, so for your enjoyment, The Manchester Rambler:
Stay safe. Be kind. Ramble somewhere.