The Cold Tree

      The listeners remained silent and listened with bated breath as Marek translated for the benefit of Malina and her daughters. “But I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t rest so I drove back to Llanuchllyn. I was drawn to Marek’s painting of ‘The Cold Tree’ for some reason. I didn’t know why but it gave me some inspiration. For your benefit Oz, Marek painted this picture a couple of years ago when he visited us. Below the ruins of a castle of a forgotten Welsh prince – we had climbed up to the castle because of the stunning views – there is a tree below the castle. There is nothing special about the tree to look at, but beneath it, even on a really hot day in summer, it is always freezing cold. Richard and I had been there before, but we didn’t tell Marek about the tree when we visited the castle with him later. It wasn’t as easy to access it this time as local farmers were erecting a new fence and scowled at us as we approached, so we had to take an alternative more roundabout route. When we arrived at the tree he too remarked upon the cold under the shade of the tree and took photographs from which he later made a painting; which he gave Richard for his birthday. This painting haunted me all day long and, don’t ask me why, so I drove to Caer Euni the next day. It was as if the painting was trying to tell me something. I walked to the stone circles, and without thinking I stepped into the space between the circles as you had done, and I ended up in Heraklion! One moment I was in North Wales, and the next I was in a strange town that looked distinctly medieval.” She paused for breath, “What was I to think? As luck would have it – at least in retrospect I thought it was luck – I found myself sitting on the remains of a village green that had persisted when a little village had been swallowed up by the encroaching town of Heraklion. So Mairi told me. I say as luck would have it because Mairi’s house is close to where I fetched up, and she was standing outside her front door at the time. Mairi saw that I was dressed in clothing that could only have come from Earth and rushed across and spoke to me in English, though with a Scottish accent. She took me into her house and explained everything as best she could. It took some time before I could admit to myself that everything she said was true. Only hearing another person in clothing significantly different to mine and speaking English while others used a foreign language, convinced me that she was speaking the truth.”