Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections: Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot | 11th January 2020

It’s time once again for the annual series of postings we like to call Shadows and Reflections, in which our contributors and friends look back on the past twelve months. From Amy Liptrot:

One of the last times I wrote an end of year piece for CBTR, in 2013, I said my year had been characterised by being mainly alone. A whole lot has happened since then and now my most recent year has been marked by quite the opposite: I live with two people who like to sleep touching me. My philosophy is to embrace whatever situation I find myself in and just as I made the most of my solitude back then, I’m appreciating the intimacy of family life now. 

This summer, we decided to spend a month in even closer proximity, travelling in a camper van through France and Spain. Here follows what is pretty much a page from my diary in the middle of that month:

4 September 2019

I dropped a plate and it smashed on the floor of the campsite kitchen. I crouched down to clear it up, picking 100 white shards from the terracotta tiled floor. 

& sometimes a moment like this comes and forces me to slow down and be quiet

After the rush and roar of the day. 

We spent half the day trying to wash our clothes, find an open laundrette, get the right money, find parking, all the time it’s getting hotter and hotter and we’re trying to read maps, keep devices charged, vehicle/home straight, baby fed and watered and us all reasonably clean and happy and out of the sun.

We’ve been on the road for 21 days. We sleep in a pile, wake up late and wash our faces in whatever stream or lake we’ve parked next to.

In the shadow of the Pyrennes, I cleaned the porridge pan. With a vulture soaring nearby, I changed a nappy. I’ve hung laundry in forest clearings and soothed tears in limestone caves. 

Often, I crave space to think, time to read. Often, I’m astounded by a moment of beauty: my son pointing out the moon for the first time, the dazzle as we emerge in the van from a mountain tunnel.

Crouched here, everything throbs with significance. I think about the choices I’ve made and each step that led to this point, to where I am, not quite 40, with a bruised body and wet hair, on the floor in the kitchen of a quiet campsite in northern Spain, just after the end of the tourist season.

My skin feels good after the first shower in days. I have a thousand things to remember. 

I’m in the thick of my life, making things happen. I’m thinking longterm, I’m working on projects which won’t see fruition for some time. The plate made a terrific sound when it fell. It’s getting dark and I need to put my child to bed. I sweep up the last white shard slowly and return to the van.


Amy interviews Kathleen Jamie at our next and final Arts Council-funded Social Club event, taking place at The Constitutional, Farsley, on 6 February. More info/tickets here.