It must have been well after five, nearer six, when we arrived. The visitor centre was closed and there were only two other cars in the carpark. He parked into the wind and we got out to get our coats from the back of the car.
We struggled in the wind, gathering our bits and pieces together, sheltering under the tailgate which threatened to come down on us in the wind. We pulled on coats and scarves and gloves, and I noticed that Charlie slipped the small parcel inside his jacket and jammed the jiffy bag into a big overcoat pocket where it stuck out the top. All that remained was for us to take our broom and palms up to the grave and I was shuffling from foot to foot, but my uncle was still rooting in the back of the car, opening little hatches looking for something.
“What are you looking for?”
My voice sounded strange.
“A torch, it’ll get dark quick with the low cloud.”
I looked around at the surrounding hills. It was always bitter cold up here and always overcast with the smell of snow, but I thought we had a couple of hours left.
“You’ve got good eyes, is there anyone in that white car?”
I peered into the wind.
“Yeah, there’s some kids in it.”
“What about the other one?”
“No, it’s empty.”
I mistakenly thought it was vanity had prompted the question for he immediately put on a wide-brimmed canvas hat, a Tilley hat, which he fastened under his chin with broad tapes. It did not go well with the rest of his dress which was now, suddenly, very formal.
He found his big flashlight and handed it to me to carry, then shut the tailgate which slammed in the wind.
The bunches of broom shone vivid yellow in the strange light of the approaching squalls. I was worried that the wind would strip the blossom off them but they were early, tough little blooms. I had incorporated a dried thistle in my bunch along with the palm, folded into a cross. My uncle’s spray, bound tight with black ribbon, had only the simple palm cross. With the wind gusting from our left, we took the flinty path to the graves.