Sunday, April 12, 2015

Far from home

You’d think I’d get over this aversion to travel.  You’d think I’d join the ranks of all those who ooh and aah at the thought of some new country on their horizon, those who love nothing more than to be tourists exploring other people’s back yards.  

But I'm still averse, even after two amazing weeks in Scotland.  

I should start with the positives, the pleasurable moments, the moments of bliss when we drove through the single road from Glasgow up to Fort William through the mountainous peaks of Glencoe in our upgraded hire car – upgraded to a brand new BMW, which was comfortable, but anxiety producing in so far as we feared putting so much as a scratch on its exterior – the insurance excess is phenomenal, even though we paid for it. 

See how easy it is to slip into the negatives. 

We drove through magic territory, the stuff of movies, as in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, snow capped peaks that loomed down on us through thick mists. 

Ever so romantic from the comfort of our car.  Ever so inspiring, but not when you stepped into it.  Then it was cold beyond belief. 

And everywhere these huge expanses of water, the lochs of Lomond and others, alongside the Trossachs National park.  All the signs written in Gaelic to add to the effect of being in a foreign place. 

Likewise in Edinburgh itself, this extraordinary crag, Arthur’s Seat, which tourists climb from numerous angles.  One cold afternoon I walked around the back of the section they call the crags, alone except for the twenty or so tourists I encountered, and found myself between two gorse covered peaks in a green grassy valley. 

I felt again the awe of the natural world, however much people have spoiled it by their presence. 

That said, I do not enjoy being a tourist, one of the many, who spend their days window shopping on the world. 

Here you see I slip back into the negatives. 

The positives of this trip include, first and foremost spending time with our youngest daughter, which was in fact the reason for our trip in the first place, the reason for our choice of destination, which had been her choice of destination, hers to study in a foreign place on exchange and ours to visit her halfway through her time away. 

She made the trip easier.  She knew the place well enough by then to be able to take us to good restaurants and to help us to avoid the crappy ones. 

Even then when we moved around without her we still found ourselves lunching in a place in Edinburgh called Biblos.
‘Didn’t you know that’s part of a chain, one of those horrible tourist joints?’ our daughter said when I told her about our lack-lustre lunch.  ‘You could have guessed.’  In hindsight, we could have guessed, but by then we were tired and wanted to stop almost anywhere.

If I were in Melbourne, I’d know where to stop and what to avoid, by and large, but that’s another of the hazards of travelling, the stuff of not knowing where to stop for basics, like food and drink. 

The same could be said of accommodation but by and large we chose wisely, though our bed in Oban on the way to the Isle of Mull sloped into the middle and I felt as though I was on the edge of a hill all night rolling down from a high point.  And the bed itself was as hard as a board which made the roll downhill even more unavoidable. 

On the other hand, Strongarbh house, the place we stayed in at the Isle of Mull in Tobermorey, was a place of fairy tales.  The most magnificent house I’ve ever occupied.

On Easter Sunday morning the condensation on the window was so thick I could not see out to the sea below but over time given a hint of sunshine, it cleared.

Strange how much pleasure renders me speechless.  

If I had things to complain about in Tobermorey, I’d have had heaps to write about, but here it was all so magnificent it's hard to gripe. 

In the afternoon we visited the basement library at Strongarbh house, which the owners made available to us as guests and we read and rested, while in the morning we explored the small town, with its curve of coloured shop fronts over the way from a protected bay and there we sensed something of a Scottish way of life that beats all the postcards in existence.

In the heart of me, I enjoyed these experiences, but every time we three knocked heads over some disagreement – which side of the road we might walk on, or where we might head from one moment to the next – I longed for home. 

We seemed so different from one another in Scotland. 

Between the three of us it could become a tussle of our individual insecurities.  Plus we tended to pair off, me and my husband, me and my daughter.  And on occasion I was left alone. 

We fell naturally into these divisions, and there were times when each of us wanted to be alone.  The greatest conflict erupted when all three of us were together.  We are family after all.  And I often wondered about the pressures on family life in what must have been a very difficult environment, given the remoteness of the terrain and the weather.

One day, we visited Glencoe, ‘the glen of tears’ and scene of a major battle in earlier times.  The details evade me, but the sense of walking through that land, occupied by the likes of Lorna Doone, stays with me. Orange covered gorse and dried out ferns long killed by the snow, trees still bare of leaves, and a few leaf buds visible everywhere.

The daffodils sprouted in bunches all over the place in green patches of grass, the grass more green than in Australia, the daffodils more yellow, the yellow of Wordsworth’s day, and during our first few days there, with only one exception, the skies were grey.

I’ve more to write about this trip to Scotland, including meeting my blog friend, Jim Murdoch in Glasgow, but that’s for another day, for now the jet lag renders me speechless. 

Post a Comment