Posts Tagged ‘Isle of Harris’

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Scotland : Isle of Harris

August 2, 2014

Darling You

It is Sunday here on the Isle of Harris where Donald, the young fellow running my new home ‘Number 5 Drinishader’, tells me that people today will scold you for hanging out the washing or mowing the lawn. This is a day of rest. The buses don’t run, there will be no phone calls, and any singing or fun and straight to hell with you. The Calvanistic Free Church of the Hebrides says it is so.

Donald picked me up from the Tarbert port and drives like an Argentine. He likes dance parties and reckons he’ll still be stamping his feet at 50.

Being Sunday, I lashed out and have cracked out one of the remaining 3 Irish Breakfast teabags. I started with 5. I actually had about 100 on the shelf as I left dear Buenos Aires but, like almost every other of my dearly beloved possessions, they went to a good home. Lucky Bridget. I am in the UK and I always knew I was coming to the UK and, well, the UK is kind of known for things like tea. These simple things in life. Pity the milk I’ve just poured in is a bit on the turn. Flaky. I shall put the lid on my blue, T2 thermos (never leave home without it) and forget I saw a single floaty.

Maldon salt, daggy teatowels and teabags were the only things I consistently imported into Argentina.

Drinishader this morning is beautiful. It is always beautiful in the Hebrides and this place, a few miles from Harris’ capital, is no exception. Did you know that Harris won the prize for Europe’s best island? Actually, it is a Harris-Lewis combo, but the people here say Lewis just got it because they must enter as a duo.

I look out over a handful of miniature islands and there is not a whisper of movement anywhere.

 

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Hang on.

I hear movement.

On the gravel I see a lycra clad bloke readying his bicycle.

There are lots of sporty types about, including two cyclists from France currently camping out back. They are having their first week in 6 years away from their 2 small children and they do not miss them.

People are also canoeing about the place. Had I a stronger back I would be in it, but not this round.

Yesterday I found the Temple Cafe in Northton. A mini mission as the bus stopped a few miles short, but it was worth it and I have now seen much of the island. There ain’t too much to Northton except a cafe, a splattering of houses lining its one small street, some spectacular beaches with white, white sand and aqua blue water, blue sheep and 3 Highland cows. These cows are sensational looking creatures but I am told they are more for show than for tucker. Once shorn they come up a bit skinny.

 

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As I wandered down Northton’s quiet road, posting a postcard on the way, I found Croft 36. Crofts are small holdings and this one ought to employ me on their publicity team. Never been much of a salesman me, but those rare moments in my scattered career when I have believed in my product, well, I am pretty good at it.

I remember selling mittens in Canada really, really well. I had had really cold hands myself and so was very serious and particularly earnest about the subject. They’d saved my life “and so believe me when I tell you, they’ll save you too!” They were very expensive and I must have sold 30 pairs over the Christmas period on that hill in Banff. Then I was fired for writing a letter during work. This is the only time I have ever been fired, and I guess it was a bit cheeky, but I was shoved inside the cashier’s box one day when the regular girl was sick, imprisoned you might say, and one can only straighten and rearrange the counter so many times.

Come to think of it, maybe the gloves and the Croft 36 frangipani tart are all I have ever sold. I scan…scanning some more, and … nope. That is my sales career. Unless you count of course Crooks in Action, but I was not a good saleswoman for they were crooks. I’ll tell you about it another day.

Croft 36 runs on the honour system. It is a teeny, sheltered space selling warm bread, fish empanadas and crabs. Various signs suggested other goodies but no matter how many times I lifted the basket lids, no frangipani tart for me. I was surviving on a banana and a cup of tea, and drooling. Surely not sold out already. Where the hell were they? I snuck behind to the house to inquire and they were in the oven so I told her I’d be back.

I had the best scones I’ve had in a long, long, long time at The Temple Cafe and a perfect mug of strong tea, with milk on the side. I must stop ordering my tea with “some cold milk please, on the side.” I am not in Argentina anymore and the Scots get it. Milk will come with this tea I speak of.

Number 5 is very charming, though it is creaky and soundproofless. I am sure I woke the others squeaking out of bed and creeping down the short, steep staircase, but I can’t be quieter. I know how to be quiet and I am good at it but this house is not.

Got my own room again, yippeeee. But the beds get rougher and rougher. I have decided that the definition of an ‘independent hostel’ in Scotland involves 700 year old mattresses. Otherwise the place is beautiful; a sunlit weatherboard and a fire in the small sitting room at night sitting on tweed cushions. The view from my bedroom and the communal bathroom is delicious and I have weeded the plants in both.

Post scones, and back to collect my warm tart, I wandered to the beaches and lay down in the grass to read. I have picked up a slightly grim but well written book, The January Flower, about a single mother living in the islands.

Crystal clear water and beautiful, empty beaches to gaze upon as I turned the pages. Shoes and socks off for I cannot get enough bare foot on spongy green grass action. I think I might have even burned my skin. Summer in Scotland, have you heard?

Got sprung peeing, damn, by a father who came out from nowhere. Never a fantastic moment when some poor, unsuspecting soul wanders through beautiful, remote Scotland and catches a glimpse of your bare bum. “Sorry you caught me peeing” I said as I passed him and his small family, “happens to the best of us,” and so it does.

Met a bloke whose family are from North Uist, another island nearby. He is tracing the family tree trail and was headed for the genealogical centre to hand over his knowledge. I myself have many a note in my bag about the Carstairs mob which I must study more closely. What I do now know is that Carstairs is the home of Scotland’s asylum for the criminally insane, and so people know the name, from the news. I can’t imagine the place is hot on the tourism trail an I don’t think I’ll be paying a visit.

Second cuppa and I’ve put some raspberries in a bowl with creamy, plum yoghurt. Yoooooghuuurt. I love it. May it always exist in my world.

I put my feet in the freezing water and swung back to the Temple for an equally excellent, roasted capsicum and butternut squash soup, with focaccia. Not usually one for focaccia but theirs rocked. I sat beside a pair from Sheffield who said I must see the black houses on the Isle of Lewis. And I looked on a map and these standing stones from the Roy Bridge postcard are all over Lewis. And, in my book, Mary is now in Lewis with her child and the bad guy. Oooooh, Lewis. I’m on my way.

The Sheffield pair also threw Uig into the mix. Not the Uig on Skye but the Uig on Lewis. Now that’s just confusing.

I may go tomorrow when the bus starts running again.

But I may not.

I am playing with the idea of St Kilda, which of course everyone in the world has heard of except for me. And I didn’t know a loch was a lake (ssshhhhhh). How I’ve made it this far I really don’t know.

St Kilda is a very expensive 3 hour boat ride away which I immediately wrote off as too extravagant, but the pair in the Temple went on and on and on about it. And then I read about it in the Harris Tweed shop. And then I phoned to suss it out and not only will the crew pick me up from Number 5 at 6.05 tomorrow morning but they have offered me half price if I sit in the dodgy seat.

It sounds a bit fascinating, so I might just have to go.

Lewis and all of her standing stones will have to wait.

I have time.

Not only are the cushions I sit on tweed, but so too are the curtains by the window, and the blanket that keeps me warm at night. Tweed. The lot of it. Harris tweed is only made on Harris. I bought a tweed case to cover this machine and last night carefully plucked off the very large Harris Tweed label which, by law, they must attach. I am pleased as punch about it.

 

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Someone else is finally up, ’bout bloody time. Perhaps now I can be guiltlessly loud every time I move a muscle. I can hear her weeing. She is the middleaged Kiwi. Am I now to be middleaged? I don’t like the sound of it very much. Young. I like young. I am young. Anyway, she is older than me; greyer, and heartier. She talked too about these ‘black houses’, wishes she’d stayed up there in fact, but with the buses not running and all…. In one of her tales she was “splitting” her pants. Our accent must be as funny to them as theirs is to ours.

Means I can have a shower and get this show on the road.

Lots of love mate

K xxo

p.s. It is now a little later and Leticia from Chartreuse just said that these lonely islands remind her of me; lonely and poetic. Lonely at times perhaps. Joss called me “perfect” and Sheffield said I was “a free spirit.” Strangers’ impressions…sounds a’ight though.

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