Posts Tagged ‘travel writing’

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Returning from Black Rock City

September 4, 2014

Darling You

 

How are you?

I am terrific and in a bit of a rush. Got an overnight train to catch and the Pneumatic Diner in downtown Reno to visit before I board.

Plans have changed.

There aren’t so many apples awaiting me in Hermosillo (bad drought) and I have developed a desire to climb rocks.  So I just bought a one way train ticket to Utah having been told by some young base jumpers from New Orleans about Moab, Utah. I seem to be oriented well for exploring part of this beautiful country, with its friendly people and its very handsome and flirtatious men, and it appears I am in no rush to jump down into Mexico so to Moab I go.

Give me two weeks of yankee tucker though and I’ll no doubt be sprinting for the border.

I have two posts ready to go pre Black Rock City which I shall send in a bit and will catch you up on the festival in time. It was magnificent.  Burning Man takes place in Black Rock City, by the way, if I have confused you.

But for now, know that I am alive and well and happy and nervous again, for after all my new mates, I am on my own once more and it always throws me into a mild spin of semi-excited, semi terrified mode.  Utah? Who’d have thunk it.

And Colorado is just next door.

Anyone reading this with any mates in the area please do hook a sister up.

 

All my love

Kirsty xxo

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Glasgow to Edinburgh to London to Edinburgh

August 25, 2014

My dear darling you

How are you?

I am very well.  I think I am nervous about leaving the UK for a desert full of strangers and my loony self, but survive I will and if all goes according to plan I will crawl out of it a more whackily rounded individual and one wider awake to the mechanics of the universe.

I am on a train returning to Edinburgh after some groovy evenings in hip London. What a cool town it is.  In the summer of course, with those long days and everyone cycling about happily.

This train is very, very fast, my ears keep busting apart, and the conductor just punched my ticket, confirming that the train I had to catch “between 10am and 2pm” does also include 2. It was a little risky.

My train last week from Edinburgh had a problem and never showed up, so they squashed my lot onto the next service.  I thought I’d judged my platform position quite well, and then every carriage except the last one zooms past, leaving me perfectly centered (and shocked) between the two last doors.  Damn. I gazed at the hoards as I remembered friends’ tales of 3rd class in India, and headed for the front, in the rain, fast as I could.  Miraculously I found a seat, joining 3 other women at a communal table.  It all looked quite nice about me and I relaxed into my blue lush chair. But why all the cups on the table?  First.

My innocence quickly vanished and I probably ought to have moved, but the bird opposite me was also a desperate rebel and said we were “experiencing extraordinary circumstances”, so we both stayed put. The old girls by the windows, two friends who now always travel up the front with their pensioners discount, agreed.

We drank the cup of tea, and pathetically declined the egg sandwiches, the asian noodle salad and the cake, having decided that in Great Britain everyone is entitled to a cup of tea.  The oldies ordered one of everything.

When the conductor finally did turn up, I leaped to my feet to search for my ticket.

“I think I’m going to get into a little bit of trouble here, but, well, I was on the 10.30 you see…..”

I didn’t mention my lack of a first class ticket for surely they are gold plated.

“It isn’t reserved, it’s all yours.”

I sat quietly, staring my large brown eyes at him, and watched my neighbour in confusion.

“I do not have a first class ticket.” It was not the thing to say.

“It’ll cost you”
“Really? How much?”
“A lot.  I’ll find you a seat and get back to you”.

He never returned from India, and I chased after the egg trolley to grab us a plate.

I stayed last night with my cousin Amanda and her children in Brook Green, after a few nights in Angel Islington with my Aussie mate Gerri. I do like London.

I may have aged Amanda’s teenagers a little for I had them assist with final preparations for Burning Man and showed them some photos.  I mentioned to the 17 year old that there are some drugs and the occasional orgy. She was disgusted. 13 year old Annabelle helped with my sign (I plan to be a postal service) and Patrick, whose artistic skills are 3 years her junior, decorated my camping cup with a turtle.  I now look very sweet and innocent.

We bought cheap socks at a fairly revolting store called Primark where I also bought a furry, fake lamb coat for ten quid. But a bit just fell off so I may have to leave it behind.  No rubbish allowed. None! Not even a little bit of synthetic lamb. They call it  ‘Moop’…matter out of place, and the coat may lose me all the spirituality karmic brownie points Nature Boy and the Post might win.  I don’t think I can risk it.  Shame. I’ll keep monitoring it.

I think the socks are too cheap.  5 pairs for 2 quid? Very suspicious.

And I need to soap the inside of these boots. Please blisters stay away. A woman I once worked with at SBS always slept in new shoes for one night before taking them out for a spin.  She swore by it.

And I discovered that a slurp of vinegar is the newest cure for hiccups.

So I’ve had a little city hop; Glasgow to Edinburgh to London.

They are all nice cities. Many say Glasgow is best avoided and I hadn’t intended to stay but I did, and in doing so coincided with the Commonwealth Games. Doubles squash was all that was left so I invited Pete who, in order to meet me at the train, had given away his boxing tickets. He told me after. Such a thoughtful bloke. I am secretly pleased that he didn’t take me, for I don’t really think I’d have been much into it. I like to try everything at least once but I do not like to see people punch each others’ faces. And I think it is odd that anyone does. I am told there is a fight club at Burning Man.

We watched the squash through a large see-through court with the ball coming at us. Pete loved it. I quite liked it, almost a lot, and let it be known that I even shouted “come on Australia” (twice!) in the final match;  Scots versus Aussies.  Mixed doubles.  We were only just beating them and all the excited Scots were stamping and yelling and going mad mad and I couldn’t help myself.  It was very out of character for my non-patriotic self, but shout out I did.  I still struggle to join the aussie oi oi though. One step at a time.  I quite liked the old “come on Aussie come on come on” and I don’t remember when it got the boot.

Pete says more Glaswegians had taken up jogging.

We met Pete’s mates and the four of us stood in the rain under my one busted brolly as we watched a beautiful film of pieced together old Scottish footage, while a 16 piece band performed live. It was marvellous.

At the pub later there were Aussies all over the place and my boys and I kept gate crashing their conversations.

There was the gold medal hockey player from Newcastle, who changed his mind after the third sneaky drinkie and said he was a sprinter.

The big, beautiful, bronze medalist for shot put who posed with Pete and gang. I would not be surprised if they blow up and frame that photo for you’ve never seen three Glaswegian mates so happy with life.

The hammerthrower who came in 8th.

“Better than fourth” I said, lacking athlete banter and remembering a photography exhibition I saw of the Sydney Olympics titled 4th.  The photos were all black and white except for the highlighted face of 4th place. Killer. She agreed.

I wonder where that chap is with the trolley?  Maybe this train doesn’t have one.

London was fairly boozy with all those nice old mates to play with.

I saw my old pommy flatmate Hugo from Buenos Aires for yum cha in Soho.  He has given up the law and is now in cinema, as an extra, explaining that while he may be back on the bottom of the pile, at least he likes the pile he is now in.  We snuck into a brilliant underground cave/bar called Gordon’s to escape a storm then slipped into the Tate Modern.

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Gerri took me to a birthday party in Brick Lane with lots of ladies and lots of birthday cards.  And that night I saw, just from the street, Lady Diana’s cat emporium where people pay to have cats walk all over them.  Unreal.

One day I hung out with David, another gay mate I also met in Buenos Aires who grew up a mile from me in Sydney.  We ate ramen and crept around Charing Cross Road book shops.  Howard’s End is his all time favourite book “it’s about EVERYTHING” and I now have a copy to start on the plane.  He helped me choose a yellow tutu (for Tutu Tuesday) and introduced me to Gilbert and George.  We drank good vino and ate fabulous cheeses after which Gerri took us to her favourite borough Clerkenwell for cocktails.  Saturday she took me to a dinner party with English mates which was super, and Sunday we bike rode up a canal by her house to the flower markets, drank beer and ate roast.

 

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I only had Monday to myself and, as you know, I am expected to be a creative creature in Nevada.  Bit stressful, for crafty ain’t me and it is hoped, expected, not compulsory but kind of, to present gifts at Burning Man.  Not a barter system, a gift system. Nothing expected in return for your massage, necklace, sandwich, cocktail.  Just give it with lurve.

I have decided to be a poetry postal service.

I found a book of “wild” poetry by Hafiz, that Persian chap, and will ask people if I might read them a poem.  Then, because I like snail mail, I thought I’d handwrite the poem and deliver it their address. Some are a bit long so may they choose the short ones.  I have mini envelopes all now stamped with a red shiny square to match my two “Sufi Post” signs, decent paper, and some spare .38 pens.

I have a bicycle to collect in Reno and I will cycle them about the place.  Or hand them to the post office there if it all gets too confusing. There is a snail mail postal service at Black Rock City (the city being constructed as I write) so if you did wish to send me a letter, you have until Monday the 1st of September.  My address is Camp Anita. 630 and Isfahan.  Black Rock City. Nevada. USA. Not sure of the postcode.

We are 140 people in Camp Anita and our gift is cocktails. 50% of us are from Melbourne so I will probably slip quite rapidly into conversation my Victorian/South Aussie bloodline to avoid that dull fight.  Why does a city so cool need to hate another city? I don’t get it.  Maybe this is my big opportunity to start the “Don’t hate Sydney just because we’re daggy” movement and I hope to be a splendid ambassador.

I still intend to sing Nature Boy twice a day. Quietly. On a dusty corner somewhere. In an orange dress with gold trimming.

Not sure about the chandelier piece necklace anymore…I could try to thread them on the plane to Reno.  Do you think they’ll let me board with a needle?

I met many people in London going to Burning Man in 2015.  Not very helpful but I have 140 new besties to discover so I don’t think I’ll be too lonely out there.

And I just spotted the trolley.  Wicked.  Tea.

Edinburgh has been pretty chilled out, with loads of comedy, mostly good with a few rotten ones thrown in for good measure.

And lots of walking around and admiring the place.

I can’t believe I am about to leave and haven’t walked up Arthur’s Seat or seen the Lewis Chess Pieces. I suspect they may be left for my next visit.

I have been staying not too far from the action but far enough to pretend I am a local (not with that scarf around your neck in summer you don’t madam!) in Hillside/Leith.  I found Irishman Alan on Airbnb months ago and was a little worried because not one of his references mentioned that he had any humour.  I almost didn’t grab him but he was super and every morning I have woken to “mornin’ darlin’.”

Alan is into boys and so his accent quite obviously does not turn me on, but the Irish speak such a kind and comforting melody that I have a feeling it is no longer a Scot I want whispering sweet nothings in my ear, but an Irishman.  I have found neither Scottish Henry nor Irish Henry regardless so I was thinking, maybe I am being a little too specific about the name. It is just such a nice name. Henry.  I could just call my lover Henry if I should ever meet him, I am sure he won’t mind.

I had two internet dates which makes 6 in total and now two in the same city.  I hadn’t been that keen to meet either, but one kept stalking me and I thought why not.  He was very softly spoken and quite sweet but complained about his back and reminded me of me.  Pain is best kept underwraps. He took me into the BBC tent and we laughed at the same time, a good sign, but he wasn’t for me.

The other sent me a funny message months ago, whilst I lied saying I was already in Edinburgh, and I thought he might be a little quirky.  But he was too awkward and after 40 minutes over a cup of tea I made a fairly rapid exit.  He whinged and whinged about street performers and couchsurfers and the only time his thin lips curled up a little was when he mentioned a masturbatathon in San Francisco he’d like one day to attend.

His suggestion for a first date was to take me to an island called Crammond, with high tides we’d have to closely monitor, to watch him film himself pitching a tent in the nude.  “Too weird mate” I said, and we settled for a cafe. Alan and his lover Victor agreed that he was a little handsome and encouraged me to go, though I think the photos were 30 years old and that that may be me out of the internet game.

It has been quite fascinating though for I have never been much of the dating sort and I get to go on dates if I want.  Most of them though I don’t want.  Mostly I find them pretty unattractive, or they say ridiculous things, or say hello only so I ignore them. My favourite first line was “did you poo at work today?” I didn’t respond but in hindsight, he deserved it for originality.

As I am moving back to the worst city in the world for straight single women around my vintage, I am considering getting a cat to keep the dog and I company. Perhaps I’ll become one of those creepy animal people who don’t much take to humans.

The tea is good, as is the shortbread.

I don’t seem able to eat lunch anymore without passing out shortly after, and somehow I must incorporate the siesta into my new life in the western world.  Maybe if I got others to join it wouldn’t seem so outrageous.  And it isn’t outrageous, it makes sense.

We are going over a brodge my grandfather heleped to build.  Right now.  HOrrray.

Yep. Touch typist. Excellent at it.

Berwick Upon Tweed.  Back in Scotland.  Hello Scotland.

I had two non-lover couchsurfing dates.  One with a big German girl who had been a thin Swede on her profile.  I hadn’t looked at the fine print.  She was ok but pretty serious and I’d say she found me as boring as I did her.  We went to one show together, and it was the worst show I went to all festival.  I was almost angry with the performer, which is very poor form on my part because the Fringe is for everyone, no-one gets knocked back. , This girl had come up with some original ideas to be fair, they were just really, really, awfully cheesy, unfunny, dreary and slow ideas. As was she.  At the end of the show as we all put money in her hat, I heard an old girl telling her she was great and to keep it up.  Encouragement is a good idea, but she should be told at this stage of the game to give it up.  Even her skits talked about how boring she was.  I blame the German for choosing it and should have trusted my instinct.

One of the best shows I saw, I accidentally found on my way home on my last night. A game show run by a couple of drag queens called Still Misbehaving. The two teams were ‘iphones’ and ‘others’. There were not too many ‘others’.  And it was just silly.  First to text, first to take a selfie with Miss Behaving, smash that phone, we threw rubbish at the stage while she danced in her gold sequined onesie and the winning team was that which had the heaviest bag so my lot put a chair in with it, and won.  It was all really very funny.

 

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I saw a few Aussies perform.  All excellent. And they were the only performers who suggested other performers worth seeing. My favourite was a Sydney bloke called Steen Raskopoulos who was young and talented and cool.  I tried to be his new bestie with a facebook message but no response.  I am sure the last thing he was searching for in Scotland was an Aussie mate so I’ll stalk the lucky fellow later.

It is probably boring to talk about shows you are unlikely to ever see so I shall not go on about it.  But I saw lots. And lots.

What other tales have I for you?

Archie, the other couchsurfing hangout, was a winner.  Met him in a teeny pub called Sandy Bell’s. Great place if ever you end up in Edinburgh.  Teeeeny.  And there is a tradition that folk music always be played at the end of the bar so there were 5 old blokes tinkering away. It was very understated chilled out old school cool, if you know what I mean.

And I met one other chap through the net, Alvaro from Madrid. I was reading about Burning Man global communities and wondered if maybe there was a Scot who’d been.  I sent an email to the Scottish group and received word from a bunch of people mostly not living in Edinburgh nor going to Burning man.  Except Alvaro. He says I need not one pair of goggles for the dust storms but two (daytime/nighttime).  It is all madness really. Wonderful mad madness.

The night before last, I met up with my dear old Roman/English mate Francesca who I lived with in Santiago 15 years ago when I was in love with FiddyD.  I knew Fiddy was still living in London because I looked him up 8 years ago, when I was last in town, and hung out briefly with he and his Croatian wife.  I was very in love with him and it tested my skills in strength and maturity to see him then so I decided not to call in this time ’round.  So what does Francesca do? Surprise me.

 “Surprise!”
I was indeed very surprised to see him, particularly because he’d phoned on our way to meet him and when I asked who was joining us she spun a tale about wishing to introduce me to her new lover. When I saw him I truly believed, just for a split instant, that they had incredibly and coincidentally met recently and started bonking.  What were the chances?  I broke out into a feverish sweat, they said ‘surprise” and then I remembered we’d all been flatmates. Then I had a beer, and then I relaxed. It was actually lovely to see him, he is still the most beautiful man I have ever kissed.

I have to wrap this up.  The train is about to land in Edinburgh and I’d better get all my kit together.

You may not hear from me for a while as I need to make my way from Nevada to Arizona where I am getting a ride down to Hermosillo, Northern Mexico. I think I might have mentioned in an earlier letter that I will be picking apples for one month and I am told internet is scarce.

All my love to you and wish me luck in the desert

Kirsty xxo

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Scotland : Durness to Craigellachie to Glasgow

August 14, 2014

Darling You

How are you?

I have travelled something of Scotland since last I wrote. The Scots
are saying I’ve seen more of their country than they have but that’s
always the way, isn’t it? Travellers get around.

I picked up a car and skated up to Durness. After all the buses and
the hitching and the slow, slow travel I kind of didn’t dig the car as
much as I thought I might. Except for UK radio shows, loved them. I
love the radio, I really really do. I miss mine, and hope it is
enjoying its new home in Bahia Blanca. My Tivoli digital, the hit of
Buenos Aires. “I’m sorry, did you say you wanted to listen to 2ser?
Kcrw? Nova? Classical in Chicago? Jazz in the Bahamas?” Best invention
ever and it will be the first thing I replace.

Durness was busy and wet. The highlight was my stroll on the short
beach, which was potted with stacks sprouting out of the sand. They
are so wonderful, like lonely, detached, crumbly cliffs protruding
from the earth. I love rocks by the sea, and these things are taking
it to a whole new level of magnificent.

The hostel had lots of people but few conversations and I have now
confirmed that I can indeed understand Spain Spanish. Incredibly
useful to have that language under my belt, I am quite pleased about
that.

The drive up through the centre passed lake after beautiful lake, on a
one way track with passing points dotted every 50 metres almost the
entire journey. Best you wave, or people will get stroppy. The drive
back to Inverness was much more picturesque and I lingered an extra
night to explore a little more.

 

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I crawled into a secret cave near Durness that only locals bother
with. I had turned by a sign promising real German ‘porridge’ bread
and saw my first cows lounging on the beach when the girl in the craft
shop put me onto it. It was so tricky to find that a kind couple
escaping the Glaswegian Commonwealth Games convoyed me in. It was tiny
and dark, with large puddles and small spiders and I reminded myself
that Scottish spiders don’t kill. It comforts me. Maybe they do.

 

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I visited Durness’ John Lennon memorial and drank hot chocolate at the
Cocoa Mountain cafe. I wasn’t in the mood for a hot chocolate but 3
people had said “if you’re in Durness, you really just must….” It
was delicious but, then again, how could it not be? Lennon had spent
his holidays there, and on one rock was etched “there are places I
remember, all my life, though some have changed….”.

40 miles from Durness I remembered Smoo Cave. Big big oops. At least
now I have a good reason to return one day. Too fast in my motor car
is what.

I made it to Cape Wrath of course. It is often used as a military
training base and is particularly barren. Our driver (one ferry ride
and then 40 minutes in a van) was a bright eyed chap from Manchester
who was really sweet, with a gentle sense of humour, and a man who
loved his summer job. He pointed out 3 vehicles in the distance which
were used as targets and the central was still hot pink due to
schoolchildren decorating the joint some years earlier.

He pointed far away to the Cathedral Stack, mentioning the
multi-roomed bothy on the beach. These things sound like pretty wild
and rough shelters and I might have to return one day with a blowup
mattress and a stove, for the spot was something else and is no doubt
in a film or two. It is also the original reason for my journey up
there. It is good to have reasons to return to places and now I have
Smoo Cave and the Scotland-by-Bothy tour.

And it isn’t every day you get to stand on the corner of a country. I
once stood on a small hill in the north of Chile where you see the
continental shelf swing east. It is pretty wild.

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I ditched the car and headed to Craigellachie to stay with Lynette and
Angus, the nicest people on earth. Angus is my 6th cousin once removed
(on my mother’s side) and they met my oldies in their 20s in Melbourne
way back when, realising only much later that we are all part of the
same Leslie lot. He practiced the bagpipes before bed.

Their very sweet granddaughter Olive, an equally close relation, was
also visiting and us girls ventured out one day to see Cawdor Castle.
The castle attendant, clearly bored and keen to gossip, told us awful
tales about the bitchy Czech stepmonster who’d been handed the keys in
drunken hubby’s will; changing centuries of tradition by kicking out
the kids and opening the joint to tourism. The housekeeper was told
off for not carrying the vacuum cleaner whilst vacuuming, and this
bloke had found trouble one day for putting the flag up upside down,
but it wasn’t, the wind flapped it in the wrong direction.

One of the daughters, having returned after daddy’s death to find her
bedroom padlocked, wrote Title Deeds which I began that very evening
as I bathed in the biggest bath I have ever had the pleasure of
bathing in. All baths should be that long and deep and delicious. I
became as quickly addicted as I did to Downton Abbey and I might have
to pick up a copy.

 

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There was a dead tree trunk in a cellar where a donkey had lain down,
a somewhat unconventional way to decide Cawdor Castle’s location, and
it is the inspiration of Macbeth’s Thane of Cawdor.

The highlight was the garden. Superbly manicured and abounding in
prettyness. I saw the biggest Scotch thistle I am yet to see, and
dahlias and roses and begonias and camelias, and great old wonky
hedges, and others I have no idea how to name were everywhere. We
clambered up thick hanging roots of ancient trees, and walked around
the maze. It was just wonderful.

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We visited the berry shop with its blueberries, raspberries,
gooseberries, mulberries, other red berries I’ve not seen before,
cherries, and some big brown bags of potatoes just to throw you off
kilter. I think I may never eat a non-Scottish raspberry again, I
have been destroyed.

We stopped in the birthplace of Walkers shortbread, Aberlour, which of
course smelled of shortbread, and bought crumbled imperfections of
buttery goodness in the shop where it all started.

While we visited castles and ate berries, Angus chopped enough wood
for 3 winters, and stacked it with the swallows in the woodshed.

We studied the family tree and I have promised to deliver info on my 7
nieces and nephews.

We hunted, unsuccessfully, for chanterelle mushrooms with swinging
baskets and Tovishar the Terrier, picking more berries along the way.
Tovishar means ‘companion’ in Russian, and the cats are named after
two exquisite Argentine locations; Bariloche and Cafayate.

They have several acres and a grand old house that had been in the
family for years. There were impressive red roses climbing up the
walls and a bell by my bed. It was just the two of them most of the
time, and they closed half of it in winter to keep it warm. My God it
must get cold here in the winter. It is cold now, a bit, and I am the
only one in the country sporting a scarf. Good thing I am carrying
two as one fell off between car and train. Sad but true. And just
hours after I discovered the keyboard was missing. Bugger. Under the
seat of my Hertz rental is my guess. Too fast again.

It was to be Angus’ 75th that weekend, and he kept on wondering out
loud about “the surprise.” There was no surprise cooking behind the
scenes, but he was really quite keen about it, and I sincerely believe
that he believed it was being hidden spectacularly under wraps. I hope
he had a wonderful evening. They were a super interesting and
charming pair and I had a lovely few days being spoiled rotten.

I am now staying in Glasgow with Pete, a mate of my mate. Doc and I
met Pete in Glasgow before Tory and Max’s wedding in Dunbar and Pete
has described himself as introverted and pessimistic.

I did tell you that that is why I am in Scotland, didn’t I?

Maybe I haven’t…

Well…. I couldn’t bear another summer in my apartment in Buenos Aires
as last summer there were so many power cuts and 40 degree days in
concrete, single glazed windows, and no water. And I’d been playing
with the idea of bailing and, not wishing to sign elsewhere for 2
years, I used the wedding as my exit strategy.

It was possibly the best wedding I have ever been to. Tory has just
left Broadway to live with now hubby Max in San Francisco. He works
for Netflix and her troupe all turned up so it was full of fun,
theatrical and creative people. Most boys had husbands, most girls
had wives, and half the wedding were Jewish so he smashed the glass
and we danced arm in arm in circles. And not every year do I get to
meet my first cousins so now I’ve met the yanks. I’ve only got ten
all up; 3 Victorians, 4 Yankees, and 3 Poms. I’d met them when I was 8
but I don’t know if it counts.

There was a scavenger hunt after the whiskey tasting, which was before
the dinner, which was the day before the wedding.

We were transported in a double decker red London bus and arrived at a
grand old house to a kilted Scot playing the bagpipes. They wed just
minutes after the rain stopped and the sun came out, and the bride
talked all the way down the grassy aisle. Unusual for a bride but
funny. Her mate played musical medleys from years gone by and Max’s
cousin Debra and I sat in the front row and sang All of Me while they
signed. It was all very entertaining.

Doc and I left thinking we were a bit of a hit, and between us
probably talked to each of the 85 guests. And I think I may now have
a reputation amongst my American family for being a mad and whacky
dancer. I couldn’t help myself. A few whiskeys, new mates, and a
good covers band and I really went for it. It felt terrific and I
realised I haven’t let loose all year. I would keep my moves mostly
undercover in Argentina, where it’s not cool to be silly, so such
silliness is usually limited to my mates’ sitting rooms. It is out of
the bag now, and there is no taking it back.

So, here I am in Glasgow. Staying with Pessimistic Pete.

With a new keyboard. And a new phone. Hooray. Nicole in Scotland’s
one Apple store gave me one for free. Legend. I was in a bit of a rush
as I was headed for the doubles squash, and while I meant to say “good
woman” or “thanks man”, I jumbled out “you’re a good man.” It was an
innocent mistake of course and would not have been an issue but Nicole
was a bit of a punky lesbian looker which made it the most terrible
and instantly regrettable faux pas. Killer. She’d been so sensational
too and her face did drop ever so slightly. I am so, so sorry Nicole.

Pete seems cheered by these sporting events. Glasgow has never been
this good. He is sleeping on sofa with me in his bed, met me at the
train and works for Mathew Talbot. He calls them his clients. He
offered me a cup of tea and as I wandered into the kitchen found him
dealing with the horrifying mess that will be a sudden busted pipe.
He was very quiet about it, and I really didn’t know how to help. Bit
awkward. Very wet.

I have to go.

Love to you

K xx

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Scotland : Uig Sands

August 9, 2014

Hey beautiful

How are you?

That pair were right to send me here to Uig.

Uig Sands, on the Isle of Lewis.

I can’t see the Uig Sands anymore. I woke up at 5.30 this morning and could see them, just, and cloud was hanging very, very low in the distance. Now they are almost invisible and I feel like I am in the clouds. But I am on my comfy bed in my mansion, all packed and ready to head off the islands on the 9 o’clock bus to Stornaway where I will wait 3 hours for the ferry to Ullapool. Back to the mainland with me.

 

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I think I mentioned in my last scribble that I had landed a ride in with my bunkmates. A nice trio of one mother and 2 bright kids, though he whined all the way because she’d mucked with his phone settings. Bit painful.

I dinged the large bell of Baile Na Cille Guest House and eventually conjured up Katie the housekeeper. Richard the owner was at the dentist and poor Katie was all a bit fizzled wondering what to do with me.

She showed me the entire house saying it was all mine to play in should I find the desire. I most certainly didn’t get that impression from the rest of family, who all seem a bit weird, unfriendly and grumpy. I didn’t want to play with them anyway. Perhaps their grumpiness is because weird dad has opened the house up to weird strangers. This is the downfall (and beauty) of being this disorganised in high season in the Hebrides, you don’t get to pick and choose. In fact, I was jolly lucky not to be sleeping on the sand as this was the last of 5 places I called for a bed.

The sands are quite something, and the tide draws in long and slowly reminding me a little of Broome.

The main house is dark and dated with doilies littered about, dark red leather sofas, flowers sitting dead in their vases, chairs that slump, and a nice sunroom with a comfy looking white sofa with the best view and a sign on the glass telling us it is private and to keep out. Bit cruel.

There is a queer and slim billiard table, an ancient out of tune piano, and a fuzbol game hidden in a cupboard. “Better for two” Katie apologised as she opened the teeny room to show it off. I’d previously made some comment about the difficulty of playing alone as she proudly showed me the grass tennis court. The court is beside a cemetery and I can see the graves from my room. It is a bit poltergeistish but very beautiful all the same. I have struck Scottish gold again. Will it never get ugly?

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“How is your mansion?” asked Richard. He is a Londoner with an American twang from years in Florida with his son and ex-wife, and has decorated each corner of the dining room with large rockets and military aircraft.

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My mansion is daggy and large, with more doilies, and an empty room next to me which Katie said I could spill into had I too much stuff. I do have too much stuff, but not that much Katie. I am the sole occupant at the top of a windy staircase and I keep the heavy door open with the luggage rack. My bathroom is across the short landing and, having calculated the risk, I have dared the occasional nude wee.

His wife is a pilot and stickers promoting female pilots are stuck to every surface. “America is the next stop” he says to us all at brekkie, pointing towards the Atlantic, adding that coconuts will turn up on the shore. And he called me ma’am over and over again, which should not have been as irritating as it was.

His father was an engineer and rated all countries by the state of their loos. He hated the Argentine, awarding it a big, fat zero. I personally didn’t find the loos there so bad, though some people are bothered by having to put the paper in the bin. You get used to it. In fact, my habitual reflexes have almost let me down several times.

It is a little chilly this morning, though yesterday was 27 degrees and even I went for a swim. For about 4 minutes. A swim none the less, no-one could say it isn’t so. I toured around with a rather good looking Belgian film producer who’d noticed I was the only one in the joint without a motor car. He is Alain who lives in Madrid with his wife, but he sails and she gets seasick so she went to Ibiza instead. We had a really lovely day, studying stacks and cliffs, and beaches and talking about all sorts of things. He had great travel tales about Russia and Mexico as the guest of various film festivals and told me about his claustrophobia. It would have made a fantastic first date, but it was simply a pleasant day in good company.

The previous evening I had eaten at “Auberge Cavanish”, a restaurant that my hitching family had mentioned. When I asked Katie about it, she looked behind her shoulder and whispered “Richard doesn’t like to talk about it.” Poor form Richard, your joint and the Auberge are just about all there is on the Uig Sands and if breakfast is any indication of your dinner, well…. see you mate.

Katie either misdirected me or I closed my eyes when she pointed, but I’m sure she pointed to 10 o’clock, and not 2 o’clock. Very, very different directions. My casual 20 minute stroll across the sands became a rabbit dodging, dune scaling, river wading (in my undies I might add) and rock climbing series of punctuality anxiety.

I tippytoed up to some poor unsuspecting bloke reading by sunset on his balcony, enjoying the peace and tranquility of the Uig Sands, to find me panting, having just climbed a small cliff, “ahem, ahem, um, hello……Do you know of the Auberge?” It was next door.

The Moby Dick/Book Thief pair from Garenin, Olivia and Louis, invited me to join them. I waved to my hitching bunkmate family on their way out. I shouted hello to the tripod photographer and her birthday boy Mick celebrating his 63rd (I sang him a little diddy) I’d met at the Calanais stones, all chuffed having spotted a flock of juvenile eagles that morning. I then realised I was sitting back to back with a bloke I’d seen that day in the teeny viking museum and later buying berries in the one shop at which point he made a stalker joke. There was only one table in the Auberge I didn’t yet know, so I shouted a big hello to them too so they wouldn’t feel left out. Uig is not very large.

One of my magnificent Brasilian flatmates from Buenos Aires would always make a point of joining me if I was eating alone. Company is usually nicer, it is true, and I wanted to ask the non-stalker at my back to join us but I was the gatecrasher and it wasn’t my call.

Olivia killed a rabbit on the drive home, lucky not to knock down hundreds.

I mentioned the joint to Alain and I must look much rougher and poorer than I believed, for he insisted on buying me dinner. You can only play tug of war with a bill for so long. Good man, really nice chap. Thank you.

Over the course of the two evenings I ate goose, white pudding (“it’s kinda like black pudding, but, um, white”), monkfish, scallops, haggis and venison. I have been swinging between lentils and pasta a la Kirsty so I went to town.

That afternoon Alain and I had visited a scallop/oyster joint and hand picked half a dozen oysters from a large net she hauled out of the water. They were shucked on the spot and Alain pulled a lemon out his car. It was all a bit too much really, out of control tremendous.

Alain’s father had been one of the founding members of the EU and his mother’s school had been accidentally bombed in 1943. She slipped into a coma while the other children, her sister included, dealt with the carnage. The two sisters didn’t speak for 20 years, until one day someone passed her a small book about the bombing and the two girls finally started a conversation. There is much talk at the moment of course about the anniversary of the Great War.

I decided late last night, scouring timetables on the internet, that it is time to pick up a car. Hitching on the mainland? I don’t tink so.

I can barely see the tennis court.

Are you well?

All my love

K xxo

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Scotland : Isle of Lewis

August 5, 2014

Hey beautiful one

How are you?

I am super and now on the Isle of Lewis.

It was an easy enough journey, except that I made the mistake of asking the bank in Skye to change my notes into bigger ones. £50 bills. Big mistake. The bus driver in Stornaway told me to get stuffed, and that he was leaving. I ran off the bus, realised I was in a desert, and jumped back on calling out if anyone might have change. Thank you, thank you old girl in the front seat. Saved me a three hour wait for the next one.

The bloke behind her was incredulous. “What the hell is that?” He was asking about the note. “Never seen one of those in all me life!” When I sat down another fellow turned behind and asked me about it, “I umm, got it from the bank.” He was angry on my behalf, “what the hell were they thinking giving you such large bills?” I kept my mouth shut. Lesson learnt.

In Argentina it was tricky changing the $100 peso bill, worth only US$10 in the end. Poor old Argentina, in the muck again. I must admit, I am missing the gangster feeling of working with cash only. All this card business in this western world. In the last 2 years living there, I would shove US dollars down my leggings before boarding the plane (any flight into Argentina and you can rest assured, every passenger is doing the same), and then I’d change them into pesos with my butcher. Good old Rudolfo. Before him it was the plumber. True story.

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I eventually landed in Gearrannan Village, Carloway, well-known for these black houses people speak of. The Blackhouses are not actually black by the way. Not at all. Someone said it was because there had never been a chimney but word on the street is that the name’s origin is all very debatable, and most possibly a translation accident when they messed the word black with the word hatch.

The 9 houses in the village are all now restored for punters like me, and my room was so teeny that myself and the 3 others (a mother and her 20 year olds) had to walk sideways between the bunks.

 

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It was crawling with tourists when I arrived but by early evening they’d all cleared out and a handful of us remained to watch the sunset, potter around on the beach below, and stroll up and down the teeny tiny street. We all felt a bit bloody special in the world calling it home for the evening.

Earlier, after I’d dumped my bags, explored a bit and learned how peat is made (earth = fuel), I ditched the tourist hoards of Gearrannan/Garenin and headed off for the Calanais/Callanish stones. Gaelic is alive and well here.

But hitching is not, and it has been getting harder and harder. The tourists are not that into it, and the locals are few and far between. One woman did actually stop, and it was confusing for both parties. I didn’t want to open the door but she wouldn’t put her window down. She eventually did, asking why I’d motioned her to stop. “I’m, umm, after a ride”. “Oh!” She quickly ran away, looking frightened and worried. I never pick up hitchhikers either, but if I ever do stop for one in the future, I’ll try not to make them feel like a mass murderer.

After an hour on the main drag a kind woman, returning from her daily visit to her son’s house, picked me up. He has progressive MS and she drives there and back daily, 32 miles each way. Her Jamaican partner is in a wheelchair because his back is buggered. Some people do it so much harder than others, don’t they? There is only one facility for care on the Isle of Lewis and he is too young for it. She didn’t want him to move out of his home in any case. “You must be very tired” I said, “who is looking after you?”

The stones were predictably marvellous and I spent some time in their company. The sweet mother had dropped me off at Calandais III, which didn’t look like the place the bus had pulled into 4 hours earlier, but I was hardly going to tell her so. She in fact had dropped me off accidentally perfectly, for Calanais I, II, and III are all within just a couple of miles of each other. Most don’t bother with II and III for they’ve seen the wicked, wicked one and after that the others are a bit of a letdown. But they’re not, and I sat in the centre of these circles with their tumbled down blocks of stone, mingling with those still standing, all by myself. Lucky girl.

Here is the postcard that originally inspired me to go.

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You’d have had another of my award winning photos but my phone has busted a little more, so bad luck, for you and for me. All gone. Adios dear snaps of the Calanais stones, and adios to one really terrific photo of a frangipani tart. Luckily I’d emailed myself that blue sheep.

Calanais I is impressive, and I was impressed. Really something, and I now want to go to Stonehenge. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it really but a few people gave me some pointers and I’d read a little of what the astrologers had to say.

The touristy hoards must have been having supper by the time I arrived at there, for there was just one couple standing at the main entrance. She had her camera on a tripod and I tried to hide behind the stones. But you can only hide for so long and eventually I wandered down. We three got to chatting, and they’d been on St Kilda the day I was. They were going off an eagle hunt the following morning and I bid them farewell.

Yes, yes my dear friend, I went to St Kilda.

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It was a fairly rough and queasy 3 hour journey to the medieval village which, this week, is occupied by scientists discussing soay sheep; a small and chocolate brown coloured flock who manage just fine without us interfering. The fieldmouse, a wren and a whole lot of birds are their only other company.

I stood most of the way there and back, as the dodgy last seat they’d sold me was indeed really dodgy. It was sidesaddle or not at all, for my legs were wrapped well into the stove otherwise.

Capt’n Tom and his first mate Ennis, who’d picked me up from Number 5 at the crack of dawn, were young boys from Harris and were terrific. While Ennis steered, Tom handed out biodegradable cups for anyone feeling rough, making certain we wore life jackets at all times. There was just one poor woman and Tom, always at the ready, tossed her cup of spew straight into the ocean, immediately handing her a fresh one.

I spotted dolphins and I saw my first puffin!
We also saw massive colonies of gannets and fulmars.
But puffins!

The way back was gentler for we had a southerly and they gave us a cuppa and a piece of Ennis’ mother’s ginger cake, for which I now have the recipe.

We had 4 hours to explore the island and, after reading the entire small museum, I headed for the longer walk up the higher hill.

It looked very foggy up there and every person I passed turned back saying it was too, too misty.

Previously, the ranger had warned us of a bird who will whack, and had asked us to stay within sight of the village, or to stay with a buddy. I had no buddy so I nearly turned back, but at the last minute I caught a glimpse of humans so I soldiered on.
It was clear as crystal once you were on the hill, very spongy underfoot and absolutely everywhere were rock cairns where they’d stored their food in winter. Everywhere. It was cool.

This small group I stalked were on a bird tour and staying on a boat for 3 nights. They all seemed delighted about it, saying I ought to be able to continue on down to return to the village. They’d not done it, but it should be fine. I don’t like going back the way I came, so on I marched.

And then I got attacked.

I wanted to have my lunch a little way down the hill (it was windy on top), to ponder life and look at silvery stacks, but then all of a sudden four massive, bitchy birds were swooping down at me, loudly and violently, just missing my head and occasionally thumping me with a paw for good measure. It was funny and it wasn’t. But I was laughing out of shock, shock! and running, and flailing my arms all about me, shouting out that I didn’t want their babies and “I’m sooooorrreeeee!!” For I was. Forewarned is forearmed, the ranger had said, but he hadn’t specified where they were hiding their babies. It was a scene out of Hitchcock, though I remembered the ranger’s grin and felt safe they’d not peck me to death. But for 5 minutes I leaped down this steep, muddy terrain (near the steepest cliffs in the UK I might add) and then suddenly it stopped. Little buggers. They really came at me fast and close. They were skuas, otherwise known as bonxies and I am a survivor.

By the way, in case you were wondering, St Kilda in Melbourne is called St Kilda because of a boat that passed through, and not because of the “vigorous and self-reliant” St Kildans of the Outer Hebrides.

And a stack is “a geological landform consisting of a steep and often vertical column or columns of rock in the sea near a coast, formed by erosion.” Thanks wikipedia.
I am a big fan of a stack, especially now that I know what one is. That Old Man of Stoor I mentioned from the Isle of Skye was very similar, but I don’t think it is close enough to the sea to win such a title.

This St Kildan mob were completely self sustainable, surviving more or less on just birds for years, seeing only their landlord who would row over to collect the feathers/rent each year. They accidentally kept the population manageable (never more than 180) because they were unknowingly infecting umbilical cords with fulmar oil and killing nearly every newborn. In the end it was thanks to dodgy ministers, nasty germs, tourism, and the war that ended them, and the remaining few were shipped out in 1930. There was water on the island, so why not live in the sticks? Apparently they got a real liking for tobacco too, and would pay most handsomely for it once they’d discovered its existence.

I grabbed a small publication titled “The Story of the Ill-fated emigration from St Kilda to Australia in 1852″, which is as uplifting as its title suggests. Almost everyone dies from disease before they reach Oz and I am now reading about skanky living conditions in Melbourne during the gold rush. The poor St Kildans.

Last night in Gearrannan I drank vino tinto with Howard and Dudley. Howard taught me the unpretentious way to trial wine…”give it a good whiff and and then go for it.” He was a geography teacher and all over his beaten up map he’d proudly scribbled thousands of notes. ‘My novel” he said, with one note that read “bus drivers are brill.” And sometimes they are.

His good buddy Dud is a musician, piano and acordian, who’d just scored a job at a ballet school. And this pair, with one other mate who had marital problems and was sitting this drink out, were cycling around the islands. They were very jolly fellows and as I headed off Dudley congratulated me “for being fab.” Who says that? “Cheers Dudley. And your name rocks.”

An English couple, Louis and Jess, passed by with Moby Dick and The Book Thief in hand. “How romantic” I thought, “literary dates by moonlight and the seashore, on the edge of an ancient village.” They were back at base within 7 minutes. Midgees got ’em.

I could only stay here the one night, no more beds for me, and my room buddies have just offered me a lift to Uig. Wicked. Best fly.

All my love

k xxo

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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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Scotland : The Isle of Skye part 2

July 28, 2014

Darling You

I have a couple of hours left on this beautiful island.

Aaah, sweet sorrow.

I must catch up on these tales for more are no doubt to come and should I get too behind….

How are you? Well? Happy? Busy? I am well.

If it was never winter in Scotland and if the government let me stay more than 90 days I think I would move here. It is so strikingly beautiful and I am well impressed. Why do not more people talk of these lands I roam? I have had a good week, mixed with the mellow and the adventure, sunshine and storms, mingling and solitude, stretching and lentils. I began the week with a visit to the Fairy Glen, which was indeed enchanting. I thought I’d best start taking some photos but do forgive me, I am not known as a photographer and am also using a busted phone so….

with that request for forgiveness…   image

I just found this this much truer photo at fairytaletraveler.files.wordpress   image It was on and off raining all day and I have this problem with the hood of my raincoat. I have a droopy left eye, and feel like I am a strangely disguised pirate with a patch. It is a little problematic and my already rough eyesight is being reduced to 50%. The sweet fairy glen are a collection of small, mossy, green, swirling hills, I think from glaciers (though I heard grazing sheep as a theory), and there were a few children clambering about having a gay old time. I hung out with the sheep and nibbled on shortbread. I ducked out of the rain and into the Uig hotel, where there was a collie behind the desk, and a flyer about a boat into the Cuillens sporting a picture of a puffin and a red deer. I wanted in.

I had a windy lunch on the step of this mini castle. image

 

The following day, Gavin of Flodigarry let me leave all my kit in the caravan at no charge while I headed to the southern part of the Island and to these famous Cuillen hills. I dropped my gear off at the hostel; pjs, a can of soup, last night’s lentil brew and Doc’s sloppy muesli a mere 6 hours before they allowed check-in but, thanks to a large Belgian crew, I was slipped the door code and snuck on in. I let the owners in on it though, frightened my pjs might disappear. I bought the soup just prior to the boots the previous day, in a healthy healthy store.

I wanted to go mad, for it was the first I’d seen of its kind since Christmas, but I breathed deeply and settled on cranberries and the soup. Haloumi was in my hot little hand but one girl can’t support both goat and haloumi so very, very reluctantly, I put it back.

The Uig hotel had printed me a bus timetable to add to my north and south Skye tables, but when I got to Broadford for the change, I discovered it was an hour out. An hour later out. I was to miss my boat, so I geared up to hitch the 20 miles to Elgor where the boats live. Lonely back roads are gems for hitching it seems, busy roads not so good.

There was Ross the geologist from Aberdeen who told me not to bother visiting, and a pair from Sheffield who had felt sorry for me. Their helmets lay at my feet and a big bit of driftwood beside me on the seat. The helmets were for when clambering up the gravelly part of the mountains, I forget what he called it. He pointed one out to me, madness. Like a ski run, made of gray gravel. And they were going up it. Madness. They’d like to move up here but he works close to home for Outward Bound and it was too good to give up. I did Outward Bound once. I was 14, and it was the first ever outdoor anything I’d no doubt done in my life, apart from a swim in the sea. With 15 other prissy little brats I remember we whined. Well, I whined, perhaps they were tougher. Doubt it though. We had to raft, abseil, cook, (did we??), and sleep under a piece of plastic they called a bivouac. I mostly remember our mockery of the guide because he wore the same pair of blue leggings the entire 10 days. You’d think we might have wondered a little about the trees and the birds, but I don’t think so. Some months later I was shipped off to the bush for an entire year. I was a good girl and I didn’t really deserve it, but it seems I came out alright, perhaps. I apologised to Mr Sheffield on behalf of all the little brats he must break in and thanked them for the ride.

I arrived as my boat was sailing (they came back in for me) and off into the Cuillens we went. They are quite a striking range, let it be said. And I asked the skipper about puffins to which he replied “St Kilda.” “Where’s that then?” I was the only lass on our voyage with a one-way ticket so I accepted their invitation to stay on board for a cuppa and some really fine shortbread. “Take another bit.” “Ok”. Best not to offer me more of this buttery gem, for I plan to roll out of this country. There was a nice Kiwi on her first day of the job and the skipper’s collie, of course.

After a raging river crossing, my shoes now in my pack beside last night’s spaghetti (I think I just discovered leek), I headed on up. It was all fairly gentle for I was on the cheat’s route, and I found a Danish family a little way up the hill with both mum and dad clutching gps machines. They led me to my path and told me of geocashing. Ever heard of it? Millions have. “Millions!” People leave little boxes “in a telephone box the size of your thumbnail, or under that rock over there,” inside which you find a piece of paper and sign it. A global treasure hunt, without the jewels. I want in. But I can’t read a map, and so I must let go of this short lived dream. Sounded fun though. Millions! They had had to circumnavigate the loch as the river I’d crossed had been too high. Perhaps it was still too high, it had been quite challenging.   image After reaching the top and down the other side, it was a good, rock hopping, stride along the belt of a long valley all along which I could see my destination 3 hours away. I met a few people as I strolled, most memorably the Japanese pair I bowed and “hajimemashite’d” to (how do you do?). I love the Japanese, they are perhaps the most interesting and odd of us all. I didn’t get an opportunity to sprout out my one other line, “o nomimono wa nani ni nasai masu ka”… as it might have been a little too weird given our meeting point. It is my very polite way to ask either what do you want to drink? or eat, I forget.

 

At one stage I heard this dreadful squealing behind me only to turn and see my first real life mountain biker. Stunned. I have never, ever. People do the most extraordinary things. It really did stop me dead in my tracks out there alone in the middle of nowhere with all those pebbles. The new shoes came in just in the nick of time. Puddles along the way and do you think I worried? Oh no, not me.   Made all the more wonderful thanks to the genius who placed all the rocks so perfectly. image

And by the way, the comb for this now very, very long hair of mine was to replace the teaspoon I’d used the previous evening. Long is a somewhat debatable description but, to need a comb? Long.

I dined on my canned organic bean soup and breakfasted on Doc’s awful muesli and, having carried all my stuff in a shoebag, life was good. No mates to speak of, for there was a large group that were a bit clicky and so I ran away.

I didn’t linger long down south as it was raining when I woke and the mountains invisible, so I headed home to Flodigarry. That afternoon I was headed to Joss’ healing loch a few miles down the track (another of the “most beautiful, remarkable and incredible things” she’d ever seen) but the bus cruised past en route and I ended up at this Old Man of Stoor instead. It began raining again as I started up and I was almost blown off the hill. Good man, made it all the more exhilarating. He is a large stone sticking up amongst other large stones. And the highest of his kind around here. Scientific explanations and descriptions are not my strong suit, I’ll get back to you with a wikipedia link one day.

Yesterday morning I was double-bus headed to the Dunvegan Castle but spotted more postcards in the post office sending me off piste again. “Where is this?” I pointed to my postcard of Neist Point as I paid for the stamps. Same bus as the castle, 23 miles from the nearest last stop. Easy hitch in, not so easy out, but I made it eventually and spent the better part of the day sitting on large black rocks by the sea reading, picnicking, and spotting my first Scottish dolphins. Super. Super. I forgot to photograph the photograph before mailing it. Oops.

Neist Point image

Image courtesy of skye-self-catering-cottages-carbost.com

I bought two tickets to the Edinburgh tatoo last night. I have only me as my friend and I’m not that large, but perhaps between now and then I might find a mate. And if I don’t, I thought I might just approach a super random on my way and say how about it?. I thought about lining up an internet date for it but a bit intense or daggy for a first date isn’t it?

And I came up with an idea for Burning Man in the shower today. I am expected to be creative and interactive. Oh dear. And crafty. Fuck. I thought I might sing Nature Boy (it is the only song I know all the words to) twice a day in the same spot. I have 20 small chandelier pieces I bought in Buenos Aires that I intend to make into necklaces (I have a standard knot up my sleeve if no teacher comes forth) and to give them to members of my audience if I have any. They’ll have to be fast, the song only goes for about 78 seconds and I doubt there’ll be much volume in it to reel them in as I’ll be terrified.

I’ve been learning it on the piano, and had a practice on this very out of tune Flodigarry gem. image

 

So farewell to you my darling Skye, you have been so wonderful. Thank you for having me, I shall miss you.

And farewell to you darling.

 

k xxo

p.s. I am waiting for the boat to take me to the Isle of Harris and, while my backpack, mattress and food bag are touring the north of Skye once more (great suggestion by the bus driver, cheers champ), I have mailed 3 pairs of shoes and one hat to Edinburgh. Here they all come now on the 57c.