Far from home

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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. 
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7 Comments on Far from home

  1. Andrew
    April 12, 2015 at 8:11 am (3 years ago)

    For one who is speechless, you did well. Four when travelling works, three not so well, as we have discovered. I think with some time to reflect you will remember the holiday better. Nice to be home though, hey.

    Reply
  2. PhilipH
    April 12, 2015 at 9:40 am (3 years ago)

    You seem to be a 'stay-at-home' tourist, very similar to myself. I find travelling to distant places far too tiring and when I do go on holiday I'm so relieved when the familiar roads of home appear.

    Until 30 months ago our home was in the beautiful Scottish Borders, living in a country estate called Mellerstain. Twixt Galashiels and Kelso, and just 30-something miles from Edinburgh and Berwick-on-Tweed, all roads led to a peaceful and uncluttered spot. Small towns dotted around, such as Melrose, Duns, Kirk Yetholm all within 30 to 40 minutes by car giving one a choice of where to go without the hassle of traffic jams.

    Owing to my daughter's sudden health problem we moved back into England to be close to her and our grandkids. But I do miss the beauty of Scotland.

    We once took a car/bus journey to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on a few occasions to keep appointments and on one of these trips I made a short video of part of the journey. When the bus dropped us off at Earlston we got into our car for the few miles back to Mellerstain House and we encountered some traffic problems, the like of which you will NEVER see in London, Manchester, Birmingham or similar locations:

    http://bit.ly/1z7SWkg

    That's the sort of hold-up I do NOT mind … 🙂

    Reply
  3. Jim Murdoch
    April 12, 2015 at 12:11 pm (3 years ago)

    I believe Carrie and I slept in that exact bed in Oban. Carrie managed the walk up to McCaig's Tower when we were there. The train journey there would be enough to tire her out these days. And you are right, Scotland is a mixed bag. I note you said nothing about the joys of wandering around Glasgow in the rain. I remember when my wife’s son came to visit and I got tasked with showing him the sights. Apart from a trip to Loch Lomond we mostly shopped. When I went to California and Dublin I mostly shopped. Book shops and record stores. If I went to the moon I’d be on the lookout for a book shop or record store.

    I had a job driving a van once and crashed near Bridge of Orchy. I hit black ice, ended up in a ditch and the next thing I knew a crowd of Geordies (from Newcastle) were all around me, hauled my van out of the ditch I was in and got me going again. I booked into the first hotel I ran across and waited on daylight to assess the damage. I remember nothing of the damage but I do remember walking outside the next morning and the view! These people woke up to that every morning. Wonderful. But cold. So cold. And I was there in winter.

    Reply
  4. Anthony Duce
    April 12, 2015 at 2:11 pm (3 years ago)

    Enjoyed.. Was in Scotland last summer, mostly Edinburgh.. Maybe carrying a sketch pad helps… Being a tourist takes time. I try to pretend I’m not☺

    Reply
  5. Kass
    April 12, 2015 at 8:39 pm (3 years ago)

    Your trip looks lovely, but I understand how foreign everything can feel and how dynamics in a group can be challenging. I loved looking at the pictures and look forward to hearing about your visit with Jim.

    Reply
  6. Christine
    April 12, 2015 at 9:24 pm (3 years ago)

    Looks like you had a good trip in parts, although I understand your aversion to travel. The trip to Europe and the UK from some places in Australia where one has to fly up to 9 hours just to leave the country, is arduous and exceptionally boring. It is the must pay if we want to see the rest of the world. Or indeed, in my case, to make the pilgrimage to the old country. It was astonishing to feel the shifts within after visiting places I had heard grandparents talking about when I was a child. It also made me wonder about memory! Why one travels to distant places is an important question. It is not always 'shopping' in another culture.

    One can feel a long way from home when one is on the other side of the world. I find myself longing for and hunting down 'proper coffee' – the cafe latte's that can be so comforting for the 'me time' they provide as well as their place in the company of friends. Last year, was delighted to find an Australian coffee place on the banks of the canal at Paddington Station.
    After a couple of 'travelling trips' of the sort where the thought was that we are never going to be this way again so have to cram in as much as possible, we have learned that establishing a base works much better for us.A self catering apartment where one can strew one's things about and cook one's own food and follow our own routines feel much better than a B&B where one is kicked out for the day and have to fend for oneself for dinner. The prices are comparable but for us the value is far better. We can retreat when the tourists get too much! We can have a day off.
    Of course there are the arguments and such like. Two or more people travelling together without the usual home structures about will inevitably have different likes and needs and senses of priority. Things can go wrong too.

    I suspect we will have to travel to the UK again in the near future, for family reasons as much as anything. So our method is as good as any and there is so much to see and learn along the way. I am not looking forward to the flight.

    Reply

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