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. 

Sensitivity, skin deep

Yesterday, I was trying to find out what
was wrong with the vacuum cleaner, one of those whizz bang Dyson things that’s
meant to pick up pet hair, and somehow in the process, the suction peeled off
skin from my finger.
It seemed a minor injury.  It was a minor injury but the pain I felt
through this injury is nothing less than ten out ten, whenever the skinned part comes
in contact with water or anything other than fresh air. 
And twenty-four hours later it
still weeps.

I told my husband it felt like a burn.  I’m familiar with them.  I’ve burned myself often enough over the stove
while cooking, but this is a new one. 
I think of St Bartholomew, the
apostle allegedly skinned alive for spreading his faith.
The nerve endings in our skin must
be vast, or maybe not on our skin, so much as directly under our skin. 
Just below the epidermis lies a
land of sensitivity that’s enough to make your heart and body break.  It’s only a small wound, as I say, and I’m
sure in time it’ll be fine.  but under this
morning’s shower…
 For now it has stopped hurting because I hold
my finger gently above the other fingers, give it air, and freedom from further
abrasion. 
Speaking of which, there have been
a few of late, abrasions that is.  More
the familial kind.  We are having a
battle in my family of origin about the nature of our family archive. 
To me an archive is a collection
box for memories of the past, but my older brother wants it to have a more
formal ring.  He wants it to include only
historical documents, photographs and other memorabilia of the family. 
This brother does not consider memoir
written by contemporary, still living, people sufficient to include in the
archive. 
My various siblings and I battle
over this.  Though many refuse to participate
and are silent, the other half are drawn in and argue over the rights and wrongs
of this. 
Why not have two boxes in the
archive, my husband reckons?  One for the
official stuff that clearly warrants a place in the archive, though once upon a
time some of this would have been contestable, too – my mother’s memoir for
instance.  There are enough of her
siblings who reckon my mother got things wrong. 
Not that memoir can ever be about absolute facts and truthfulness,
though there are some who demand it. 
In any case, my husband suggests we
have one box for the archival of the clearly-past and another box that can act as a sort
of clearinghouse. Things like people’s stories of their lives, their
recollections, can go into the clearing house, to be corrected as necessary,
and in time after some people die, be moved over to the official archive. 
One of my other brothers put up his
chronicles and it has upset some people, both for its inaccuracies and in
places for its insensitivities.
At times, he writes about things that are
somewhat at a distance from him, despite popping up in his diary.  Events that perhaps others should be free to
write about when they feel ready, or not at all, but not have this brother
display it as a family event on the page for all to see without analysis or
relevance or context.
That said, this brother, in my
view, has every right to put up his stories – not stories more a diarising of events
over part of his life time – even if others disagree.
 The old archival footage is non-contestable, almost
– there’s no one alive involved who could protest – but the other stuff, the
stuff that pertains to those of us who are still alive, is like trying to hold a
boiling saucepan with no handle. 
How do we pick it up without
getting scalded, or skinned?
And then next week, we escape from
it all, with a sojourn to Scotland.
As my husband said to me over
dinner last night, ‘Who would have dreamed that we would ever go to Scotland?’
It seems so far out of our familiar orbit: the Dutch, the German, the Irish,
the English. 
But our youngest daughter decided
that Edinburgh University was calling and that’s where she is living for a few
more months now and that’s where we will follow, for a couple of weeks. 
Only a short time to swallow all
that difference and distance, but enough perhaps to get a taste. 
While we are in Glasgow, we will
meet with one of my best blogging friends, Jim Murdoch, and his wife Carrie, and
the virtual world that is the blogosphere will for an hour or so – and in some
ways forevermore – become real.    
Our son-in-law’s parents, who will
travel from Germany to visit him and his small family, will stay in our house
and care for our dog and cats, while we traipse though the Highlands for
adventure. 
Children force you on adventures
you might otherwise not venture into.  It
takes that much to get me away from the comfort and ostensible certainty of my life at
home – notwithstanding the unexpected wounds.  
But that’s a whole other story,
why it is that, unlike so many people I know, I prefer not to travel further afield
than Victoria. 
Burned by the grief of my mother’s
immigration to Australia over fifty years ago, and her heart overladen with
a grief too heavy for her to carry, I shared it with her, that grief, even though I was born here. 
I know from my mother, what it’s
like to be forced away from your home.  Hence my compassion for all those
who come here from other lands, for whatever reasons.  
They lose touch with their idea of home.