I didn’t really have the time or the internet access to be live blogging my adventures at the time- I had to do it old school with a pen and paper. I’m going to try to break it up-I think that’s best. So lets start at the beginning way, way back last Monday…
Monday 24th September
When my travelling companion, Merv, arrives to pick me up in the battering rain of Birmingham it is not in a merc. I try to disguise my disappointment by asking what happened to the merc. He is dressed appropriately for Scottish weather in a North Face padded jacket (not a puffa jacket, I am told). I have opted to take three forms of coats with me for all purposes; Cold, Wet, Wet & Cold.
We start off our nine our drive with some surprise, as we had both expected that Scotland meant Edinburgh. We are going past Aberdeen, that’s Edinburgh and then some. Cheese and crisps sandwiches later we sit in companionable silence to The Archers and The Afternoon play on Radio 4 broken only by my shouting ‘COWS’ at a herd of cows crossing a bridge and a general consensus that the play was not, as is so often, that good.
We cover a lot of subjects; 9/11, Pubs, Misogyny, Families, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, Who was really behind shooting Kennedy, Masonic iconography, Favourite Travel sweets, why they should be in a tin.
We pass without fanfare into Scotland, and travel through rising mountains in misty, sleeted roads. Scotland can give me a kick in the stomach like seeing the sea. Painted on scenery, that doesn’t seem quite real.
I utter an inane ‘Wow’ at a rolling granited mountain.
My companions response: ‘It’s just a really big hill’
On we travel, touching briefly on ex and current partners, what makes class, and my own potted family history, his family. We hurry past Stirling, a regular holiday haunt for me as a child. Horse Riding, a class continuum. The Wallace Monument, a proud tower, I tell half truths of tall swords and huge men. This is met with tales of Masonic masonry, Oblix’s jutting up into landscapes. A sign for Bridge of Allen bringing back memories of the ripened leather of a horseback saddles, a waterproof macs, boating lakes and ice creams.
The roads and scenery flattens into dark A roads. Far off windows of light in isolated houses. Nothing beyond near black planes and the driving rain, cats eyes bouncing off tar, and not knowing where the hills stop and the sky starts. A certain fear that perhaps the landscape has not flattened but that I cannot see the Mountains crouching in the darkness, hiding their jagged edges, watching the little hire Hyundi pass by. The expanse of it starts a fear in my belly, being alone in the wilds, the things that could happen in acres and acres of rural landscape. Light bounds over a hill in a sulphur con curve and I suggest the end of the world. Really it is the beginning of civilisation. Again. Dundee. Aberdeen.
With bright avenues of light and signs jutting from roundabouts, we arrive rudely back into civilisation. My companion has realised that 9 hours driving has caused a crick in his back and thirst for beer (after driving), and the knowledge that our B&B will be unlicensed. A Macdonalds attached to an Asda will quench thirsts and ease grumbling stomach’s in one smooth go.
In one of ‘the sparkling 2012 loo of the years’ in Asda, I wonder if that curve of light really was the end of the world and this is limbo. People smile with dead eyes or stare with empty aggression. Aisles and aisles of unwanted items, a three minute stride on wide avenues of potential purchases (don’t look at the clothes, don’t look at the homeware) before you find an attempt at what your looking for. Trolly’s stuffed with food awaiting cooking and Macdonalds bags stacked on top. A parade of legs in shorts despite the gale warnings plastered in digital banners across the motor ways.
We eat a macdonald’s. Salt sticks to my hands and diffuses into my body, already gurgling into my stomach. But I enjoy it, licked lips, licked fingers, too quickly. A dog with sad eyes and a nervous disposition turns awkwardly around awaiting its owner. I wonder if we will ever get out.
We drive down little lanes and unlit turns, the Birmingham sat nav voice hushing his tone at the sometime total darkness. Rabbits and rats dart between wheels and make eyes at headlights. We don’t see one person for 40 miles. Talk turns to ghosts, and figures that drift. Islamic ideas of ‘the ginn’.
I try to peer into households. Lit windows and warmth, just to see a shadow of person, a figure in frame. Nothing happens, nothing is open, closed shops, as we creep to our destination. We arrive under the cover of darkness into a silent town of shadows, not knowing what morning will show us.
Apart from a full cooked Scottish Breakfast, and the promise of a room with wifi.
A door slams.
A dog starts howling.