Travels and Travails

I spent everyday of my mini-‘holiday’ travelling. It was nice but exhausting.

Tuesday

Bus to Reading, train to Paddington, tube to King’s Cross (spent breathlessly gaping at my watch while the Underground shuddered along ancient tunnels), train to Edinburgh (spent reading The Amber Spyglass, watching the countryside NOT CHANGE AT ALL until a little bit after York).

I arrived in Edinburgh to be greeted by my friend Sinead who’s just started studying Medicine there. Walked around Ed a bit, buying garlic and chicken because she was cooking. We went to the cafe where J. K. wrote the first Harry Potter, and later had a shot of chocolate while discussing politics. I concluded (after little to no deliberation) that I definitely like Sinead. This was cemented when she whipped out a copy of Black Books, not only let me waffle about languages and myths but joined in, and then gave me a copy of a poetry book!harry potter

Clockwise from top left: Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station, The Elephant House cafe where Jo wrote, and Kings Cross Station

Wednesday

At 08:50 the alarm went off. Mine, that is. Sinead had slept through hers and leapt over me to make her 9:00 lecture. I then met my closest-in-age cousin Andrew. Good to see him after quite a few years! He bought me breakfast – haggis. 😀 Haggis, just to clear things up, is not disgusting but delicious. It tastes like meaty oats with bits. I realise that’s not selling it, but trust me, it’s wonderful.

Then, I got the train from Edinburgh to Inverness. Now that’s what I call a train journey. Stunning coastlines moved on to sweeping green valleys, which later narrowed and were towered over by barren, browning mountains. Wild pheasant and red deer glanced at the train from beside small woods and increasingly long lochs. I listened to ‘ViIllete’ by Charlotte Bronte, a favourite book of a friend.

[Interruption: At www.librivox.org you can find many free, amateur-recorded audiobooks. This is because these books are in the public domain (which have no copyright on them – the kind you find on Project Gutenberg) and so they’re free to download!]

I arrived in the afternoon, and was met by my aunt, Sheila. We had a quick shop around Inverness before getting home to walk the two wonderful black Labs, Sula and Rogue. Sula is very affectionate and loves attention and getting her belly rubbed, whereas Rogue is more excitable and has an endearing habit of spinning around in tight circles when she’s happy. This is especially funny when she tries to run at the same time, and ends up performing graceless pirouettes through mud.

I also saw my cousin, Catherine and uncle, Kenny.

Thursday

A surprise was sprung upon me – Sheila and I got in the car and drove to(wards) Skye. It was very nice, don’t get me wrong… but after two days of sitting I rather wanted a day to chill and walk the dogs and all that. But oh well. Can’t say it’s not beautiful. First the wilderness of the Highlands and then the gentler sweep of the Inner Isles.

imageimage

(L) Rogie Falls, where the dogs were walked. (R) View of Skye from the Mainland.

We spent the night on Skye with a woman called Annabelle, one of Sheila’s old friends, a mild and cheerful retired botanist who had been to Iceland. She fell almost instantly into my good books, for three reasons. First, she offered me cookies. Second, she had an old copy of my dearest ‘Teach Yourself Norwegian’. Third, she recommended to me a book by William Morris (an alumnus of my college and one of my favourite artists) which was a translation or retelling of Icelandic myth. The fact that this precise reference occurred only a short period later while I was squeaking about my Tolkien biography settled it. Annabelle = good.

Friday

Friday was spent in a similar manner to Thursday – driving from one side of Scotland to the other. This time we passed the Harry Potter viaduct and picked up a hitchhiker who was chatty and friendly. I miss hitchhiking but people down South really don’t do it.

We got home, and I spent an hour or so looking at bird books and writing out which birds I would see in Iceland. Names like Wigeon, Whimbrel, Slavonian Grebe, Gyrfalcon, Scaup, Gadwall, Pharalope and amused me to no end, but only the Grebe really lived up to its fantastically ugly name by looking considerably like David Bowie in the early years.

glenfinnan

Slavonian Grebe (L) and Glenfinnan by the Harry Potter viaduct (R )

Nothing beats the puffin though.

Saturday

That’s yesterday. I got on a plane. Then I got off. Then a traffic jam later, I was back here.

…And it seems I’ve been typing since then. Sorry it’s so long!

It could all be summed up in a little limerick.

There once was a girl with a wit
Who wanted time off to get fit
But she travelled each day
From Loch Ness to Mallaig
And returned home more tired than she left it!

P.S. No, the poems don’t seem to have stopped. I don’t know what to do.

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