So I meant to write more about Scotland tonight, but I just took 3 hours to write my bloody National Young Writers Month daily post, so now I am wrecked and sick of the blog and just want to veg out and watch the TV again.
But I will not! I will triumph over this feeling! I will write and be creative and use my brain and not be a lump of good-for-nothing taking up precious living space and consuming non-renewable goods for no reason! I will repay the world with travel blogging and whimsical stories and nonsensical poems! I will!
So, as I said yesterday, Scotland was awesome.
We (we being me and one of the other au pairs I travelled to Scotland with) were worried the weather would be awful, and we were especially worried as the weather forecast for Ireland was wonderful. We were also slightly grumpy as the one weekend we had decided to leave Bandon, was also the one weekend that Bandon was going to be literally jumping with life and activity, due to the Bandon Long Weekend Music Festival. Still, we were certain we would still have fun in Scotland. Well, we were pretty sure we would.
After a long flight delay, during which we were able to lie on the grass in the sun outside the airport and wait for our plane, we arrived into Edinburgh around 11pm. It was ridiculously balmy, and we were able to walk to our respective hostels in short-sleeves. It could have been an Australian summer’s evening. I was utterly enchanted by the parts of Edinburgh I saw on the bus from the airport to the city and immediately decided I really liked the place (on a side note, I think its very important for city planners to organise their airports and public transport systems so that you get a good view of the city as you travel in from the airport – my first ever views of London in 2005 were disappointing due to the fact that the tube, as wonderful as it is, showed all the backyards of horrible little houses out in the suburbs around the airport. Better to cover that all up until you get nearer the sights everyone wants to see… Is that mean? Oh well, its true). My hostel was cute, cosy and also staffed by some very strange Australians, who seemed to both be stoned (it was 11:30pm), potentially in the middle of a break-up and therefore attempting to out-do each other with all the information they could tell me about the hostel. It began to get awkward when they started arguing about the value of the suggestions they were giving me. ‘Well, that’s not really relevant, is it, because she’ll be gone by 9:30am,’ ‘Yes, but, what he forgot to tell you, of course, is that you’ll actually need the code to be able to come back in…’ etc. I backed away slowly, attempting not to get their attention or anger them with any sudden movements, and went to get myself some food before I gnawed off my own arm in hunger. I found fresh vegetable samosas at the local newsagents, where I had a cheerful and bizarre discussion with the Indian owner as to how many samosas we could eat in one sitting (me=3, him=5 or 6), and I decided that any town surrounded by mountains, with medieval buildings, a castle, and where it was also possible to buy fresh samosas for 99p each from your local newsagent at 11:45pm was deserving of my adoration and I promptly gave my heart away to Edinburgh for good.
I had a decent sleep despite being in a room called ‘Fridge’ and a bed called ‘Guinness’ that actually felt like an oven and smelt like smelly socks, and woke the next morning ready to see the land of my ancestors. After a slight mix-up with the bus and the meeting-point, we met our very friendly guide and our other tour group members, and headed out towards the Inner Hebrides and the Isle of Skye.
We drove first on a not particularly interesting bridge, and up a not particularly interesting Motorway, made slightly more interesting for the names I recognised along the road, such as Fife and Kirkcaldy, where I knew some of my ancestors had originated from. There was also the turn-off to St. Andrews, not that I have any ancestors there, but, well, I’m sure you know the signifcance.
The first place we stopped at was a town called Dunkeld (as I have ‘remembered’ after staring at a map of Scotland for 10 minutes, just in case you had any illusions about my memory for these matters or that I noted travelling facts down in a book for future reference or anything like that). It was very pretty, with a river and a church and was ridiculously sunny and delightful. The locals, amusingly enough, were complaining that it was far too hot to be outside today and they kept commenting that they were glad to be inside wherever it was that they were, which just proves that… well, it proves something. That people live in places that suit them? That you get the weather you wish for? That nurture is more important than nature in the creation of tastes and preferences? That Scottish people are insane? Something like that.
We then drove through Birnam Wood, which is, as fans of the Scottish play should be able to tell you, a wood that is able to get up and walk wherever it wants to go, so don’t you ever be trusting any witches that predict you will be King until Birnam Wood gets up and walks to your front door. It may come sooner than you think. That’s a little tip from the Scottish King to me and you.
Our next stop was the magical, mysterious and mythical Loch Ness, which, unfortunately, due to the sun didn’t look very magical, mysterious or mythical. It looked distinctly cheery and as if it should be on the front cover of a tourism magazine for California or something. Jet boats and paddle-steamers with waving tourists went cruising by, and despite sitting on a rock in the Loch drinking whiskey for nigh on 20 minutes and numbing my feet in the icy-cold Loch water, I left with the distinct feeling that I hadn’t actually been to see Loch Ness at all. I was further confused by the complete lack of any monster-related sightings, and the sunny sunniness of the sunlight bouncing off the water even prevented me from imagining funny-shaped shadows on the surface of the water was actually Nessie swimming way below. That’s the problem with visiting Scotland during the only 4 sunny days it has in a year. You have a great time, but you leave feeling like you must have actually accidently gotten on the wrong plane and landed somewhere in Eastern Europe by mistake.
After Nessie we hopped to it and zoomed the rest of the way to the Isle of Skye, reaching it around 6pm. After I had dumped my bags, I went for a quick 45 minute walk around one of the small hills surrounding the town we were staying in, Kyleakin, were the weather obliged me by throwing down a couple of drops of rain, just so I didn’t feel like I was missing out. That evening, the other au pairs and I got dressed out and headed to the first of 2 pubs in the town to have a drink and a party to celebrate the birthday of one of the girls. The ‘live’ music turned out to be a man with a guitar playing over the top of synthesised drum beats, or so we thought. When, in the midst of a Jimi Hendrix cover, he put the guitar over the back of his head and attempted to continue to play, but it slipped out of his hands, and the music still came out of the speakers without a glitch, we began to realise it was time to go to the next pub. There we found a 1970s cover band, who used the opportunity of playing glam rock to wear very bad wigs and pleather pants and blue jumpsuits.
The next morning, after far too much screaming to Queen and the Nutbush, I awoke with a slightly croaky voice, but ready to see the Isle of Skye. I was not disappointed. Our guide likened Skye to a burlesque dancer, because she is normally covered in some form of mist or fog (hence her name, which comes from the Norse word for ‘cloud’), and only lets you see tiny bits at a time, keeping everything else covered up. However, on the weekend we visited, Skye was feeling pretty frisky and was laying, legs spread, in the sun, in her all-together. We first visited a river of eternal youth and beauty, where you had to dunk yourself face first into the water. If it didn’t bring eternal beauty, it at least woke you up after a night of cider and too many brightly-coloured flares. One girl on our tour, I think, took the whole thing a little too seriously and threw herself into the water fully clothed, so that she wouldn’t end up with just a youthful face and wrinkly old-lady hands and saggy boobs… either that or she slipped on a rock and tumbled in. Either way, it was pretty funny for the rest of us.
Our next stop was the capital of the Isle of Skye, a place called Portree, where it just so happened that the Skye Pipe Band was celebrating its 50th anniversary 30 minutes after we arrived. This meant that not only the Skye Pipe band, but 4 or 5 other pipe bands from the surrounding areas had arrived in their full get up and were about to parade around the streets of Portree playing marching music. Tourist snap-happy paradise!!!! The entire tourist population of Skye was totally enthralled, and we followed the band around like the rats of Hamelin, taking photos from one angle, running ahead to get another angle, running back to get another one and generally making a nuisance of ourselves as the pipe bands attempted to go about their ceremony properly. It was one of the most awesomest things I’ve ever seen, and I’ve come to the conclusion that everybody loves a bagpipe. And the only thing that people love more than a bagpipe is a bagpipe band complete with twirling, pom-pom decorated drumsticks and men in skirts. I think, from now on, all of my theatre shows will be advertised with a pipe-band. Just walk a pipe-band through the streets of Sydney and people will follow. Guaranteed.
After a quick trip to the local op-shop (unfortunately, I hadn’t packed with a tropical Scotland in mind, only rainy, miserable Scotland, and my one and only T-shirt had already been drowned in sweat the day before), I jumped back on the bus and we headed out to the local faery glen. Yes, yes, the local faery glen.
This was a beautiful little place, and when I say ‘little’, I mean, ‘little’. It was as if someone had taken the landscape of Scotland and recreated it in miniature in this one glen. You could completely understand why people had thought that faeries lived there. We spent a good hour wandering the faery hills, the other au pairs and I had a little dance and party up on faery castle in their honour, and then I plonked myself down on one of the peaks to write and be thoughtful and stare off into the distance in a meaningful way. I left the faeries a tiny ‘Hello Kitty’ doll which was in my bag as a present, and I hope they like it and grant the wish that I left with the doll in their glen (no, I’m not telling you what it is. And, yes, I did actually write the faeries a letter asking them to grant me a wish….Why, how do you get the things you want in life?)
|Me, in conversation with the faeries.|
We then headed up to the tip of one of the peninsulas on Skye, which was used extensively in the filming of ‘Stardust’, the movie based on the Neil Gaiman book. That was pretty cool. However, it was not as cool as what we saw when we were coming back from our hike. Walking along with our guide, she pointed out 5 men heading to the edge of a cliff. She pointed out one and said, ‘Oh, that’s such-and-such, one of the other guides around here.’ Before we could ask what they were doing, they stripped off their shirts. This was pretty exciting. However, they then pulled off their trousers and their underpants, and stood on the cliff, completely naked, facing towards the mainland of Scotland and proceeded to give an almighty Highland scream to the wind. After a few minutes, they calmly picked up their pants, replaced their shirts and walked back to their bus. Hilarious. I had a good chat to one of them, a very gregarious Canadian lad who had moved over to hopefully work at the 2012 Olympics. I wish him luck. Perhaps a naked Highland scream will tip the London Olympic organisers in his favour? Couldn’t hurt, from what I saw.
We then headed back to Kyleakin, where us au pairs headed out ‘on the town’ again. We got into some ridiculous clothes as we had heard there was gangsta-themed party at one of the pubs, but after staring at myself in the mirror for a while, I decided that gangsta was far too removed from my usual theme of choice, and settled on plastic Harry Potter glasses (without lenses) and a ‘She’s All That’ Rachel Leigh Cook pre-make over look instead, which only earned me smart-alec remarks from locals that ‘you can see in 3D without the glasses, you know.’ We listened to a Scottish covers band called ‘In from the Rain’ (probably more appropriate on most other weekends in Scotland, but just plain confusing whilst we were there) and I discovered the best drink in the world, which is a highly alcoholic (7.2%) Scottish cider called ‘Thistly Cross’ which tastes like it has honey, good health and happiness mixed into it as well as the usual apples.
I’m going to have to leave it there for tonight. I still have two more days of the trip to cover, but its 12:30am and I’m tired and I still haven’t had any brain suck time. Though, I’m feeling less like watching TV and maybe reading a book of Scottish myths instead. What a nice feeling to have. Its like the feeling I’ve been having over the last few days that I’d actually like to eat vegetables again. Things must be looking up in Jenny’s emotional world. It only took 4 months.