Thursday, September 01, 2005

scot free

Had a few days' escapade up in my favourite part of the world, the West Highlands, last week with my happy-camping partner-in-crime Andy. I benefited from a clean sharp shot of Scottish air, a good bit of muddy tramping around and a ridiculous amount of food. High(land)lights included:

1) The sleeper train: almost the most exciting prospect of them all, Andy and I couldn't stop breathlessly telling people that we were going from London on a TRAIN! On which you SLEEP! And wake up in INVERNESS! In reality, we had a hilariously spartan and tartan micro-booth and the unevenly lurching/rattling/shuddering motion of the train gave us about 2 hours' sleep each. Still, we lorded it up in first class with a full dinner and woke up in another dimension, rolling past glitteringly glamorous lochs and vast mountains up the spine of Scotland to doughty Inverness.

2) The Great Glen and Glens Garry and Shiel, which offered up view after preposterously grandiose view of hills as poetically craggy as Ted Hughes, sliced through with bright silver diamonds of water. I couldn't help humming the Lord of the Rings theme tune a few times - I swear I saw a few dwarves/preening elves/swarthy kings racing over the slopes...

3) Skye. Oh, just Skye. It was super-lovely, even if the weather did have severe multiple personality disorder and opened the heavens on us before soothing us with sun and then unceremoniously firing rounds of rain at us again before we'd had time to recover. Its name means the 'Cloud Island' but I'll think of it as the 'Rainbow Island', for we were blessed with singing arcs almost every hour: from glossy double rainbows to lagoon-coloured ones to single rainbows painted twice over.

4) Gastronomical Skye: we stayed near the capital, Portree, for two nights, and managed to ingest haggis, local mussels and venison and steak and fish, washed down with pricey Scotches which led to us developing our whiskyish terminology, faux-critiques involving the words 'peaty' and 'oily' and 'hints of lemongrass'. Ho ho.

5) Arty Skye: Whilst obviously naturally stunning, it was nice to fall upon a few galleries showing varying qualities of contemporary art. This ranged from the slightly rubbish (nice photos sadly bedecked with titles like 'heavenly splendour' and 'haunted boughs') to the cool and cutting-edge (lovely abstract exhibitions by An Tuirrean, prompting fusty comments in visitor book like 'If they can't paint properly, they should get a REAL job!!') to the all-out crazy and audacious (the NVA's 6-week installation, The Storr: a 2-mile midnight trek to the jutting stone of the Old Man of Storr, complete with light installations, live Gaelic wailings and recorded poetry - which so sadly we couldn't afford). Good to see that even in the remotest backwaters, there are very groovy artistic happenings!

Oh, I could go on.... and on.... the seal boat tour was BRILL, buttering and re-buttering Loch Dunvegan and inching up to lazily-lolling, mottled-brown seals; camping under Ben Nevis and amidst Glen Coe; shuddering at the chavvy horridness of Fort William and Glasgow.... all wonderful, if very cold indeed!

And back to the real world.... after 2 years of blissfully free, cleansingly invigorating creativity, I'm back to practically full-time teaching, which started today at the primary school and will pick up at Junior Trinity and the BRIT School in the next two weeks. And my PhD is sooooooo behind it's just silly! We may bid a softly weeping farewell to crazily creative, dreaming and sparky Kerry whilst we greet LOUD-TEACHER-VOICED, preparation-hounded Miss Andrew. Sob!

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