Wednesday, 19 August 2009
My heart is in the Highlands
We've had really mixed weather this summer in the UK, and every time it rains the English whinge. (We've got some of the mildest kindest weather anywhere on the planet, but we whine about it constantly.) Now I happen to like summer rain, in a strange way. Every time I open the back door to find clouds and drizzle and a blustery breeze I say to Mr Ashbless: "Ooh - feels like Scotland!" And I want to Go. Oh how I want to go, up to the west coast of the Highlands, through Glencoe and to the islands. It's like homesickness. It's like being in love.
When Mr Ashbless and I went on our very first cottage holiday together, back in 1992 or so, it was to Scotland - in fact it was to that tiny white blob of a house in the picture at the top there (I took the photo in 2007 when we returned to Ardnamurchan). We've been back to the country every couple of years since. I've only written one short story set there though. Maybe I should do more.
Scotland was where I first saw a wild heron, and deer jumping a six-foot fence. Where I picked garnets up on the sea-shore. Where I ran down a tropical-white beach in the pissing rain on my own, because even the dogs wouldn't get out of the car. Where the lobster came out to look at us and I decided I wasn't eating animals anymore. Where, in 1992, I decided I didn't want to be dead after all.
In fact, here's almost the precise spot I decided it was worth being alive:
The Scotland of my mind of course is not a realistic place: it's an idealised, permanent-late-summer vacation Scotland. If I had to live there year round I think the long nights would kill me. But that doesn't stop me wanting it, desperately.
I want cloud shadows chasing across open hillsides and sodden little tufts of bog cotton bowing in the wind. I want sheep bleating outside my bedroom window. I want pink-ringed jellyfish swaying in Caribbean-clear waters. I want the smell of the sea and peatwater. I want sea-lochs so calm it looks like you could walk across them. I want, above all, the huge open silences. And the sense of my smallness.
While I pine, Shanna Germain has been posting photos from her recent roadtrip with Nikki Magennis, here. And making me pine even more.