Monday, 6 July 2009

Holiday Stuff

It is now day 2 of my staycation and I am happy to report that I have indeed stayed in touch with my current novel. That’s 2 hours yesterday and 2 hours today. Woop, woop.

What else has happened during my Highland holiday? Yesterday was 23c and sunny/ cloudy. Today is 13c and raining sporrans and claymores. Where other than in Scotland can you get a summer weather variation like that? One blessing provided by the rain is that the pollen count is a good deal lower and I am able to move about today without feeling that the only way to stop the itching is to gouge out my eyes with my thumbs.

Other impressions of the holiday so far? Yesterday we were at the Osprey Centre at Loch Garten. They have a small building sited about 500 metres (actually it could be 600, 700, 1000 or even 1005 I have no clue and didn’t bother to ask, ok?) from the bird’s nest. The birds have some hatchlings and there is a CCTV trained on it (at last, a good use for one of these things) with live feed streamed onto a bank of TVs for the two-legged to watch. There are also a number of binoculars available for you to have a gander yourself. When I walked in to the centre the first thing that struck me was that the place had an almost reverential hush. Although it was full of people, they were all speaking to each other as if they were in a church or a library. Made me want to walk up and down the place doing a John Cleese walk while singing Waltzing Matilda. I settled for telling my son loudly TO COME AND LOOK AT THE BIG BIRDIES. To which, his reply was, you’re weird.

Red squirrels are being displaced all over Britain by those loutish, large, loud and greedy grey ones and lo it came to pass that a wee red one was sat right in the middle of the path to the car park. Around twenty humans stood at either side, afraid to move forward. We pointed cameras and spoke (again) in hushed tones. The wee red squirrel was completely oblivious to the giants that surrounded it, while he poked at a seed/nut/piece of crap on the ground. We humans were like cars lined up at either side of a level crossing. Eventually, with a swish of its big red tail the squirrel decided it had messed with our heads long enough and ran up the nearest tree. Where I like to think it had a right good giggle to itself.

BTW, the photo here for all of the common sense challenged is of a BLACK squirrel, courtesy of a Canadian chum. Apparently black ones are all the rage over there. See, I told you, Canadians are the nicest people.

Monday, and we popped in to Inverness ‘cos the wee fella had some holiday money and it was BURNING a hole in his pocket. He HAD to spend it. Oh – and I confess I went in to a bookshop and bought a book. I know, I know after I said I wouldn’t, but it was so lonely sitting there, on the shelf with all the others and I just had to pick it up and take it to the till and pay for it. For penance, I wrote 500 words when I got back to my lodgings.

I’m liking the new visitor centre at Culloden. On the way back from Inverness I managed to fit in some proper tourist behaviour with a wee detour to see it. My son asked who were the goodies and who were the baddies. Weeeeeeel, says I, glad you asked. I can now do my dad thing and try and educate you. See what I do to bring history alive for you? The Hanoverians had the British crown and the Stuarts wanted it back. So, Bonnie Prince Charlie sailed in to Scotland to try and raise an army against the government...but who were the goodies and who were the baddies, asked the wee man. ‘Sno as simple as that, son. His eyes glazed over until twenty minutes later he read a sign on the wall saying that although the battle lasted less than an hour it was actually extremely bloody.

If you ever have the chance to walk across the battleground itself – we didn’t today, it was still chucking it down – you’ll find it is an eerie kind of place. Muted. I was thinking of all the men who died there and wondering how silent the place would have been after the battle had ended and the dying had died - and how that sense of everything being a little more dim still shrouded the place centuries later. On the way out of the car park, my ipod was on shuffle and “chose” to play Fragile by Sting. “On and on/ the rain must fall/like tears from the sky/ like tears from the sky”. Can ipods on shuffle sense your mood, I wondered? In my head I put forward this theory that I have a sentient music machine. Until the next song totally disproved it – Marvin Gaye singing, the world is like a great big onion. Which, in case you don’t know goes like this...the world is like a great big onion, but with music and stuff.

Anyway – I have a book to read. See ya.


  1. I'm sorry to break this news to you, Michael, but each time you write of one of these excursions with your son, the impression I get is of you as a sort of Candide figure, wide-eyed at the world and its wonders, while your son tolerates you and interjects the occasional snippet of wisdom. A perfect combination.

  2. Ah, but the son wouldn't get to these places without a dedicated father eager to share his enthusiasm for all the wondrous sights. ;)

    Squirrels of all colours are pretty commonplace here (Western Canada), sometimes to the point of being nuisances. We live rurally but don't see many in our wooded area (although I did write about one encounter recently and included a photo:

    Glad to hear the writing is going well in between sightseeing excursions.

  3. I love the observations about Culloden - one of those places I really wanted to experience. When I was in Edinburgh I picked up a cassette - Heart of the Lion (never have found the CD) of some artists including Eric Clapton and Jethro Tull in support of Highland Hospice. Tull's Broadsword gave me that feeling you described of old ghosts singing to the ages. I've played it over and over.

    When we took a hike near Estes Park, Colorado there were very large overly friendly squirrels, nicknamed Kabob?s, which would climb up your jeans and I presume do even more dastardly deeds if you let them keep going. Scary critters not like the prolific cat food eating, flea bitten, wolve carrying squirrels around here. I'd rather be in Scotland.

    Enjoy your travel.