so boat trips and car journeys then

Broadford to Elgol presented the audacious land formations that we’ve been spoilt by this week. Very twisty single track road that makes for tiring driving if the traffic is anywhere near busy. Easier on the way back because John was in front so all the judgment about when to pull into passing places was down to him.

Something of a drama before we boarded the boat, because Gemma’s camera battery ran out. I let her use my Nikon F50 film camera and she was able to use her Nikon DX long zoom on it – just without autofocus.

The boat took us out to a jetty on the opposite shore, from where you can walk round to Loch Coruisk. They leave you there for an hour or so, and then come back to pick you up. Loch Coruisk is only accessible by boat or by walking for four hours, so there are no burger stalls or shops selling Loch Coruisk pencil sharpeners or jars of Grandma MacDonald’s Scottish marmalade. No phone signal either – not even “emergency only”. Closest I’ve been to a Wordsworth moment, seeing into the life of things.

The guide on the boat who turned out to be the son of the skipper gave a seamless performance on the mic on the way there and back, filling us in on the various inhabitants of the tiny islands off Elgol and pointing out wildlife.

I made a curry in the evening, which went down well all round. Another session on the beach with slightly different sea conditions but equally evocative vibe. More Big Brother prison machinations, and then bed.

Friday started well, with gentle rain. Things got tricky when we were trying to decide what to do with the day – decidedly more damp and grey than the week had been so far. Part of the plan had been to go out to Rasaay but we decided there wouldn’t be much point if we weren’t going to be able to see anything. Judith had wanted to have a look at Dunvegan too. The other element in the mix was thinking that I really should save my driving energies for the long journey down the next day; along with that undefinable pressure and irritability that everyone feels on the last day of a holiday. Flipped a mental coin and went to Dunvegan in the mist and rain. The road seemed to stretch into eternity and it took us far longer than I had hoped to get there. Another scenario where they want your money before you even walk through the garden gate, so you don’t even know what’s in there until you’ve paid. A harridan in the booth made the position unambiguous. I felt that we should at least see the garden, because otherwise we had driven fifty miles to use the toilet, eat some sandwiches and see a gift shop. So we handed over our money and wandered around inside. The castle had an unfortunate council house feel to it – largely due to the pebble–dashed walls. The walled garden was moderately interesting but had a kind of unkempt feel to it. Only an hour to get back to cottage. Focus for the last evening was provided by another barbecue and the Big Brother eviction, although everyone knew really that it was Spiral and Michael who were going to go. We also managed another session on the beach, but it was less successful because there was tension in the air coming from various sources.

On the final morning we were all mobilised a lot quicker than I had expected. I hate putting the roof box back on for the journey back. Mum very kindly dismantled the greasy barbecue. Mum left first, then John, Maggie and Donna. Leaving us to to that very sad business of going in all the rooms to double check that no–one had left anything.

Couldn’t prevent the lump in my throat as I looked at that view from that cottage one last time. Feeling of sadness remained pretty much until we hit the A9. Stopped at the Invergarry Hotel for a quick coffee. Gaelic radio on in the bar, with a small boy talking about Guns N’ Roses and Pussycat Dolls in the same sentence. The bar was very basic, in typical Scottish style, but had a nice vibe. I kind of wished I could stay for a few more hours and drink beer instead of driving 400 miles South into the heat.

Next stop at Bothwell services near Glasgow, for a large cappuccino in a cardboard bucket. Lisa’s chips took an unfeasibly long time to arrive, given that they weren’t very busy. Also stopped at Southwaite services due to abject tiredness. That last section of M6 always has an other-worldly feel to it, like you’re driving into another dimension or something. Maybe “Lost” was dreamed up on a long car journey.

Left the M6 at the wrong junction, like a fool, and ended up going through Blackburn town centre. Joy.

Fast forward to this morning. Even more than putting the roof box back on for the journey home, I detest taking it off the next morning. Definitely all over then. Down to Sowood to get the cats, and then everything is installed for another few months of reality. Tried in vain to buy a replacement fan for the attic. Everywhere had sold out. The usual supermarket run was even more punishing than usual, because I was still weary from the driving the day before.

Pasta salad for tea. Pasta and soup for Gemma. Tonight is transitional. Tomorrow starts the August regime of getting in shape mentally and physically. Bring it on.