As lovely as Scoraig was, I occasionally heard this thought in my head: “Home. I’m ready to go home”. It wasn’t homesickness. It was a different kind of feeling – not longing, more like awareness. And perhaps it was hastened by the cloudy skies in northern Scotland – which kept me inside a great deal and never allowed for the welling up of exaltation that the sunlight on a striking landscape calls forth. Or maybe I was just getting tired.
Nah. Being somewhere new and interesting never made me tired. In fact, it had the reverse affect.
So maybe I just knew the trip was coming to a close. I knew it intellectually. And the voice in my head was letting me know I knew it emotionally as well.
My friend and co-house sitter, Anthea, did me the honor of taking me all the way into Inverness. It is truly an honor when someone who doesn’t have to leave the peninsula does so on your behalf because as you all know, it’s no easy thing. You don’t just jump in your car and drive someone to the airport when you live in Scoraig. You have to organize pickup for baggage or walk it yourself down to the jetty. Then you have to organize a boat ride over to the opposite side. Then you can get in your car and drive to the airport – but it’s an hour and a half away, in Inverness. In Scotland, an hour and a half drive is a LONG drive.
Did I tell you that truism that’s been in my head ever since I reached these shores? Can’t remember who told me this saying or from where it originates, but I’ve always loved it: Europeans think 100 miles is a long distance; Americans think 100 years is a long time.
So Anthea and I arose on Wednesday morning, did a few things around Lisa’s place, took my bags to the driveway, and I bid a final farewell to my roommate Voldemort. Jonah, the interim postman and ferry captain, was coming by to pick things up in his four wheeler. Then we walked across fields and over to the road to head over to the Jetty. Turned out a couple more folks we knew were waiting to catch the boat. Jonah arrived with my stuff and the dogs joyfully running alongside the four wheeler. Jack and Fingal were closed into the big boathouse to wait for his return. They typically deliver the mail alongside Lisa and we’re ready to do their job with Lisa’s substitute. Then it was across the loch!
We drove through the stunning Highlands scenery toward Inverness. I was much less stressed on this drive through the area than on my first. During the drive to Scoraig, I felt the pressure to converse with complete strangers, hoping I’d be interesting or entertaining enough that they’d not regret the favor of the ride. This time, it was just a drive with a friend. I enjoyed the luxury of looking, looking, looking. Because the countryside is so rugged – and because much of the population was removed to scattered, coastal settlements during The Clearances – I looked out at miles of uninterrupted landscape. In fact, driving in the northwest of Scotland was the only time I experienced great swaths of open land free from fencing, not under cultivation, and not in use for grazing. I begin to understand the early American immigrants’ quest for land. There was none to be had in the countries from which they emigrated. Even these empty acres were owned by some laird or another. It’s so very different from the vast stretches of open, public land with which I’m surrounded at home in the Western US.
Arriving in Inverness, we parked, ran a couple errands for Anthea, dropped a bag of my clothes at a charity shop, and then enjoyed the beautiful, (relatively) sunny day by sitting outside during lunch. I even ordered haggis. The waitress let me know their supplier was famous for their amazing haggis and I couldn’t return home without at least once having the dish, right? Better here, in a traditional restaurant and pub than a few weeks back as an element in nachos!
Anthea started her drive back to Scoraig after many hugs and thank yous. Then I wheeled my luggage over to the Carbisdale Bed and Breakfast where I’d stayed on my last overnight in the city. Once inside, I filled out my breakfast request card (time I’d be downstairs
and which things I’d like included in the cooked breakfast). I phoned to arrange a taxi pickup for the morning. I checked to make sure I had everything in place for the next day. Then, with a grateful sigh, I stretched out onto the comfy bed and took a deliciously decadent nap.
I know I woke up at some point. I even washed a couple items in the sink and went out to find some dinner. I think I rearranged my suitcase again. I bought a packable duffel bag while in Glasgow and had planned to travel home with two pieces of luggage (my how I acquired things during the trip – a fleece for spinning, a pair of Doc Martins, more socks, the walking poles, an extra fleece pullover for keeping warm in Scoraig, etc). Instead, I decided to just unload a bunch of stuff so I could get everything in the orange suitcase. I kept my jeans, dresses, leggings and a couple of tops. The rest went into a bag. Why take home the shirts, socks and pullovers I’d needed for farm work and keeping warm? I’ve got plenty of those clothes at home. And frankly, they were fairly trashed by use over the last few weeks. Hoorah! Back down to a single bag then! What a great idea.
I didn’t think of the idea, just so you know. I’ve heard many a traveler advise to do exactly what I’ve described. However, I’ve never done it before, so it was a new-to-me idea. That’s what you call a not brand new item you’ve just bought, right? Rather than saying used? “It’s a new-to-me BMW motorcycle!” Right then. Making space in your luggage by donating your clothes before journeying home is a new-to-me idea.
I slept fine that night, having set three alarms on my phone and making sure it was plugged in and fully charged. Had a lovely breakfast at Carbisdale again. The taxi was at the front door right on time. My suitcase was placed in the boot (Britspeak for trunk, but you knew that, right?) and I walked around to the driver’s seat because no matter how many times I’ve gotten into a car while in the UK, I’ve always started by going to the wrong side! Every. Single. Time. Even after two months.
The driver and I had a lively conversation all the way out to the airport. I told him briefly about my trip and we laughed about all the snafus and cultural observations. When he learned there was no husband waiting at home, he asked whether I was “no bringin’ along a wee Scotsman in my luggage”? I confessed I’d not found any to take home wi’ me. Whereupon he promptly volunteered. Even said he had a jacket with him so he wouldn’t be cold during the stopover in Iceland. Then he remembered he had a full morning of transfers to the airport. We agreed it was best for him to stay at work so all those folks could get on with their travel arrangements. What a crack up.
Inverness airport: the quietest, calmest airport I’ve ever seen. A quick flight from there to Birmingham gave me just enough time to grab a snack, make it to the bathroom and find my gate before boarding began for my Icelandair flight to Reykjavik.
And there’s so much to tell you about Reykjavik, I’ll have to tell it in a second post about the journey home…