Time Well Spent

The lack of activity on my blog is, I’m glad to say, primarily due to the fact that I’ve been writing. Yep, you read right, I’ve been boosting the word count and piling up the pages. And no, before you ask, my LPoW is not yet finished, but it is beginning to fill out pretty well. Even better, I’ve finally settled into my writing groove and am enjoying that liberating sense of timelessness that comes from losing yourself in something you love.

But you know what they say: all work and no play …

IMG_2696A fortnight ago, Mr D and I loaded up Happy with champagne, chocolate, walking shoes and my parents, and headed north in convoy with our friends F and L in their campervan, Sunny. Findhorn-bound, we stopped off half-way to picnic in the sunshine and kick start the holiday with leftover quiche and cold potatoes.

Two hours later, we tumbled out of our campers and set up home in an old fisherman’s cottage with a free-standing bath. We were joined by more friends the following night and, when Sunday dawned and promised to live up to its name with regards to the weather, we spilled out onto the beach.

Friends and food at the seaside: the very essence of bliss. There were games and laughter; a curious seal; ebullient dogs; bird-watching; paddling – swimming even! We took photographs (including a rare one of me with my best friend), traded stories, told jokes, and sat side-by-side watching the sea as it kept on coming. The world was huge, time limitless, and as the sun began to pack up for the day, we followed suit and headed back to the cottage, a weave of arms and rolled up trousers and sun hats and dogs.

IMG_2716The rest of the week was quieter: opera in Elgin town hall; pummelled by rain on Burghead promenade; Berghaus bargains in a Nairn charity shop; fresh vegetables bought from the side of a path through the Findhorn Foundation; huge plates of Buckie fish; and the impish greens of the Northern Lights.

On our penultimate day, B and G visited with strawberries and truffles and told us of Pluscarden Abbey, the place where B told me she had gone when I was in hospital, to ask the monks to include me in their prayers. We arranged to meet her there later, where we listened to the Gregorian chanting of the monks during Vespers, the last wisp of sunshine trickling through the stained glass, fragments of blue and pink and green scattered across their hooded heads.

A quiet calm accompanied us on the journey home in Happy.

Skye Unplugged

Happy on the roadSince getting married last November, Mr D and I have been trying to go on honeymoon. Our first attempt to spend time with friends in southern France was thwarted by a hospital stay. Several months of biopsies and adjustments to medication and then: all clear, we were good to go. We sent Happy for a wee check-up, booked campsites, contacted friends and family along the way, and tried to contain our excitement.

The plan:

  • Night or two wild-camping in the Dark Skies National Park
  • Two nights at the Lakes
  • A night in Forest of Dean
  • Five nights exploring Cornwall
  • Two nights in Nottingham (with my sister’s family and birthday cake)
  • Home

The reality:

  • Overnight in A&E
  • Four nights in Glasgow (courtesy of NHS)
  • One biopsy
  • One cardioversion (to shock my heart back into rhythm)
  • Three ultrasounds
  • An injection of adrenaline into my neck
  • Home

Not really a honeymoon. Not a honeymoon at all!

The good news; turns out the issue wasn’t as dramatic as it appeared and so Operation Honeymoon turned covert. Stealth-like we packed our bags and loaded Happy. Whistling. Nonchalant. A trickle of activity with regular tea breaks. The H-word unuttered. Nothing to see here.

In a hyphened hippy guise of maxi-dress, cargo-shorts, straw-hats and sun-glasses, we slipped into Happy and wafted out of Stirling in a cloud of patchouli and insect repellent and headed in the direction of T in the Park. So far, so fooled.

We meandered past the festival exit, and with fifteen miles behind us, we looked at each other:

Happy Honeymoon, I said.

Five blissful nights, unplugged and off the grid.

We shared powdered crappuccino with Jack the Munro Hunter (he’s bagging them all for charity) in a layby at Loch Laggan; stopped off a Spean Bridge for fish suppers and the craic with my oldest friend; and survived the hair-raising hair-pin bends through low-cloud to Applecross to wake up to  a serene sea and air corpulent with mountain dew.

Next: over the sea to Skye.

I’ve visited the island many times and it never fails to leave me breathless. It’s in the way it holds itself, aloof from the mainland, swathed in low clouds that, upon parting, reveal mountains of charcoal and sunset, serrating the edges of the slate-grey sky. On a clear day, off its north-western coast, suggestions of other islands smudge the horizon. The rest is green. Every shade. More than fifty. Much more. Expansive. Rippling. Green.

We crossed the bridge, pulled over and gorged on the fresh air. Huge, greedy lungfuls.

Neist PointOur stay was whistle-stop short: two nights, three days. We met up with family – the other newly-wed Mr & Mrs D – to the north of the island and together we braved midgies to spot fairies in the pools at the foot of the Black Cuillin, slithered over rocks at Waternish beach, filled our bellies with food fresh and delicious and lost ourselves in a bottle of local Taliskar whisky.

Before leaving, Mr D and I grabbed home-made carrot cake and apple turnovers from Skye’s oldest bakery in Dunvegan and wound our way north west to Neist Point and the lighthouse casting its shadow across the waters to the Outer Hebrides. Spellbound we edged down the steep path to the cliff-top: Minke whales hugged the shoreline and seabirds gabbled nautical gossip across rocks migrated from Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway.

On our way back through Glendale we imagined a different life of calm and writing and art, of sea-fresh fish and baking and sand between our toes. One day. Maybe one day.

We drove home through blackening clouds and arrived in a torrent. A renewed acquaintance with technology brought exciting news (but I’ll leave that for my next blog).

Happy Honeymoon, Mr D said.