Hello. I’m not dead. I’m holed up in a windswept corner of Wester Ross with a surly cat, extremely flaky WiFi, and a million and one ideas.
It turns out that agreeing to house-sit for a week has been the best decision this year so far. It’s an adventure, some cheeky tourism and a working holiday all rolled into one. I mean, it only took an hour and a half to hit the Cairngorms part of the A9 and my jaw to hit the floor at the scenery. It’s hard to drive and gawk at beautiful bits of Scotland, which is why there are literally hunners of laybys to screech to a halt in. I made a day trip up to Ullapool, where my parents honeymooned. The coastal route back, through glacial gorges and deep forests, the ever-present John Williams CD blasting out one of his choral pieces, actually brought tears to this cynical gal’s eyes. And several ideas, which was nice.
The house hides away in dense trees (and I won’t repeat the words I used when I missed it and did a three-point turn in a single track road with a massive sensible family car). It’s all marine timbers and stone fireplaces, full of nooks and crannies, trinkets and photos, bookshelves and musical instruments. It’s very lived in. It’s full of family pride; there’s pictures of my friend who lives in Bolivia working for an NGO, and her brother who’s an Oscar-nominated film editor. Lots to be proud of, methinks. I’m still finding new little things around the place- a knick-knack shelf with everything from CND stuff to Yes badges and delicate glinting Buddhas, books on everything from the Scottish game ‘The Minister’s Cat’ in Gaelic to Don Quixote in the original Spanish and dense tomes about South American myths, and tiny plastic dragons and dinosaurs peering out from the overgrown garden, sitting among piles of seashells and polished glass. And, like, this is the view from the end of that garden on the couple of sunny days I’ve had between blowy gales and rain.
After a few days, the creative tap came on. I’ve submitted my YA short story for an anthology, started three others, filled up a chunk of my notebook with other ideas and somehow found 4k words for the work in progress that had been utterly stuck back in Edinburgh. I can walk down to the river that flows from a nearby loch or clamber down to the beach, to see if I can spot any seals (or even a murderous kelpie or two). There are ruins and castles and all sorts of lore scattered all over the landscape. And most shockingly of all, I’ve actually liked being away from the hustle and bustle. The few folk I do see are friendly, but it’s just me, an FM radio and some fictional teenagers, telling half-told stories to the sea, occasionally pecking at food like the baby birds outside.
I’ll be back home at the weekend, but I have a feeling there’s more writing to come from this trip. And I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be back here with my dear husband, enthusing about mountains and driving like a local round the sheep in the passing places. Okay, I’m mostly not dead yet.