The first thing that struck me as I wandered onto the Black Isle was that it is neither black nor an isle.
With this in mind I’ve decided to call myself ‘tall slim hairyhead’. Well, if they can do it…
After crossing the somewhat windy Kessock Bridge I wound my way down to a village – North Kessock. It was here that I encountered “The Braw wee road” that Teen, one of my lovely hosts for the next couple of days, had described.
It’s a single track road that hugs the edge of the Beauly Firth. If you ever get the chance…no, scratch that – stop what you’re doing NOW and get here as quickly as you can. It is a stunning bit of Scotland.
Having experienced my virtual non-existence as I passed some of the good people of Inverness only a couple of days ago, I was unsure as to what to expect from the people of the isle.
It would appear that I’m everyone’s long lost friend. Everyone I met, from the lady outside the shop, to the young woman taking her collies for a walk (who, I must say, rounded me up more than adequately) to the man observing the wildlife had time for a chat that allowed us to exchange just a flake of our lives.
Raymond Bell was the bird spotter – a Yorkshireman to his bones – listened to my story. As I got to the bit where I said,
“…I’ve been a social worker for nearly twenty years…”
he interjected with, “…and it did your bloody head in…” in his broad accent.
Yep, that just about covered it. I’m thinking about using him to edit all my future sentences – concise and to the point.
As I walked along the road, the weather swung from hot, to colder, to wet, to…I got a voicemail and a Facebook message from Teen. The message showed a picture of her house and the voicemail told me that she wouldn’t be in when I arrived and that I should let myself in round the back, make myself tea and toast, watch out for the dog, she doesn’t like tall men (mental note change name to short fat hairylegs).
I appreciate this sort of thing goes on in London and other big cities all the time, but up here people are much more wary of strangers…
It put a smile on my face – trust – does being trusted make someone trustworthy? (No more than 500 words, on my desk by Monday please). Teen is a friend of a friend. We were sorted really.
I was met by Skye the cross collie/ spaniel who growled momentarily (I think she felt obliged), realised I was human once I took the rucksack off and then savagely went to sleep.
Two days of hope, optimism, dreams, righteous indignation and a great sense of friendship ensued.
Teen has bi-polar disorder that visits her with some passion from time to time – her most recent was around Christmas. Shortly after that time her mum died. In a world where many of us would have battened down the hatches and waited for it all to subside, she welcomed a nosey stranger into her home. She’s taking a sabbatical from journalism at present but was more than able to share some of her life and a good number of her contacts with me with an infectious enthusiasm.
Stewart, her partner, spent many hours into the evening telling me about his previous life and jobs and travels. His knowledge is best described as encyclopaedic. When I describe situations from my past the edges are blurry – “I went to a town called…er…and I met thingy…who works with…you know?”
His stories had a vivid vibrancy to them as he recounts exact names, faces, places – he told me a lovely story about when he was younger, he and his brother would get Waddingtons’ Jigmaps (they are as they sound) – on one particular map of the world was lake Titicaca a lake situated at great altitude between Bolivia and Peru.
Being boys, they thought this name was hilarious – but he promised himself at that time that he would one day visit this crazily named place. And he did – he and Teen took it in as part of their year long tour of South America. I’m smiling as I think of his excitement in telling the story.
Teen filled me with hope. There are times when I read the news or hear something on the radio and it completely takes the wind out of my sails – it would be easy to feel a little hopeless as I think of Cameron telling us how multiculturalism has failed, how Vince Cable has fired off a less than subtle warning to the unions telling them, if they think about striking, the laws may be changed to their detriment, how they both talk about the importance of buoying up that huge labouring beast, the economy, putting it before people and communities.
“We’re in this together. Some of us are more in it than others.” Stewart Buchan, June 2011.
We walked to a community garden a garden set up for the use of local folk.
It’s not just about gardening or even thinking about your carbon footprint, it’s a place where folk get together and experience each other, developing a sense of cohesion and belonging.
On the way back we were surrounded by a huge thunderstorm that managed to miss us until we were safely back home.
There’s so much to tell – this has been a wonderful experience – Teen and Stewart are no longer friends of friends – they’re friends – and they’ve reached out to more of their friends so I can experience more of this rich tapestry.
Suddenly I have real and potential contacts all over Scotland from the North of the Black Isle to the Isle of Eigg. More to the point I feel mentally recharged to set out once more onto my walk. Take a look here for a flavourof what’s being done in these parts
It’s stopped raining so I’m going to be ‘dry walking man’ – that’s how I got my name, the mystery of the Black Isle continues.
Walk a mile