11/08/11 I’ve never known a night like it andreflections on Durness

Wet and cold? But it’s August.
So, after a 3 day break with Ella, I once again ventured forth on my journey.

This time – I’m going south.

I am told that the hills and mountains and lochs are stunning in these here parts. I, like you, will have to look at Internet photos of the area because there was a whole bunch of weather getting in the way of my view.

I’m not terribly bright. I have been blessed with a rather large tolerance to the cold. But a lack of insight that prevented me from adorning my hat and gloves combo in icy horizontal rain.
Idiot. I had some notion that because we are at the height of summer I couldn’t be cold.

That said, there are positives from getting yourself and everything you own soaked through – I can lie here and think back on the world that was Durness while they dry.

It started so well. Jennie, the woman brandishing tea and a sugar bowl in Fortrose, contacted me primarily to let me know that she’d been in touch with a host of folk who would be able to offer me hospitality when I get to the south west part of our fair island.Exciting and supportive. A couple of minutes after speaking to her I got a phone call from the camp site to say she’d paid for my pitch! I walked into the bar next to campsite to pick up the knowledge required to stick my tent up to be met with a lager shandy and a chat with some of the locals.

The barmaids, Janet and Kate, subsequently made donations to the cause and may well join the group.
In the campsite I was adopted by the lovely Bob (a policeman) and Jo (his partner, a nurse) who were keen to feed me, water me, give me company and hear all about my story.

I now have somewhere to stay in London – well it is near the sea (ish) and I think the Thames is tidal, which surely counts as the sea.

Bob asked irreverent questions regarding my mental health like “do you do anything entertaining?”

It was asked in good humour so, none taken.

I took a walk down to the craft village, about a mile west of Durness. Nothing much to report on my first visit since everything was closed. But, like so many things in life, it’s the journey that matters.

On the road, just next to their house, I met Emily and her partner (thingy – er you know, whatisname).

She met me with, “that’s a fashionable kind of a kilt”

To which I replied, inevitably,”I’m a fashionable kind of a guy,”

We chatted for a bit, she observed that I may be a little flakey round the edges and he observed I was wearing a skirt.
Guilty on both counts.

When Ella arrived she indulged me with a visit to the Lochcroispol bookshop and cocoa mountain the chocolate capital of Durness.

I’ve got to say, the bookshop won – it had better food, better books (yeah, alright) and better hospitality.

It turned out Emily worked there – so lots of friendly banter was had.
We’d spent several hours there reading poetry (Roger McGough – superb) and eating and drinking.

In the background, Emily told her bosses Kevin and Simon about my journey. Kevin came over and told me all that we’d eaten was free. It’s funny, I know that if he’d said that at the start I would have politely eaten very little as opposed to devouring everything on the menu.


Durness is an unusual looking place. It’s rugged and spread out – if you can imagine Alaska or if you’ve seen “The shipping news” with Kevin Spacey, you’ll have some idea of what I mean.
The beach though, is stunning. Huge waves, golden sands mixed with huge dark rocks and cliffs growing up out of the sea floor.

Mostly I’m reflecting now on the reflection I allowed myself when I was in Durness.

I have reached most north western town on our island. When I set out I was keen to say it was not intended to be a feat of physical endurance. Yet it gas been.

There gave been times when my feet gave burned so much I could hardly move. There have been times when I’ve been exhausted, dissociated or just generally mad.

But never lonely. I’ve always had the people I meet – but, most importantly, I’ve had you lot. The knowledge that we have nearly 600 members now and the fact that we’re nearing £1000 for Mind and the Child Bereavement Trust keeps me going happily on my way.

There are a couple of things I would ask you all to think about though.

First of all, why not come walking with me? Take a look at jim’s blog – it’s about the company – it’s not about being fit or fleet of foot. As his daughter Jo says, it’s about the banter.

Secondly, the idea behind “walk a mile in my shoes” isn’t just about my shoes. It’s about your shoes, your families shoes and your friends shoes. Go on, tell your story – dip your toe in. Look at the support and friendship I’ve had out of this.

Thank goodness for rainy days.

Walk a mile.


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