Today, for whatever reason, the happyometer cranked up a couple of levels from Huckleberry Finn to Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Daa.
I’d lived in a castle, er, at a castle, for one thing, I felt well rested – even though some sheep had tried to visit me in the night.
But it’s not all rock and roll.
I got up, packed, and was on my way.
I scrutinised my map. It didn’t look like there were many hills today – there were hardly any of those decorative contour lines.
It was true – this was a rolling hills day as opposed to a “You’ll just have to go on without me,” day.
I came to a sign in the road that filled my heart with joy,”Elphin Tea Rooms – two and a half miles,”
It was about half past three – so, if I cracked on I might get there before closing.
That said, this is all happening in the middle of nowhere – you can forgive people for shutting up shop early.
With this in mind, I sped off like a cheetah…ok, an enthusiastic arthritic snail.
It wasn’t really the food I was motivated by – it was the company – and fluids, in that order.
Finally I saw the cafe, nestling on the side of the valley – there were people still standing outside – it must be open. I was now motivated by food, fluid then people.
“Sorry mate, they’ve just closed,” Ed, a citizen’s advice worker, and his partner grinned at me.
Joining in, I quietly said,”Oh, ok then…” turned around and began to walk off.
Weren’t we just the bunch of jokers?
We got chatting and Ed told me it was one of his pet hates that folk failed to acknowledge people with mental health problems.
“I mean, if you wander in with a big stookie (brilliant scots word for plaster cast) on your leg, then people make way for you – if they can’t see there’s something wrong with you then they don’t believe it…”
He handed me £10 – “get yourself something nice” as he nodded towards the tea room.
Inside – well inside I started to babble – it was like all the previous days of perceived isolation had come to a head. I talked about food, water, about walk a mile…
David, one of the owners, explained why they’d all been standing outside, “I was showing that couple one of the golden eagles that flies around here,”
I was excited and gutted all at once. All along my walk I’d hoped to see this magnificent bird – and now, because I’d been fixated on food, I’d missed it.
David and Jenny, his partner, were really friendly – interested – humorous,”He scared the eagle away with that kilt,” he explained to a couple sitting near me in his fine Yorkshire accent.
I explained that if I wore this skirt for a whole year, I could get the operation to become a lady.
So, cheese and corned beef toasties – a great big scone and jam – gallons of water – gallons of tea – they asked me if I’d like a couple of rolls to take with me on my way – they were about to close and they wouldn’t be using the rest of the corned beef…
As I bent over to put the goodies in my bag the German woman behind said,”Make sure you get a photo…”
I assumed she was referring to what I was wearing under my kilt – so I showed her it was ok I was wearing boxers….
“No, of the eagle,” she laughed,” I was talking about the eagle.”
I went to pay only to be told,”No charge,” as they handed me a bottle of water and a can of Irn bru on top of their gifts so far.
We talked a little about their experience of being up here. They had come up from Yorkshire 7 years ago for no other reason than they’d fallen in love with the place.
I was surprised to hear that this lovely couple had experienced prejudice from travelling Scots,”Not more bloody English,” had been heard more than once.
Even though that had been an absolute rarity – they’d stressed that the vast majority of the time they’d been made to feel most welcome – the impact of this extreme reaction had been hard for them to deal with.
Anyway, go to the Elphin Tea Rooms, the food’s great and the people are lovely.
As I walked away I quietly cursed myself for missing the golden eagle. David had taken some time to describe what they looked like…and then to simplify it further, he said,
“You know it’s not a buzzard or a kite – eagles are huge – you’ll know…”
About a mile up the road a huge thing banked round in the field next to me – followed closely by another.
Two golden eagles!!!
I nearly fell over with excitement.
He was right. They’re huge – like…like flying ostriches…
I’m David Attenborough, I am.
A few miles further and there was another one. This one was surfing on the thermals as they came up the side of the hill next to me.
He hovered stationary in the sky.
Magnificent…just beautiful. I could understand how they’d been bestowed with power and wisdom in any folklore you care to mention.
It suddenly struck me – I could take a photo of it. I rushed for my phone…I held it up just as the eagle dropped and banked around the hill.
The photo I got was not dissimilar to the “UFO flying over Corby” type pictures you can find on the internet.
It looked like dirt on the camera lens.
If you want to see a golden eagle, look at pictures of them – better still, go to the Elphin Tea Rooms.
Walk a mile