When I was a mere sapling, I’d get excited when I found other places that shared the name of my home town, Corby – Corby Glen and Corby trouser press to name but two.
Imagine my apoplectic delight when I found 2 Shieldags within a stones throw of each other – what on earth could it mean?
Quite frankly, I don’t give a toss – all I want you to know is the Shieldag in this particular story is the more southern one.
Like so many villages in these here parts, you can’t see any of the buildings until you’re actually in the place.
I found Richard doing up his girlfriends house. They seem to have an unwritten code….please could you dogsit for me…? translates into…will you build me a garden path?
He was a cheery sort, more than happy to tell me about the beauty of this old fishing town that hugs the shore of Loch Shieldag (the other one doesn’t have a loch)… So happy was he that he thrust £10 into my hand so that I could take a dander down to the loch side pub and enjoy some of the local fayre.
Great start. The road sweeps down to white painted buildings, providing me with my essential pub and shop combo.
I met a young(er than me) woman who was looking after 2 children – 1, a girl around 6 happily racing off on her bike, the second, a boy of about 3 on his bike with stabilisers, completely ignoring the fact that he may have to pedal or steer, but was more than happy to declare, “I’m on my bike!”
The woman in charge told me of the Applecross campsite – with it’s fancy showers and laundry. I was glad to hear this – Applecross is 24 miles up the road and a boy needs his luxury.
I was welcomed into the pub – chatting, banter, friendship – all good pub stuff…
Oh, and free shandy. I really ought mention that. The Polish bartender listened to the walk a mile story and thought that free beer would help. She wasn’t wrong.
I spoke with her 20 something daughter – who had quite brilliant English pronunciation for someone speaking their 3rd, yes third, language.
I basked in a moment of national shame before she happily informed me, in her experience, French and Italians have a similar speak loudly and slowly approach to getting the silly foreigners to understand as we do.
Thankfully I didn’t have to brandish my c.s.e. German….
Du bist ein dick Schwerg
Which, as I’m sure you all know means, “You are a fat pigmy,”
I left the pub, walking all the way to the shop next door – here I was met my Andrew and his partner, Jane – fellow shoppers.
We chatted in a friendly way as they asked about the finer points of walking a mile. It was all very light.
I left the shop with an unusual mix of scotch pies and kabanos to be met again by Andrew. He said simply,
“I lost a friend to mental illness 4 years ago. This is a great thing you’re doing.”
He shook my hand and pressed £10 into it.
His sadness was palpable. I was left rocking as he and his wife drove off.
He meant suicide. This is still the main killer of men under 30. Perhaps by talking about mental illness we can alleviate some of the horrible shame attached to it – and, again perhaps, reduce the number of young men taking their own lives.
I got back to the walk galvanised with the belief that what I’m doing is right.
I climbed a hill next to the loch and looked down at the village. It was, probably still is, beautiful. I phoned Ella. I needed to hear her voice. It didn’t really matter what she said – it was her tone – her intent.
Shieldag is different, I’m sure, from Shieldag as people are different from people.
We all need different things, we all need a lot of the same things.
Walk a mile