There’s one thing that the west of Scotland does well at this time of year – and that’s provide water from the sky.
I walked round the southern shore of Loch Carron and, on seeing the Strathcarron hotel, I thought I fancy a shandy.
“It’s a great provider of simple carbs and hydration,” I smiled at Ian who’d bought me a couple of the said refreshments I was appraising.
He’s a builder up in these parts and, impressed with the sacred ramble, he saw fit to furnish me with a few drinks and, just as importantly, his time.
Amongst other things he told me that his mum had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – a condition that’s often as challenging on the carers as the sufferers.
Like with so many illnesses, dementia sufferers and their carers can feel isolated in their plight – and yet there are currently 800 thousand people in the UK with some form of the disease.
Family carers of sufferers save the UK over £8 billion each year.
Ian didn’t dwell on this – we chatted about a whole variety of stuff before it was time for me to get on my way.
Time to get on my way? Oh yes, let me explain…
The A890 has suffered a major landslide and, as such, is only open at certain times. I had hoped to nip across on the Strome Ferry that had reopened for a couple of months to help with the movement of Scotland’s highland community. However, that was not to be – it closed again last month I think.
I’d heard that a convoy system was in operation – leading cars along the railway line for a stretch before returning them to the real road…maybe they’d let me walk along…
Er, maybe not.
My OCD and sense of all that is right means that, at the end of my journey, I’ll have to return to this half mile stretch – because I was taken for a ride.
No matter, it allowed me a bit of time out of the rain whole I chatted with the driver – he’d had his own mental health problems and felt that his life had been made better by having folk who love him, good talking therapy and some medication.
So open, so friendly and enthusiastic about walk a mile.
I reached my destination for the day – a small place called Achmore which, I’m reliably informed, means ‘Big Field’.
As I was putting up my tent a girl, maybe 11 or 12, walked up and asked what I was up to. I told her about my journey – then she trumped me by telling me about the 2 year journey her mum and dad had taken her on – a cycle ride the full length of the American continent – from Alaska to the southern tip of Chile.
While I was remarking on what marvellous parents she had her mum, Ingrid, appeared.
We chatted briefly and she told me, through my wrestling match with my tent, that she was having a bunch of friends around for the evening and that I should come round to enjoy a roast dinner and a bath…
There it was again – the folk of the UK working their magic.
I finished putting my tent up and wandered over to their house, feeling a little guilty at being empty handed, and was welcomed in like a long lost friend.
Dad, Sean and daughter, Kate, easily matched mums hospitality as their planned visitors arrived.
It feels that I spent the whole evening with that fixed grin that only jamming a coat hanger in your mouth would normally provide.
They were so keen to tell me about their American adventure – how they’d done no cycle training before they left and that Sean was building the bikes at the airport, hoping that all the bits were there – rowing in kayaks through ice bergs just off Alaska, Kate grinning broadly – telling stories of whales breaching nearby, hearing their songs – the fantastic hospitality they received in Canada, the states, the central American and South American countries – with photos to match.
In amongst this Kate, wonderfully chatty and friendly, gave me her sheepy Easter cake and one of her Easter eggs.
Ingrid and I briefly chatted about the loss of our parents – by a strange coincidence she and I had both been rendered parentless thanks to cancer by the age of 25.
We talked about how we never really got to know our parents as proper people, and not just as the roles of being a mum or a dad appeared in our younger eyes.
But then we were straight back on the magic carpet ride – their tree planting – their other travels – Sean’s sculptures of climbers – Ingrid’s photography – their appetite for life and for people.
Giving me hospitality came as naturally as breathing to them. A kind of travelling cowboy mentality – if you provide for others, others will provide for you. What comes around goes around.
Whatever you want to call it.
As I was readying to head forth into the rain again this morning, one of their neighbours came round with a cup of coffee.
It had all been so lovely, fantastic, delicious, I had to laugh out loud at the offer of even more kindness.
Walk a mile