The day didn’t start terribly well. I’d put a compede plaster on the blister on my right heal. It was coming off slightly so I thought I’d remove it and replace it with a new one.
Using my mum’s tried and tested ‘pull it off fast and you’ll hardly notice it’ technique, I pulled it off fast removing a chunk of healthy skin.
We had a gusher. Suddenly my roly down mat thing looked like an operating table in the Crimean war. Finally some of the bits and pieces in my first aid kit came in handy – the scissors to cut off the remainder of the healthy skin and plaster combo, the antiseptic wipey things to make sure I don’t die of trenchfoot, and the moppy uppy swabby things to er…well, you know.
I stuck a blister plaster in the middle of the mess – pulled my sock on and seized the day.
Is a cyclist zipping around these here parts enjoying the incredible heat – he lives in Manchester and is in the process of starting up his own electronic publishing business having spent too much of his life commuting 3 hours in and out of London every day.
No eye contact – no conversation.
Not Matt – commuting in London – do try to keep up…
We compared notes and off he went on his very happy and enthusiastic way. I felt that, just by talking to him, some of batteries had been recharged – in fact I could feel the flow of blood from my heal abate just because of….
Is a guy who works for turning point – a mental health charity. I had sought shelter under a tree from the beating sun in Arisaig – he generously enthused about my little adventure and raced off to catch a train.
Wandered over from the hotel opposite and remarked that I hadn’t done much walking from what he could see. He sported the best Amish beard I’ve seen outside of…er…you know, Amish land…
He’s an agricultural engineer and has enjoyed working much of his life in Tanzania. He was going back there soon.
We chatted about walk a mile and he told me that his wife had bipolar and that this was controlled – more or less – with lithium. She had also experienced electro-convulsive therapy a number if years ago which he feels only served to pickle her head further.
He thinks that having a stable environment and a steady routine has helped her with her condition. That and the fact that he monitors her when she decides that she doesn’t need to take the same dose/ any dose at times.
I can’t imagine ever playing around with my pills…er…
Andy Dempster the writer of Scottish walks.
Look him up – I met him in a lay-by so I didn’t have to. We chatted about the hills he’d climbed, and the hills he’d yet to…the beauty of Scotland…the ludicrously hot weather (to be fair this was an ongoing theme throughout the day) and how he felt that the originality of my story made it publishable.
He might have said some other stuff but I’d floated off into a world of book signings and brightly coloured cravats…,
The three generous walkers
This trio of men in their latter years had got together to ramble around some Scottish hills. They live in different parts of the UK occasionally meeting up for little adventures.
I told them my story – they gave me £30 and some firm handshakes of encouragement.
The cyclist whose name I have forgotten…
About a mile up the road from the generous fellows I found some much needed shade. I’m sure it’s detrimental to the cardiovascular system if you let the blood boil.
The nameless cyclist pulled up and joined me. He’d been pushing it a bit too hard – at first I was concerned – I thought he might be overly dehydrated or suffering the effects of heat stroke…or something.
He was fine – I’m pretty sure my concern was some sort of projection.
We enjoyed a bit of light banter – like how the guy who was going to accompany him on his round Scotland journey had suffered a hernia…cycling probably not the best idea then….
He listened to my tale of derring do and told me he wanted to help. He said he didn’t have much but he was right in his assumption that every little helps. He pressed a £1 coin into my hand. It’s hard to express the delight I felt at this gesture – this guy who had little but wanting to share it.
Jean the French cyclist and Carla the German guide.
Have I mentioned it was hot? I was sheltering in the shade of yet another small monument erected in the name of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The batteries that I carry for my phone warn me not to expose them to anything more than 60 degrees centigrade. The one I’d kept in the top part of Darth II had gone a little wonky – no matter, it served as a good hand warmer.
Jean turned up on his bike with the biggest smile and the whitest teeth I’ve seen outside a Colgate advert. His English was monumentally better than my French (une banan – go on- guess what that might be). He was reliving his childhood by cycling around some of his favourite holiday spots in Scotland, Ireland and Norway. He’d been saving for years for this journey – and his smile reflected his infectious joy at just being out on his bike.
Carla turned up in her car. Jean commented that we were all travelling alone. I suggested we had no mates – he countered that by saying we were alone together.
Carla was doing some preparation for taking German tourists around the area – she wanted something a little different.
I babbled extensively about my time on Eigg and Knoydart.
We took some photos and promised to meet up in that exact spot in twenty years – we were best friends forever ….
In reality they took my cards and promised to look me up when they got home.
JR the West Brom supporter
I am a Baggie. A West Bromwich Albion supporter. However, all my enthusiasm for my team pales into insignificance when compared to this man.
He was there in 1954 when we won (we – I mean they) the FA cup. Yes, yes, I’m sure you’re all amazed and astonished… He started talking about players I’d never even heard of – he remembered specific goals – he could recount them as vividly as if he had just seen the game.
John, for that is his name, travels The west of Scotland in his motorhome – he has been fortunate enough to see otters and pine martins and all the other cute critters on offer up here.
After a quick calculation I work out JR is 68. He lost his wife recently and is more than aware of his own mortality having had two melanoma lopped off his neck. He warned me about heat stroke as he remembered that hot summer of ‘76 when it happened to him. It’s not likely to happen to me, I tell him, I shuffle from shade to shade drinking my own bodyweight in water as I go.
He’s from Tamworth originally – and tells me that he hates big cities – the anonymity – the lack of a friendly smile…
All too soon I’m back on my way on the road. I want to give this man more of me – but I have to find somewhere to pitch before sundown.
Roy the ex soldier.
I find Roy looking out at Eigg across the Sound of Arisaig. The sun is beginning to set and he’s swigging from a can of larger. He gives me a big smile and offers me a can.
Well, it would be rude not to.
He tells me about his time in the army. I admire his beautiful motorbike as he tells me about the beatings he endured from his….superiors (?) when he expressed opinions about the jobs he was on – for example he received a smack in the mouth at Greenham Common for suggesting that the women there had a valid viewpoint.
He has a Bristol accent – he wants to come and live in Scotland – his dad was Scottish – he feels some affinity with the place.
I tell him that he and I both have Scottish accents – it’s just that they haven’t been universally recognised by the rest of the Scots.
He likes this. We talk about the pipes – I like ‘Amazing Grace’ by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards…
His cousin and his family whizz up – contemporary pipe music blaring from the car.
I have a brief chat with him. He tells me how he had what he describes as a nervous breakdown a number of years ago – and resided in the Inverness loony bin (his words) for a month.
He feels he emerged from his madness with little memory of it. I asked him if he felt it had completely left him for good.
When the nights get long up here – he can develop a sense of dread – he feels the world closing in on him. At times like that he drives back to his mum’s in Glasgow – only to touch base, turn around and come back.
It works for him.
All these people – and more – in just a couple of days – this is what walking a mile is like – join me, go on, you know you want to…
Walk a mile