The Week that Wasn’t, Pt. II

I had to say goodbye to my visiting friends last night, but what remains of our spectacular week together is an array of incredible memories and a little recharge, so to speak, of a small infusion of myself again. It’s the self that I was and had built over the years, and I know you hear me talking about this semi-often enough to argue the point: a person doesn’t really become someone else just because of a change of locale. They don’t lose what they were because of a contextual alteration.

I couldn’t disagree more. I think that to take a person out of his familiarity and comfort is to alter the integral nature of how he spends his intellectual and emotional leisure time. I think it’s safe to say that when we’re surrounded by stability, we are much more apt to use our time for progressive tasks, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. When it feels like there is no anchor or no direction, that time is spent trying to find one, for sheer survival purposes. To grasp on to something that makes sense – that we can work with. Perhaps it’s not one over the other, and both can be simultaneously operated on, getting your legs while also forging ahead. I see this as extremely difficult, however. Think of it as needing an extended orientation of sorts. Sure, this is a sweeping generalization, and some people are so secure in themselves that nothing in the world could affect their established nature. But they are not me. I’m the same D that left the States, with some of what I was leading the way to Scotland…but this D over here has added some hitherto unknown sections (and insecurities, and unfamiliarities) to the whole, and to have strong reminders from what is familiar certainly brings some of those partially-sundered “comfortable” characteristics back. And as a result, I feel stronger, and more like me.

I took kittynitro and Doctor Fairbanks to the bus station with great melancholy, but with great pleasure I climbed the hills and crossed the bridges of an awe-inspiring city that I call home.

You would think that people forget about you when you leave, and sometimes it takes a brief but silent reassurance that they do not.

Now for the picture show…

Thanks to the selfless and wonderful offer of my dear friends in Glasgow, a car was made available to me so that I might show my visitors both the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands and the resounding idiocy of most drivers in this country. We saw beauty – and very nearly – we saw death. Okay, I’m being melodramatic. Sue me.

The night before we were to leave to pick up the car, we once again hit the Brass Monkey for some libations with some of the strange local creatures. You can get a feeling of how small the city is when you choose a pretty unknown pub to inhabit for the night, only to run into numerous completely separate groups of acquaintances, all in the same room. It’s funny who you bump into at the pisser. Before long, some of the more adventurous (or ridiculous) of us hit a local 80s club and seriously got our lunacy on. It wasn’t the shoddy music that killed it for us, even though being sore from thrashing to “Paradise City” indeed caused interesting problems for driving in the snow later that weekend. Nor was it the girls puking Bailey’s right near our jackets that caused us to rue the day we chose to attend said dansehaus. Perhaps it really was the combination of pints of Miller (gasp!) and an extended version of Marc Almond’s “Tainted Love”…or kittynitro and I kung-fu fighting in the middle of the floor that attracted undue and certainly derogatory attention our way. At one point, she sang a rousing rendition of “Solid as a Rock” into my dreadlocks, clasped tightly in her hand like a frizzy microphone. And there’s something about songs like that…they have the innate ability to make me dance like a gay man. In fact, I am *quite* sure that everybody in that place thought I was gay.

Ach, weel. Maybe for that night, I was – if only in spirit.

Notice the unsure glares of the entire row of seated cowards, afraid to express their admiration for “It’s Raining Men”.

Smelling of smoke, stale beer, and FUNK, BABY (aawwwww, yeah!)…my companions and I took the train to Glasgow the next morning to appropriate Babs, a lovely little German-engineered roller skate that would comfortably see us through the Highlands during the weekend. We hit the west coast with reckless abandon as it all came back to me suddenly: driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road on the wrong side of the world was not as hard as one would think. Just more stupid than one would think. Thankfully, I had TWO people to shout at me when I started drifting over to the left, forgetting on which side to center myself on the odd, British carriageways and single-tracks.

First stop, Loch Lomond through Rannoch Moor, past Glencoe and into Fort William for a snack. No, this is not a true travelogue. We had to jet to make it to Inverness in a few hours, so there wasn’t too much time to keep stopping to take in the sights, but we did manage some pleasant shots of incredible vistas and breathtaking terrain. What a country. I had forgotten.

The bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, with a frosty Ben Lomond looming in the background.

kittynitro and myself, overwhelmed by the majesty.

Along the road to Glencoe is a blasted expanse of moorland that gives new meaning to the term desolation. Even so, when you are dwarfed by the magnitude and calamity of this landscape, you get the undeniable urge to just start off walking into the freezing Highlands of Rannoch, not caring if you ever come out. It’s simply irresistible.

A roadside stop gives entry into the end of the world, or so you would think. People used to walk across this moor to get into central Perthshire. That is an *amazing* feat.

Another glimpse into nature’s perfection during wintertime.

One more, to make sure it sinks in.

The idyllic waters of Loch Leven and sleepy abodes on the other side of its shores. How would you like to see this every day?

A bit farther along the A82 toward Glencoe; the mountains seem endless.

We tore through Fort William and Fort Augustus on the way to Loch Ness and eventually Inverness, where we decided to stay for the night. Driving takes a lot out of a person, but especially so when you have to remain so alert. Some of the Highland roads were incredibly treacherous, and many drivers must surely believe they are invincible the way they recklessly command the narrow lanes. But we made it unscathed to my favorite Bed and Breakfast in all of Scotland, and were able to stay in my old room from the last trip in 2000. It was nice to see the same proprietor once again, and I must say they make a damn good breakfast at Whinpark. If you’re in the Inverness area, I highly recommend it. After a good night’s sleep, we awoke to some gorgeous views of the heart of the Highlands.

This is not photo enhanced or augmented. It’s just an everyday sunrise in Inverness outside our B&B. We drank tea and chatted while mesmerized by the colors.

An hour later, it was gray again. A perfect antithesis to the colors of the morning. Here the spires of the city look out northward to the Black Isle in the distance.

The next leg of our trip through Inverness-shire, Badenoch-Strathspey, and Perthshire was just as beautiful and foreboding as the previous day. I wanted to give my companions a taste of what originally drew my interest in Scottish history, so I gave them the 10-pence Jacobite tour. My friends kindly let me natter on about aspects of Jacobitism and the new findings on the battle of Culloden. My inner tour-guide was shining, but my heart always breaks when I am on that field. No wonder so many people wax romantic about the movement, and no wonder so many serious historians tire of hearing about the nationalistic and sensationalist legacy it left behind.

The Hanoverian front lines at Culloden, looking to the Moray Firth and Black Isle beyond.

A taste of what the Jacobite soldiers had to slog through to charge the British army’s lines. Add black-powder smoke, wind, and heavy rain in strapped-on sandals and bare legs and you have a fraction of an idea of what it must have been like. I tried bounding numerous times through the swampy heather in thick jeans, and I rarely made it ten feet without tripping.

In contrast to the bleak moor of Drumossie, right up the road are Clava Cairns, a 3rd-century BC burial ground with calm air and hallowed energy. K was most taken with Clava, and I cannot blame her. It was a perfect calm after the emotional storm of Culloden. There is no need for descriptive captions here.



From Clava we braved great rain and snow to reach Kingussie, where the ruins of Ruthven Barracks watch out over the region. Ruthven was a government garrison built to ease patrolling of the Highlands, but it was eventually captured by the rebels during the Rising of ‘45. Ruthven is also where the Jacobites regrouped after the slaughter at Culloden. After waiting to hear from Charles Edward if they were to continue the fight from the mountains, the Bonnie Prince sent nothing but a note, stating that every man should care for himself. In that sense, the movement ended here at Ruthven. What I was most stricken by at this time of year however, was the magnitude of the surrounding terrain. The air was almost minty-fresh in its chill, and a subtle mist hung in the sky all around. And it surrounded us on all sides, as Ruthven is on a hill over-watching the center of it all.

The stable house for the barracks. It originally held up to twenty-five horses for British dragoons billeted in the soldier’s quarters.

The lands of Badenoch, as seen from the corner of Ruthven stables. Cold, fresh, and stark.

We made it to Perth by nightfall for a warm bite in a local pub, and back to Glasgow along the absolutely mental A9 for some smoked salmon and soup generously offered by our dear Glaswegian friends. Not one scratch on lovely little Babs, and she and I plan to see more of this inspiring land before the next year is up. It would be foolish not to. Besides, Babs and I have quite the rapport after 36 hours and 300 miles together.

It was good to get out into the world for a change. I haven’t done this since university started this last term. It was refreshing and important. But as wonderful as it was to see all these lovely little places, sleepy villages, and dramatic landscapes, I still maintain that there is nothing quite like pulling into Waverley and walking out of the station to be dumbfounded by the incomparable resonance of Edinburgh…castle, city, and knowledge of what it has seen, and your own little part in it, and what that will be.


Thanks for reading.

19 Responses to “The Week that Wasn’t, Pt. II”

  1. lilitufire Says:
    January 6th, 2004 at 4:27 pm

    No, thanks for sharing, I always enjoy your photos and I live here!

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    January 6th, 2004 at 4:38 pm

    You, dear, are sweet.
    More to come, then!

  3. lilitufire Says:
    January 6th, 2004 at 5:13 pm

    *looks round for the other Lisa you must be talking to*

  4. mxhaunted Says:
    January 6th, 2004 at 4:39 pm

    Ohhhhhh…. Very nice! Now I REALY want to visit up there. 🙂

  5. fragiletender Says:
    January 6th, 2004 at 4:54 pm

    It was a lovely post, dearie, it made me homesick. I have not been to the highlands for ages. I'm a Borderer but I love the Highlands with all my soul. It takes a little while to load, but this page shows where I used to go every year on holiday when I was a kid.
    Every time I look at it I want to cry cause I miss it so much. I can't believe that it has been nearly 20 years since I was last there. Maybe this year will be the year I go back, sigh.
    When I come up for Easter I must try to see more than Edinburgh and my parent's house down in the Borders, although I agree that Edinburgh is certainly a delight.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    January 8th, 2004 at 1:10 pm

    It sounds as if you *need* to come back for a while. I can't imagine what it would be like to have it all around you for much of your life…and then to be without it.

  7. fragiletender Says:
    January 9th, 2004 at 7:19 am

    I definitely do need to come back at least for visits, I dreamt about Achnahaird all last night. I found Scotland hard to live in though, the place where I was an adolescent was incredibly small-minded and the ongoing bigotry against the English really bothers me. I find that there's more of a homing instinct as the years go by though so maybe I will end up back up North.

  8. inkbot Says:
    January 6th, 2004 at 4:55 pm

    you didn't tell us you got to visit the lord of the rings set!!!
    in a word: awesome.

  9. FunkyPlaid Says:
    January 8th, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    Yup. Had to stamp on rampant hobbits wherever we were.
    Not good for the feet…

  10. diotina Says:
    January 7th, 2004 at 2:18 am

    *sighs happily*
    Nothing like a bit of beauty in the morning to clear my head. I've made one of your pictures my wallpaper – hope thats okay.

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    January 8th, 2004 at 1:07 pm

    Re: *sighs happily*
    Oh, absolutely. If it brings you joy, then so be it.

  12. angledge Says:
    January 7th, 2004 at 3:01 am

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The Inverness sunrise is simply fantastic.

  13. evils Says:
    January 7th, 2004 at 9:12 am

    Much prettyness, esp love the Loch Leven one. Am totally homesick for up north and am looking forward to heading back up north before Easter if I can convince anyone to come on tour of the west Highlands to Skye! 😉

  14. FunkyPlaid Says:
    January 8th, 2004 at 2:45 pm

    You just did.

  15. dr_beep Says:
    January 7th, 2004 at 3:09 pm

    You, my friend, are, and will always be, quite unforgettable.

  16. FunkyPlaid Says:
    January 8th, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    Oh, you mean the smell!
    Thank you kindly, brother. Before you know it, I'll be on your doorstep again with stories and pictures and drinks to be had. And I'll expect you to do the same, because I *know* you have things and experiences to share…

  17. tkil Says:
    January 7th, 2004 at 11:05 pm

    Those photos are amazing. (If you haven’t already done so, you might consider taking a few weeks to drive around the Desert Southwest [of the United States]. There is some stunningly beautiful landscapes out there, and it is mostly deserted.)
    What really caught my attention, however, was this:
    <blockquote class="cite">You would think that people forget about you when you leave, and sometimes it takes a brief but silent reassurance that they do not.
    I’m an atheist, and I don’t believe in any supernatural at all. Regardless, your comment resonated with me, being a negative version of my conception of “soul”.
    The only way I can wrap my head around the idea of a soul is to use the analogy of a tapestry, where each person is a thread in the entire picture. A new thread can be tied in; from there on, it influences nearby threads; it can travel a far distance, can touch many other threads, and its presence in the picture helps form the whole.
    Threads can fade away, or they can be cut off prematurely. Either way, the surrounding tapestry will show the lack, but it will also continue to grow, and eventually close over the hole.
    On darker days, I wonder what impact my thread has had on those around me, and what would be left if I were to die (or off myself) today. I often reflect that I would prefer to have no memorial of any sort after I die; my mark has been made in how I’ve influenced the people and the world around me.
    Everyday, it reminds me that I am a part of the experience of those around me, that I should tread lightly and contribute positive things whenever I can.
    In more direct reply to your comment: even if you, yourself, are forgotten — which is probably less likely than you figure — the impact you’ve made on other people, the views you’ve shared, the wisdom you’ve imparted, and yes, the mistakes you’ve made.
    Thanks for reminding me. 🙂

  18. FunkyPlaid Says:
    January 8th, 2004 at 3:10 pm

    Re: Beautiful
    I'm glad that we're thinking about these kinds of things. It shows that we're aware that there's more out there than ourselves.
    Or maybe it shows an inherent insecurity that manifests as a self-effacing fear of being lost to the winds…
    I had a tapestry that grew on its own once. Had to throw it away not too long afterward. 🙂

  19. Anonymous Says:
    January 8th, 2004 at 10:10 pm

    Great slide show!
    "You would think that people forget about you when you leave"
    Out of sight but NOT out of mind…
    C and T 🙂

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