The train is swooping past the sceneries. We’re going so fast, I barely have the time to register what exactly it is that I’m seeing. Sitting on the floor Indian style, Mayson resting on my leg, our bags secured next to us, I occasionally extend my torso and neck to look over the edge of the window. When my legs get sore, I get up and walk from one door to the opposite one, at the back of my mind still a little confused about everything that’s happening. I am travelling across the country. I started in Dover, now I’m almost at Edinburgh. We’re about three quarters all the way up. It’s insane. It’s nuts. This country is nuts.
It’s late when we find our new host, K, as there were some troubles finding each other and K having to drive home to check his email and get in touch with me. Nonetheless, the drive to his home, just outside of Kilbarchan, which is closest to Johnstone, is promising. K’s farm lies atop of a hill overlooking Johnstone and Paisley and the lights in the distance, K tells me, are actually the lights of Glasgow. On one side, the outlook contains the mountains and stretches of green of Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, on the other hand I have the city lights in the distance.
This continent is nuts.
For a few days, we tackle the newly built pantry of the freshly renovated kitchen (K was in the middle of renovations, the upper level had only recently finished). We plaster, sand, paint and clean until we’re bored, covered in dust and/or paint and then we head out, conquering mountains or spending time at our new favourite lake, only a fifteen minute or so walk from the house. Waking up in our own, private room is strange for the first week, not yet accustomed to the big, comfortable bed, the carpet beneath my feet that’s warm and fuzzy, or the also just renovated en-suite bathroom. Morning runs turn into uphill sprints, unless we venture out further away to the other side. We borrow K’s bike one day and decide to cycle all the way to Kilbarchan and get lost on the way back. Downhill is never a problem, it’s going up that caused some difficulties!
Full of energy and excitement, my first day off sent us off to Glasgow. Since it was a Saturday and K had a hockey match, we were given a ride to the city and made our way from there. I’m sure Glasgow has a charm, I just couldn’t find it. The tall and many high-rise buildings were dark and grey, casting a sober look over the city streets. Kelvingrove, however, was a beautiful area with lots of green and we followed the river before climbing up to overlook the city.
The days quietly slip and fall right into each other. Over the weeks, we move from one room to the next; days start relaxing and slow, a morning run before breakfast, opening doors and windows to kick off another day of work, impatiently waiting for the plaster to dry, assessing the level of smoothness of the walls, paint brushes in an endless motion going up and down, rubbing the paint off my hands several times a day and the days usually end with an hour of relaxing in my comfortable room before we’re back down in the kitchen to cook. A few more hours of trying to catch up on social media, emails and messages, lazily hanging about before the sunset alerts the day has come to an end.
The balance is perfect and there’s plenty of time to for ourselves to do things. We walk miles after miles or continue to help K with whatever project he’s working on. My friend Canada tipped me about Samantha/Edinburgh, a fellow photographer and through Facebook I contacted her to see if she was up for a meet. Before we knew it, we were back on the train to Edinburgh where she took us around the city and up the hill overlooking the city, parallel to Arthur’s seat. We ended up getting along so great that we spent several hours losing track of time as we enjoyed a tea & coffee and chatted away.
I didn’t get to spent enough hours in Edinburgh being fully aware of my surroundings and thus feel like Edinburgh was a bit of a blur. Sam played tour guide, but most of my time I was just lost in conversations with her that seemed to go on for hours, topics seamlessly flowing into each other or random talks appearing out of the blue. We were blessed with the weather after days of rain and wind at K’s farm. The sun was out and about, turning our Edinburgh-day into a good day.
Some ‘work’ days are special – it’s the days that don’t count as a day off, but K still takes us out on a trip. The first being a long but stunning drive to Loch Lomond where we visited Balloch and the aquarium before driving up and down the lake. Our shoes get wet because of the rain still on the grass, but we visit the shores anyway before finding our way back to the farm again. That trip was the first time I got to see Scotland’s beauty up close. Despite the weather being very poor, as K would say, and the hills were dressed in mist and rain, the mysteriousness only added to the taunt. The taunt of Scotland that said ‘I’m not just giving away everything on your first visit’.
Next up was Paisley and once I informed K of my desire to go there, he raised an eyebrow. Still, the train took us there and we spent a majority of the day roaming the streets. The city itself was industrial, with the centre smooth, clean and modern and the combination made one odd mix. However, the main reason I wanted to go was to go to Saucel Hill in the hopes of being granted a good view. With an improvised picnic, we settled down on top of the hill and looked over the view that was stretch out in front of our feet. I was sure that I could see the area where K lives in the distance, but then I scolded – I was most likely just kidding myself. Then, later that night, I was taken by the hand by an imaginary force and I ventured out for a late night walk as the sun dipped below the horizon and sure enough – I could make out the windmills and the three, tall structures that I knew where the flats we’d seen in Paisley.
The taunt of Scotland seemed to fade when on a Saturday the weather was brilliant and it was spontaneously decided to go on a hike. The Ladymuir woodland and Locherwood trails were only a 15 minute walk from K’s front door and Windy Hill was beckoning in the distance. After a good hour, I victoriously sat down with some fruit, thinking I’d made it to the top, only to look over my shoulder and see it in the distance. Keen to tackle the mountain, we set off, encountering an odd runner or two and another hiker. The hike to Windy Hill turned out to be too big of a challenge for us and we ended up with the Locherwood trail leading us away from it. We got close though! Tall trees and fairy-tale pictures decorated our walk back down, where at times the ground was so soppy I could see it move when Mace walked across. Several times I had to figure out how to cross the fields as the days of rain turned them into swamps. With soaking wet socks and shoes, we crossed the last few bridges, walked through a beautiful orchard and with a twisted ankle a few miles before being back at K’s, I limped home fully satisfied and full of an incredible piece of nature.
In between the days of plastering, sanding, painting, cleaning, gardening and cooking, there were more trips. G – a lovely Italian lady and fellow workawayer who spent two weeks at the farm with us – and Mace and I were driven to West Kilbride for a long beach walk and a lunch. Again, the weather was kind to us even though Arran was only barely visible from the water’s edge. I was expecting spectacular views, but was only given a fraction of it once again. But it was dry and the sun was at times out, I was in great company and the dogs were out and about running around.
Sam promised to take me on a trip to the Highland – probably my biggest trip during our stay in Scotland and most looked-forward one too. We once again took the train to Edinburgh where we had the pleasure of seeing Sam’s exhibition. It was not only great to being able to see the work of a photographer you adore, but it was also great to bathe around in photography like that. I’ve never been to exhibitions and the lack of art in my life is at times upsetting. Edinburgh is big on all things art and cultural and it’s something you can really feel when wandering around the city, which seems to feed on artists and in return echoes energy and a sense of a warm welcome.
After a quick lunch, the busy streets of Edinburgh we’re quickly left behind and once the motorway transformed into a long and winding road, the sceneries were equally as inviting as Edinburgh had been. Soon enough, I had my nose pressed against Sam’s car window, trying to comprehend the beauty I was seeing. Tall and proud mountains, cloaked in a low fog. As we drove with the mountains left, right and in front of us, the weather seemed to worsen as we reached Glencoe. It was cold and wet, but we dared to go outside, leaving the warmth in the car behind, for a quick walk around, stretching our legs and getting ourselves some tea.
The way beauty was laid out in front of me was humbling and almost too much to comprehend. The way the mountains stood on the horizon, their tops veiled in low clouds, mist and fog at their feet, but still standing. Except for the few cars passing us by during one of our many stops, the silence is almost deafening.
For some reason, I never thought I was tall enough growing up. I was a big kid, bigger than most of girls my age, taller than most of my classmates, but I always felt little, as if the ground had partially swallowed me, feeling heavy and stuck to the earth. At night, I dreamt of being picked up by a giant that would take me for hour long walks until I fell asleep. Standing on a rock after a short but nevertheless successful climb, I turn around to Sam. She’s still in the car, sitting in the window frame after rolling down the window. It didn’t feel like such a long distance when measured in time, but now that I look at the length of our walk, it seems like we’re much further away, much higher. For a minute, I feel like a giant. Then the wind howls in my ear and I return my gaze upon the mountains behind Sam, on my left, behind me. I am little.
With the mighty mountains gazing down upon me, I am struck by the realisation that this is exactly what I am – only a tiny human being. This revelation sparked something in my mind that didn’t let go, yet had to be soaked in time and grow, before this string in my mind could assimilate and conceive further thoughts.
Our trip to Glencoe marked the last adventure during our stay in Scotland. We had six of the absolute best weeks with K in Scotland, but it’s time for a change. I know Scotland has a lot more beauty to offer and there’s a lot more to explore. With new friends ‘ up north’, it’s even more likely that the taunt of Scotland draws us back and back in. I can’t wait to see what else it’s got to offer us. For now, we’re returning to England and a week later, we’re in a rented car, driving around somewhere in the middle of the Lake District.