originally part of training/fundraising for the Hepatitis C Trust's Nepal trek. Now, sporadic musings...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

another madabout words event

The third 'madabout words' that Crysse has organised for the Merlin was held on Friday night -undoubtedly, the best yet (see Crysse's blog for her comments on http://crysse.blogspot.com/). Live n' lippy (aka me and Crysse) opened and closed the evening's line-up, which consisted of songs from Howard (so good we bought the cd - well worth a listen), brilliant stories from Niamh and Rosie, a witty dialogue from Ali (read/performed byAli and Willow, with a cameo appearance from Van the Man, aka Howard), poetry from Tracey, Gordon and Dave, and a fantastic debut appearance from musical duo Jill and Mick. There were sample tracks from the dvd - poetry from live n' lippy and visuals from Howard. This will be my last event as a Frome resident; a privilege to be part of such a great evening's entertainment.

Above, Ali, Willow, and Van...

I hope I can maintain the connection to the buzz of creative energy in and around Frome...

Above; Rosie - below; Jill.

This may be my last post for a while - things have been chaotic for a few weeks, which is likely to intensify over the next few days - and then I won't have easy access to the internet (or a computer!) for a while...
But I hope to do more writing than I've managed to fit in recently - tonight, I've promised to record a session for Frome fm with Mike.
Best I get onto that now... or there won't be any words to record...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

endings and new beginnings

My last day coincides with our 'Make a Difference' day (another 'MAD' day) which falls during energy saving week...

My time is spent trying to be in three places at once (no change there, then) but I manage to plant a gooseberry bush and oversee the veggie prep for our rocket stove meal (which turns out to be edible, surprisingly enough).
As last days go, it's rather special... largely down to Laura (see above). After thirteen months of sharing office space (and shoring up my role as well as her own), that says volumes for her patience and tolerance (in her shoes, I might well feel somewhat differently... not sure I'd like me as a colleague...)

Thrilled with my pressies, not just their actuality, but the thought and care devoted to choosing them (Laura again) - beautiful spectrolite pendant and earrings set, two bags of continental chocs (yum!), a book on Cotswold walks (yippee!) and a BBC 'Nature's Calendar' book with spectacular photographs.

and then on for (er, rather a lot of) drinkies at the microbrewery...
I really enjoyed myself, and I hope everyone else did too! It may be goodbye to the 'team' as workmates, but as friends... I like to think I'll take on the gift of friendship from this phase in my life. I love Sarah's idea of meeting up twice a year (she's on the left, then Maggie, Gary and Laura). Fingers crossed we can organise it - synchronising even two diaries can be a toughie!

Friday, October 19, 2007

rolling away inertia

My first (and last) Frome writers session last night... A high standard of writing - and great to have feedback on the (current) beginning of the novel, part of my attempt to reconnect to my fictional world. It fired the curiosity of the group, so that (should) get rid of the fear that this incarnation is another exercise in self-indulgent tosh. It might still be self-indulgent tosh - but at least it's interesting enough to engage six writers... and the other snippet made them laugh; slightly pretentious ('show-off-y' Rosie's word) it might be, but with enough humour in, maybe I can carry it off...
every goodbye should have a new beginning, so Crysse and I were today trying to think of ways I can continue to be part of the group - at a distance.

Fantastic to catch-up properly with Crysse - at LAST!!!! A bit of a blow-out seems to have broken my inertia; this morning I began sorting out stuff for the tip, and the books I'll be passing on, before meeting Crysse to sort our live n' lippy set for madaboutwords. Some interesting writing; on not writing... (after the flippant 'I killed too many brain cells with too much wine last night' - actually, it may have been flippant, but it's also true, if only for today!)

What better way to alleviate the excesses of the night before than with walking and poetry... in the process keeping that scary inertia at bay!

Monday, October 15, 2007

more sunshine and showers

On our last day on Rum, we manage a last wander around the loch side without getting too wet, and leave the dampest of our clothes to dry off a bit while we take the castle tour.
Stately home meets museum meets decaying mansion...
Definitely one not to be missed.

We sail for Mallaig once more.
In the morning, the mist has descended so that Eigg and Skye are the only clear outlines on the horizon, with just tantalising hints where the contours of Rum should be - as if we dreamt our visit...

A few weeks on, and already it feels like a lucid dream in another lifetime...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

solitary splendour

Our last full day; Lucy opts for the shores of Loch Scresort to spot more seals and possibly the elusive otters, while I decide to see if I can make it to Harris on the other side of Rum.
I think it's approximately 8 miles to Harris - it's certainly further than the 5 miles between Kinloch and Kilmory. In spite of 'writing in a get-out clause' - I'll turn back if I get too knackered, too wet, whatever - secretly, I'm determined to reach the bay (and if you'd read Magnus' description of the road to Harris, you'd have embraced the challenge too).
I have an awesome day.
And awful!
I get drenched in squall after squall; it's cold and dank... but it's also majestic and incredibly beautiful. The wind may have an uncomfortable chill factor, but it also dries me out as the rain moves on to adjacent mountains. For mile upon mile, hour upon hour, I tramp through this wild and wonderful landscape with not another living soul in sight.
Just me and the wildlife on God's own isle, thinking our thoughts together.
The intense peacefulness in these miles of uninhabited space is almost impossible to describe. It's too cold and wet for my notebook, so my mobile doubles as dictaphone - unfortunately inaccessible until I get a new charger, having lost mine on my travels!
Utterly elated at reaching my goal, I sit under the door lintel on the steps of the little cottage at Harris, out the vicious wind, to eat my packed lunch.
I've found a very unexpected paradise.
The last few miles I walk like a Chinese woman with bound feet. Each time my weary legs stumble on the rocky trail, fountains of pain cascade through my feet. My right knee thinks I've belted it with a 20-pound lumphammer, and my hips are harmonising quietly with the choir of complaint. I wish fervently for something to distract me from the pain... and the rain starts again. Icy water down the backs of my legs; the Cosmic Joker is always listening.
It may be a bit soon to risk alcohol - but I deserve a Black Cuillin beer!
And the Joker throws in an expert massage just to round off an amazing day, courtesy of Trish, the stand-in chef, who has a massage practice on the mainland.
Into another kind of paradise...


Adverse weather rolls in over the hills very quickly - but can evaporate just as quickly.

Smokers may be slightly chillier than elsewhere in the country, but the castle courtyard is a very convivial place to savour a post-prandial cigarette.

And there's a charming replica bird-table outside the bistro window - giving diners something to occupy them while browsing the menu. The service is so good, you don't have much (if any) time to contemplate the bird-table and its visitors...
We intend to slot the castle tour in between two short walks today - tours are timed to coincide with the ferry timetables. As Lucy and I go in search of seals and maybe otters on the shores of Loch Scresort, a ferryload of geriatrics hobble along castle-ward - each clot with a self-appointed spokesperson echoing the plea 'How far is it to the castle now?' We can't quite stomach sharing our magical place with this flotilla of ageing toddlers (one of whom addresses us as 'boys' - questionable how much of the sights she's going to appreciate!), so we move to plan B.
After spotting just a solitary seal, we settle for a picnic in our room with Magnus Magnusson's authoritative little book on Rum, followed by another baby walk along the river. Bizarrely, there's a park bench on the other side - we're tempted to ford the shallowest bit, so we can read the plaque, but decide we'd rather not have sopping wet socks and boots for the rest of our stay. We opt for perambulating the perimeters of the castle - and posing on the rebuilt Japanese style bridge which once adorned the owner's ornamental gardens.
At supper, we sit beside the Central Administrator for the Western Isles, and discover that there's an admin job coming up on the island...
I make a point of NOT checking out the cottage that the contractors have come to decorate in readiness for the new employee...

walking in wild landscapes

Three full days of walking. Three days full of bliss...
The woods around Loch Scresort give way to heathered moorland and spectacular waterfalls as the rocky 'road' rises into the hills.
Given that Rum was once compulsorily vacated to make way for 8,000 sheep (we met a chap from Nova Scotia who'd traced his roots to one of those evicted families), I didn't pick up the same grim atmosphere which characterises some areas of the Highlands - Glencoe, for example. Though that, admittedly, was the scene of a massacre - displacement doesn't equal those echoes.
Obviously, ordinary life here has never exactly been a breeze, but maybe the spirituality of the early Christian hermits, or the fun enjoyed by Edwardian playboys balanced that legacy with a lighter energy. (At the start of the 20th century, the castle's owner had 3 racing cars - there were men working full-time on maintaining the roads then, though. The tracks now are, in some places, a challenge even for the 4x4s... )
On our first full day, as we approach Kilmory, we can see the Skye Cuillins across the sea. Kilmory used to be the site of the laundry for the castle - a mere five miles away! - but now has a deer research outpost. We meet several others; the young couple from Penrith spending some time on the Islands as part of their Scottish road trip, Mr Nova Scotia, the hikers who have been castle-bound for the last two days because of rain (? the walking equivalent of fair-weather bikers?) and the teachers accompanying the troupe of teenagers wild-camping their way to their gold Duke of Edinburgh awards. We pass the ghillie's white Toyota pick-up, mercifully minus deer carcases - even when it overtakes us later, a few miles from Kinloch.

from my journal
The hostel rooms are in the old servants quarters on the third floor. Lucy and I are squeezed into a tiny room under the eaves, with space for our beds and a wardrobe and very little else. We have a skylight window that doesn't shut properly, but an old radiator that does, pumping more than enough heat into the space to make it cosy - adequate to dry the clothes we can't shoehorn into the drying room with the other hostellers' gear.
From our window (if we stand up) we can see looming hills and waving treetops.
Our ten-mile hike is such delight. At Kilmory, we find a curve of rock close to the water which shelters us from the biting wind as we feast on our packed lunches.
I take picture after picture, and we breathe lungfuls of fresh island air as the clouds swathe the hills around us. We're lucky, only getting slightly damp in the changeable conditions - and that as much as from internal conditions as external; walking in this landscape is hot work!

It's an artificial community, comprised of Scottish Natural Heritage employees. Although there are specific roles, everyone fulfills a multitude of tasks - the manager of the hostel and hotel took a crash course in hydroelectrics when the island mechanic left recently, and currently operates the islands generators. He and his wife and baby son have been on Rum for 18 months now; his previous post was in the Cairngorms.
'I don't do city jobs,' he tells me when I ask what motivates people to come and work here.

I know what he means.

It's wild out there now - blowing a gale and pouring with rain, the lullaby to sing me to sleep excess water rushing down drain pipes and overspilling other water channels... then the wind dies, and it's just the music of a channel somewhere runnelling off excess water.

About Me

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I began blogging during training for a trek in the Himalayas... several lifetimes ago. Currently working on my novel - in the tiny spaces left by a 50 hour plus working week...