This is Glasgow. Dark, cold and wind swept. If anyone out there reading this wants to provide me with a personal tour of this city, to make me fall in love with it, sign up to this blog and I promise you an extremely swift reply, because I still cannot decide if this is a city that I love or hate.
However, I do find myself back, strutting around in basic, but clean accommodation. No, this down at heel Victorian terrace is not the Hyatt. No-one flutters to take my suitcase or offer me a second or third cup of piping hot coffee at the breakfast table.
This is probably how Cinderella felt after losing her crystal encased shoe and being regaled to cinders, with her straw broom and rags. Let me just say, that she did not have a cheery, Pollyanna disposition as she stoked the fire, swept the door and stacked the dishes! She was very busy considering how genteel life was being lived on the other side of the fence. Just, as I am while sitting here, bouncing on my firm bed and dealing with yet another Television that just will not tune.
I always look for the positive in any situation, so I can budget and stay in accommodation that is not quite my preference or I can stay at home and simply not travel past my front door. And if nothing else, such economics resulted in an accidental fall into a rather down at heel pub further on past the B&B in Renrew Street, to scoff a portion of the best freshly battered fish and chips that I have had for some considerable time.
So, finally I find myself bag in hand and on the bus to see family, in the Argyll region of West Scotland. Four hours later and I’m greeted by my brother’s mother-in-law fluttering with only just contained excitement that I have come all the way to see her on this scenic picture postcard coastline.
We all jumped up and down thrilled at my arrival, (Well, the humans maintained some dignity.) but the poodles Bennie and Brynie didn’t contain themselves. They already know what’s in store. If they behave, they’ll get a place on the doona at night and if they really, really behave they’ll be allocated a portion of my pillow. I know that I shouldn’t. But their eyes take on that woebegone look of hapless orphans, and I can’t help myself.
I find myself being fussed over, made cups of tea by my brother’s mother in law, servings of hearty Scottish stews, while we chat and take in a glass or so of red wine. I kind of wonder if I should broach the subject of having her adopt me. This really is home away from home.
We visit the town of Tarbet. Yes, it’s beautiful but with the current weather we are experiencing it’s also very windswept, breathtaking for its views, and it is very, very cold and the castle dating back to the 13th century is in need of an extreme renovation. And I truly dare Renovators delight, tart up your house, or some other such inane TV program to take this place on. They have their work cut out for them. And I doubt even they can fully renovate it in 60 minutes! The castle in its present state and predicament – is well, quite muddy and decidedly derelict. My shoes living proof, caked in dirt, as are my feet, eventually I stop feeling that I have a pair because they are so wet and so cold. We settle for another portion of Fish and Chips! I really must stop this, but, Tarbet is by the sea. The fish is freshly caught, and unless I wade in to the water myself this is as fresh as its ever going to get.
We go to visit my sister in law’s brother and his wife. First up, my toes get given special treatment with clean dry socks and my very own hot water bottle. I really do not want to leave.
It gets better because I get to play all my favourite games with their children. The card game, pairs. Book reading. (actually, is there any other kind!) Along with playing cars and trains. And, I find myself delighted with perfect angelic, and well behaved children who sit up straight at the dinner table eat with a knife and fork, and who do not seem to be obsessed by television or computer games. Yeah – there is hope left for the world!!!!
Tucked up in bed I finally, cannot believe my luck. I get my very own wild Scottish storm. The wind lashing and traveling at a 100 miles or so an hour. It rains and rains so hard, and I wonder why I ever thought I needed knee high children back in London to create the percussion sounds of wind, ice, rain and sleet – because it’s happening here for real.
I’m so engrossed, and finally lulled to sleep by the lashing of trees against the window, the swirling and howling gale force winds and the sound of rain flinging itself at the house in hard steady drops that I awake the next morning, to a slobbering mud brown mutt asleep on all, of my pillowcase. Not half, but all. I’m further perturbed by the fact that it’s managed to find its way under the doona. The layout is human, the unfortunate resemblance though is of a dog, ears downcast, and a mournful pity me look, of, turf me from this bed, and I promise to never talk to you again. I take pity.
The storm still seems to be exactly where we left off last night, and this time Katie is bringing me in little cups of tea to the bed, so that I can stay and watch the storm all tucked up snugly. (And we all know that a bed, propped up with pillows, blankets and with cups of hot cocoa in hand is the only way to truly, truly enjoy a good storm.) I really, really, need to bring up the subject of adoption very soon!
As the morning goes on it gets worse, because to add to the panic of the storm, we then get a black out, and as we walk the dogs, later than morning, further panic sets in as a local tradesman explains in a serious voice that the bus I’m leaving on later in the day is blocked. “Aye, luv,” He mutters. “The damage, they’re fellin’ the trees now as we speak, luv. Aye luv, the damage to the trees.”
The curse of the small town, where anything that happens, no matter how trivial or how serious becomes a huge event. The sense of panic and impending doom portrayed by locals is to make up for the other 364 days of the year where nothing of any consequence happens except to find the cows grazing in the paddocks.
Although, the serious face and the voice of doom via our local newsman are starting to send me into a panic myself! Because, I must, absolutely must get to Inverary. Please, don’t ask me why I am obsessed to get to this town. But I am. All, I can give you by way of explanation is that when I laid eyes on Inverary on my trip in 2011, that on first sight of seeing those rows of small seaside white washed Tudor cottages dotting the distance landscape over the loch and seeing the breathtaking sight of the stone turrets of Inverary castle standing to military attention and entering the township of Inverary, the scene, literally took my breath away. I still have no idea why such a small and insignificant Scottish town can fill me with such a sense of peace and happiness. But, it really is like coming home.
I’m not letting a little rain and wind stop me. And as luck would have it – we all get to say our goodbyes, Katie desperate to have me stay, and yes, I want to stay – but I also like to be ambitious and am determined to get to every city in Europe so time is not on my side. The dogs give a mournful pawing and howling – they know. No warm body for them on the spare bed tonight.