Our summer is divided neatly into fortnight chunks. And so concludes the first of two bookending stays in Scotland. An experiment in structure.
We were on the plane before exams were over, JFK in the afternoon. One half of our things in storage, the other half in suitcases, our room sublet through September. I don’t fly well. Flights for me are worse than cocktail parties and require extra pharmaceutical support. B., however, is a hero who distracts me with sandwiches and single-serving wine bottles.
Dublin airport, 5am, we slept on two chairs pushed together. He had a pint of Guinness for breakfast. I had a scone. We landed in Glasgow at eleven.
They say it’s always grey in Scotland, but spring sun featured heavily those first few days, bringing out the yellow and the newborn green.
We spent our first weekend in Angus, at a country house between the rolling fields of rapeseed and the farms, the sheep and dairy cows standing stoic through the intermittent rain. We ate and drank and slept, dressed fancy for a formal birthday dinner, lost at snooker, made microwave Marks & Spencer cannelloni, read our books. An enormous amount of tea was consumed. We went to Glamis and toured the castle, which I wrote about, the best part being the walk up to it: a mile long driveway banked with daffodils and highland cattle, a baby on our shoulders, the Union Jack just visible above a turret in the distance.
Since then, the desk. I’ve tried to write four hours in the morning (more like: staring at the blinking cursor as it mocks, cursing at the three most evil words I know in English: New Blank Document), followed by lunch, half an hour of email, and busy work all afternoon (revisions, day job, summer workshop, catching up on litmags, reading Proust) between the coffee and digestive biscuit breaks (dark chocolate topped, of course). At six, we sometimes go for power walks around the reservoir at Mugdock Country Park. B’s mum and I arrange elaborate dinners on the Aga (the coolest thing that ever happened to the stove), and then the evening falls. But slowly. One of the most astounding things that Scotland’s shared with me this May is her eternal dusk, the twilight hours stretching later every night.
Last Friday night, we took the ferry across the firth of Clyde to Arran, and I spent most of my time not writing, staring at the sea instead, cold and cavernous and deep. We saw the seal cove in Kildonan, went for a fish supper in the local pub (haddock, would have done my nana proud), then went for an epic walk along the shore rocks, almost to the Holy Isle and back. Again, the endless after-dinner dusk.
So far Scotland has impressed herself upon me thus: woodsmoky pubs stocked with taxidermy bears and deer and pheasants, rain black trees with neon leaves, vegetarian haggis, neeps and tatties, and views of pasture, impossible and green, seen while speeding along the left side of the road.