I'm writing this blog on a plane. I don't recall ever having written a blog on a plane before. Perhaps it's an indication that my crippling fear of flying is finally subsiding.
We slept like logs in Emily and Jack's bedroom. It was an immensely cozy, toasty-warm experience. Emily had put little bottles of water on our bed and a series of magazines including one with an article about Kate Bush in it, which I read when I woke up.
We went for a bracing walk in the hills behind their house this morning. The dogs had a wonderful time jumping over fences and running into woods. The walk took us around the edge of a reservoir. On one side of the path, a bubbling stream, the colour of whiskey (or whisky as they spell it in these parts) trickled its way down hill.
There are apparently large wild cats roaming in the area, and at one point we stumbled upon the severed leg of a deer, which, we could only assume was the handy work of a panther or something of that size. I'm told the police are aware of the issue, but tend to try to keep the fuss down to a minimum to avoid terrifying people!
I felt a little sad saying goodbye to our hosts. I don't get the opportunity to see Emily nearly often enough, and this weekend has reminded me that I absolutely adore her...
The taxi back to Inverness Airport took us through Nairn, which looked a great deal more pleasant by daylight. My friend Tammy tells me it's a rather lovely part of the world, and I no longer think she's mad for saying so!
At a certain point on our journey, we officially entered The Highlands, which seemed a little odd because the terrain in these parts is less hilly than you might expect. You can, of course, see the mountains looming large on the horizon; glowing mauve and lavender, and bedecked in wisps and scarves of cloud.
On a number of occasions today we've been presented with a vista which includes a large part of the coast. Up here, it's very possible to get a sense of the geography of Scotland. You can see for miles; right up into that final little land mass of the UK, which leads an intrepid adventurer all the way up to the mystical John O'Groats. It's funny to speculate as to whether this trip would have felt any different if we were travelling into an independent Scotland.
As the afternoon melted into the clouds, the mist started rising from the fields, like giant gossamer table cloths on enormous snooker tables. In The Highlands, all the signs are bi-lingual. The English town names are written in black, and the Gaelic ones appear in Celtic green. I learned today that the Gaelic for airport is "port adhair."
Inverness airport is no bigger than a bus depot. It reminded us both of an American movie lot, with curious hangars and 1950s shacks scattered everywhere. The airport has a little cafe inside which sells homemade food and cakes. It was rather refreshing not to find the clichéd big chains crudely flashing their neon signs at us. What was somewhat less refreshing was the mayhem we encountered at security. The queues of anxious people were snaking through the airport foyer, and, by the time we'd reached our desk, the flight was due to be taking off.
There were all sorts of theories floating around. Fiona, who was travelling back from Edinburgh airport today, had had a similar issue due to some kind of security alert, and, in fact, been forced to abandon ship and make a dash for the train. People in our queue were suggesting that the infrastructure of Inverness Airport wasn't designed to handle the large numbers of flights they schedule on a Sunday evening, others suggested that a large number of fire-arms were being transported by travellers who had spent the weekend hunting in the Highlands.
Nathan was stopped by a ghastly easy-jet employee on the gate and told he wasn't allowed to get on the plane with his hand luggage AND the little man bag he'd slung over his shoulder. If he wanted to board, he'd have to stuff one inside the other, but would need to leave the queue to do so. She got quite hardcore about it in her nasty, whiny Scottish way. Meanwhile, a series of obese women walked though the gate hiding their handbags in coats and enormous rolls of fat. Sometimes I hate budget airlines!
As we boarded the plane, we were greeted by a spectacular sunset of orange, pink and red, a spume of black smoke from an industrial chimney cutting into the bands of colour like a giant silhouetted Mr Whippy!
As we flew South, the right hand side of the plane was treated to the sight of a sky which genuinely looked like it was on fire. Sometimes I'm astonished by the beauty and magic of nature.