Sweet Home Chicago
My trip as a whole was more than perfect. I wouldn't change any part of it. For those of you who believed in me from the beginning, I hope I made you proud. For those of you who didn't.... I hope I proved you wrong.
The cottage was an old school house for the county of Sutherland, and when Gail’s parents bought years ago they renovated it to include bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen while still preserving its original structure. It overlooks the Kyle river which winds its way through the valley in which they are nestled. I slept in a room far away from the boys (I wanted the attic… but I thought that may seem a bit extreme) so that I could sleep in on Saturday morning. They were invited to help on the farm down the road, so of course were up early. The neighbor down the street (neighbor= ½ mile away) is a sheep farmer, and was absolutely delighted that there would be 2 extra little hands available to help him feed the lambs four times a day. Jack and Michael were literally city boys let loose in the country! They clocked their playtime around the hours of lamb feeding! It was so precious- and fun to watch. While the boys were preoccupied at the farm, Gail (Granny) took me on a big adventure to the closest town to get a newspaper.
Things I saw in the ‘town’:
grocery store (the size of a small 7-11)
In that order.
I was told that the closest ‘supermarket’ (meaning small grocery store in which you can buy produce, meat/poultry, frozen foods, is 40 minutes away). We returned back to the cottage to find the boys ankle deep into the river with their Wellington’s on building a dam out of rocks…happy as could be.
Sunday my sleeping-in time frame was cut back to about 9:00 so that we could head to the beach. There really is no way to fathom the remoteness of this part of the world unless you’re there. Everyone always says that Britain is a gravely overpopulated island… but you would never have guessed it looking out the car window on our drive. We drove for about an hour and a half straight across to the west coast, and if I counted 15 houses… that would have been a lot. Earlier that morning when Gail asked me to help her pack a picnic because there wouldn’t be a place to eat along the way I thought that that was because it was Sunday and they would be closed… or that they weren’t the type of places a 9 and 7 year old boy would be allowed…or because we were headed to the coast, they would be too posh and expensive. Little did I realize that there literally was not a single place to eat along the way (good thing for the picnic!). The journey out west was absolutely amazing. We were deep into the country of one-lane roads and breathtaking views. We were past the point of people fencing off their land, and thus found ourselves pulling into a passing place not so that a car could get by… but because a sheep was trying to get through. The terrain on the west seems to be a lot softer than the East coast, and the views from the beach we were at were absolutely stunning. The boys enjoyed dune jumping and sand digging, while I enjoyed a nice long walk on the beach and some cliff climbing (still trying to get some quiet time after the 6 hour train ride two days before!).
We returned home early evening and then headed out to a local castle for dinner after the boys fed the lambs. Not the local pub (there isn’t one) or restaurant (there isn’t one)… but the local castle. Not to worry- my cargo pants and fleece suited the dress code just fine, as the castle was turned into a youth hostel in the 50’s… so needless to say… for once… I fit in. (I don’t know how the hell it survives as a youth hostel because there was no foreseeable way a backpacker could get to this place- it is in the middle of NOWHERE!) Dinner was great- and I did a bit of research with help from Gail to find out that you can actually rent out the entire castle for weddings/parties. Now if I could only find that prince charming…
I awoke Monday morning to two little boys on my bed asking if we could go in the canoe. I pulled the blanket over my head and told them to go feed the lambs (still trying to satisfy that quiet time). Over breakfast it was decided that we would go out on the boat… however only 4 people could fit. I quickly raised my hand to volunteer to stay onshore and take photos. Thankfully it was eventually determined that Spencer would take the boys out on the boat while Gail and I headed off to the big town (the one 40 minutes away with a proper grocery store) for some gasoline. We ran our errands in town (grocery store, petrol station, fish & tackle shop)… and stopped at a few picturesque places for me to enjoy along the way. As Gail and I left the town headed for the scenic drive back to the cottage we looked over the hills and noticed huge black rain clouds over the valley of the cottage.
Me: oh my…I hope the boys are ok
Gail: they’ll be fine… as long as Spencer hasn’t chucked them out of the boat yet
Me: no I mean the rain- look
Gail: oh… well they’ll surely have their waterproof jackets.
Me: (pause…) right…
Different mentality- I was worried about them flooding the boat and capsizing in the storm. She was hoping Boppa didn’t get fed up with them and make them swim back to shore. And if he did do that… surely they’d be ok because they would have their waterproof jackets on!
Well we arrived home to find two squeaky clean boys fresh out of the bath tub… eager to tell us all about their adventures in the wind and the rain.
Tuesday we packed up the car and headed back with Gail and Spencer to Edinburgh. Brits are very funny about car rides. If for example I were to say that I was headed to Glasgow tomorrow for work- everyone around the table would groan and pour out empathy for me and my long journey. (This is where I should mention Edinburgh is approximately 55 minutes away from Glasgow by car). Of course this country is more environmentally conscious than most American cities tend to be, so perhaps the groans aren’t for the long drive… but for the hour of exhaust that your car will be contributing to the air pollution. Anyway the drive home from Sutherland was about 3½ hours (which to the boys may as well have been the end of the world). I explained to them that you can’t get anywhere by car in 3 ½ hours in America. And you should have seen the looks on their faces when I told them that for as long as I could remember my family DROVE to Georgia every summer… a trip taking no less than 12 hours. They were so intrigued by the severity that a drive that long would bring. (I’m no expert on the subject, but I imagine if you started at the northern most tip of Scotland and drove down to the southern most tip of England… it would take around 12 hours (provided there was a direct route, no one lane highways, no sheep blocking the roads, and bridges over any foreseen water)) They asked all sorts of questions like ‘were you ever bored?’ (NEVER I exclaimed) ‘who drove the car?’ ‘where did you sleep?’ ‘what kinds of things did you see out the window?’ For a while after our conversation the car was silent… with two little faces gazing out the window- pondering what a 12 hour car ride would be like… and surely thanking someone that this particular ride was over in time for dinner.