The Highlands, 21st November
Loch Lomond 2pm
We are driving north, out beyond the flat-fronted housing of Glasgow. Stuffed with the city’s finest ‘Nuclear Beans’. Into the Trossachs and there is an unexpected straggle of late colour, copper clinging to twig, golden needles in their final throws. At Luss the scream of gulls and lap of loch. We are free of work for one week, and woollens and fleeces and no makeup never felt so flush. I had forgotten the purple of bare birch.
Last show of bright sunlight in the grass, burning out the edges of the peaks. The trees grow wizened in the beginnings of a great bog. There is the drift of snow like a flag streaming off the tips of the mountains, or is it a snag of cloud? Here is the drama of northern light that bursts and fades so early.
Fort William 6pm
Standing on the pier looking back towards the town. The lights and sounds that reach us, come to our senses from a dark distance. There are the sounds of students shrieking and of roostless mud birds calling over the invisible expanse of water. The luminescence around each coloured lamp bravely strikes out across the night, nearly but not quite reaching us. We stand at the edge of the deep shadow, the 18-hour shadow that is the loch and mountains behind our backs, the shadow that these almost painfully bright streetlights and illuminated forecourts are up against.
Parked up next to The Underwater Centre is a huge red bottle. Bruising metal, inch-thick red paint, rungs to climb over a curved back. Tiny portholes built for pressure. We can only guess that it’s an old decompression chamber, or some deep-water bathysphere.
The sense of sound chiming out from the bottom of an inky amphitheatre is wiped clean in the Grog n’ Grill with its piped folk ‘Singing Kettle’ CD and over-scrubbed wooden furniture. The bored staff seem genuinely shocked to see us. None of us would like to swing their partners round and round on a Monday night. But the Birds n’ Bees ale is good and my nose finally feels warm again.