Paula’s Post #76 — My apologies for being a wee late with my post this week, but I’ve been travelling in Scotland. Part of this trip is to reconnect with the relatives in Scotland, but this journey also affords an opportunity for me to visit the Western Isles, specifically Skye, the setting for my latest novel.
If you’ve travelled in this remote region, you’ll know the staggering beauty of these rugged islands and the warmth and courtesy of the people. I haven’t yet been able to download my photos, but would like to share with you just a few of my impressions.
1) The roads in Scotland are scary – really scary. My husband is driving and I spend much of the time yelling out ‘mirror’ meaning we are about to crash said passenger side mirror into a wall or a parked vehicle. My husband then immediately shouts back ‘truck’ meaning a huge oncoming lorry is bearing down on us, scaring us silly and crowding us off the road. My husband is an excellent driver and has driven on the ‘left side’ in the UK many times, but the narrow mountain roads of ‘The Highlands’ are a new challenge. Thankfully, we’ve only bashed the mirror once, and it seems to have survived the experience unscathed.
2) The Western Isles are a great place for writing… provided you’ve brought enough adapters for your ‘devices’ and don’t need the internet. Are we typical travellers? I don’t know, but between us, we’ve assembled one laptop, two iPads and four iPhones. Oh, and the 99 pence Scottish Pay-As-You-Go phone we bought the first day for the purpose of making local phone calls here. The first seven devices require charging frequently, – unfortunately, we have only one electrical adapter so we are severely hampered in our ability to keep ‘current’ (pardon the pun). But the lack of ‘current’ pales in comparison to the availability of internet signal. While we did have reasonably good service at our lovely hotel in Skye, our subsequent stops in Oban and pastoral Dumfries and Galloway have been a ‘challenge’. In the latter, we stayed with my husbands relatives, a charming couple in their 80’s who are incredibly active and vigorous, but see no need for ‘connectivity’: no mobile phones, no computers… no Wi Fi. How quaint.
3. Daylight: If you write best when it is light out, this is the place for you. When we were on Skye, I found myself researching my families history well into the wee hours of the morning. Glancing up from time to time, I was surprised to see that it was still light past 11 o’clock at night. I admit I got a little carried away and carried on until it was ‘dark’. But even I was shocked when i heard ‘tweet tweet’ … ‘tweet tweet’ … and discovered the birds wake up and start singing somewhere around 3 am… because it was already getting light again.
4. Darkness: This is not the place to write if you require the cloak of darkness for inspiration.
5. Family History – Are you a MacDonald or MacLeod? Between the beginning of the 19th C and the middle of that century, Scotland suffered through a period of ‘depopulation’. The Highlands, and particularly the Western Isles such as Skye, Lewis and Harris were hardest hit. the crofters’ livelihood disappeared when traditional farming and kelping industries collapsed and the landlords moved to sheep as a more profitable alternative. This lead to the infamous Highland Clearances, a time when poor tenant farmers were evicted from farms to make way for grazing. Like the Irish, these incredibly poor families survived on a diet primarily based on the potato, but when that crop became blighted and failed, people starved. Emigration schemes linked to eviction, left little choice to the crofters. Though, as my own family research has discovered, not all left voluntarily. Either way, the greatest loss occurred in the islands, particularly Skye… and times of great turmoil lead to many dramatic stories. One of these stories, I’m planning to tell. The story of the ‘black sheep’ of my family.
But that’s enough of a hint for now.
We’ve now left Scotland after a fabulous visit with the rellies in Dumfries and Galloway, in the Southwest. We spent last night in historic York and this morning, we will be exploring the City. I’m sure I’ll find inspiration for a hundred more stories, but for now, I’ll resist temptation and try to focus on Skye.