Sitting here in Barcelona, an email from Em this evening asking for thoughts on travelling in Scotland took me straight to the Highlands and to Scourie, so I am re-posting this piece because it reminds me of my English friends who I miss very much as I whisk around the world on planes, trains & automobiles.
In our twenties, various of us who had been at university together frequently barrelled up to the very, very north west of the Scottish Highlands to a beautiful coastal village called Scourie, where we would set up camp in the tiny stalking cottage which had been left to our partners in crime Nick & Susie by their father.
(Arkle seen from Scourie Beach)
There was lots of fly fishing (or, if you were me, lots of watching fly fishing, sitting disconsolate in a damp boat in the August drizzle, smoking pot to ward off the midges & watching the rain on the loch); mountain goat activity of the running up hills before breakfast kind (or, if you were me, cooking of gargantuan breakfasts), and long walks through the heather (or, if you were me, ceaseless whinging about the mud, the midges & the rain).
I was at my happiest when the others were playing at being mountain goats, & I was left to my own devices. I would cook huge meals for their return, and then curl up in a faded floral armchair in the sitting room next to the fire and the oak bookcase, working my way through old paperbacked Agatha Christie & Georgette Heyers, with the aid of a packet of Garibaldi biscuits and endless cups of tea. I do so love the great outdoors when I have to wipe the fug off a window to see it.
I spent Millenium New Year in Scourie with five of my closest friends, having stipulated I would only go if we dressed up properly. (My silver & green 50’s brocade & tulle number from Cornucopia cost £15 & was so poofy it had to have its own seat on the plane up to Inverness.)
On the night we pulled layers of fleece & Gore Tex over our Black Tie and climbed a mountain to set off exhibition fireworks & drink Champagne at midnight, before rolling back down the mountain to the village cèilidh. (If you happen to have architects as friends, then you’ll know that this combination of outdoors & insanity is perfectly normal in their eyes.)
Since then there have been New Years with us recreating Moulin Rouge – the movie, not the topless dancing, on the village hall stage with four girls and a bottle of whisky, getting stuck in Ullapool in drifts of snow en route and hours, days, nights of general hilarity.
But now Suze lives in Normandy with Laurent and their infant, Nick & J and their offspring are in Mexico, enroute to a new life in Melbourne, and I am, well I am here, there & everywhere, and our lives although inextricably linked together, are irrevocably changed and the Scourie years of misbehaviour are well and truly in the past.