Friday, September 08, 2006

Driving through the clouds

I visited Scotland last week. My first time this far north in Britain, witnessing such delightful scenery from the elevated position afforded by the lofty passenger seat of a Citroen van. Perhaps I had a little travel itch to scratch after that 'Thank You' post recently, but whatever the reason, I readily accepted a friends' request to accompany him on a weekend trip to Kirkcaldy, just across the firth of Forth from Edinburgh.
It was only going to be a short trip with an overnight stay, so why bother with the expense of accomodation when you have your own metal floor to sleep on? If you're going to sleep in a van then you might as well cook in it too, and that philosophy goes some way to explain the above photograph - for there we were setting up a couple of camping chairs and making a lovely brew of tea in a rather windswept lay-by somewhere in the wilds of Northumbria. Without me in that photograph it is perhaps difficult to picture the sight which greeted other motorists as they came along the road, that of two grown men sitting in the late-afternoon mist drinking tea. I honestly don't think I've ever felt so English.
It's not easy to think of Scotland as a foreign country, but upon entering a pub the differences become very clear. I've never made the acquaintance of so many random people as I did that evening, whether being cajoled into karaoke singalongs from the comfort of the bar, or being quizzed in a most friendly fashion by people with the most unfathomable accents. Any preconceptions I had were swiftly confounded by the sight of girls swirling around in 1950s-style pleated skirts (and how pretty they are!), a good few pints, and the mightiest curry Kirkcaldy had to offer.
The journey back was in contrast to the previous day's travel. An ominous sky began to throw rain at us as we opted for the motorway rather than the bendy B-roads in an effort to save time. This time the journey was beautiful in a different way. Here we were dwarfed by mountains on either side of us as we followed the motorway snaking its way towards home. A combination of atmospheric conditions and our elevation meant that at certain times during this part of the journey we actually drifted in and out of the clouds. One moment they were hanging just above the roof of the van, the next moment we were plunged into the swirling mist to suddenly descend out of it again seconds later. It was such a strange detached feeling. The motorway was busy with other traffic but we might as well have been completely alone, allowed to drift skyward for a few precious moments as the road fell away beneath us.

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