Monday, 30 May 2011

Reflections on Scottish Islands

Well, I am managing to plough through that twitchy phase you get when you come home from a holiday,and reflecting the marvellous experience that was Islay.  And a few things come to mind:

  • All that fretting about what to pack and what to wear?  What a waste of energy that was!  Let me tell you, the only thing anyone wears on a Scottish island is what will keep them a) warm and b) dry.  And with winds averaging 50-70mph, everyone looks like they've been dragged through a hedge backwards.  Don't worry about your hair, or your frocks.  Wear waterproofs and take a woolly hat and gloves.  Believe me, I have come home with a new revelation about just how unimportant fashion really is!
  • Islay feels like the edge of the world.  Jura really is.  I always fancied running away to live somewhere like that.  Now I know I just couldn't do it, even with the internet.  It's just too remote.  On the other hand, having now been to Jura, I really get George Orwell's '1984' now.
  • Wow, Norfolk is amazing.  Coming back to this bucolic, rolling landscape, with its hedges and lush copse, I feel like the luckiest person in the world to live where I do.  I love to look at mountains, but their energy makes me panicky.  Better the slow moving, mellow energy of the lowlands for me.
  • Going back to packing, Pat and I only took one suitcase between us, and it was more than enough.  I was very impressed with myself for packing so light.
  • I love flying.  At least, I love the going up and the coming down.  The bit in the middle is boring.  I quite like airports too.  What I really hate is the standing in queues and the way it makes people so vicious. It was a good moment to practice Loving kindness when we stood in the queue to go through security at Stansted for three quarters of an hour.  Of course, I didn't.  I got just as stroppy as everyone else.
  • Scottish people are just so nice.  Everyone we met had time to talk and laugh.  At Glasgow and Islay airports, the security people actually made the process a pleasure, whereas the atmosphere at Stansted was positively poisonous.  On the plane home from Islay, I met a lovely old chap of 86 who had grown up on Gigha, and told me some wonderful stories about what it was like in the old days to travel amongst the islands.  He was going to Glasgow for a hospital appointment, which put a whole new perspective on driving to the N&N for one!
  • Islay is huge!  So much to see and we only scratched the surface.  I think you'd need at least two trips to see it with any sense of completeness.
I am sure there are plenty of other things I could say, but I will save them for another day (since I have been told that I blog too infrequently and I am going to have to up my posting rate!)  All I can say is, go to Islay - its a real experience!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Made it back alive!

The Paps of Jura

Scotland.  Islay and Jura to be precise.  It rained.  It blew. It was fantastic.

The Singing Sands with Highland Coo

Best moment?  So many.  Lying in bed listening to the hail on the roof?  Folk band doing a three hours set in a soggy tent in the rain just for the pleasure of playing?  Handmade chocolates? Painting the bay at Laphroaig?  Discovering that rumours of the decease of Shortie, the Ardbeg dog, are premature? Priceless.

Summer home of the Lords of the Isles


Saturday, 21 May 2011


Clouds over Arran by Gordon Baird, from the BBC Scotland website.
Off to Islay tomorrow.  In case you are wondering, its in the Inner Hebrides, and its pronounced 'EYE-lah'  The latest weather forecast for the area was for 50-60 mph winds, driving rain and max temps of 12 degrees.  It is forecast to be 22 degrees in Norfolk tomorrow.  Ever wonder what the hell you are doing???  I am hoping to get some painting done, and may even be able to post while we are away - but don't count on it.  If not, have a groovy week everybody, and I will tell you all about it when I get back.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Sailing past the Paps of Jura  (Via)
Getting ready for a holiday is a difficult time for me.  Its hard to take care of myself when I am feeling so stressed about getting everything done.  I don't know why I am getting myself in such a state.  I have plenty of time.  When I think of how I used to organise day meetings for 700 delegates, or weekend residential conferences for 200, you'd think getting two of us out of the door would be a cinch!  I've always got very stressed and anxious about travelling, probably because I don't cope well with change.  For me, a holiday is rather more like an assault course to be endured than a good rest.  I always come back feeling like I need a month in bed to recover. 

This time I am going to make it different.  I intend to see it as a PROCESS to be ENJOYED (alien concept there).  I want to be mindful of each and every step on the journey.   I want to engineer moments of stillness in the midst of the DOING, in order to stop and reflect.  I want to have memories as well as photographs.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Taking a leaf from Virginia's book

I keep this portrait of VW on my desk to inspire me
I've been feeling bad about not having written much lately.  Being so ill again has forced me to stop and reassess my productivity mindset, to learn that doing things just for the pleasure of it, rather than because I OUGHT to, is necessary for my wellbeing. I am having to force myself to accept the necessity of abandoning goals, and learn to do things for enjoyment:

If it ain't fun, it won't get done!

(That's my new motto.)  So, just for the pleasure of it, I started re-reading Quentin Bell's biography of Virginia Woolf, who is one of my heroines. 

Woolf spent a great deal of her life in bed, under enforced rest, because of her psychiatric problems. She was not even allowed to read or write - which to me seems grounds enough for going stark, staring mad, but that was the treatment then.  Reading about the aftermath of her violent psychotic spell of 1915-16, I was struck that I am in the same position, though for different reasons.  Out of this period of isolation and forced rest came the genesis of her greatest works.  She was obsessively productive throughout her life, generating a vast body of work including essays, hundreds of book reviews, short stories and plays, as well as her famous diary.  She was driven by goals, and she didn't take it happily when she was forced to stop work.  But out of the resting came some of the greatest novels in the English language.

While I am not suggesting that I am on a par with Woolf, its a model I think I need to emulate.  I have learnt a hard lesson in recent weeks of consistent illness, and this time I have to take it on board.  I can't go on like this.  I have to find another way.  Resting is too important.  And perhaps taking a leaf out of VW's doctors' book is the answer.