Scotland 2019

It has seemed as if we have been away from London for a long time, but our excursion north was lovely and rewarding. On the Fontinalia of October, we left by 12:30 and got as far as Preston where we checked into a Hallmark Hotel and swam laps in the pool. Kirkby Lonsdale was only an hour further the next day. We were allowed to check-in to our rooms early. A bit later, we walked to Ruskin’s View and into the woods beyond and then along the River Lune to the Devil’s Bridge and back along the river to the hotel.



The Focus

We reached Loch Lomond’s bonnie banks on the Ides and ritualised by the water later in the day. The beauty of the loch and the panorama were simply enchanting. It was a divine interlude. In all, we stayed initially at Marion and Leslie’s for a week and were able to work amply on our individual projects while surrounded by fresh air and pure beauty. One day we drove to Helensburgh where we saw Joker. Joaquin Phoenix was excellent, though the film’s story is about as depressing as it gets. Another day, we drove to Rowardenan, virtually directly across the loch from us. Then we headed back to Balmaha where had cappuccini at the Oak Tree Inn. We ritualised again for the Armilustrium and had a splendid dinner at the Duck Bay Restaurant. But when we got back to the flat, I could not find the keys. We had walked to the restaurant and back and retraced once more looking for the keys that I presumed had fallen from my pocket. After finally phoning Marion & Leslie, we managed to get a copy of the keys that Gwyn & Gordon had – Gwyn being the cleaner of the flat. The next morning, walked the way back to Duck Bay looking for the key & fob but had no luck. They were not at the restaurant or hotel either. Did at least get to see the sun rising over the mountains. And then once we were back at the flat, I found the keys in the inside upper pocket of my dress jacket. I had had them all the time.

Our first sojourn away from Loch Lomond was Campbeltown. The drive along the Kintyre Peninsula was lovely, and we both enjoyed Campbeltown which has its own special charm. We also explored the Campbeltown malts, saw the Campbeltown Picture House (art deco cinema – the first purpose-built in Scotland – opened in 1913), had cappuccini in the fabulous whisky bar of the Ardshiel Hotel, and went to the Linda McCartney Memorial Garden as well as the museum next to it.

I had not realised that Crinan was en route to Oban, but then we stopped on the way, though it turned out that Francis Macdonald was not there. We viewed her paintings and had our cappuccini before heading on to Oban. Here we climbed to McCaig’s Tower, met Fiona and Allison at Best Wishes and had the very best Cullen skink of many while in Scotland at the café suggested by Rix and Gin next to the Oban Ferry Terminal.

From Oban, we drove through the Gap of Glencoe to the Bridge of Orchy. The room at the hotel was available only for one night rather than two, so we continued the following day back to Loch Lomond which was little more than an hour’s drive away. We stayed here for a second week. The Brexit affair continued to depress us, but at least the Hallowe’en departure has been postponed, and Bojo was able to get his general election set for the 12th of December. Silvester from the Whitelands House phoned to inform me that our neighbour Peter Robinson had died in the hospital. When we said goodbye to him when we leaving London, he was at home but said that he might be gone by the time we got back. He has wanted to join his wife Shirley since she died nearly ten years ago. Peter was 89 and mentally sharp up to the end, and we have missed him.

We spent two nights in Helensburgh, and the downside was my getting a parking ticket. We did see the fireworks when heading to the Riverhill Courtyard Café the first night. We adore the café, so ate there the second night as well. And after Helensburgh, we had four nights at the Water’s Edge Cottage directly overlooking Loch Lomond (Andy made fabulous breakfasts, and we got to have coffee with Leslie at Duck Bay), then three nights in Glasgow (a dinner at Rogano’s and visits to the Tenement House, the Museum of Modern Art and the Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art), and one night in the Art Deco Midland Hotel overlooking Morecambe Bay. This last was a perfect treat: plush & lovely room, high tea, delicious roast duck dinner and a duck egg Benedict breakfast.

York was next. It was our first time to see Natacha since her mother had passed in Aups. Natacha is for us another daughter, and it was lovely to have some time with her. With her partner Jonathan, we had a Nepalese dinner. We also got to the rather incredible Van Gogh Immersive Experience in the St. Mary’s Church Art Gallery of York. A lunch at a vegetarian café that I think is called Buck’s followed the Van Gogh, and then we were off to Bowdon/ Altrincham.

The traffic was terrific, and as previously we had much difficulty finding and reaching Carol’s, but large whiskys thrust into our hands as soon as we got through the door helped. And then we were immersed in the impeachment hearings (Bill Taylor and George Kent) – and ever since. Our second night at Carol’s, she once again produced a magnificent dinner – this time for ten. This included Wayne & Michael, Paul & Charlotte, Barry (an incredible 90-something) with Diana, and Annie: a cucumber flavoured G&T to start; a glass of red wine; venison, pheasant and grouse; cheese, and concluding with Annie’s delicious apple pie. The next day, after breakfast, Carol drove us to the Manchester Museum of Art and, after cappuccini, through the centre of Manchester itself. The Marie Yovanovitch testimony followed.

And then, finally, back at home. Here it has been the testimonies so far of Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Tim Morrison and Kurt Volker. I find all to be impressive, even moving, while the Republicans seem mostly to be desperate and ridiculous. We have searched in vain for Peter’s will. And I did another Loch Lomond lost keys fiasco – this time with my bicycle lock that I had thought must have fallen off, but re-tracing on foot with Richard my cycling route through Battersea Park came up with nothing. It finally showed up on the construction platform and scaffolding chaos in the courtyard.

But apart from a fair bit of advance with my ‘End of Life’ manuscript over this past month in Scotland, I have managed to read Robert Witkin’s challenging and controversial Adorno on Music, James Hillman’s refreshing and encouraging The Force of Character and The Lasting Life and Bill Bryson’s hilarious yet nostalgically sad The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Tomorrow it is Jethro Bucks vernissage at the Crane Kallman Gallery, the day after my gastroscopy at the Royal Marsden, the day after this is the Sophia Conference and next week is our visit to Claire in her new place in Eastleigh and after this it will be the Thanksgiving dinner at the Club.

For the rest, the usual consequences with being as old as we are, but otherwise on the personal level life is still more than fine.

































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