Improperly shod, I plodded along the shore. Apologies for the slight echo of Evelyn Waugh’s parody of a naturalist’s prose (“Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole”).
My first morning back on Skye, and I was going to start the day as usual with my bedtime breathing and relaxation exercises. That is to say, sleeping in for another 15 minutes.
But the sun was streaming through the window, so I decided to get up and look outside. It was so glorious – mountains, sea, sky – that I went back in to get my camera and decided to walk down to the shore. Then I found myself dream-walking further along the shore.
In t-shirt and tai chi shoes, I picked my way among the rocks and pebbles. I hadn’t had my morning coffee but drank in the quietness, broken only by the flap of a raven’s wings overhead.
Thoughts and ideas flooded into what doctors describe as my head. I wondered if you’d ever get bored of this. I’ve lived in places described as idyllic but which were in reality world capitals of weirdness floating on seas of sheep poo.
I knew already that you can’t eat the view. But, here, I thought: “Stop over-thinking everything. Let the place embrace you as much you embrace it and just see what thoughts it brings naturally.”
It brought in the inevitable thought that was the place for me. And also the more experienced reflection that this was not the place for me. I believe some places, particularly islands, don’t just exert a hold on people, but lure them in, toy with their affections, even love them, before mucking them about and mocking them.
Instance: one day, earlier this year, I took a walk round to the islet opposite the Skye house, which you can reach at low tide. It was interesting to see the house from across the water.
However, the islet was disappointing in that, other than a small strip along the coastline, the absentee landowner (oh Scotia, how did you ever let this sort of thing happen?) had fenced off most of the place and put up signs warning folk not to walk about on their own country.
Still, it was a fine day and I enjoyed the outing. The terrain was difficult at times but at least, on this occasion, I was properly shod. On the way back, I spied a local-looking old fellow in a thick jersey and cap, who was sitting in his garden smoking a pipe in defiance of the 21st century.
We gave each other a cheery wave. Then I sank up to my knees in mud. Satisfied – I believe he’d come out to watch this happen – he went back into his house, probably logging the incident in a notebook, or notching up a symbol like Spitfire pilots did with German bombers.
It was then I thought: this place is against me; it is telling me I’ll never belong. Over-thinking again? Maybe.
Back home, in my claustrophobic suburb, with its parking wars, barking dogs and pooping cats, I lolled contentedly on the couch with a cup of tea and a honey-spread oatcake, and thought: “Good a place as any, I suppose.” That’s called under-thinking. I recommend it.