The house near Applecross.
Warning: The following post contains hazardous truths and violent challenging of social conventions. (This post is dedicated to my friend, you know who you are.)
The top photo is my desk. This is how it looks most of the time, although occasionally it’s much worse than this - this is realtively tidy. I say relatively, as when it’s bad, it’s very, very bad. There is as you will observe, an assortment of papers, books (there are always books), a tea cup (Highland Stoneware if you are curious), a purple handbag and of course, Sigmund Freud on the couch (a past school assignment of my son’s). In the centre is the computer, cluttered with favourite objects, several Buddha’s, a dragon, some stones and an Indian plaque. To the right you see the lamp, shade askew, a bubblegum machine (another past school project of my son’s), the phone and various other bits and pieces.
I will come to the reason for this post shortly, just bear with me.
The bottom photo is taken in my bedroom, also ‘relatively’ tidy. You will notice piles of things and this indicates there have been recent efforts to restore order. The basket on top of the couch was put there to deter the cat from sleeping on the piles. She prefers the piles. If you look to the bottom left, you will notice another pile, not orderly but what we in Scotland call a ‘guddle’ (a muddle or confusion). That pile represents the status quo.
Recently, I told a friend not to worry about the state of her home, it’s possible clutter or untidyness, reassuring her that I lived in similar fashion and do not judge such things. I do not follow the social convention, one that more than irks me, namely, when people come to my home I do not exclaim pseudo sincere, ‘Oh dear, you’ll have to excuse the mess,’ only to have them enter a spotless house. When I say it’s messy, it really is. We all live as we live, differently, and those differences are what make it so interesting. There is no right or wrong in this, only what we prefer and are prepared to do.
With my shocking revelations, I hope you’re prepared to forgive both my honesty and also my desire to eradicate that annoying convention. Telling the truth is so liberating.
Tonight as I sat with my Father in Law, just two days before he returns to Scotland, I asked him what the smell of home was for him. When I was asked the same question, I answered with this; it’s the smell of warm wet wool on damp jumpers drying by a fire, the slightly musty, rubbery odour that emanates from wellies, the dark mineral, gritty aroma of coal in the scuttle by the fire and the smokey earthiness of peat. It’s the perfume of the coast, seawater and shoreline, seaweed and fishy, fresh and bracing and soul penetrating. It’s the smell of whisky, a symphony of nasal seduction, an alcoholic blend of earth and fire, and it’s warm buttered toast late in the evening when the ceilidh is drawing to an end.
It’s just over five weeks until I go home for a longish, it’ll never be long enough holiday. It’s become sweet anticipation to think of all that I long to see and of those I can’t wait to meet again. So alive is this anticipatory fantasy, I frequently slip into Scots phrases, have recently started perceiving everything to be very expensive (looking at price tags and thinking pounds stirling, not dollars), and have to remind myself to keep right, not left. Yesterday I bought a small bottle of Glenfiddich for the odd pleasure of wetting my lips. I don’t mean I took a drink - I don’t even drink whisky. No, my enjoyment came from the complex and peaty aroma and the sensation of it on my lips, the smell drifting into my nostrils and the images and feelings it evoked.
No doubt there will be changes and memories and reality will diverge at times, but that won’t matter. I’ll be there, enjoying new sensations while I revisit the past, making fresh memories with the ghosts of the old ones keeping me company.
Looking through the trees toward what was, my first home on Skye, a youth hostel. I landed in stormy weather, choppier and much wetter than this photo with wind that nearly blew me over. If I think back to those days, I can still remember the excitement and novelty of everything, trees but not the same trees, different food (I learned to love tea during this time which was just as well), Hobnobs (still love those), the smell of the gas fire, the damp cold that seemed to penetrate to the bone, but mostly, the most beautiful, astounding place I had ever seen.
(Armadale, Isle of Skye)
oh my god this is absolutely amazing
One feels you’ve stepped into a fantasy movie, a world of elegant possibilities…
This path reminds me of something. I once discovered a house, quite old and situated in a startlingly beautiful hamlet in Scotland. This house was on the end of a terrace of four houses. In front of each of the houses, about 150 years ago, someone painstakingly made similar designs with smooth stones. Each home had a different design of swirls or abstract shapes in front of their door. They were embedded in the compacted dirt of a previous century, being an old post office, who knows how many had tread on the inviting pattern. I fell in love with that house at that moment and we ended up buying it. I still think of it sometimes, the house with the stones that brought me home…
The wind would surely howl through this valley but it wouldn’t matter, you’d be cosy within those thick stone walls. Blackrock, or ‘Craig Dubh,’ looks like just the bolthole for me, in front of the peaty fire with my cup of tea…