Thursday, 8 March 2012

ESCAPING to the Highlands

Getting away from the run of the mill routine can really help with stress. Personally speaking, changing patterns, even for a brief period can help reduce stress. Though getting away is not always an easy thing. Sometimes it seems even getting to the local park can seem like such a struggle, let alone the coasts of England... let alone the plane flights abroad! Perhaps my days of long haul travelling our done, now with kids on boards. But getting away to Scotland proved to be a great respite, though it didn’t come cheap, when you add in the coast of a family train journey, the hire of a car to negotiate the open lanscapes of north west scotland, and of course, the hiring of a cottage on top. No wonder a trip to Scotland can seem like a trip to deepest congo, the logistics involved seem equally demanding.

Having never been to Scotland before, I looked forward to the experience, of course I’d always known of the mountainous ranges, had read of the Cairnghorms, and had always seen the typical highland paintings with the sublime, romantic dear, antlers aloft, staring out towards misty peaks.

A tiny flat, two children, the cramped conditions, it eats away at you, your vision can become narrow, blinkered, you lose the expansive perspective which allows the spirit to thrive, Perhaps we’re just not designed to live like pent-up rabbits, and yet so often we hear of the stressful lives of rural people, the isolation, the unemployent, perhaps there is nowhere that is particular fruitful for the spirit – other than change itself. Perhaps the spirit tires of the familiar, while it fails to stimulate, and yet a time away, AND ON RETURN, it can do just that.

Leaving our flat was a blessing, and yet returning to our flat was equally a blessing. in time, wherever you set up stock, perhaps it will always accrue the mediocrities of every day life. A change is like a honeymoon period away from stress. But when the honeymoon period is up, its time for change! Though this might suggest we’re to live our lives in a state of constant flux. And yet why not? When did we get to be so permanent? When did we lose that nomadic wandering aspect of our nature? And yet we are creatures of comfort, of familiarity. And so getting back to a cramped apartment can still seem like a breath of fresh air.

Scotland was a great break, living by the coast, a little finger on the map, Portmahomack. A tiny harbour, small population, in fact a dwindling population as the aspitational youth head off to the fastest growing city in Britain, the heady heights of Inverness. But Portmahomack, local fishermen, no more than five tiny boats, seemed enough.

We approached a fishermen who’d just brought his crab pots in, asking to buy one, but no need, not at all, he simply gave us two huge live crabs. And what to do with them! Boil them alive? smash open the carapace?… and do what? Simple, ask the neighbouring chap, Scottie, a fishermen of old, who pops rounds, cooks and prepares both crabs – while we pathetically watch on with relief.

And from the tiny harbour, we clamber into our hired car, seven of us in total, heading off to the Cairngorms, famed peaks of many a climber. And yet the funicular train did all the work, took us to just below the summit, to the highest restaurant in the UK. Not quite Sherpa Tensing tales, huddled together over hot chocolate enjoying the views through glass panes.  I clambered over the forbidden exit to climb the last leg, perhaps and hour or so, to get to the very summit. In my own small way, going the extra mile, getting that extra bit of stimulation. And up there on the peak, like Kerouac on Desolation Mountain, I dreamed out over the horizon, alone, and breathing in the freshest air imaginable, enjoying the peace, the respite, the stimulation of change.

Nigel Prestatyn

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