My Island Diaries: Mull

Wherein I get fresh air and new perspectives, remember promises and maybe change my mind.

Edinburgh – Glasgow, holiday o’clock.

Sarge turns on all the lights in our bedroom to make sure I am actually awake. We have cupcakes for breakfast.  They are neither red nor velvet.

I put on striped socks, a museum t-shirt and a Mom-made sweater. We take a taxi to the train station and get there with time to spare.

This time I actually booked ramp assistance. Someone in a suit and tie sets the ramp between the train and the platform, and we are officially on holiday.

The biker sitting next to us is reading his Kindle. My paper and ink book hides my curled lip. And I like bikers.

Glasgow – Oban

Our second train of the morning has facing seats, but we face no-one. We figure the people behind the names on the reservation slips have over-slept.

Sarge reads about 20 pages of Blood Meridian while I finish When God Was a Rabbit. I cried into my ham sandwich.

Oban – Mull

We got our unreserved ferry tickets and joined the queue. Aside from a family with twins, we were the youngest travellers.

We ramped onto the ferry and rolled into the bar for expensive coffee and on-tap lemonade with very little syrup in it.

Sometime later I asked, ‘We moving?’

‘We have fifteen minutes left.’

Once I realised this, I got woozy, of course. I might have used Sarge’s beard as my horizon.

As we docked, a rainbow appeared. We were on holiday.

Mull, Thursday.

The rain greeted us off the boat. We were on an island where time stretched before us. I used the last of my phone signal to tell The Crew (Dad, Anne, and Anne’s Mum) where to find us.

The coffee-shop had about five awkward steps, so we followed the signs to the pub. We were half-way through our fish and chips when The Crew arrived. I might have taken a photo of the map before I said, ‘Hello, I’m on the map!’

We got to the cottage where I snapped another map, and read the back of all the the books on the shelf before I took off my coat.

I took off my shoes and started Notes on a Scandal before the coffee was all the way brewed. Dad and Sarge started the fire. I gleefully switched off my phone, asking Sarge to take the photos so I didn’t have to look at it all. ‘Start with the lobster on the wall,’ I said. Because, well, there was a lobster on the wall. He didn’t. ‘You already have a lobster,’ he said. Yes, really.

The kitchen caught me in the throat, reminding me of the one I did most of my growing up in. We had pasta for dinner. I still find it funny I have to rely on my father for my Italian food fix.

We went back into the living-room and ended up watching a documentary on eagles. I fell asleep before they landed. I woke up long enough to ask if I’d been snoring.

‘Like a girl,’ Sarge said.

Fair enough, I suppose.

Iona, we thought, Friday.

I write and drink coffee at the kitchen table. I am in a time-warp while the others take showers and put on socks.

We get in the car and have ice-cream before lunch on the way to the Iona ferry.

Now. Because of some loophole, we can’t take the car on the ferry. So, Iona is closed to us, kinda. I hate loopholes. I made several mental notes, and the adventure of the day becomes navigating around the gift shop and hunting the elusive accessible toilet. There is one, but it’s Radar key locked. It’s a universal key that opens all the Radar toilets. Well, if you have a Radar key that is. I have two. Neither of which were in my bag when I needed one.

The other toilets were gated, with no attendant to be found. I tried to walk through, but even my skinny ass didn’t fit.

Sarge and I trooped back to the car.

‘What’s the problem?’ Dad asked.

‘It’s locked, and I don’t have my key.’

Dad took his keys out of the ignition and waved one of my Radar keys in the mirror.

‘That’s mine!’

‘Aye, and you gave it to me for times such as this.’

‘I’m so smart. Gimme.’

Sarge opened the door and honestly, I don’t remember much after that.

Back at the cottage, it was time to tackle the shower. Because my chair didn’t fit in through the door, I transferred to another one, brought in from the kitchen.

I looked at the step into the shower. ‘Well, that’s excessive.’ But I took Sarge’s hand, stepped up and launched myself in anyway. Onto yet another kitchen chair.

I took my own chair to the kitchen table, where we had scallops with apple and cream sauce and then played Poker for chips and Goldfish crackers. Let’s do the time-warp again.

On the road, Saturday.

We take a guided van tour around the island, in search of eagles and seals. We stopped at various points for fresh air and photo opps. The guide had straps that hooked onto the front of my chair, and I can now say that I’ve been dragged up a hill. When we got to the top, I said, ‘Thanks, boys. Can we do that again?’

I stayed in the van for the last stops, happy to have the doors open, sharing biscuits and binoculars with Anne’s Mum. Sarge was out at the very edge.  Dad circled back to van to ask me, ‘What’s he doing?’

‘Looking for penguins.’

We drove back through late rain and then sun to another card game before another night on couch cushions.

On the road again, Sunday.

No time for Dad’s pancakes, so we had cereal before the others packed the car. I stayed in the kitchen as long as I could, and as I left said, ‘Goodbye, house.’

I am not a city girl.

We stopped for bacon rolls before the others took the car on the Oban ferry and Sarge and I walked up. And talked of times that aren’t now.

The Crew found us on the ferry and I may asked for a shot of Anne’s Kindle. Maybe.

We got off the ferry, and had fish and chips next to the train station, before The Crew left for the drive back. I may have cried. Maybe. I hate endings. I much prefer hellos.

I finished Red Dust Road before we even got to Glasgow. I was too bleary-eyed to read on the second train. Reality was creeping in already.

‘Where should we go next?’ I asked as we sat with cups of tea in our very-city flat in Edinburgh.

‘Anywhere we want to go,’ Sarge said.

(Taken from my journal, written around a family trip to Mull, September 2011.  Our Raasay trip can be found here.)

Some of Sarge’s photos (and the one of me on the map), used with permission!

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