Altoids & Oreos

I figured you wouldn’t want to hear about how I can’t sleep. And then I do. And then I snap awake at 4 AM, and read by Kindle-light. How Isla goes to ‘school’ two mornings a week now, and I miss her after the first hour. How there’s a path around the house now, and that’s a good thing. But how, sometimes we, (OK, mostly I) want to lift this house and the path around it and plant it somewhere where there’s neighbours.

I figured you wouldn’t want to hear that on bad, cliche days my only happiness is my husband and my child, my books and the songs of Lee Brice.

However, you might be interested to know that my Mom came over to visit. And she brought me Wintergreen Altoids. How she stayed for two weeks and we only had two and a half fights. (I knocked half off because she brought me Altoids.)

We drove around looking for salmon and wool and world peace. We listened to The Beatles and she knitted me a sweater. Yes, really.

And after two weeks and two and half fights, I asked her to stay. Yes, really. She didn’t. The sweater’s a little big, but the visit was just the right size.

I’m not depressed. Or at least I know I shouldn’t be. Hell, I live in the most desirable place in Britain.

Scenery has got to count for something, right?

So. Not depressed. I just really like Oreos these days.

This is not a new feeling for me. When I first moved to Edinburgh, I missed my friends in Glasgow. When I was in Glasgow, I missed my student days. When I was a student, I should have stayed there.

Point is, I’m always missing something.

I didn’t grow up in the same place I was a child, and I’ve moved every five years ever since.

My sense of place and belonging has always been jumbled and fucked up. Home is more about people than a postbox. I know that. It makes life interesting, but also well, interesting.

When Mom was here we took her to Edinburgh. We rented a flat for four days. In our old building. The same building Neil and I moved into together, where we came home from work, and our honeymoon and the hospital with Isla.

Edinburgh gave me a bunch of my favourite things. And chip-shop pakora.

I’ve decided that as a place, Edinburgh is as close as I’ve come to home, as an adult.

Today, I’m thankful for Edinburgh, and all my friends there. All my friends and family, and friends who are family, everywhere. I’m thankful for everyone on this island. And my people on Long Island.

For my husband and my kid and for everyone that loves us, weird bunch that we are.

For the people who drink coffee and beer with me.

For the people who ate cookies with me in 1985, and the people who ate cookies with me last week.

Come visit.

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Scenic, right?

My Island Diaries: Armadale, Skye

Are We There Yet?

I can’t say much about my third hair and make-up trial. Because y’know, my future husband reads this blog. But I will say: Jackpot! He’s a lucky man.

After I slapped myself in the face with make-up remover, I let him back in the living-room. We were waiting to go to Skye for the week. Off to Dad and Anne’s new house. With a separate suitcase just for books.

Dad called and said, ‘I’ll be there at 1.30.’ And then 4.30. And then 7.30.

At about 8 o’clock we loaded the books and the chair into a rented truck, and set off after a round of Luggage Jenga.

‘Are we there yet?’ I chirped from the back.

‘You still have glitter on your face,’ said Sarge.

‘Do not.’

‘Do, too.’

Take It To The Bridge

We missed all the ferries. So we drove up and over to the bridge. In the snow, with the radio tuned to this show.

Anne called a weather and traffic hotline, and someone actually gave us the right information.

I fell asleep and woke up when Dad swerved to avoid hitting a deer.

Welcome home, I thought.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

At about two in the morning I unfolded myself from the back of the truck, did a sliding jump to the ground, and looked up to the stars. ‘Hello, lovely old people,’ I said. I may have winked. Except I’m not co-ordinated enough, so I blinked.

Within minutes of stepping into the house, Sarge was reaching over my head to hit the light in the spare room.

Darkness and silence, until, ‘I didn’t even start with glitter on my face.’

‘OK, it was just your eyes, then,’ said Sarge.

‘Good save,’ I said.

Coffee and Hope

The next morning brought new furniture for Dad and Anne’s new place. I sat in the kitchen with coffee and a book because I always bring my own chair. I transferred onto the new couch before my coffee got cold.

‘How’s the book?’

‘Anne Frank is in the attic. But I’m not giving anything away.’

That night we went to a pub for dinner. And talked about the wedding while I broke my No Drinking ‘Til June rule. Several times.

The accessible toilet was so big, I could have slept in it. Even bigger than the one I slept in that one time in France.

Chips With Everything

Dad, Sarge and I were in a diner-type-thing, talking about the wedding.

An older couple (of tourists) was sitting at the next table trying to figure out why everything on the menu came with chips. Strangely, they reminded me of myself about 20 years ago. Because my first kinda-sorta meal here was egg and chips. Part of me is still waiting for a bag of Wise chips with that. I’ve been here a long time.

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The Art of ‘Fuck It!’

An hour after eating, we went swimming. I can walk in water. Not on it, but in it. And so, I paced the pool while Dad and then Sarge did laps. I used to swim really well and then I stopped, and these days I’m never far from the edge. This time, I blamed it on the kids’ party in the next lane. The water was really warm, and I didn’t want to think about why.

I scraped my feet on the way back into the chair. But I had to get off the floor.

Later, in Dad’s bathroom, I’m sitting in the shower, hoping I’ve air-dried enough not to slip on the floor while I transfer to my chair, parked at an actually jaunty angle, waiting for my less jaunty, more nervous ass on the seat. I don’t know the angles of this bathroom, how many steps and swings and pivots it takes to get from A to B and back. But the thing is I’ve thought about too much. I’ve thought about falling. And I can’t move. So. I wait. For half an hour.

‘Fuck it,’ I said. And I kind of launch myself from one seat to another. I got in, so I got out.

Target Practice

The next day, with the help of these guys, I got to launch arrows into a target. No, the target wasn’t Sarge.

They might have moved the target closer. And then I shot over it.

I needed that. After a few moments of ‘my body doesn’t move like that’, I needed a day of, ‘Oh yes, it does.’

As I launched the arrows farther and father away, I pep-talked to myself. ‘Let’s bust some shit,’ I said. And I did.

My argument is invalid.
My argument is invalid.

Things Work Out

The night before we left, I didn’t want to go. Or, I wanted to know when we’d be back. The silence and the stars have always done good things to me.

I’d gone quiet when suddenly, a new friend said, ‘Things have a way of working out, Lorna.’ How many people were with me at that moment? All the stars.

I looked at Sarge. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Things work out.’

The Oma Does Edinburgh

You may remember that we have a house guest. We’ve taken him out with us almost everywhere since his arrival.

Here is photographic evidence of The Oma’s adventures so far:

In my bag, ready for the pub.

Hugging some cider at Sofi’s:

Offering me a rose. Possibly drunk here:

Zombie coffee is good for hangovers:

More coffee at Artisan Roast.  He appreciated the signage:

Perusing Festival posters:

And enroute to a bookshop. His hosts didn’t buy any books. He wanted some postcards. No such luck.

In the middle of a celtic-knotted compass in The Meadows:

Posing in front of The Usher Hall.  Probably wondering if they need any robot guitarists.

Trying to blend in with the furniture at Frisky, after enjoying some of their frozen yogurt:

Maybe it was a sugar-high, but he was very happy to get to Edinburgh Castle:

And even happier to to see the Scottish flag: 

Here he is having a moment outside The Scottish Parliament:

And then Sarge took The Oma and George up Arthur’s Seat.

The boys go hillwalking:

And to prove they made it down from there…

We took The Oma to the movies.  To see Ted.  We thought it was appropriate somehow.

Some notes on the photos:

They are a joint effort.

Sarge climbed hills to get some of them.  He loves me that much.

The Oma reminds you to drink responsibly.

For more on The Oma’s adventures, please visit:  The Oma Today Project.

Stay tuned for:  The Oma Does Glasgow and The Oma Does Newcastle.

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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Zen Like Trees

I had a day-job meeting up North yesterday, which meant I was up at 5.20am.  I gave my PA the front door key, so the buzzer didn’t blast me out of bed and make for an even ruder awakening.  I got dressed in twenty minutes and left Sarge with a pillow over his face, blocking out the untimely light, forgetting to switch it off before I left.

Outside, it was gray and purplepink, tones I usually associate with the sunrise after all-night conversations or early flights to holiday destinations.  Yesterday was more like a field-trip.

I waited for a taxi.  Or should I say two.  The driver of the first one didn’t even open the door before he decided he ‘couldn’t take the chair in.’  He called another one, and I waited some more, hoping I’d make my train.

Of course there wasn’t any traffic.  Everyone else was asleep.  The second taxi was quick, but whiffed of vomit.  I imagined the previous fares got their hang-overs too early.

I made it to the station, bumping into a colleague and a cup of coffee, and ramped onto the train just in time.

Fast-forward a few hours, and the field-trip part of the day was a forest trail where I got the chance to take some photos and forget about trains and taxis and time.

I like how I have the sky in my shoes!
The heather without my shoes.

Through the trees...

My Island Diaries

Tuesday 28th December 2010

We say we’ll be on the road by 10.00.  It is noon before we set off.  I am wedged in the backseat between some bags, two tires and Sarge.  By 3.00, I have lost feeling in my ass.  I find it again when twisting to take photos through the windows.

My father has never been good at time-keeping.  The fact that he has his own time zone is part of his charm.  We always get where we’re going though, and rolled onto our first ferry of the day with ten minutes to spare.  We were actually early for the second ferry, one of the two cars on board.

It takes us about an hour to find the cottage in the dark, perched on the egde of Sarge’s GPS.

Anne getting out of the car and guiding my father’s driving with the light from her mobile phone added to the adventure.

So did needing to pee.

Wednesday 29th

Sarge is out looking for wildlife and I am watching Dad attempt to make pancakes without a Teflon pan.  We have cereal and make a list of things to get at the one shop on the island, which also serves as the post office.

Dad and Anne venture out, list in hand, leaving me and Sarge to pretend we live here.  We curl up on the couch, and start to read books found on the well-stocked bookshelves.  I promptly fall asleep.

I wake up and the light through the windows has made shadows on the walls.

‘How long have I been asleep?’

‘About five pages.’

I love how my boyfriend measures time.

Friday 31st

I am watching Sarge make porridge.  Dad and Anne have gone to Portree to find relief for Dad’s untimely toothache.  As Sarge explores the cupboards, I am pretending that we live here again.

Last night was whisky and music and laughs and a poker game, played for chips.  And bacon rolls and Clementine oranges.  I spent quite a few of my growing up years in house on a farm with a kitchen not unlike this one.  If I close my eyes at just the right moment, in just the right breath, these walls and this air feels just like home.

I went to bed last night and dreamt of inviting our friends up here for New Year.

And so, today.  We are left to drink coffee and read books and eat pate.

I started the fourth Harry Potter this morning, and Sarge is on The Odyssey.  After 200 pages for me, and 30 for Sarge, I look up and remark that the pate looks like petrified meat.  Funny, considering that’s exactly what it is.

Dad and Anne returned from the sea with penicillin and popcorn and more booze for the night’s festivities.  Which will begin in two hours when they wake up from a snooze.  Ferry journeys are a tiring business.

We are left with a fire to stoke and dinner on the stove.  My first text to arrive in days beeped through at 6.30.  It was Anne, saying they’d be home by 5.  Now we know.  Time slows and stops on islands such as this.

At the midnight bells, I think of my past and my future and how the two might mingle and meet.  I listen to Auld Lang Syne and Sarge’s heart, twirling my grandmother’s sapphire ring, on my finger since I was 13.  And I am happier than I have ever been.

Saturday 1st January 2011

Another reading day today.  Also watching birds investigate birdseed on the fence.  So are they.  The house-phone rings and we first wonder where it is, and then who would be phoning us.

It was the couple in the next cottage inviting us over for mulled wine.  Bundling up, we took the long trek next door.  We were welcomed with the promised mulled wine and actual roasted chestnuts.  There was also wonderful conversation swirling around like the embers of the outdoor fire we crowded around.

My camera hasn’t been one foot away from me this entire trip.  I regretted leaving it at our cottage when people began lighting paper lanterns and starting a race in the sky.  I made a wish on one, as it floated higher and higher.  The last to disappear.

And I am writing this as Sarge makes dinner for the four of us.    I’m still in my coat and scarf.  Fire and hope is still all around me, even in my nose.  And I’m scribbling this evening’s moments so I don’t forget them.  Somehow I don’t think I ever will.

Sunday 2nd January

Sarge went for a walk to the lighthouse today.  Brought me back a bluepurplewhite shell.  And I don’t want to go home.

We all pile in the car and drive up Calum’s Road.  Looking out the window, I start to cry.  And I have a moment like the one I experienced while lighting a candle in the Duomo in Florence.  But as much as I love stained glass windows, God isn’t one old bearded man haunting old buildings.  God is the air and the mountains and the sunset.  God is all my good memories and my Grandparents.  God is everyone’s good memories and everyone’s grandparents.  God is sitting in the car listening to epic movie soundtracks and crying because life is beautiful.  God is on holiday.

Monday 3rd January

PJ day today.  I finish the fourth Harry Potter while Sarge got further through The Odyssey and Dad and Anne snoozed in the living room.  We had pancakes for dinner and I asked Dad to retell some family stories.  One last poker game during this Island trip gives me a new nickname, Four Aces.

Tuesday 4th January

After last night’s epic card game, I am almost too tired to be sad.  But I am sad.   Sad to be leaving, but happy it happened.  I’ve already dreamt of our next trip.

(Taken from my journal of a family holiday trip to Raasay and Skye.  No holiday recap would be complete without a slideshow.  Just a few of my photos!)

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