Sunday, 16 October 2011

North of Scotland: Getting there.

I'm back from a week of being in the Highlands of Scotland - the true north. 

The view from the speeding train is like nothing you've laid eyes on before. Lots of green, open spaces. A field full of golden hay; ripe for the harvest, dotted with fluffy sheep here and there - or as Roman calls them 'baa.' Cows are 'baa', too and everything else is 'woof woof.'

When we arrived in Thurso we were excited; to have made the journey (9 hours) with our 19 month old and not one tantrum between the three of us. We called a cab and for some reason the driver took the long route to my parent's home. We had no car seat and so Roman sat by my hip - I felt like I was breaking about a million laws.

A 9 hour train journey is hard for loads of reasons when you have a kid. I worry about not only myself but other passengers; you get all kinds of reactions when you bring a toddler onto public transport and although my experiences have been nothing but great I always worry I'm going to get that one huffy passenger who throws me dirty looks and does great big exaggerated sighs when Ro makes a few squeaks. 

We were so lucky on both trips there and back that we were landed with a sweet Dutch couple and then a practically empty train. Everyone was lovely and courteous with us - even when Roman (embarrassingly so) began to shriek. His screaming hurts my head but mostly I am paranoid what other people think.

He was great once he had some food inside his tiny tummy, of course. 

A 9 hour train journey when you're chronically ill downright sucks. When you can't make it out of bed 9 times out of 10 most days...but I did it. I don't know how, I just did. I felt like sleeping a week and I start to adjust right before we leave.

When the train had emptied out enough (and the Inverness-Thurso line was never busy) we took it in turns to sit with Roman in one of the seats. I'm going to admit that B did the bulk of this but you won't find either of us complaining - I cannot believe this little boy sits so patiently and quietly - in fact he played with a straw for 30 minutes on one of the journeys. 

A straw! Or rather the straw that provided the evenings entertainment. 

Everyone but us was asleep for the bulk of our journey, it was a quiet and peaceful journey punctuated by the odd 'whyyyy?' or 'howww?' from Roman. There is also what, where and so to add to the ever increasing vocabulary. 

My travel companion for some of the trip: the Kindle. And yes I like it a lot. I love books and this doesn't take away from them. If anything these eReaders keep people reading and interested in books. And with so many books now being turned into movies people want to be able to buy books as quickly, easily and as cost-effectively as possible. It also solves the old age problem of hiding a book inside a textbook because the Kindle is so much slimmer than any book I've owned.

This is Scotland; farms, fields and hills. Lots of greenery and plenty picture taking opportunities. 

A sign in English and Scottish Gaelic. Me and B have an ongoing debate about Gaelic. I say it's cool and he says it's a waste of time. Neither of us speak or understand it but it's spoken by around 58, 552 people in Scotland (or so Wikipedia tells me.) 

The BBC also have BBC Alba which is a Gaelic TV channel. This might sound weird but when I lived in London I used to watch this channel on my computer. I didn't grow up with this language and I only really knew one friend who spoke it and she was from Stornoway, a Scottish island. I don't know why Gaelic makes me feel home, but it does. I remember sitting with my Gran and watching Gaelic TV shows, both of us not understanding a word and reading the English subtitles provided. We also used to tune into the kids programmes and wet ourselves at the dialogue - it was so foreign, yet sounded so familiar. 

There was also this amazing mural painted on the walls of the Invergordon station. The train windows were seriously dirty, plus the train was moving here, but I had to share this photo. It's an incredible piece of art and I was really impressed by it.

I snapped this because well, its ROgart ;). Ro is a little nick name (amongst the many) we have for Roman. And well this is why I don't speak Gaelic, more words for a simple place. But maybe that's a reflection of the Scottish people. We're not a 'less is more' people. A majority of us could talk the hind legs off a donkey. 

This trip took 9 hours. 9 very long hours. They were painful but it was made great by all that surrounded me. I felt like a tourist in my own country.

And I made three new friends this week...

Baby, Precious and Shadow. The dog shaped one loved all the walking and jogging done with B. And the two cats were like speeding bullets fired out of a gun every time Roman was in their line of vision. 

I hope they're over the trauma by now.