akienm: (Default)
I remember driving from Wick, up the A99, to John O' Groats. It was a really lovely drive. We were going well below the speed limit, something like 45, because we were just looking around so much. Several times, I had pulled off to the left to let folks pass.

It was something like 4 in the afternoon. We were 2.6 miles (as the crow files) short of John O' Groats (the farthest northeast point of the British mainland). A place called Granton Cottage, just south of Everly, just north of Tofts. I pulled to the left to let someone pass. We had maybe 6" of the car out on the street, because the available space was so narrow. I had kind of pulled into the driveway just a little between the mile markers or reflectors or whatever they are. Here, see for yourself

The vehicle behind us went by, and we stopped to look at the map. While we were doing that… CRASH! We're both thrown forward.

We were hit by a woman who could just barely see over the dash, who had very thick glasses, who have the impression of nearly complete bafflement, and looked to be slightly older than god.

Her car was totaled. Ours was crunched on one side. The police were amazing. The police in the UK seem to use cell phones instead of police radios… At least, that was true way out there in the boonies. Police here are often hard professionals. The police there really wanted to help.

The cop told her he wouldn't charge her if she'd hang up her keys. I am not kidding.

The cop also called the insurance company for us, and tried to describe to the guy where we were. The guy on the other end said "well, can they get to London before the shops close?", "No they can't get to London by 6, do you have any idea where we're talking about?", "How about Manchester?" "NO!, they probably can't even get to Edinburgh before the shops close!", "Where's that?". Much more hilarity (from our perspective) ensued. Eventually they worked out that the car was still drivable, and that it'd just be dealt with "later". The call ended with the cop telling the insurance person to "Next time, GET A MAP!".

After that, the cop borrowed duct tape from the tow truck driver, and he and I taped up the fender "well enough". We were on our way again.

The police report said almost nothing. There was an accident here, on this date, at this time, between these people. Before the trip, we had asked Discover if the insurance would cover us, they said yes. However Discover didn't cover auto rentals in the UK at the time, and since we hadn't saved the name of the person who told us that, we were SOL.

This is a *mildly* amusing in retrospect memory

akienm: (Default)
I remember driving up the east coast of Scotland, visiting one small town after another. We would check in to a room with no idea where we would stop next. But by next morning, we'd have worked something out and be on our way. It was one of the less structured trips we took, and it was pretty relaxed.

I remember all the little inns and B&Bs we stayed in, and how friendly the people were. I remember noticing how these buildings we so much older than anything I was used to, and how they'd been modified to suit various needs over the centuries.

I remember going around a particularly green curve in the road and coming across a construction sign that said "Heavy Plant Crossing". We laughed about Ents wandering the Scottish landscape.

I remember running across the stone age Carn Liath Broch between Golspie and Brora, along the coast. I remember walking around in there, reading the signs about the place, looking over the top of the wall to the sea. I remember trying to piece together the information on the signs and what we were looking at. How did they use this space? Off to the south we could see Dunrobin Castle, and the sort of bell shaped roof to the clock tower. https://www.google.com/maps/place/A99,+Wick,+Highland+KW1,+UK/@57.987616,-3.912333,3a,75y,173h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sBlteKpA2UPidKOSt6kxfcA!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x489ad1c932122449:0xb711d561bf63dcfa

I remember the Caithness cheese farms, where we got to sample locally made cheeses. It was some of the best cheese I'd ever had.

I remember it was green and forested, then around Caithness it opened up. Vast fields that once grazed sheep, and killed the dreams of so many croft holders. Their empty stone cottages, open to the sky, and littering the landscape with the reminders of the folly of chasing money at the expense of others. I remember we asked about the statue on the hill, and being told about George Leveson-Gower, who's statue sits atop Ben Bhraggie, and who was responsible for evicting all the tenant farmers because sheep might be more profitable.

I remember the enormous fields of heather, which were just past their peak and had faded to a grey/brown with purple overtones. And brilliant yellow creeping buttercup, which hadn't quite turned yet. I remember a field of "standing stones" that were very small, but clearly had been there a very, very long time.

I remember the small towns we stopped at along the way, as we headed toward Wicks. How they all closed up by 5.

These are very pleasant memories.
akienm: (Default)
I remember Tulloch Castle. I remember that it was the first castle I'd ever stayed in. I also remember being quite surprised at how small it was. I'd never really thought about the range of castle sizes until then. https://www.google.com/maps/@57.608692,-4.433199,3a,75y,356.59h,91.95t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1spDiT3IMHbhCY2XoUAu594A!2e0!6m1!1e1

I remember the wedding in that small, cramped chamber below the entry. I remember Dawn, Victoria and Allegra all in green. I remember wearing the hunter green suit and being a little sad that I outshone the groom. I remember the endless photos on the lawn out front. I remember the photo of Merry, Dawn, Victoria and Allegra seated in the main hall. I remember dancing in that green suit at the banquet afterwards. I remember Allegra enchanting everyone we talked with at the banquet. I remember the back stairs all in simple metal gratings and whitewashed walls. I remember the utility courtyard out back and all the pipes attached to the outside of the building to provide modern plumbing and electrical. I remember sneaking up to the roof and catching an amazing view. I remember the whisky tasting in the evening, and the talk of ghosts in the ballroom. I remember the amazingly thick curtains and outer walls. I remember the amazing Scottish bacon served with breakfast. I remember the ornate formal dining room that breakfast was served in. I remember the little pub at the ground floor. I remember the thistle displays in the insets in the walls of the stairwell that led up from there. I remember meeting Victoria's friend, James Evans. He and I corresponded for some years after that.

I like this memory
akienm: (Default)
I remember learning to drive in Scotland by just leaping into it. Which wouldn't have been a big deal except for the fact that we were also trying to run an urgent errand during rush hour on a Friday evening.

Dealing with being on the wrong side was hard, but harder was remembering all the differences in turning that came from that. At one point we ended up going the wrong way on a one way street! Fortunately, I pulled over and let all the traffic by, but what an unpleasant surprise!

I drove from Edinburgh airport down to the Royal Mile. It was the longest 30 minutes of my life. I remember getting to our destination, getting out of the car, and just waiting there until the shaking subsided.


This is an "amusing in retrospect" memory.

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Akien MacIain

January 2017

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