return to Plockton 2000
Well, if you don't want to know how we got on in Plockton, you can stop reading now. But I feel I've got to put in my tuppenceworth, especially since I'm back home aeons before the rest of the gang! Firstly, for those of you unfamiliar with the area, here's a map, although I have to say it takes donks to download, maybe that's due to our old slow modem..... something to do on a rainy afternoon anyway <g>
Don't fret. It's just a map. What it completely fails to render is the mindblowing, stunning beauty of the place; I spent most of the time there sitting on the side of the harbour, gazing across at the Applecross mountains. I'm biased, I'm Scottish, I'm so delighted and proud that we have places like this to present to visitors. And I'm getting ahead of myself.
Paul and I set out from Fife at 10.45 on Friday morning. The petrol crisis was still playing a large part in our plans, since some muppet on Radio Red Dragon in Wales had sparked off another panic, by the simple expedient of announcing a non-existent petrol tanker driver strike. Within hours our local petrol station was dry again - we had only just made it back from Glasgow airport the week before after returning from Boston, thankfully we had filled up before we journeyed west. I'm sure that our Glaswegian counterparts wereny so daft as to run out again ti fill up, eh Kens?!! Anyway, we looked at the map the night before and had to be hard headed - if we got to Fort William and hadn't managed to buy fuel by then, we would have to turn back. I was gobsmacked; this had been on the cards for so long, I wasn't about to be turned away by something as simple as the lack of a pint of smelly liquid.
So, Friday dawned bright and sunny - ok, I'm lying, it was dribbly and rainy, but we heaped up the car with as many things as we deemed necessary for the journey. ( Irn Bru and Tunnocks wafers) Plugged the obligatory Frank Zappa tape in, and off we went. The weather chopped and changed as we trundled north west - Stirling (hello dad!), Callendar (hello Ben Ledi cafe, best ice cream in central Scotland), past the amazing Falls of Leny, Crianlarich (lots of petrol), Tyndrum, Ballachulish (still lots of petrol), Fort William, Spean Bridge (petrol? schmetrol), Invergarry, ohmigod Kyle of Lochalsh, and 6 hours after we set out, the sign saying 'Plockton 1 mile'..... At this point I found myself thinking, this could all be one hideous mistake, maybe it's better to keep these people at arms' length, just sending blank messages into cyberspace for ever more...... Down the hill we went. It's a funny hill. You've just left behind your first sight of the Isle of Skye, one of the most spectacularly beautiful places on earth. Almost as soon as you are hanging out of the window going "Wow," you turn back towards the mainland. OK, that was it, that was the scenery for this ride. And then you hit Duirinish. If you are lucky, the red cows are stravaigin' across the street, and you have to stop to let them plod on to wherever they deem it expedient to munch. So, down the steep hill. Round the corner, and you're driving along beside Plockton station, round another bend and down another hill, you're sweeping down through Lochdubh, there's the bar, there's Rory's shop on your right, then round the corner where Wee Jock met his death, out on your right there's the harbour and the sail to the seals, then on past the palm trees, looking over to Hamish's police station.... the beauty is that even if there hadn't been a programme like Hamish built around the place, you would still be absolutely swayed by its unexpectedness and later by the friendliness of everyone there.
Once having reminded ourselves that we were in the same country that we started out in, we trotted in to register at the hotel. We inspected our room ( very pleasant) then accidentally sidled into the bar for a big (never mind wee ) drink. There was a hairy bloke at the bar. He was gone before we could pluck up the courage to talk to him and ask him if he knew about the Hamish nutters. A blonde lady, immaculately dressed, floated in, shouted 'Hamish isn't here yet', and ran away again. We started to feel that we were expected. However, we realised that if we sat at the bar for another two hours, we wouldn't be able to speak at all, let alone greet clan members, so we ran back to our room. Come 9 o'clock, we heard American voices walking past our door. Could this be someone we were waiting for? Sane people would have flung open the doors and shouted "Hello Lehua!!" But we're Scottish, so we whispered to ourselves in the privacy of our own wee place, then held each other's hands to go back into the bar. Minutes later, five people swept past us and were greeted by the blonde lady. I didn't know what to do at that point, but I was blooming sure that I no longer cared about making an idiot of myself ( ok, the Deuchars IPA was kicking in). I strolled over to the newbie group and said something like "Err., excuse me, sorry to bother you, but I'm looking for some friends, err, umm, I don't know, so, umm, wrrrblle, are you Lehua?" The lady with the huge smile graciously said "Yes," so I said, "Emm, umm, I'm Kirsty" and I was immediately enveloped in a huge hug. Warm hugs from Lehua indeed.
I fetched Paul over and the rest was just brilliant. Donna and Tom had gone to meet Lehua and David from a (very late) train. Everyone was exhausted, but we were all just so pleased to meet up. David was a naughty delight. Tom was fascinating, Donna has to be the person who has made me laugh the most this year. The chap we had spied earlier reappeared - I was correct on my shy assumption that he knew something about the group - he was Brian! Following closely behind was Rieko, a lovely lady from Japan. Her book of Haiku has sold 10,000 copies, so we were in the presence of a poet. After we had all been supplied with a small libation, Lehua gave us the first clan toast and rendering of her lovely, wistful "Plockton". This was despite the fact that the woman had been travelling since 5 am on Tuesday and had a shocking cold - she sang beautifully. Much more chattering went on into the night, then we all fell into our respective beds. Saturday morning saw most of us up and about. Lehua and the gang were off to a mushroom walk in Skye. It is not my place to relate the story of that walk, I just hope Donna posts the unexpurgated version. After we had all spent the day on that famous island, (Reiko got the prize for the most photo stops !) we gathered back for a dram and story telling sesh. A hoot. Midnight found me, Paul, Donna and Brian outside in the beer garden ( in Scotland! In September!) laughing and looking up at the stars. What a brilliant evening. I can't begin to relate the blethers, but I feel some friendships were forged. Earlier, I had a 5 minute blether with Lehua which spanned two hours. Then the urge for the group to communicate with others became too strong. Who else to stun with a surprise phone call but Hairy Doctor Kens himself? I though I was way ahead by having his address, to fire off a postcard, but Lehua pulled out a trump card by handing over his mobile phone number (so now you know, HDK!). By some small miracle, the lad had his mobile with him, and switched on, so we were all able to shout fondly at him. Lehua sang her song again, and we were all in agreement that it summed up the mood perfectly.
Sunday morning came, and we had to depart. But not before I was up at 7.30 taking photos, just in case the sun disappeared. I only have a very basic camera, I don't expect much of it nor it of me. But we try our best. I was therefore very sad to learn of the loss of Big Mama, Lehua's camera. She had planned so many excellent shots and was deeply disappointed to see the opportunity before her, without the means of realisation. Most of the time we were there, we paraded around the village as if we had been there all our lives. Since we kept bumping into each other, no-one was alone. The staff in the hotel were fascinated by our gathering, and certainly did their best to accomodate us at every turn. So: - http://www.plocktonhotel.co.uk & www.plockton.co.uk for anyone who hasn't been yet!! It was hard to say goodbye so soon after we had met. The constraints of time meant that some of us had chatted to some more than others, but I felt a genuine tug with each goodbye hug! Most of the best bits were of the moment and cannot be repeated here, you'll just have to come along to the next one! I'm only sorry that we couldn't make it to the first one, but we'll be at the next one. There is an awful lot more to say but this will have to suffice for now, we had an absolute blast and I'm so very very glad that we went. Thanks to everyone for being 'up for it' and 'grrrreat' , as Donna would say. Photos soon!!!!
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