Isle of Mull Music Festival!

 

The particular house sit I am currently engaged here in Mull has a few responsibilities that come with it, mainly changing the sheets in between guests, laundry, general tidiness of the cottage and keeping the larder stocked with the basics. (It is available on Airbnb… https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/7218533)So far there have been three guests during my tenure- a family of three from England, a husband and wife from France, and a young woman named Emmanuelle from Belgium. She has also been traveling for the past year but has spent most of her time in Asia and we clicked right away.  When she arrived on Saturday, she informed me that there was a music festival going on in Tobermory, the largest town on the island.  We decided to attend together the following day. Tobermory is on the opposite side of the island from the cottage, and while I do have the use of the homeowners car, I wanted to have a few pints at the festival so driving was out of the question. So, for the first time in my life…I hitchhiked! Emmanuelle and I had no problem getting someone to stop. The first couple who took us as far as Salen were Scottish but not local, and drove a former ambulance kitted up to be a caravan. They had been to the festival the night before and gave us pointers and regaled us with stories of the prior evenings shenanigans. They even got us started on the road to party town by sharing their Magners Irish Cider. Our next ride took us into Tobermory as they were headed to the festival themselves. The road ran next to the water, and there were seals(!!!) sunning themselves on the rocks. The driver could tell I was excited (perhaps it was the squealing) and pulled over so I could get out and have a closer look.

Tobermory may be the largest town on the island and the capital of the Inner Hebrides, but it still only has a population of about 1000. It is home to Mull’s only chain grocery shop (The Co-Op), and one of the four petrol stations on the island. The main street is right on the water, and as you walk down you pass many charming shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels. My favourite was the ‘Tackle and Books” shop.

True to advertising! It even contained a pretty decent little art supplies section. (Also a whole section of ‘computer food’…whatever that is. I should have paid better attention but there were art brushes and paints and books…)

We also passed a pottery store, chocolate and sweet shop, leather shop, soap shop, jewelry boutique, outdoor clothing establishment , bakery and  ironmongers. Tobermory is also home to Europe’s first ‘Catch and Release Aquarium’. (Creatures stay at the aquarium for a maximum of 4 weeks before they are returned to the sea, so their displays are constantly changing) http://www.mullaquarium.co.uk  and the ‘Tobermory Distillery’ available for tours and a wee dram of their single malts.

 

Of course, we weren’t there for shopping or Aquariums, we were there for Scottish music!! Our driver dropped us off at ‘The Mishnish’ pub at one end of the main street where the strains of a very vigorously played fiddle could be heard.

 

 

And of course, we made a few friends.

We stayed for two pints…(promising our friends we would be back in a bit)then strolled down main street to the other end of the town to see Tide Lines at Mac Gochan’s Pub and Restaurant.

 

By this point we were hungry and needed something to soak up the pints, so back down main street we went, stopping briefly in a pub whose name I can’t remember to hear some bagpiping! (Albeit a baby bagpipe. Oh, I ended up dancing with the bagpiper in a different pub later on.)

Emmanuelle and I finally decided a chip shop was our best option for cheap, filling food, and there was a kiosk by the docks. Turned out, Emmanuelle had never tried this most famous of English food!(I was much amused however by Emmanuelle’s dismay at the lack of mayonnaise for her chips.)

 

Emmanuelle enjoying her first fish and chips!
This guy kept getting closer and closer until I finally shared my fish. Seagulls are not very good about the concept of personal space.

As we promised, we then headed back to the Mishnish. A new band was playing in the pub…and I was looking forward to more Scottish music when they burst into a rousing and very well received version of “Sweet Home Alabama“. This I was not expecting.

Since I had no desire to hear American country music, we moseyed next door to the Mishnish Hotel check out “The Mad Ferret Band”http://www.themadferretband.com/  These guys were awesome! (Sadly, I have no video as I had run out of memory already on my phone.)

Finally, it was half six and we knew we had to start thinking about getting home,although not before one last quick stop back at the other end of town to Mac Gochan’s Pub and Restaurant. I mean, it was on the way and all…

A few of our new friends saw us come in and waved us over, so we decided to stay for one more pint…as you do.  I was standing near the band (Beinn Lee Ceilidh )enjoying the company and lively music, when the tune suddenly changed and people rushed to the dance floor in couples. Oh good, I was going to see a traditional Scottish dance! Nope. Turns out I was going to DANCE a traditional Scottish dance. The bagpiper from earlier in the day came over,  took me by the hand and led me out onto the floor. Now, I am no slouch as a dancer, many years of ballet notwithstanding…but I had no idea what we were doing!  This poor man chose the one out of probably only two women in the pub who did not know the dance. For at least the first minute, he led (dragged) me around the floor until finally I got the hang of it and was able to dance WITH him. I must say though, I enjoyed it very much…the camaraderie and general bonhomie of my fellow dancers made up for my clumsy missteps. (I looked it up…the dance we did is called the Highland Barn Dance. See below…

Highland Barn Dance

Formation: couples around the room facing anti-clockwise, ladies on the right.

Music: 2/4 or 4/4 pipe march (not 6/8) or scottische.

Bars: Description
1-2: Starting with the outside foot, walk forward for three steps and hop (or kick).
3-4: Walk backwards for three steps and hop.
5-6: Skip sideways away from your partner (men towards the centre of the room, ladies towards the edge) for two steps and clap.
7-8: Return to partner and join in ballroom (waltz) hold.
9-12: In ballroom hold, skip sideways to the man’s left, lady’s right for two steps then back again.
13-16: Use four step-hops to polka anti-clockwise round the room.

Repeat ad lib.

Now, I know it, and so do you, so you have no excuse if a Scotsman (or Lady) pulls you onto the dance floor.

Finally, after enjoying the music for a bit more, and using the loo( I know where every loo is on Main Street) we headed to the center of town to begin thumbing for a ride back home. There were not as many cars about and we ended up walking in the rain for a bit. Our first ride ended up being two American women in their 20’s from Tennessee on holiday, and the second a VERY kind Scottish couple who felt sorry for our wet and bedraggled selves and took us all the way home which was far past where they were staying.

I have to say, the experience was not what I was expecting at all. When I hear “music festival”, I tend to think of crowds of sweaty drunken people, lines of overflowing porta potties, and overcrowded venues. What we had here in Tobermory was basically just a jolly good party! Music and dancing in each pub with the attendees being from all ages…wee tots right up to old timers. Perhaps it was more laid back because it was Sunday, I don’t know. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming! We ended up seeing about seven bands, and had a fantastic day, even if we ended up a wee bit damp at the end. I’m looking forward to heading back into Tobermory to meet up again with a few of my new Scottish mates! Should you find yourself in Scotland , around the last weekend of April, I highly recommend you find the time to attend the festival, especially if you want to venture off the tourist path. Most of the attendees were Scottish, so you get to sample the true flavor of this most amazing country.

 

 

 

 

“You take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye”

Well, I made it to the Isle of Mull! Be prepared for an onslaught of photo’s, this place is breathtaking. The three hour train ride up here from Glasgow was worth every penny (1,400 of them). I kept hopping back and forth from one side of the train to the other to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I know I looked like a slack jawed idiot, but after all the obstacles I had had to overcome just to get my butt on that train, I was out of fucks to give about what anyone might think.

First of all, lets just start out by saying that Virgin trains is going to receive a very sternly worded letter requesting a refund for a train ticket they were unable to honor that originally cost me 110 pounds and ended up being worthless. I had picked Scotland as my next destination because I knew I already had ticket to Glasgow,(from Christmas) therefore reducing travel costs!  Turns out I was given incorrect information by an agent at Kings Cross…leaving me with a useless ticket. Even the agent at Waterloo where I went to plead my case agreed that I had been gazumped. I was able to re-book my return ticket from Glasgow to London..however by the time I had sorted out that I was SOL on the ticket up it was only a week before the trip and prices had soared, and options had disappeared. I was going to have to split my train journey from London to Oban into two days…leaving me in Glasgow for one night in between. Have you ever tried to find a last minute cheap room in Glasgow on Easter weekend? The cheapest was $84.(Or 65.7 pounds. That equals about two weeks worth of food, or 43.8 London bus rides, 27.4″Tube” rides, 16.4 pints of lager, 11 bottles of wine, 4.4 ‘day of’ tickets for the National Theatre or 30 ‘Americano’s. Shit.) Friends, I very very seriously considered just roaming about Glasgow all day and night until my train at noon the following day.  I even Googled “24 hour cafe’s in Glasgow”. Slim pickin’s. My options were bars and casino’s until the train station re-opened at 5. I had done this in London before…and for about a half a day I actually was planning on doing it in Glasgow as well. But then thankfully, reason prevailed. I know London, I am comfortable there, know the safe areas and have friends in case anything goes tits up. I knew NO ONE in Glasgow and had never been there before. Eventually I stopped pretending like it was a good idea, and realized that of course $84 is not more important than the safety of my bod…and booked the room.

The train ride from London to Glasgow went off without a hitch, although there was a bit of a surprise in that when the train stopped in Carlisle, it was not another train I was put on to continue the journey to Glasgow, it was a bus. Which was kind of fun, because even the passengers who had been in First Class on the train were now shoved into a packed bus with us plebeians, and you could SMELL the discomfort radiating from a few of them. One gentleman practically sat in the aisle for the entire two hour ride, his posh buttocks barely resting on his seat. My own seatmate was genial enough, but was rather large and smelled like old cat box and resignation.

It was a short walk from where the bus dropped us off to my hotel. Now, I am not going to lie…now that I was committed to spending the $84 for the hotel, I was very much looking forward to it. This would be my first hotel stay in over a year! I had booked into the Artto Hotel, which was directly across from Glasgow Central Station where I would be getting my train the next day. (http://www.arttohotel.com) The lady behind the desk was very friendly, and we chatted about our  various travel experiences. When she heard this was my first stay in hotel in a long time and how much I was going to enjoy it, she turned red and apologized that I was getting the smallest room in the hotel,  said that they were full, otherwise she would upgrade me. Of course I assured her that I didn’t mind…and she gave me the key and up to my room I went. Boy, she wasn’t kidding! The room was super tiny!! Just big enough for a single bed, small table and dresser. It did have its own bathroom, but no tub. Still, it was cozy and clean! I had been in the room for all of two minutes when the room phone rang. It was the receptionist..an larger room had opened up, did I want the upgrade? Well, hell yeah!!!Who turns down an upgrade? Went back down, exchanged keys and off to my new room. Big double bed, and a tub!!!! What luxury!!! And a television, so I would be able to watch the season premier of Doctor Who!!  I have to tell you…there have been few people in the world who have enjoyed a night in a “fair to middlin'”hotel as much as I did that night.

The next afternoon (after a lovely and restful night, with a full belly from the hotel Scottish breakfast ) I walked across the street to the train station and picked up my ticket from the machine. I had triple checked my reservation and knew my train was leaving Central Station at 12:05. I had about 25 minutes to wait and parked my butt on a bench and looked up at the board to find my train. Nada. Not up there…no 12:05 to Oban. Looked again at my res…then back to the board. Nope. So I looked at the ticket I had just printed. Oh shit. It said 12:20 to Oban…from Queen Street Station. I was at Central. I double checked the reservation number on the ticket with the one on my email, and they were the same. WTF????  My stomach did that flippy thing it does when I’m on a roller coaster, or when you see a police car behind you turn on the flashy light. I went to the ticket line and explained the situation and after doing the clickity clack on his keyboard for an eternity, he informed me that the train was now leaving from Queen Street and I needed to head over there. I had 20 minutes as it was now noon and no clue where it was so asked for directions. Have you ever heard a Glaswegian accent? It is unfathomable.  (You Tube “Glaswegian accent” and you will understand.)  I would have been better able to understand Romanian. The man saw my panicked uncomprehending expression, took out a map, highlighted a route and handed it to me. I think I understood his final words…”Aye, you better run lassie!”…or at least I understood their meaning. I ran.

Yes, I made it. By four minutes. If there is ever an Olympic event “running through a city with luggage”…I will OWN that shit.

So, here I am in my sweet little cottage…or “croft” which is the proper term. When I arrived in Oban, the ferry dock was right next to the station and I only had a 10 minute wait before being able to board. It was a delightful 50 minute ride. Not only was the view extraordinary, but there was a cafe and bar on board. I bought a half pint (1.30) and went topside and breathed in the pure,clean Scottish sea air.  Next was a bus…which was there waiting at the dock. I needed to meet the homeowners son in Salen, and paid 5 quid for a bus to drive me 11 kilometers. He picked me up, and then we drove another 20 minutes to the front door of my temporary home.

My sweet wee cottage!
The view from the front window
Neighbors taking a stroll. All day long there is a parade of sheep, lambs, Highland cows and the occasional deer passing by the front gate.

 

 

The ferry dropped me off at Craignure, where I picked up the bus to Salen, where I was picked up by the owners son and driven to my new home…the red pin.

The closest shop is in Dervaig, which is only 4k from the cottage but takes 20 minutes to drive to due to the single lane road, hills, curves and sheep. The owner is letting me borrow her car, which is a huge convenience and for which I am very grateful. Oh, and the cottage is available on Airbnb! Take a look…the link is http://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/7218533?location=Isle%20of%20Mull

 

I have created two galleries.. the first is from the train and ferry ride, the second is of photos I have taken while exploring the island.

The next morning following my arrival I went for a walk down the cliffs to the water. The law in Scotland is that you are allowed to walk anywhere you like, even on private property. I found a path, but that was boring so I climbed down the rocky cliffs until I made it to the waters edge.

More adventures to come!

R.

Back in London-and feeling a bit miffy

I’m sitting in a 24 hour pub by Liverpool Street Station, http://polo24hourbar.co.uk/ settling in for a long haul…as I can’t go to my pet sit till 3am. Hopefully they won’t kick me out. If they do, I can go back across the street to the train station, park my butt and do my best not to look like a hobo. (Albeit a hobo writing on a laptop.) I’m hoping none of my friends here in the city see this post as if they knew I was hobo-ing it they might get peeved with me.

You see, I am feeling a bit “disconnected” right now…for numerous reasons. It is always a bit of mental upheaval for me when I have to leave a place that has been “home” for quite a bit of time. I get into a comfy routine and then am forced to rip myself out of it and start over in a new place. It is all part of the experience of course… but that doesn’t make it any easier. It helps a bit that I’m back in the familiar territory of my favourite city…but still, its a new bed, new bus stops…new shops…etc. This time I am staying in Hackney, which is in East London, a part of the city I have yet to venture into. Prior to this I have spent most of my time south of the Thames. I am currently sitting where the blue dot is….Hackney is the red splot.

 

Add to the mix that I am also experiencing some personal setbacks and difficulties. Some financial, others emotional. Shit happens no matter where you are. You can plan and plan but if the universe decides to toss some fuckery into your path, it doesn’t matter what part of the world you are in.. the fuckery will find you. You can’t hide from fuckery. Basically…I am grumpy, sad, disappointed and worried. And I miss my daughter and my friends. So..not a treat to be around at the moment. Sorry for the whingy post… but it is occasionally as much a part of my itinerant life as are surprise bears and amazing vista’s.

You ever notice that when shit hits the fan…its never just one dainty little mouse poo. No sirree. Its either one giant, chunky, dinosaur sized turd…or thousands of those rodent poops that look like chocolate sprinkles. (But are not..no matter what your “Uncle Charlie” tells you.)

Things will sort themselves out in the end of course, they always do. Hopefully with a minimum of fuss or pain. I will feel more clear headed tomorrow I expect, after a good long snooze. Heck, just waking up in London will wash a light over the dark blobs in my brain. Even writing this has helped a little. So thank you for being my confessional!

Romania was quite an experience, on a myriad of levels. Of course there was the joy and thrill of discovering a whole new culture and landscape. But in addition, I spent quite a bit of my time in Bod entirely on my own. I am fairly sure I went a whole month only interacting in person with the ladies in the grocery shop in Bod. And they did not speak English. I would not be exaggerating to tell you that the past 2.5 months have left a permanent mark on my psyche. I mean, I expected this whole endeavor to be “life changing”…but there are sometimes individual moments of what I can only describe as a “hard shift”.

Colin fixed a lovely “goodbye” dinner last night and allowed me to sample with him all the various types of “palinca” he had in the house. I have acquired a taste for it. It’s a bit like whisky, except it doesn’t make me squinch my face up each time I take a swig like whisky does.

Colin and I
Pear Palinca

It’s just gone midnight… three more hours to go. I appreciate you spending this time with me! I’ve added a few extra pics at the end. And don’t worry about me…life ebbs and flows in Europe just as much as it does in Orlando, or Minnesota, or Djibouti. (Now that I think on it, I’m not sure what half of that cliché is supposed to be the analogy of “troublesome”.  Is it the “ebbing” or the “flowing”?)

Time for a bit more coffee perhaps. 😉

Cheers and goodnight.

Rebecca

 

P.S  A bit of advice…if you are in the UK have train tickets that you are unable to use because you stab your hand, and you switch the dates on the tickets so you can still use them…DO IT ONLINE. If you do it in the train station and need to switch the dates again because you got a house sit in Scotland (specifically picked because you already had a train ticket) you can’t switch them unless you do it in the station again BEFORE the date and time on the ticket.  You cannot do it online or on the phone because apparently the ticket office and the online office use different programs. And you cant get a refund.  I was very very angry on Thursday. Poor Colin…he had a pissed off American woman in his house ranting and raving over the vagaries of the National Rail.