Updated: May 13, 2021
Twelve days have passed, since I poked some words into this page.
In that time I have taken myself south along the shores of Loch Fyne, attended a days protesting in Glasgow, circumnavigated the Kintyre peninsula, and even taken a day off.
Its been great.
During this period, I've been spat on by hailstones, blobs of drizzle, large rain-blobs, little rain-blobs, snow, sand, waves, grit, and other people's heated opinions.
I've been repeatedly burned, occasionally cut and grazed, mildly lacerated by sharp plants, and my shoulders, after much of their own protesting, have come to accept a state of almost permanent bruising.
I've been chilled to the core, shaken to the stomach, soaked to the bone-marrow, and have now been left with chilblains in several of my favourite fingers; sore, swollen, and maddeningly itchy.
My nose is now more or less permanently red.
It seems to have developed a love for the sun in a distressingly romantic way; I wonder if, deep down, all it really wants to do, is be a sunflower.
I won't get started on describing the state of my legs and feet. Mainly because I don't want you falling asleep reading this; that would be embarrassing for both of us..
When I said 'it's been great', I wasn't lying.
I was just taking an average measurement of all the complicated and variable collective experiences of the last twelve days. Using an equation I came up with recently but couldn't be bothered to write down, and the answer I came to was simplified as, simply, 'great'.
What you have heard so far, and what you should probably definitely not feel sorry for me for, is, largely, the negative side of this equation.
But don't worry, if you're only reading this to hear about blood and guts and wailing and the general overall act of being in pain, there's a bit more still to come.
*Trigger warning, graphic/slightly gory image coming up*
Speaking of blood and guts, here's something I came across recently on the shore of Loch Fyne. (This is the least gory of the pictures I took).
There were a few of them.
Now, I don't like pointing fingers, it never really seems to help matters, but this was next to a sizeable fish farm.
(Probably selling some award-winning 'wild' and 'sustainable' salmon)
How ever it was that these seals died, it seems to have happened to them simultaneously, and in a very particular location.
But, being a very very amateurish wildlife detective, this is about all I could deduce.
(I am very open to conversations with anyone who isn't as amateurish as me on this topic... or any topic come to think of it)
Anyway, afterwards, it left me thinking about how it's quite sad that most of these submerged fish cages tend to produce worse living conditions than those horrendously cramped and disease ridden cages that the majority of the world's population of chickens have to endure life in.
From this perspective, I decided that my life feels ridiculously free; full of choices, open spaces, and a mind-boggling amount of options.
It seems rudely luxurious.
And on that note I picked my sad-self up off the side of the track, and stomped away, deciding I might as well make the most of it, before the government decides that the best place to put all these irritating and unpredictable humans, is into some sort of 'spacious life cell', that will probably be shaped like an egg, or a tube, or possibly a hexagon, depending on whether things go totalitarian or not.
Reaching Campbeltown was quite a relief. It meant I was nearly at the Irish coast. And sure enough, later that evening, I could see the hills and coastal cliffs of County Antrim.
Being in the town felt slightly odd though.
Now, I've fairly much gotten used to sticking out like a sore finger in the towns I pass through now, mainly because I have two bright yellow paddles sticking out of the top of my bag, but also because my face has a curious habit, when it's pondering, or day dreaming, or navigating, or just being empty and neutral, of deciding to express these emotions by frowning and looking as if there is something I've just seen that people should be really concerned about.
But this was slightly different.
Like there was a tension in the air.
The windblown streets were quite dead, even for these times of pandemic restrictions.
Plastic bags floated about, like memories.
One of them hung suspended between pavement and road, as if it wasn't sure whether it was safe to hitchhike or not.
Small knots of people chattered amongst themselves, in an almost secretive, and guarded way.
People eyed me up, and said very little, or nothing at all, in passing.
Some seemed a bit rushed, stressed and preoccupied, in a way that would be more common in between the high rise noisiness of a heaving city.
Other folks seemed unfazed, and pottered along happily, in keeping with that unwritten west-coast code of 'things will get done, when they get done'.
I briefly wondered if there was an issue with Campbeltown itself, something I hadn't heard of before.
Then I wondered if there was an event on.
And at that moment, the car came slowly, but purposefully, around the bend, with its megaphone mumbling away loudly, asking people to vote for SNP.
Of course, that makes sense, its the sixth of May.
I'd completely forgotten about the elections.
After briefly contemplating the idea of slipping in a second vote, I decided to behave myself and find some food. Which I then ate behind the seawall. Away from any possibility of major trouble. And, gradually, I made a small sandwich-y mess in my immediate vicinity.
Then, after looking around and remembering that I was here to behave myself, I set about clearing up and litter picking along the seawall.
The hills at the southern tip (or bell-end) of kintyre, are quite exciting.
They have a heathery, steep, shaggy, lumpy, random-rockiness about them that seems to draw idle attention, not so much to its hill tops, but to the nooks and crannies, the flanks, and the question of its hidden interior.
What made it extra exciting, though, was the way the cloud hung low all day, so that the hills could move its lumps about without me noticing.
The wind howled and tried its best to push me into the sea; a sea that I couldn't actually see.
And it waited until the most dramatic possible moment to unveil, detach, disperse, reveal itself, releasing the sun, and suddenly casting all form, shape and matter into a colour and sharpness that made me dribble with enthusiasm.
Before this occurred.
Actually, the days leading up to it, if I'm honest.
I had been feeling increasingly down and low.
I'd been struggling to see the point in this whole idea. This whole thing.
It felt almost completely pointless.
I also kept realising that what I'm doing isn't really at all separate from the rest of this life that I happen to be in the midst of living; it's just a different part of it, a new day to day way of passing time, living, working, and somehow finding a way to be me.
Sometimes this made me feel relaxed.
Sometimes it amplified the low-ness.
Occasionally it made me feel trapped.
It made me miss home.
The comforts, security and obscene convenience of life there.
But after a while, I remembered, that at the end of the day, I would be feeling down in that place too, sooner or later.
It's just that now the distractions I would have been using have mostly disappeared; everything has become much more immediate.
I was then left with the facts of the situation.
And the fact was, simply, I was alone, and hadn't had much contact with people.
Could it be that human contact would cheer me up?
As if answering a call, or a prayer if you like, I then received two invitations at once to stay with people, possibly over the next two nights.
And that was that.
Less than an hour later I found myself stumbling through the clouds, and having the surprise of the curtains being thrown back dramatically, scattering the wild goats, whom I hadn't noticed until this point, revealing the Hebrides in its stark, bright nakedness
I had, it seemed, walked in on the Celtic god Brigid, while she was changing.
She didn't seem very bothered by it.
I want to say thank you to Lori and Graham for letting me stay in their wonderful caravan. Also for the wine, and the consequent late night chatting.
I also want to say a big thanks to Matt and Jacqui, for immersing me in lots of lovely food, and washing my clothes, some of which were beginning to develop the initial structures of a mildly complex civilization.
Also a special thanks to young Ruairidh, for inspiring me to throw myself on the ground more often, just for the hell of it, and to ask people profound questions without even blinking.
So, now I'm in Tarbert, and about to head into a region known as Knapdale.
It's a place I've never been to before, or through, or near. Not even by bus.
Between here and Oban lies 8 or 9 days of unknown places.
The map tells me something, but is inherently restricted to its grid lines and symbols. It's simple colours, 2-d aspect and subtle flaws.
A mile on the map is never really a mile on the ground.
All I know of Knapdale, is that I might see some beavers.
It's a slim chance, but you never know.
I really should get going, and stop poking this bright flippin magic rock thingy.