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Westwardly


Ardnamurchan.

(Invaders pronunciation: Arrghh-D-nah-mUrr-can)


Further west than a fair number of the Hebridean islands.

It feels as though it could be an island itself.

But it isn't.

It's a peninsula, off the side of another peninsula, that's somehow managed to stay connected to the mainland, by the skin of its teeth.


And oh boy, does it have some teeth.

Lots of dark sparkly oddly shaped volcanic ones.

Teeth that would make a very grown-up boy whimper.

Teeth that would make the psychopathic dentist faint.

Teeth that would make you actually want to do your homework.

Teeth that really make you wonder what in the name of god's unclean earth this creature feeds on..


Three concentric circles of unsightly sets of hard crooked gnarly gnashers that stick out in more directions than a compass can point to.

The mossy, grassy, trees and lichen mold have done their best to cover up, and make soft and uniform, that which is otherwise rough and disorderly.

There is also one freakishly large gnasher sticking out right in front of me, heaving out from under its own wet salty lips.

It is known locally as Ben Hiant.


The nearby Isle of mull tries to flex it's jaws a bit, raise its great volcanic chest a little and look generally kind of tough, but it always ends up retreating away, and closing the door quietly, remaining, understandably, wary and insecure in its close proximity to such an unhinged, and unpredictable, kraken-hunting animal of a neighbour that just sits there, staring into the Atlantic. Unflinching. Waiting.


It is not uncommon to hear mention of the recent disappearance of the great giant Fingal, when discussions of Ardnamurchan arise.

From what I can gather, nobody seems to know anything beyond the rumours.


There is often talk of a disagreement, maybe something about inter-island causeway access rights, or of there not being any appropriately sized giant wolfhound poo bins in the area.

But even Staffa, who was apparently there at the time, remains worriedly unspoken on the subject.


I'm not sure why I'm telling you all this.

I could be talking about something much more useful.

But you're reading it anyway.

Maybe out of blind optimism.

Or sheer dumb courage.

Surely you have something more important to do?

Like doing the dishes?

Or scrubbing the toilet?

Perhaps you just wanted something to send you to sleep.

Or maybe you were expecting to read something interesting and intellectual.

Something to distract you from the inevitable scrubbing that lurks around the corner.

Or the homework you really should be getting on with.

Whatever it is that you thought this was going to be, it probably isn't that.


Oh well.

Sucks to be you.



There was a time when I cared about what I looked like, what I smelled like and what other people might think of me as they were passing by.


After startling myself in the mirror recently, I found, uncaringly, that I seem to have acquired permanent puffy bags under my eyes, a ragged red peeling nose, and what appears to be a wild flurry of bleached ginger pubes spreading across my face.

I look like something that the government doesn't really want to admit responsibility to.


Half of the clothes I now wear have some sort of tear or hole in them, some in quite compromising places.

The rucksack is looking like something that was dug out of the rubble of a fallen building.

And I really do need to wash that tea-towel, I swear I heard it trying to crawl out of the tent last night.


Also, between themselves, my armpits, crotch and feet have successfully managed to collectively produce an odour so bold and resonant, that even the most adventurous and pioneering of today's cheese makers would need a good lie down after sampling it.

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I discovered a pair of clean socks in my bag.




I was kayaking south off the coast of Morvern recently, bound for the Glensanda super-quarry, when I suddenly realised that the water I was paddling through was covered in bits and chunks of polystyrene.

Looking, at a glance, like the melting arctic waters with pieces of drifting ice floating about, I then pulled a face and realised that the full reality of living on an island surrounded by a toxic plastic soup was very much true.


As I started navigating the plastic ice floes, picking up the polystyrene, carefully, as it disintegrated with even the most delicate touch, I was joined by a band of seals.

Obviously they wanted to know what all the fuss was about, being underwaterly types, and could practically be heard saying 'this isn't our plastic, it isn't allowed in these parts, wouldn't dream of it, never seen it before, who are you? we're seals don't you know?'.

They continued whatever game it was they had been playing, but decided to incorporate me into the rules somehow; by making me the objective of utmost sneakiness.

Swimming up behind me as quietly as possible, and then splashing back into the water as loudly as possible, making me jump. Then they would all, as if through some great conjuring trick, disappear underwater simultaneously.


I was worried about how much plastic they may be accidentally ingesting without realising it.

There was so much of it, from tiny ball bearings and crumbled bits, to large structures up to the size of a fully laden school bag.

It was clear from some of the writing, that this was fisheries industrial waste.

So, I doubled my efforts, and completely filled the space in the kayak between my legs with horrible squeaky crumbling polystyrene.


During this episode I also came across an unlikely reward, in the form of an unopened can of Irn-Bru bobbing about in the water. I drank it when I landed and then set about bagging up the mess I'd created in the boat.


The seals had concluded their mischievous game, and returned to their skerries for an early afternoon session of mindfulness and banana posing.




It has warmed up considerably in the last ten days.

Spring, and the cold winds of May, has suddenly given way to hot and humid days.

The bracken has exploded from ankle biting to chest brushing height.

The leaves on the trees have largely spread out onto full coverage of greeneryness, creating that cool shady woodland that I both love, and increasingly feel, need.

The birds have a lot to talk about.

A lot.


The midges, however, like a tribe of teenagers that have just finished college and all turned eighteen at the same time, have been cranking up the volume and partying hard around the tent.

They're only just getting started, these are the warm up sessions, testing the ground, anointing groups, territories and soundtracks, before the big summer festivals of feasting kick in.

They differ from human festivals only in that they are completely weather dependent.


Except, you can easily argue, that midges are a type of weather in their own right.

The still, warm, overcast days of summer are just dance night heaven.

All it takes is a breeze, and these flaky layabouts disappear into the grass, waiting for the next chance to get-down. Or get up, maybe. I'm not sure what cool people who get invited to parties say these days.





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