Digger, Sergei, Fly, and Big Al

This was a weekend of epic car journeys, taking Central Belt Shuffler far, far beyond the habitual terrain. The journeys – and the regular stops for photo opportunities, snacks, leg stretching, and parking practice – travelled through what must be some of the most awesome scenery in the world – the road north-west of Glasgow by Loch Lomond, through Rannoch Moor and Glencoe, beyond Fort William to the Great Glen and Loch Ness before heading over the Black Isle beyond Inverness, and onwards to Ullapool. (The return journey went via the A9 and a night-time trip to Stirling cemetery.)

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Photo credit: Beth Driscoll

The car journeys were punctuated by a book festival, several fish suppers and ice creams, and an enormous amount of very interesting conversation. They were also bookended by dogs on public transport.

Here’s Digger (otherwise known as Trip Hazard), who travels on his owner’s boat shipping tourists over to the Summer Isles. He skitters surefootedly around the deck as the boat travels over the waves, staring out to the rocks and the seals, keeping an eye out for puffins. He first foots Tanera Mor, before we tourists head off for warming coffee and brownies, to write a quick postcard using the private island postal service, and then to have a quick walk above the scattered houses before we head back to the mainland. (The island is still for sale, incidentally… Crowd-funder, anyone?)photo

Then, back in the big city, waving sadly goodbye in Glasgow Central to road trip companion Dr D, three dogs and their rucksacked owner board the train south. Rescue dogs all, they are called Sergei, Fly, and Big Al. Big Al is very big indeed.

The journeys continue. And so do the stories…

Speaks for itself

IMG_0857Central Belt Shuffler is away from home again, awaiting Dr F on Kendal station platform. Trains shuttle back and forth between Windermere and Oxenholme, and occasionally onto Lancaster.

Around the station, the fells are icing-sugar laced with snow. The air is crisp, the sun is out: an early spring day. There’s the promise of an afternoon’s walk ahead.

A handful of other people are also waiting for the Windermere train. A mother with her child in a buggy. A smartly dressed woman. A man, holding a ventriloquist’s dummy, its shock of orange blazing surreally bright in the sunshine.

 

Just for a moment…

CoveParkCowThis evening, just for a moment from the homewards train, Central Belt Shuffler sees four Highland Cows in a slim triangle of field abutting the train tracks.

It is entirely possible that I haven’t been looking out of the window at quite the right moment, concentrating on polishing off a few end-of-the-day emails or reading some paperwork. Maybe they’re always there, horns pointed down to the grass, eating pacifically.

The sight of them jolts me back to a few weeks ago, when I’d shuffled on over to Cove Park for a week’s writing retreat. Cove Park, among its many virtues, has its only little troupe of Highland Cows, who bathe in the pools in front of the accommodation, and stand in the pathway of the residents. Whether they seem to be doing so in welcome or in challenge depends largely on your familiarity with these big beasts.

Back to the train, following on the tail of this pastoral reminder, I see lambs skipping, then flying: all four limbs in joyous springtime bounds. A fox runs diagonally across a field. And then, a reminder of a literary journey on the Trans-Siberian Express: a couple of horses threading between the birch trees. Time slips backwards, forwards, and I start to write.

A sailor’s pocket handkerchief

pockethandkerchiefEarly for the train, Central Belt Shuffler spends a little time shopping before buying a ticket. This is to be a particularly pleasing journey for a work meeting, given it is Monday, and the train is heading the opposite direction from the office. Somehow (late winter snuffles? early spring hay fever?) a handkerchief, adorned with clouds, soaring birds and a vaguely nautical stripe, becomes a necessary purchase.

As we step off the train, to await the ferry over to Kilcreggan, the weather is living up to the promise of the handkerchief: bright, blustery, spring-like. The clouds race in over the Clyde and onwards to Glasgow, from sun to rain and back again in minutes. The quick trip over the river to the peninsula carries us to a different world, yet one eminently commutable from Glasgow.

On the return journey, as we disembark the ferry to catch the train back to the city, a rainbow appears. It almost spans the river, signalling gold on the other side.

Shuffling Soundscape

The 1814 from Bridge of Allan to Glasgow Queen Street is a frequent route for Central Belt Shuffler, as numerous other posts reveal. This post, however, provides neither pictures or words, but a Bridge of Allan platform soundscape, as the train approaches.

Shreds of Daylight

Shreds of LightOnce more, it’s lighter later. As February draws to a close, the evenings draw out. It must be one of those times of the year where each day stretches its fingers and toes, like a child in a music and movement class. (The length by which day grows or shrinks is not regular, and so that sensation of rapid change at some points in the year is not an illusion, but a reality – though it is influenced by the clarity or obscurity of the sky.)

And so, while the rise of the morning sun is still twenty minutes earlier in Central Belt Shuffler’s previous home town of Oxford, the sun is now setting five minutes later in Glasgow, as the Met Office’s app* reveals.Glasgow Weather

Today has been a particularly pleasant venture into Spring, with the heavy rainfall of the morning commute turning to afternoon sunshine, and shreds of daylight till after 6. And so the wait for the 1814 Bridge of Allan-Glasgow is accompanied by bird song, a clear view of the Wallace Monument, and the sense of hope and longer evenings ahead.

*Download this app; don’t use the standard weather app on your phone. (Central Belt Shuffler is a geography teacher’s daughter.)

Central Belt Shuffler makes an admission

Shuffling, and records of shuffling, have been a little thin on the ground in the past month.

An admission needs to be made. Central Belt Shuffler has a new car. It’s nippy, has a great sound system, and it’s cold outside. So, despite previous avowals to the contrary, the past month’s transport of choice has been the car.

In the last few weeks, the allure of the warm interior and the digital radio have been keeping me away from the train. There are some advantages to this (the occasional 35-minute door-to-door commute), and obvious downsides (no public transport banter or serendipities; no drinking at work).

Roll on spring.