Solidarity Shuffle

SquirellontheSubwayCentral Belt Shuffler has been on strike for the past week or few. This has meant decisions each day about whether to shuffle on into work earlier than usual, to be on the picket line with colleagues, or to stay at home.

But today there was a rally on home territory, so Central Belt Shuffler headed to George Square, with a homemade placard in hand. University unions from round Scotland gathered, as well as trade unionists from other industrial sectors (thank you – and lessons learned in support for workers next time Scotrail has a strike).

On the way home, I leaned my placard by the subway rail. A woman smiled at it, and got onto the same carriage as me.

We got chatting about the strike. She was a student at a local university. I asked if her classes had been disrupted. She shrugged, smiled, and said, we support you!

Heartening words of solidarity on the shuffle home. Thank you.

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.)

IMG_3844

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.

 

Four Gringos and a Bomba

IMG_0792We’ve headed off for an overnight stay: part pleasure (beaches, a trip to a luminescent lagoon unfortunately cancelled due to too bright moonlight, eating and drinking), part chores – buying some good coffee, checking out a store for lighting fixtures and a sink for the house my friends are building, buying a water pump, a “bomba”.

The temperature is rising – into the mid-30s Celsius during the day, over 25 at night. From my room, I can hear the heavy bass of a rooftop disco. The fan runs so fast it is rocking backwards and forwards, directly above my bed. It masks the bass, but its helicopter whirr alarms me and I switch it off. Tossing and turning, I eventually sleep.

IMG_0808The next day we buy the bomba. There are four of us, a small car, and a large pump. It would seem that two of us will have to brave the midday sun on the bus. The heat is beating down on the street. The passing buses look hot, sticky, dusty. Two and a half hours…

All of our kit is out of the car, the back seats lowered. The pump is pushed in. We pack the bags and the other shopping around it. Then we pack ourselves in, Dr D sitting high beside the pump box.

It reminds me of an old joke: ‘How do you fit four elephants in a Mini? Two in the front, two in the back.’

We set off.

We fit in just fine.

Camioneta Dreaming, Part 1

IMG_0680The camioneta arrives. It’s empty. We’re waiting at the side of the road with a middle-aged couple, who have a red plastic crate with them. We climb in, and the man pushes the crate along the floor to the front of the van. With a start, we realise that the crate contains a very large fish, which hides bags of meat, and another, smaller, fish, underneath. I get my camera out, and the woman tells me it will be 20 pesos for a photo of the fish. She’s joking. I think.

In the hot afternoon, the smell of the fish and meat combines with the odour of petrol from the camioneta. After a couple of minutes, Dr D stands up, looking slightly sick, and faces out of the front of the camioneta. It’s moving at a snail’s pace up and down the hills between the two coastal villages.

I sit at the back, while the couple comment on what all they see as we go past: someone lying, seemingly dead to the world, in the scrubland at the top of one of the rises. They try to work out, with mild concern, who it is. A man on a red motorbike drives up to the open back of the camioneta, and makes some comment to me which I don’t understand, and then overtakes. The woman tries to explain, in a disapproving tone. The sound of his throttle fades away ahead of us.

We arrive at the village, climb out, and head for a beer. The fish continues its journey.