On my first trip to the Far North of Scotland I broke the journey just south of Inverness. The guest house was spotlessly clean with candles burning in the hallway. My blue room had French doors opening onto a lovely garden with forest beyond. There was a crystal carafe of sweet sherry on the chest of drawers and a single rose in a glass. It was a perfect haven after my twelve hour drive in the storm. But by now my flu had worsened, I was coughing up blood and pale as a ghost. I slid between crisp sheets wondering if this trip was all a big mistake.
The next morning I woke up to sunshine. I watched deer grazing in the distance as I ate my breakfast, porridge and fruit salad. The dining room was full of loud Americans discussing a whisky distillery trail.
As soon as I got back on the road the weather deteriorated. It looked like I was heading north directly into an apocalyptic black cloud. The road followed a rocky coastline. The land was scarred with the ruined remains of former croft dwellings, a reminder of all the brave souls who had once lived in this barren country. History was forever present.
At the top of a precipitous series of hairpin bends I hit roadworks. There was a convoy system in place as one lane was closed. I waited and waited for the escort vehicle to arrive. There were no other cars heading north. A man in a dayglow orange jacket was holding up a stop/go sign at the side of the road. He staggered and swayed as the wind gusted at almost 70mph. He struggled to hold the red Stop sign upright. He struggled to stand upright. The long grass was blown flat. The sky was grey as concrete. To my right an angry sea churned at the foot of cliffs. The stop/go man and myself were suspended in the moment for what seemed like an eternity, the only two humans left in the world waiting for something to happen like in Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot. I felt I had been on this road forever. I felt like all my life I’d been waiting for something, for change, for a sign, for life to finally make sense.