HollyMy leisure-time reading has just taken me to a book by Mike Carter, a man who cycled around Britain a few years ago, coincidentally going the same way around the country as we did on Cirrus Cat, anticlockwise. As it happens his journey took place during the same summer as well, which may account for the fact that the conclusions he draws on the state of the country, and the welcoming attitude of its people, were very similar to our own. But of all those he met and wrote about I was most struck by his account of Steve, the ferryman who takes passengers across Salcombe Harbour in Devon. Himself a well-travelled cyclist, the simple wisdom of this man almost took my breath away. His view of life and of how he feels we should view life’s many challenges, made me re-read this section of the book several times until I had committed to memory something I felt I should take away with me. “Finishing lines are good”, the author quotes, “but their most important role is to get you over the start line in the first place.” How true this rings today when too often we are focussed upon goals and achievements, so many of which are meaningless in their own right, when it is the journey itself that is important.

Our son Mike’s journey is now complete and whilst Kate is supervising his introduction to Carradale life, something he seems to be taking to rather well, I am wrestling with the estate agents dealing with the sale of my mother’s house down south here in England. I feel as though I am having to push through treacle to get anyone, solicitors included, to even attempt to speed things up. It is as if the whole English sale and purchase system is geared towards sloth and even to suggest that things could be done quicker is met with surprise and alarm, horror even. Small wonder the housing market is in recession at the moment. The contrast with the more efficient Scottish house buying and selling process, where much of the work is done up front by the seller, is self evident and I know which I prefer. Estate agents, however, are of the same mettle all over the universe.

Grumbling over.

I take a weekend off to visit friends Rich and Gerry and help them celebrate Rich’s retirement from full-time work. Joining us is the other Richard whose retirement last year we tried to celebrate in a weekend of sailing on the sheltered waters of the River Swale in Kent, and when due to atrocious weather we were forced indoors.Fishing smack in the Swale This time around the weather looks far more favourably upon us and in the middle of a brief heat-wave, we all take to the water on board Waxywoo II and Courageous, respectively a yacht and a sailing dinghy. The silt-laden waters of the Swale and the River Medway are places where traditional sailing boats are plentiful so it is far from unusual to pass by some beautifully restored piece of floating wooden history like this ancient fishing smack. Our own craft are a little more modern but over two days on the water we manage to sail, swim, potter around a few creeks on the Isle of Sheppey and generally have a ‘Swallows & Amazons’ type adventure with plenty of scrapes and jolly fun. Just what I need to take my mind off the madness of house removals.

Wendy with her babiesRich and Gerry generously feed and water me at their Dungate home where we find that in our absence, Wendy, one of the badger-faced ewes who live in the orchard behind their house, has given us a real treat by producing two fine lambs. She manages the whole business entirely on her own, with no human help, so we are very proud of her, although she does look a little sheepish in this picture.

Hovering expectantly around the comfortable barn where Wendy had installed herself was our old friend Hot Horns, a ram who loves having his thick coat tickled just behind his head.Hot-horns the badger-faced ram In fact he is tolerant of almost any human attention he can get and although he wasn’t saying much one has to wonder whether he was an active participant in Wendy’s big event.

My mother is now finally re-locating, making the long journey north, and will stay in our home until she can take up residence in the house next door which she is buying for herself. She has great plans, naturally, to add new features here and there, to decorate the place to her own taste throughout, to tame the wilderness that is the garden, and no doubt there will be a long list of other jobs in the months to come. Once again a member of our family plunges into a house renovation project. Mere age alone cannot stop this – it is in our genes, I fear. At least it will take Mum’s mind off of the fact that she has left behind the over-crowded warmth of south-eastern Britain with its tame hedgerows and tightly clipped lawns as she struggles to adjust her eyes to the rather less kempt surroundings of the scenic Highlands with its dramatic views and rugged mountains.

plane interiorThe final part of her journey is inside the fuselage of a twin-engine Otter aircraft piloted by a lady we all assume is the air hostess… until she takes her position in the driving seat. Flying in a plane this size is flying in the raw, intimate and noisy, unlike the insulated, flying-above-the-clouds Airbus 319 that brought us as far as Glasgow. Propellers whirling we pick up speed then spring into the air and level off just high enough to clear the chimney pots then head towards the Isle of Arran whose mountains loom at us on the horizon. This being a new experience for me my camera is shooting in every direction, sometimes capturing part of the plane in shot (oops, is that the wheel!) or sometimes a yacht sailing not far below us. power station chimneyAt times we are so close to the ground that it feels like we might just bounce off it and a power station chimney we pass over looks almost close enough to touch. But we do clear the peaks of Arran then soon we are starting our descent to Campbeltown Airport where we make a gentle landing then taxi towards the tiny terminal building just as a fire engine rushes towards us – normal procedure, apparently.

Kate has driven out to meet us to complete this lengthy journey, the finish for me but the start line of a brand new journey for my mother.

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