Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Scottish Seaside Town Holiday

I’ve been away for a week, on the west coast of Scotland. Not the glorious mountains of the north, but the faded seaside towns of the south, ‘faded’ in that people who used to flock to them every summer now go to Spain etc. They are quite nice places to hang about in, although I can see why people prefer to lie on a vastly overcrowded beach in the Costa Blanca heat under a parasol than a vastly overcrowded beach wearing two jumpers and a cagoule under a wind-shot umbrella. No danger of being lost in a crowd these days, mind you. In October, even jumpers offer no protection against the chill beach breeze, but we found near-deserted play parks (our eight-year-old and her friend were also with us), a horse-riding school that offered children half-hourly ‘led rides’, a ruined castle, a massive indoor soft-play area, an indoor pool, an interactive Viking museum, and of course there was also Nardini’s famous ice-cream shop. Too cold for ice-cream? Not at all. Don’t try to buy a pair of swimming trunks in Largs though. No shop sells them.

On the way to Greenock, I caught side of a sign shooting off to the right – ‘Loch Thom, 3 Miles’. The rain was bucketing down that day and the clouds were almost at ground level. The thought of veering off the dual carriageway to the site of one of WS Graham’s most famous poems was tempting nevertheless, but wandering around a loch in the mist and driving rain is only obligatory when you have no children. I’ll just continue to sense the loch only vicariously:

Before me. Here is the loch. The same
Long-beaked cry curls across
The heather-edges of the water held
Between the hills a boyhood’s walk
Up from Greenock. It is the morning.

The timing of the holiday meant that I missed Hidden Door, probably the most exciting cultural event to hit Edinburgh all year. I was ‘present’ through a new poem, ‘The Organist’, and accompanying audio and art installation. Last night, Andy Philip has sent me photos of it, which I will share with you on this blog later. However, I feel depressed that I couldn’t manage to get there, but waltzing off for a day in Edinburgh during my family holiday might have led to my mysterious ‘disappearance’ on my return.

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