I am in the midst of my annual dilemma about taking holiday breaks in July and August, at the same time as everyone else.
It is a bit different this year, however. Our freedom to travel internationally has more or less returned, as compared with last summer when domestic travel was only just possible and 2020 when nothing was possible. Well it was, but it was stupid…
The “more or less” description is a reflection of a couple of factors. First, many airlines and airports have descended into a state of chaos because they decided to run before they could walk after restrictions were lifted. I am not interested in standing in endless queues, to be followed by long flight delays and missing luggage, just to feed their bank accounts.
The other big factor for me is the state of the pandemic – no, the virus did not disappear overnight just because restrictions were lifted. In Scotland, infections are at a high level and hospital admissions are starting to rise as a (predictable) consequence. The variants of Omicron which are causing this remain an unknown quantity, but they do seem to be more transmittable and perhaps more aggressive too.
My answer has been a week away in the Highlands of Scotland. Friends offered me their log cabin, partly because they have a new puppy to house train at home and so they cannot use the cabin for a few weeks.
Located close to Coit a’ Ghartain/Boat of Garten (pop. 700) in Strathspey, it is super quiet but not remote. It was a 2 hour drive from home. Baile nan Granndach/Grantown-on-Spey is close by, making shops, cafes and restaurants readily available – when open. Many are suffering staff shortages following the Brexit idiocy, and staff illnesses from Covid just make the problem worse.
It is turning out to be an inspired decision. Much of the time the only noises are the hum of the fridge and the wind in the trees. A car goes past every 10-15 minutes during the “busy” part of the day.
A red squirrel appears on the deck at 07:13 to check me out while I drink my coffee. I am wakened by critters on the roof about 06:00, and I guess that might be the squirrels. The peace and quiet is not absolute, but I will adjust.
Last night a pine marten visited me, lured by the peanut butter on bread which I had left for it.
This morning a deer ran across my path while I was jogging in the forest.
Ospreys are a big attraction in these parts. After being investigated close up by a sea eagle on Lismore a few years ago, I am a bit blasé about ospreys, plus I am used to storks being around in Bavaria. I may go anyway.
I have plenty of other plans for my time here, including more jogs, some hiking and visiting random ruined castles.
All that is weather permitting obviously. Scottish rules.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2022