Monday, November 19, 2007

10 Weeks in a Box - Day 26

Salmon Falls on my Tongue - 03/08/2007

As the third day of August unfurled before us, we left Alness to head for the small hamlet of Tongue, a mouth-watering prospect, on the Northern Scottish coast. Along the way, quite by accident, we found the Falls of Shin, a fast series of Rapids and Falls cutting through a small rocky gorge.
Following the tourist signs we were led down increasingly narrow roads, until eventually a single track led us out into a large clearing containing a car park, kids playground and tourist centre. Clearly, the Falls were rising. There was a sign indicating a path down to a viewing platform, and we went down to look.
“Not the best Falls I’ve seen” I rather unkindly said, after briefly peering down into the frothing waters, but Miki agreed. We headed back up to the tourist gift shop, which inexplicably sold a mountain of Harrods Goods. I found out later that this land and the gift shop were owned by that celebrated Scot, Mohammed Al Fayed. And we’re worried about the Premiership being owned by foreign investors….

Any how, as we exited the gift shop replete with souvenirs, having dutifully lined Mr.Fayed’s already overflowing pockets, I happened to notice the Falls of Shin logo, featuring a Salmon. Realisation, like a 10 ton cartoon weight dropping on my head, suddenly dawned. “It’s where the Salmon leap!” I exclaimed to a nonplussed Miki.
All credit to her, having not the slightest idea to what I was referring she accompanied me as we scampered back down to the viewing platform and almost immediately saw a beautiful, graceful fish explode from the foam, gaining seemingly impossible height, fighting against the roaring flow of the Shin. Then another, and another. Nature’s incredible struggle against almost impossible odds, the salmons overwhelming compulsion to return upstream, regardless of obstacles. Then, another, powerful giant of a Salmon, leapt gracefully, water, like a string of pearls, cascading in its wake, its tail already swishing ready to take the tremendous force as it dropped into the upper stream. It was thrown to the banks with the water’s force, almost grounded, but it flicked itself back in and we watched, open mouthed, in awe, as it held its own against the relentless torrent. Side to side, it slowly gained ground, inexorably making its way against the odds and all reason. It had won. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen in my life.

As the day drew to a close, we neared Tongue, and got a tantalising glimpse of the North Atlantic. It felt like we’d reached the end of the world.

As we crested the final hill before dropping into Tongue village, we saw a great causeway and bridge spanning the estuary on which Tongue sits.
We headed down to it, via a delightful switchback road that dropped us down the hillside, and found a small parking area right on the land bridge. The tide was out, and after careful inspection, I felt that during the night it wouldn’t rise enough to bother us. We set up for the night on this strange land bridge between promontories, it was most odd! Stranger still, we were joined by a further three motorhomes in our little area, one Belgian, a guy with four dogs, and two Spanish from Barcelona, travelling together. They’d made the run from home to the top of Scotland within a week. It was then that Miki and I realised once again just how lucky we are to have the gift of time to do the things we love. So there we were, a little international community, tucked in together on a small sliver of land at the top of Europe for the night, as the wind howled and the rain lashed….and the tide came in.

Text by Kev Moore
Art & Photos by Miki
Both on Planet Goodaboom

Saturday, November 10, 2007

10 Weeks in a Box - Day 25

Loch, Stock and Barrel - 02/08/2007

The next day proved to be a veritable feast of Lochside travel, partly circumnavigating Loch Laggan. We travelled along the A82 towards Inverness and about ten miles North East of Fort William, near Spean Bridge, we came upon the Magnificent Commando memorial standing proud in the Highlands. It remembers all that have fallen since their formation in 1940.
They did much of their training in the surrounding hills and nearby Achnacarry. After spending some quiet moments reading all the humbling messages here, we moved on, discovering Loch Lochy (daft name) Loch Oich, and, inevitably, Loch Ness. So much has been written and postulated about Britain’s largest body of water, its difficult to know where to begin. Its deepest recorded depth is well over 800 feet, which is, if you’ll excuse the pun, almost unfathomable! It is connected by the Caledonian Canal which bisects the nation. It was designed by a famous Scottish son, Thomas Telford, promised for £300, 000 in five years, cost a million and took nineteen. Millenium dome, anyone? But it is Nessie that really makes the cash registers ring. The green backed monster that generates greenbacks.
Real or imagined, this water horse has become a worldwide industry.
I hope she exists, if only to see her turn up on the shore one day demanding a percentage of her image rights. We were mug punters, paying a fiver each to see an old documentary that probably predated Nessie herself, and 80 pence for a postcard. Now, its not the money per say, it’s the fact that they are insulting the tourist. 30 pence would be okay, 40 the tops, but 80 is like, we hate you, but we need you here for our business, so we’ll milk you dry, but make sure you’ve all buggered off by the end of August.

It makes you proud to be British

It had to happen. The indignant neighbour. There was always going to be the day when our horrid motorhome was going to be viewed as an affront to society. You didn’t need a degree to work out that this would happen somewhere in the British Isles, and the guy would be English. We’d been settled for a mere fifteen minutes when there was a knock on the door. We never get a knock on the door.
“Hello!” I answered cheerily. Middle class indignance with small-minded
Mentality stared up at me. The world slowed to treacle toffee as I could see him trying to compute the unlikelihood of a long haired English bloke greeting him from an obviously French motorhome.
“You do realise you can’t stay here overnight?” That curious pitch between question and statement.
“No,” I replied, “I do not realise that, after all there are no signs to that effect.” I continued, reasonably.
His reply was breathtaking.
“Well, there are no signs saying you can’t murder me, are there, but it doesn’t mean you can.”
This took the conversation to a whole new level. I wasn’t just dealing with small town pig-headedness here, I was dealing with a twat.
“Are we on private land? I’ll be happy to move along if so.” I offered.
“Yes, yes, you are, its British Waterways” he gushed, grabbing my get-out clause with his manicured middle class paws.
“Ah, not strictly private then, is it? “ I countered, “Is there a copy of the Waterways by laws displayed nearby?” He was sweating.
By now I had tired of the fight, but wanted to turn his head to the mirror of truth and shove his face in the murky reflection, so that he might experience a brief moment of clarity and see himself for the bigoted, Dickensian inbred throwback he really was.
“Why don’t you just admit it,” I offered, “Lets forget all this residential/privacy crap, you just don’t want anyone parking anywhere near your house, and you haven’t the guts to say so, have you?”
“Well, erm, yes, no, that is, of course I don’t.” he stammered.
“I’ll move this eyesore from your residential area immediately” I replied.
“Have a nice day.”
We left. After I’d made another coffee of course. He was the ultimate NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) and yet we were in no way overlooking his property in any way, and were perfectly legally parked.
I hope, and I cannot emphasise this enough, that a horde of unwashed gypsies camp outside his house, steal all his valuables and neuter him. Twice.
We moved on, in search of more friendly pastures. Through Inverness, and over a mighty bridge across the firth, ever northwards we trekked, finally coming to rest in a lay-by set back from the road just after another stone bridge across another sprawling estuary.
We’d been in place for only a few minutes, and I was enjoying a quiet moment in the loo, when I heard a roar like a jet and the Boomobile was rocking. I emerged to an incredulous Miki. A car had screamed into the lay-by and goosed us at close on a hundred miles an hour. If either of us had been stepping out to switch on the gas, we’d have been history, not to mention a mile up the road. We dismissed it as a reckless overtaking ploy, but about half an hour later, a car full of Neanderthals went past shouting “Find a bloody campsite!” I was beginning to think Hadrian’s Wall had been a damn good idea. My riposte, had they lingered, was likely to have been “find an intelligent thought” but perhaps I was setting my standards too high for non-sentient beings.
We decided we weren’t welcome there either, and Inverness was rapidly being re-christened “Unfriendli-Ness”

Third time lucky we tucked into a services car park just outside Alness, and spent a thankfully undisturbed night. Eventually!

Text by Kev Moore
Drawing & Photos by Miki
Both on Planet Goodaboom

Thursday, November 8, 2007

10 Weeks in a Box - Day 24

Feels Like Heaven - 01/08/2007

Undeterred, we rose at the crack of noon and headed for Perth, stopping off for a bit of a clothes and shoes buying session, resulting in Miki looking pretty in pink and me the proud owner of some groovy footwear and a Fender guitar belt. Very Rock’n’Roll. We don’t go shopping very often, but when we do, we tend to get a bit carried away.
The city of Perth lies on the banks of the River Tay. Interestingly, the local football team, St.Johnstone, takes its name from the fact that the only parish church here in the Middle Ages was the church of St.John the Baptist, and Perth was often known in the local dialect as “St.John’s Toun”. Perth also hosts a yearly Arts Festival which in recent years has broadened its appeal to encompass major rock acts.The town has a small chart claim to fame, having spawned the group Fiction Factory, and their 1984 hit “Feels like Heaven” which coincidentally I used to play in my old band Tubeless Hearts. It was with the band that I’d last visited this city and its distinctive stone buildings Situated at the end of the M90, it is a natural gateway to the Highlands.
We moved on and via Dalwhinnie, we finally and spectacularly finished the day’s driving by the shores of Loch Laggan. With some stressful manoeuvring, Miki watching for traffic around the treacherous bends, we tucked into a little hollow by the side of the Loch, and Miki went into Painting and sketching mode.
The view across the Loch from our rear window was the stuff of dreams, and we enjoyed a wonderful evening by the quicksilver waters as the sun made its graceful exit beyond the mountains. Fiction Factory, it seems, were right.
It feels like Heaven.

Text by Kev Moore
Drawing & Photos by Miki
Both on Planet Goodaboom

Sunday, November 4, 2007

10 Weeks in a Box - Day 23

Take the High Road - 31/07/2007

The next morning we were off again, and Miki remarked how the scenery was changing and becoming, in some subtle way, more Northern. Bleak was a word that sprang into my mind…
We had decided to hang with the A1 until Darlington and then, wisely, if you’ve seen Darlington, veering North West on the A68 through West Auckland, Corbridge, and eventually Jedburgh in the borders.
We found it astonishing that this switchback of a road through wonderful scenery didn’t merit the usual “green ribbon” on the Michelin map. No taste these cartographers! Arriving at the beautiful viewpoint on the English-Scottish Border, I pointed out to Miki that a guy used to stand here playing the bagpipes. Some minutes later, we found a plaque on one of the huge stone monoliths that stand as silent sentinels by the road, marking his passing last year, a sad loss of a man that kept a lovely tradition alive.

As we headed into the beautiful Scottish country side, I could see in Miki’s eyes her dream of visiting this place slowly becoming reality, and although I’d travelled this road many times before, her joy was infectious.

Fortuitously we found a Lidl on the outskirts of Edinburgh, and replenished some of our dwindling reserves without requiring a mortgage! Circumnavigating the city itself, courtesy of the by-pass, we crossed the mighty Firth of Forth marvelling at the road and rail bridges.
(The rail bridge always reminds me of the movie of the John Buchan classic ‘The 39 steps’) and were content to stop some miles south of Perth, though it has to be said, not so content to stump up fourteen lousy quid to stay on some of Moto Services hallowed tarmac. So having extended them the digit, we went two miles down the road and found a perfectly serviceable lay-by near the peculiarly-named Milnathort. And that was the night the wind and rain kicked in. The tippy tap of the showers was whipped up into a frenzy by the gales, lashing at the motorhome and rocking it like an AC/DC gig. Needless to say, sleep, like cheap fuel, was hard to come by.

Text by Kev Moore
Drawing & Photos by Miki
Both on Planet Goodaboom

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

10 Weeks in a Box - Day 22

Father to Son - 30/07/2007

Having breakfasted, I roused my son Corey from his slumber with a quick text, and told him to meet us in town around lunchtime. I figured even a 15 year old could summon enough energy by then to get up and catch a bus!

Arrangements made, Miki and I headed into Wakefield to do a bit of second hand book searching. It was strange, Miki, my present and future, here in Wakefield, a symbol of my past, it was like two worlds colliding. We had fun, though, finding a number of books for her. (She was getting a bit narked that our Boomobile library was favouring me 90%)
A text on my phone informed me Corey was nearby, he came down Cathedral walk, now standing over 6 feet tall, quite astonishing. It was wonderful to see him. We spent the afternoon together out at Pugney’s Water Park, Miki painting, and Corey and I chatting easily. Both Miki and I were impressed and amazed at his emotional maturity, his self-awareness. He has, Miki says, a very clear mind. He’s performed and improved well at school. He played me his band, Jilambis, new demo. His drumming is becoming very accomplished. Our relationship could have been fraught with difficulties, what with my divorce, then his move to Spain and back, then MY permanent move to Spain, but through all this, and despite the fact that we don’t see each other enough, he is laid back and takes life as he finds it. He seems well balanced, and the pride I feel for him is so strong I can almost touch it. I don’t know if sons ever realise it, but to make their Fathers proud is the most precious gift they can give. I’m not sure I managed it with my Dad, but Corey has most definitely done it for me. I think he’s heading up the right path.
That night, we headed up the A1,
the road I had travelled incessantly in the 80’s, gigging every single weekend, mostly in the North-East of England. Pulling into the services near Dishforth, we chanced our arm at an overnight stay in the Little Chef car park, and, I have to say, although they charge you ten quid for a bowl of soup, we enjoyed an unencumbered, on the house stay, even topping our water supplies with the sweetest water you can imagine, incongruously supplied from a grotty tap on the side of the Petrol Station. Tomorrow, Scotland beckons….

Text by Kev Moore
Drawing & Photos by Miki
Both on Planet Goodaboom

Monday, October 29, 2007

10 Weeks in a Box - Day 21

Youlgreave and Plague Graves - 29/07/2007

The next morning, I even had time to help Dad put together a garden bench I’d bought for him back when God was a lad.
We had spent the night on the driveway, very odd somehow, but we used up Dad’s yearly water allowance by filling our tanks, and had the lunatic fridge on mains hook up during our stay, so things were looking good.
The afternoon saw us take a beautiful, if somewhat challenging on the driving front, route through Derbyshire and the Peak towards Yorkshire. We stopped off in the beautiful tiny hamlet of …… where Miki set about sketching the surrounding area, rich in motifs, a babbling brook, an old stone bridge, and delightful cottages and gardens on the riverbank.
Then, we visited Youlgreave, and Miki located my Grandma’s grave in All Saints Churchyard there. It was a poignant moment, and we collected some wild flowers to leave by her headstone as it enjoyed the newly appeared summer sunshine.
Then it was on to the fascinating village of Eyam, the inhabitants of which selflessly sacrificed themselves by voluntarily quarantining themselves off from the rest of the country, after a resident contracted the bubonic plague from a bolt of cloth delivered to the village from London. Only 85 of nearly 400 inhabitants survived. 1666 seems a long time ago, but when you see the plague cottages and the names and ages on the headstones in the churchyard, this extraordinary village’s bravery in the face of certain death is heart rending and seemingly only yesterday. Some of the graves are in other places in the village, near the houses of those who succumbed, and their simple headstones have been walled off with dignified reverence, creating tiny, sad, little graveyards.
As you walk through this village, you can plainly see that it wears its heart, and its past, proudly on its sleeve.

Nearing Wakefield, I was racking my brains trying to think of a safe place to lay over for the night. We tried the services on the M1. They only wanted £14 for the privilege of occupying a piece of their shoddy tarmac. Instead we gave them two fingers. I suddenly remembered the Wakefield Junction 41 industrial estate, situated quite near where I used to live. It had a myriad of
service roads where lorry drivers would sleep for the night before their journeys. We found a nice quiet corner, made the “Spag Bol”, and the night was ours!

Text by Kev Moore
Drawing & Photos by Miki
Both on Planet Goodaboom

Friday, October 26, 2007

Wherefore art thou, Weary Traveller?

Kev takes a break from travelling

You may well ask...Indeed if you have been asking yourself what has happened to "Ten Weeks in a Box" Miki and I's Travel tale, it's just taking a short break, while Miki completes an important Art commission, but rest assured it will return next Monday, picking up where we left off in Derby.

In the meantime, why don't you pop on over to The Coffee Cup Club and join in with the conversation and maybe post an entry there yourself. Or, with Halloween coming up, why not scare yourself to death with my new tale for All Hallows Eve; "Pumpkin Number Six"? Its on my Muse on the Rock blog, where you can also find another couple of creepy tales!

That should keep you busy until our travel tales return......