I was in Scotland this time last year…
…soaking up mountain rain.
…scribbling in margins.
So here I am, a year later, thinking about going again, while trying to grow my face back over this eerie blank thing that used to be John.
Actually, I had big plans for this year before my face faded. I was really gonna break eggs with a big stick, Scotland-wise.
I was planning to do the full 96 miles of the West Highland Way. I was planning to journal it. I was planning to…
Oh, I dunno. It’s all kinda hazy now. But it was good stuff at the time.
Sitting here in the flat, tweaking closed curtains, closed options and the tail end of a period as an eccentric, shadowy recluse, I find myself drawn back inexorably to a guest house/pub in Oban.
Given my tendency to end up on shorelines, Oban was like a home from home, only with an extra flavouring of mountains. It’s the place where the ferries set off for the Western isles.
I stayed there a couple of times during my wanders last year, and something about my last evening there proved particularly memorable.
I was enjoying a pint or four in the bar on what turned out to be a quiet night for local trade. As tends to happen at such times, I found myself sharing more and more life stuff with the bartender.
This is always a hit-and-miss activity – especially when beer is involved. But on that particular night, there seemed to be a sense of genuine connection in the air.
It was one of those evenings where the air feels rich enough to tease your face back out from behind its wounds.
Stunning mountain scenery can do this with breathless abandon.
Watching the tide roll in on island shores can do this.
But feeling your face begin to unfurl its textures in the presence of another human being… that’s a whole other deal, no matter how many spectacular the mountain rains are.
Perhaps that’s why a couple of offhand comments about the West Highland Way, which I had discovered on my wanders, and explored a little, seemed to grow some extra gravitas.
We talked about what doing it would mean, what it would say about where my life has been in these past few difficult years… and what it would say to others who are in such a place now.
It occurs to me that the main reason I have held on to the thought of doing that walk, the main reason it haunts me now, as I find myself hiding behind curtains…
Well, I guess it’s all about those moments in bars, where we suddenly feel shareable again in a world without faces.
About the author, John Hulme
John Hulme is a British writer from the Wirral, a small peninsula near Liverpool in the North of England. Trained in journalism (in which he has a masters degree), John’s first love was storytelling, trying to make sense of the world around him using his offbeat imagination. Since the death of his mother in 2010, John’s work has grown increasingly personal, and has become heavily influenced by Christian mysticism. This has led to the publication of two poetry books, Fragments of the Awesome (2013) and The Wings of Reborn Eagles (2015). A mix of open mike performances, speaking engagements and local community radio appearances has opened up new avenues which John is now eager to pursue. He is hoping to go on a kind of busking road trip fairly soon, provisionally titled Writer seeks gig, being John.