Click, click, scrape. Street sounds. On a rare afternoon without conflicting commitments we enjoyed some quality time together. It was the turn of The Urchins to experience the joys of cycling, on a trail once ridden by their parents, in times long gone. Memories of a post-cycle climb up the steep crags in sweltering heat flooded back. Such madness had now subsided, largely.
We were in Callander, where Highlands meets Lowlands and thumps you right in the Trossachs. It has always been a delightful town but today is unchanged since Dr Finlay first entered a case in his book. It is convenient for a brief escape from either of our major cities; an opportunity to practice the Princes Street Shuffle, an art form that pre-dates tramworks. I felt almost naked without a walking stick, clacking slowly along past the shortbread tin shop fronts. The sartorial elegance of the golf course, there must be such a thing somewhere, melds with the tweeds of the country, and Callander’s High Street comes alive. Thankfully the tour buses had reached the end of their season, and we were spared the worst of the shuffling hordes.
But at the end of the street, as should be case in every town in the land, there stood a book shop, a second-hand one, with a warm welcome and a fine stock. The Urchins browsed, then begged. Ideal methinks, and fine justification for the couple of volumes that had slipped under my arm. I found the second leg of Alastair Scott’s trilogy round the world, in fine condition and signed. It cost less than the ice cream from the cafe nearby, and a poor vanilla at that. Just the outward leg to find now, but no rush for that. The sorry vanilla brought back thoughts of an ice cream tour round my past, perhaps an exercise for another day; a mapping single scoops and single nougats, and the gems and nuggets that mark Scotland’s links to Italy.
But what caught my eye in that bookshop was not a leather bound volume, or an elusive first edition. No it was a flyer, an advert for a cafe, left casually on one of those coffee tables that all bookshops should have; the one that allowed the wizened proprietrix to rest all day with her brew and her book, and idle away the hours, hoping that something would move from the stacks.
The flyer was for the Troubador, and I had spent all of the previous day in that self same cafe-cum-gallery. Why a bookshop in Callander would have a leaflet from a London cafe remained a mystery, but there it was.
The Troubador had been a marvellous day, filled with insights and snippets as we discussed the world of publishing and the role of the freelancer. From 800 word articles to the 120,000 of the researched book, we explored the myths and the mysteries as we tried to nail down the writers’ craft, or the access to the editors’ inboxes. Competitions and blogs, old friends and new. All that and a full Irish breakfast with a large glass of the black stuff. It is easy to forget the exhaustion of getting there and back, the stifling heat of the tunnels linking tube stations, and the noises and smells as a city lives and breathes. Harder to forget are those leaving the Euro-Gamer exhibition, in full costume, but it takes all sorts.
I think I’ll be back in Callander before I suffer the city streets again. There’s the lure of the cycle path and the drive of The Urchins, and there’s a very good bookshop.