The day started early, but slowly; for the house was quiet; just me and the cat. I picked a book off the shelf, at a ridiculous hour; but time passed quickly and eventually the radio sparked into life. The familiar rich brogue of Mark Stephen – being alone it was a channel of my choice – took me immediately back to a certain favoured isle off the west coast, a day of memories just a few weeks ago, and another of pain and joy years previously.
I had been enjoying the book, thinking of a year ahead with no current plans, no destinations, trips or events yet on the agenda. It was a travel book, of course, but with a difference. In the Introduction I found reference to Travels With a Donkey, that sublime work of RLS, and to a description of a fireside loafer, one who prefers to travel through maps and books. Hmm, thought I, interesting.
Take the train, my now preferred route south so long as I can avoid the nausea-inducing pendolino coaches – and arrive in a city as a commuter at a thrumming station, rather than a tourist at a sterile airport. Forget the guidebooks; take instead some real reading – The Day of the Jackal for Paris, say – and immerse yourself slowly. This is my sort of travel.
But back to the radio, rumbling away in the background. Mark was telling me of another slow journey, and that Stevenson name cropped up again. He was on The Stevenson Way, a trail opened up earlier in the year from the Kidnapped isle of Erraid, back to Auld Reekie, in the footsteps of David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart. Now there’s a book of adventure.
I put the book down as Mark started describing, mellifluously of course as all Stevenson tales should be, those emerald waters and pink rocks that can only mean he was at Iona. More precisely he was sailing, down the Sound to Erraid. From there we hear of lighthouses, and adventures; Findhorn even.
For Erraid today is in the custodianship of the Findhorn Community; and just a few minutes from that haven in the north-east will be waking soon The Urchins and their mother, which is why ’tis unusually quiet down at Grasshopper Towers. Wonder what adventures they have planned for the day?
Out of Doors on Radio Scotland is a cracking start to the weekend, airing at 6.30. Today Mark brought me an hour of all things Stevenson, and next week he travels the rest of the route. Now that might be a slow travel plan for the year ahead. And Kidnapped might be needing read again. In fact there’s a modern graphic version on the Junior Bookshelf that perhaps should be read in that time bewtixt bath and bed, with an Urchin on each arm and cocoa warming the hands.
And once I’ve finished learning the art of slow travel, next up might just have to be a delve into the tale of the Appin Murder and the Red Fox, for whilst Davie Balfour was all RLS, the tale behind Kidnapped was all real, and I’ve just the book for that.
And if I am to think about dipping into the route itself then Ian Nimmo’s Walking with Murder: On the Kidnapped Trail, is a must buy.
Before then though I’ve Dan Kieran to keep me company. Interesting chap, for his day job is heading up Unbound, which is a publishing venture with a difference, and a route to get a book to market, both for established authors and the great unwashed. I’ve been getting regular emails from unbound for some time now, and occasionally make a pledge to support a work I’d like to add to the bedside table. Worth a look.
But what a great start to a day; and with serendipity like that surely there will be an away win at Rob Roy, and just as surely Drongan will be an asthma-free zone. Yee-Hah!