I had an adventure this past weekend: a trip back to Aberdeen! With my new camera. I had an action-packed weekend, including an overnight away. This is significant – it’s only the second time I’ve been away from my family in the last 10 years. Because the Dafter is well enough not to need my help with getting to the loo and getting dressed these days, Michael is able to be her carer overnight. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of amazing liberation at being able to think only of my own needs for 36 hours!
My heart was singing as the train whisked me northwards through an early spring countryside. You can be sure I was knitting and enjoying every minute of the journey. There were snowdrops in the woods, the birch trees were looking very fuzzy, and I saw a deer having a drink. Here’s my favourite view of Perth, as the train crosses the River Tay:
Perth, from the train as we cross the River Tay.
And in under three hours, there I was at Aberdeen Railway Station:
Aberdeen Railway Station.
I do love the Victorian architecture, and these little touches:
Aberdeen Railway Station.
What you can’t see is the (also very familiar) cold wind cutting through. As my friend J says, Aberdeen Railway Station has a microclimate of its own!
What did I do next? Get on another train! I travelled up to Aberdeenshire to see my dear friend Roobeedoo. And here’s where I have to admit that I hardly took any photos of people during my weekend. I was so busy gabbing and enjoying the company of other people that I didn’t get any snaps of my many lovely friends to show you. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.
I was delighted to see Roobeedoo, because her husband is very unwell and neither of us was sure that our rendez-vous would be possible. So it was doubly celebratory. As she drove me through the countryside, she was very indulgent and pulled over so I could take photos to show you. Our first stop was to walk down a muddy track in search of a castle we’d spotted. Can you see it?
Spot the Castle! Aberdeenshire.
You can just see the grey roof, pink walls, and flagpole of the castle if you know where to look! I love the red haze of the trees, and the mist coming over the flanks of Bennachie. Once we’d plodded back to the car, she realised that we could in fact pull into the drive of the castle for a far better photo:
Harthill Castle, near Oyne, Aberdeenshire.
This is a private castle, not owned by Historic Scotland or the National Trust. I wonder what it’s like to live in a castle for real? Probably not wheelchair accessible…
Just as we were going to Gadie’s for lunch, who should I see, but this lovely donkey:
Roobeedoo and I had a delicious and leisurely lunch. I will confess I did buy some beautiful yarn at the wool shop, and it was just the best treat to have a catch-up. She also gave me some very good knitting advice – she is a very talented knitter and sewist.
I was back in Aberdeen by 5 pm, where a church friend met me and took me to the Station Hotel for High Tea! “Fit funcy!” (“How fancy!”) as Michael texted. High Tea consisted of tea and toast; then a main course; then cakes on a towering cake-stand, with more tea. That was a first for me!
After that my friend and I walked to my old neighbourhood, and I called upon darling Betty, my former neighbour. It was odd to be on my old street, but as it was after dark it seemed dreamlike anyway. I didn’t look too closely at my old garden and home! Betty and I had a short but excellent catch-up before I jumped in a taxi to the friends who’d invited me for overnight.
These friends are from Glasgow and the Central Belt, and we talked about how friendly Glasgow is. I’d brought a bottle of single malt whisky as I know one of them is a connoisseur, but I didn’t partake myself. I had an excellent night’s sleep – having heard that all was very well at home – and a peaceful breakfast on Sunday morning. It felt really odd, and so very simple, just to have myself to worry about. Not that I mind caring for the Dafter one little bit – but it was nice to have a change.
My friends stay on a high hill, and in the morning when we left for church, my heart really tugged at the sight of the spires of Aberdeen nestled down by the huge blue sea.
The River Dee, Aberdeen. Looking towards the Duthie Park. 9 March, 2014.
We arrived very early, as my friends had various responsibilities before the service. I took the opportunity to go for a wee walk along the River Dee. It was a beautiful morning indeed.
The River Dee, looking towards the Bridge of Dee. Aberdeen, 9 March 2014.
In another month these green banks will be covered with daffodils.
It was just fantastic to see everyone at church. I got lots of “bosies” (hugs) and caught up with lots of people. I was particularly delighted to see that a friend who was unwell, is now much better. And it was wonderful to be back in that familiar place for an hour of beautiful hymns, prayers, and quite a few laughs as well. It was an all-age Fairtrade service with some skits by the young people.
Two other friends from church whisked me off up Deeside afterwards. It was a treat to have just a little glimpse of one of my favourite parts of Scotland.
Near Drumoak, Deeside, Aberdeenshire.
I really like how the Mains of Drum Garden Centre, which was built about ten years ago, echoes the older architecture of its neighbour Drum Castle.
Mains of Drum garden centre, near Drumoak, Aberdeenshire.
I also like that it’s family-owned. My friends Mike and Nomie (striding ahead energetically) treated me to lunch, which was very kind of them.
Back in Aberdeen, my friend Leila Aboulela took me to her house for a delicious cup of coffee. I had never seen a copy of the Koran before, and was very interested to have a look. We had a good gab, and all too soon it was time for me to catch my train back to Glasgow.
But not before I had a quick peek at the mural in the waiting room, which the Dafter had a hand in, years ago:
Gaelic mural in Aberdeen Railway Station waiting room.
I was tired but very happy on my way home. I sat next to two students, who talked all the way back to Glasgow (although not to me). I found their conversation fascinating, and very wide-ranging. They covered the upcoming independence referendum, new scientific discoveries (“a cure for male pattern baldness is about a year and a half away, but a cure for malaria is about 10 years off. Get your priorities straight!”), their studies, how the thrill of learning turns into something more like hard work as you go further into a discipline, things they would like to know more about, and the history of several parts of the world that I myself am very ignorant about. Oh and they also discussed the music that they play, in some sort of band. I sat knitting and reading magazines (and eating couscous very slowly with a coffee stirrer as I didn’t have a spoon), and listening to their conversation. I was really impressed with these thoughtful young people.
I arrived home about 9 pm with a suitcase full of presents to distribute, and the three of us had a great catch-up. I don’t think I’ve talked so much in ages, as I did last weekend! I packed a lot into a small amount of time, and there were some people I wasn’t able to see. But it was really great – very restorative. What made it so good was the fact that the Dafter and Michael had also had an excellent weekend. They had done a silly photo shoot, each pretending to be the other, and had enjoyed their time together. Michael had actually stopped working for a weekend, which is no mean feat, let me tell you.
So it was a good thing all round. I hope your week is going well!