A few weeks ago, Michael arranged to work from home and help the Dafter so I could have the day off. I headed for the hills, and went to Crianlarich. I was there in about two hours, after a stunning train ride on the famous West Highland Line:
Near Garelochhead, I think – West Highland Line. September, 2014.
As usual, I was blissed out knitting, enjoying a coffee, reading and thinking along the way.
Crianlarich is an important junction in the Highlands. Two main roads converge there, and also the train splits in half. One half goes to Mallaig, and the other half goes to Oban.
Crianlarich station, where the train divides.
But I got off, and went in search of a place that we visited years ago.
In July 2000, our family stayed overnight in Crianlarich, on our way from Aberdeen to Islay for a friend’s wedding. It was an extremely difficult time for our family. Eight-year-old Our Son’s problems were becoming quite extreme, and no-one except our family GP and our minister seemed to believe us. We were terribly concerned both about Our Son, and about the two-year-old Dafter’s safety. We were just beginning what was to be a long period of battling with the authorities over securing proper help for Our Son, which culminated a year later in our winning the battle for him to go to therapeutic residential care. In July 2000, I didn’t know how things would turn out. I had feelings of dread about our family’s future, and I felt afraid for the world in general. I was worried about wars in the Middle East, ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe, I was worried about the environment and global warming. I wondered what kind of a world my children would live in when they were my age (40).
The evening of our stay in Crianlarich in the year 2000, our little family went for a walk in a newly-planted community woodland. I remember carrying the tired Dafter, while Our Son let off a lot of energy dashing about on the paths. The trees were all mere sticks in protective plastic casings, and it seemed to be a woodland in name only. I remember saying to myself, “Let’s just see what happens. I’ll come back here in 15 years and see if life is better then.”
Near the entrance to the woodland: conkers, on my fairy hoax mitts. Sept. 2014.
So when I had a free day recently, I decided not to wait another year, but to go back to see how the woodlands had come on, and whether I felt life was indeed better.
What a lovely experience it was! The sticks in plastic cases had turned into beautiful trees:
View from Community Woodlands, Crianlarich. Sept. 2014. The young birch tree on the right of the photo is one of the trees planted in 1999.
Mountains, and crepuscular rays of the sun coming through the clouds. Crianlarich. Sept. 2014.
The winds were blowing very steadily, and I watched the clouds chase across the sky. I felt so grateful that Our Son, now 22, is doing better than we ever dreamed possible, living independently and having an affectionate relationship with us. The Dafter is continuing to recover from her ME/CFS, and is in many ways so much more together than I was as a teenager. Both our children delight us. Our family has more than survived – we have flourished. Perhaps some people would look at us and see a lot of problems, but I see that a lot of healing has happened.
In terms of the world more generally, even with the horrors that we humans have inflicted on one another and on our planet in the interim, I must say that I feel far more positive about the future than I did back then. I’m glad that my children’s outlook doesn’t really take in what race or sexual orientation people are; I’m grateful for people like Mo Mowlem and Nelson Mandela and their largely successful efforts to lead their countries to peace and reconciliation. I still worry about the environment, but at least I can now easily recycle a lot of our household waste, and for example request that our household electricity come from renewable sources. The topic of damage to the environment is mainstream rather than a fringe concern. Perhaps it’s one of the gifts of being older, but I’m more able to take the long view about a lot of problems nowadays. I’m more able to choose to be hopeful than I was back then.
Here’s me, enjoying the fresh air and the passing showers:
(I wasn’t actually feeling hugely self-satisfied, I was just trying to keep my hair out of my face!)
The green of the nearby forest and vegetation was intense, which surprised and delighted me:
Greenery, Crianlarich. Sept. 2014
Even in September, although I’d missed the heather, there were wildflowers:
Wild scabious, Crianlarich Community Woodland, Sept. 2014.
The sense of space and light were wonderful:
Crianlarich Community Woodland.
And the fall colours of the Highlands were beautiful, with the bracken ferns beginning to turn:
Fall colours: bracken.
After an hour’s walk, including a wee detour into some forest plantations, I went back into the village. Even though it is an important intersection, rail stop and also a place crossed by the long-distance West Highland Way walking trail, Crianlarich is pretty small. There are two hotels, a police station, the train station, a shop, a pub/restaurant, a little church, a nursery and primary school, and houses. I found a rare traffic-free moment to show you where the East-West A85 meets the North-South A82:
Crianlarich village, with the train viaduct. Sept. 2014.
I hadn’t really gotten very wet on my walk, and by the time I had walked through the village, the sun had come out and dried me off. I went up to the Crianlarich Hotel and enjoyed a beautiful scone, and more time to dream, knit and read in the window:
Coffee (the scone had yet to arrive) at the Crianlarich Hotel, Sept. 2014.
I was interested to see that they host ceilidhs every Saturday night all winter long. I wonder if they’re as good as the family ceilidh we went to in Lochranza on Arran?
ceilidhs! (I found it slightly surreal that the Crianlarich Hotel is now owned by Best Western, which I associate with Oregon!)
Then it was time to catch the train back to Glasgow. Crianlarich train station is very well kept, and has a lovely, bright waiting room:
Crianlarich station waiting room.
I imagine it must be a bit different in the winter, packed with passengers while it snows outside. There was a sign inviting you to push a button on the wall to turn on the heater.
The journey back seemed even more spectacular than coming up in the morning:
On the way home: West Highland Line going back to Glasgow.
View from the train.
Unlike James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree’s mother, I was indeed back in time for tea. I felt as if I’d been away much longer than just a day. The fresh air of the Highlands (and plenty of knitting time) had swept away a few cobwebs, and I slept like a log that night. It was a great wee break, and good to feel that on balance there is plenty to celebrate about life.
I hope you’re all having a good week, and perhaps having a few adventures of your own!