Am Bratach No. 250
A night in Lochinver
Have you been to many other
events in the festival? asked the woman sitting next to
me in the village hall.
I was one of the performers.
I looked more closely at my neighbour and recognised Mairi Hedderwick, the writer of childrens books. Damage done, I changed the subject, and we talked amicably about Shetland until the proceedings got under way.
When the reading had come to an end, we all filed out of the hall, back into the driving rain. The ferries had been suspended due to adverse weather conditions and the gift shops remained closed. I abandoned my plans to explore, and made for Tescos. (Ive learnt, over the years, not to pass a supermarket without stocking up.)
I felt a homing instinct coming on after that, but I had booked a bed in the new, community owned hostel in Lochinver and felt under an obligation to honour the arrangement. Having been advised that, apart from me, there were only five male walkers booked into the hostel, I was looking forward to having a whole female dormitory to myself.
What I hadnt bargained for was the fact that the atrocious weather had forced all the wild campers out of their sodden tents, so that when I arrived I discovered that the hostel was almost full and that I was the only female guest. There was to be no female dormitory; Id just have to muck in with the boys.
There is something incongruous about visiting one of the most scenically spectacular parts of the British Isles and spending time indoors watching TV, but Im afraid thats what we did. It was mostly sport, but I didnt mind. I was warm and dry, that was the main thing.
In bed later that night, I listened, in the dark, as my room mate, Paul, talked with an arresting candour about his life. When he eventually fell asleep, he snored all night long. I lay awake, trying to persuade my brain that the snoring was a soothing lullaby that would send me to sleep. Of course, it didnt work it never does.
In the morning Paul offered me
a peppermint, as a farewell gift. Take two, he urged.
I was touched by this small gesture. We both agreed that we hadnt
done justice to Lochinver, and that we would have to return one
day. Ive been told April sometimes brings better
weather in these parts, he ventured. I might just put that
statement to the test.