Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tobermory is the colorful waterfront town below.

It is the eve of my return to Scotland. I am looking forward and am nostalgic at the same time. I've been thinking a lot about my first summer on Mull and my conversation with Mary Taylor. We saw kindred spirits in each other and she saw something in my that she thought her brother Robert would see also. Robert came in to the bar at the hotel one night while I was working. Part of my duties entailed helping behind the bar which was next to reception. Robert ordered a pint of Guinness which requires some skill to pull from the tap because it's so foamy. I remember he commented that I had the hang of it, but we were so busy that was about all I remembered except that he was very handsome. Oh,there is so much more about Robert, but that will have to wait.

The summer went by so quickly. I made some wonderful friends. One evening I made plans to meet some of them at the Ceilidh (pronounced Kaylee) Place after I finished at 11:00. There was a band playing that we all liked. So I walked down to the village in the twilight of a beautiful evening. It never gets really dark in the summer. I walked in to the pub and all of my friends shouted my name and greeted me with hugs and ordered my usual pint of lager. It was such a wonderful experience to be in this remote village and be part of the life there. I had achieved what I wanted to achieve.

And now my journey begins again. I will be in Oban the first three days, staying in the Caledonian Hotel on the waterfront. I plan to walk, write, read and breathe in that wonderful sea air whose scent I can conjure up even here in landlocked Indiana.
Next I will take the Calmac ferry for a three hour trip to the Isle of Coll, an island I haven't visited before. I am staying in an ocean facing guest house. (I've already posted a picture of that view on my blog. It looks like a wonderful place to get some writing done, walk the beach and maybe just stare at the ocean. After three days there, I will travel on the ferry back to Oban, catch another ferry across to my beloved Mull, docking at Craignure where I used to live. From there I'll take a bus for an amazing ride across the island to the little village of Fionnphort (pronounced Finnafort). I've been to Fionnphort many times, but only long enough to catch the ferry. I will spend the night at the Seaview Guest House and then spend a little time exploring the village. Perhaps check out the Columba Centre or take a whale watching trip. In the late afternoon I'll take the 10 minute ferry ride to the Isle of Iona and meet up with the writing group for the dinner that initiates the beginning of the retreat. The retreat lasts five days. Five luxurious days devoted to writing and exploring mystical Iona. When the retreat is over I'll travel back across Mull to the town of Tobermory, the capitol of Mull. Where I'll stay with Joan and Angus Milne and meet their son, Angus James, for the first time. Joan is the wonderful lady who was managing the Isle of Mull Hotel and hired me to work there. Angus and his father Jimmy entertained in the hotel lounge singing and playing the guitar and accordian. I am so looking forward to seeing them again. I'll be with them for two days and then it will be time to return to Bloomington. And though I know it sounds like I've got a lot packed in this trip, even as I write it all out, I know it will go way too fast. And I will be thinking about how soon I can get back to Scotland.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I served as a house maid in the hotel for the first three weeks I was there. It was a tour hotel which means coach tours came in once a week on the Friday night 5:00 ferry. This meant that the previous tours left on Friday morning and all of the rooms had to be stripped and cleaned. It was some of the hardest work I've ever done. The hotel was long and narrow and on several levels separated by five or six steps, no lift. One of the hardest things was getting around with your supplies on a cart. The beds had heavy woolen blankets to stave off the damp sea air. By the end of a day of stripping those blankets my fingers looked like they had been shredded. But I loved it. I took pride in my work. And met some very interesting people. Each morning we would report and get our room list with kind of action each room needed. We would get our supplies organized and then come back to the staff room for our tea. One morning I was at a table with a woman named Mary. She took a drag on her cigarette, squinted at me through the smoke and said to me, "You know things, don't you?". I smiled and said, "Yes and so do you." From that moment on we had a psychic bond and a special connection.

After three weeks there was an opening to work in reception. I asked Mrs. Milne if I could be switched to reception. She agreed and I work behind the front desk and helped out in the bar for the rest of the summer. I got to meet a lot of people and hear some amazing music from the acts who entertained in the lounge at night. We all worked six days and a week with alternating shift times with my day off being Thursday. It was ideal. I would finish a shift on Wednesday at 3:00 and didn't have to report again until Friday at 3:00. So in effect, I had nearly two days off.

On my day off I would sometimes catch a ride with a coach tour and visit Iona or catch the ferry to Oban and shop for more books and have a nice meal out. A few times I took the coach to Tobermory and explored that charming town. When weather permitted, I would take a walk to Torosay Castle and explore the gardens and have tea on the veranda.

One day a young waitress from Australia asked me if I wanted to take a walk up to Java Point north of the hotel. I went with her and was amazed at what I saw when we arrived at the top of the bluff on Java Point. I looked north first at the fishing boats and the hills of Morvern across the Sound of Mull. Then I looked south and saw the lighthouse on Lismore, shining bright white against the dark water. It was the same as in my vision. I was home. Mary was right. I know things.