I have to confess to a touch of post-holiday blues in the last week or two. If that’s what just four nights in Majorca does to you, maybe I’d be better staying at home!
Not that I didn’t enjoy the sun, sea and sand, of course I did (just as long as I stayed in the shade in the middle of the day). And then there were the relaxed family evenings of tapas and paella and talking philosophy (armchair variety) under the stars, with the little ones running around and the teenager making sarcastic remarks on the folly of adults. What’s not to love?
But I suppose that’s the problem isn’t it? It’s amazing how quickly you can adapt to your new surroundings and imagine a completely different lifestyle from the one you have. One involving taking your morning tea and a notebook out on to the terrace for some creative scribbling while the mediterranean sun slowly rises above the mountains. Eventually your big sunhat isn’t enough to protect you from the heat, so you retreat and cool off in the pool before a bite of lunch and siesta time. Evenings comprising more of the same…
It’s a bit of a let-down to come back to a chilly, rain-sodden Glasgow. Why do I want to live here? Can anyone remind me?
However, that was a couple of weeks ago. Today, for once, I’m looking out on a lovely sunny day – albeit 15 degrees cooler than Alcudia – and I’ve just had a wee sit in the garden where there’s a nice secluded corner that protects you from the breeze while you catch a few precious rays of sunshine (post-holiday resolution – get out in the sun whenever I can).
So – however reluctantly – I suppose I’m more or less back in the swing of things again. I’ve caught up with all my emails, had daughter Sarah to stay for a few days (wall to wall box sets and late night existential conversations – “yes it’s okay to put the fire on in August mum”), realised that I WOULD rather live in a place where I’m not kept up all night by unbearably itchy insect bites.
And then there’s my blog – I have been feeling somewhat frustrated at just how disrupted my daily writing routine could become in such a short period of time, how difficult it has been to pick up the threads again. It’s not that I don’t have plenty to write about, it’s that I’ve lacked the motivation to just get on with it. This is scary because along with that comes the thought that maybe you will NEVER write another post, or anything else. So, believe me, this rambling effort represents a huge victory over inertia and it would be nice to think that you would raise a glass with me to celebrate the unblocking of the creative juices – cheers!
Let me tell you about the inspiration that finally got me going again. Sarah lent me a book; Tim Marshall’s “Prisoners of Geography – ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics”. I know, snappy title or what? Anyway, I’m reading the first chapter “Russia” and I hadn’t got too far when it struck me forcibly that my Mum, in her prime, would have loved this book. I’ve written before about her cultural visits to Russia and various Baltic republics. She was completely beguiled by all things Russian and would read everything she could get her hands on about its history and art; myths and magic. She loved telling you all about Czar Nicholas, Catherine the Great, the treasures of the Winter Palace, the siege of Leningrad … the list goes on and on. Here’s her first impression of looking down on the country:
As we lost height to refuel at Riga in Latvia I could see out the window and the country is completely flat. Roads stretch for miles as straight as a die and there are many canals. Nothing is curved – everything has straight angles. There are forests. The country is quite remarkable. And vast. I could see small groups of houses and houses on their own and some cars on a road – but usually rivers and in the distance the sea. We flew for an hour and the landscape did not vary. Rivers, canals, roads, what looked like fields and even the forests were all squared up as straight as a ribbon – quite extraordinary and fascinating. Could hardly believe I was looking down on Russia!
“Prisoners of Geography”, while completely factual, also feels to me like a fairytale with the storyteller spreading the map out in front of you and showing you just why and how the history and politics of this great land inevitably rolled out the way they did, constrained by the shape of its geography, from the romantic sounding Carpathian Mountains to the west, right across the vast plains of Siberia to the Pacific Ocean in the east. As I read, I could so easily imagine Mum by my side nodding eagerly and pointing out the places where she’d been and saying, “Yes, yes, that’s right, that’s the way it is”.
Geography is a marvellous branch of knowledge, don’t you think? It makes sense of everything because despite whatever advances we may make in technology and science and engineering, and however invincible we think that makes us, we are always either working with the shape of the planet, or striving to overcome its restrictions. And sometimes, sadly, we are at its mercy, vulnerable to droughts, earthquakes, tsunami’s and other natural disasters. Look at a map and it will tell you everything you need to know.
Anyway, next time we’ll return to the small corner of the world known as Lochaber, and the further exploits of my MacFarlane ancestors and how they contended with the constraints of their geography.