I got the bus to Inverness. The thing is, Scotland is a beautiful place to see regardless of how, so the journey was beautiful. There were literally snow topped hills and beautiful rivers and quaint little towns. Everything was a postcard. But bus journeys themselves are frightful so while I distracted myself with the amazing scenery it was still hell. It was around four hours of not being able to read without getting travel sick so just eating crackers and staring out the window.
Once I checked into my hostel- which looked like a nightmare but since I was paying less to stay there than I did for my bus ticket I had to just deal- I found the smallest cafe I could with basically no one in it on the outskirts of the city centre. There I sat, read, ate soup and watched the news where I discovered all the business about ash cloud chaos. The thing is, I couldn't bring myself to panic or worry or regret whatever all the air space closure was going to mean for me. I think that's a positive. All I thought was "I guess I should start planning to spend more time in the UK." I wandered about, went back to the hostel and had the worst night yet.
My bunkmate was an obese Turkish man with what I can only assume was the flu or something. And his was the top bunk. I'm gonna let you imagine that night rather than describe it because I don't think I can do it justice. Whatever you come up with in your mind is most likely correct.
Surprisingly I was pretty beat the next day. I suppose sometimes getting no sleep can do that to you. So instead of getting on a bus to go see the battle ground of Culloden or even the Loch Ness, I walked along the River Ness for hours and hours. I was in a daze, and Inverness felt like somewhere I would have gone with my family, so I felt rather homesick. It's been less than a month since I left home but that really kicked in there. I did end up calling my parents that day, and going back to that same cafe. I must have been in the mood for something familiar. I just read some more and went back to the hostel earlier than I would have liked. I didn't have the energy to go out and was resigned to another horror night. I think I'd also begun massively overeating at that point as a reaction to all the stress which felt eerily like year ten so I was pretty miserable despite the beautiful river and what the walk along there did for my feelings about the trip. And then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies saved my night.
I'd been reading it while drinking a cup of tea and when I went into the kitchen to put away my mug this German girl practically leapt on me. I was terrified at first but she just started asking me these rapid-fire questions; "do you like it? I think the English is sort of hmm. What do you think?..." She had been working in Glasgow and her two friends from Germany were visiting. They were also eating with their American roommate. All four were incredibly intelligent, thoughtful people, and- as seems to be the case a lot here- wanted to hear my take, as an Australian, on everything from racism to MTV to the Australian Aborigines to Glasgow. We talked for hours and it was very eye opening.
The next morning I got the train to Edinburgh (much more agreeable) to stay with a friend of a friend of a friend who had been nice enough to offer. She had a sick 6-month-old baby so we stayed in that afternoon and her friend made us dinner that night. It was a relaxed place, I felt, and I was able to actually sleep with two eyes closed after all the hostel-ness of the previous week. The next day I lounged around until mid afternoon when I decided to go out and, purely because it was right in front of me, climb Arthur's Seat. Blimey, it was hard but so gorgeous. Oh, and of course- it seems like it's always the way- there were all these New Zealanders at the top. I come all the way across the world to meet more people from the Southern Hemisphere.
That evening, though, was horrendous. So, um, I can't not write about this although it was possibly the worst moment of my life. I felt ill after dinner and went to bed early, only to wake up later and get up in time to vomit all over the spare bedroom floor. Seems I'd caught the baby's bug. Well, I don't think I have ever been so mortified and despite my host and hostess being incredibly good natured about having me stay an extra couple of days while I slept it off, I still think I am possibly the worst guest ever. I was sick only overnight and then forced by my weak arse body- that just gives up after the slightest hint of trouble- to sleep for another twenty four hours. I felt strong enough on my last day in Edinburgh to go into town and catch up on what I'd missed, namely the tail end of the Royal Mile, but mostly my second visit to Edinburgh, though I try not to regret it or associate the city too much with retching, was far less successful than the first. So on Wednesday I bid adieu to the family who had so graciously allowed me to come, get sick on their floor, and leave, and came back to England.
It's not a perfect metaphor.