Extraordinary how a week away can feel like a year, or a lifetime, if the change is extreme enough. While England had a continuation of this mind-blowing golden summer, Islay was a different kettle of fish. We moved straight into a world of strong wind, low clouds, and drizzle. Of rockpools, fishing for crabs with bacon on a string, and surfing from an endless white sand beach into bitterly cold Atlantic water full of brown jelly fish who stung like nettles.
The island is entirely whisky based. As you drive past one of the distilleries the air smells of malt and peat. We sheltered occasionally from the weather in a distillery cafe (memorable cakes, every single one). The pressies I’ve bought for the folks at home are all whisky-based – honey, soap, fudge. I’m all for it – after a distillery tour complete with a tasting, the weather (midges, jellyfish et al) become immaterial. In fact, bring ‘em on!
We saw more wildlife than usual. An adder, coiled into a circle and hissing like a kettle, right in front of us as we tramped across a bog. I thought adders liked warm, sandy parts. Not this one – probably been at the whisky and got lost. The dogs found an enormous hedgehog high up in the marran grass above the surfing beach. It made like the adder, curled into a ball and hissed at us. Then a wild billy goat with gigantic horns curved over its back. It was balanced casually on a toenail half way up an unclimbable rock and gazed at us out of strange yellow eyes with a mixture of distain and majesty. Respect!
Indie had the time of his young life. Rabbits, usually a strong and furry presence on the island, were completely missing. Something terrible has happened in rabbit world. Seagulls, on the other hand, were everywhere and Indie chased them with ineffective joy. A whippet/seagull encounter goes like this: seagull stands on the beach, looking mindless. Indie hurls himself at it. Seagull takes off casually and slowly flies two feet above the sand and (this is the important bit) straight out over the sea. Indie, moving like a blur, zooms straight into the waves after it. Seagull flaps away into the far distance, jeering. After a short and busy interlude, Indie reappears from the surf, sleek as a seal, pretending nothing untoward has happened and daring us to mention it. Then he sees another seagull and the whole thing happens again. He never tired of it, and nor did the seagulls, who appeared to work in shifts to keep him amused.
To my intense joy, adventuring son has reappeared, complete with designer stubble, an air of calm competence and a rucksack full of mementoes. Mine is a wooden camel bell, treasured. Adventuring son is also my IT expert, so at last I can get photographs back on this blog. I’m not sure where to start, it’s been a long time. I’ll think on’t and surprise you.