July 27, 2011

We spent most of our day at Cawdor Castle, home of one of the major branches of Clan Campbell.

It was a good day, lots of laughs, beautiful gardens.

Dropped off the rental car. They charged us for £50 of damage . . . A ding that I couldn’t argue with. Oh well. It could have happened while we had it.

I’ve got to say, I’m feeling pretty decent about navigating UK roads at this point. It was a source of some anxiety: strange place, strange signs, right hand drive, left hand roads . . . .but by the time we got through downtown Inverness, out to the castle and back to the rental office, I realized that I had successfully navigated a wide variety of driving environments over 100’s of miles. This is exactly the sort of thing that touches the “achievement” need in me, I think in a healthy way.

These things create anxiety in me, make me nervous, afraid enough to not try something in the first place. So,DOING this was at least as much about facing fear (a healthy achievement) as it was about simply cataloging a win of some kind (not necessarily a healthy achievement). I’ll get the chance to do it again in a few days when hire a car in Northumberland . . . But this time with a manual transmission to deal with too. A chance to practice what drummer’s call “limb independence”.

Drumming. We passed a music store last night and I saw a kit in the window. It got me jonesing pretty hard to play. Kellie and I took in some tunes at a local pub called Hootinanies where they boast live Scottish Music every night of the week. It was a super loud crowd, and a fully acoustic band with guitar, harp (the stringy, angel kind) accordion, fiddle and flute. We could barely hear them, but what we DID hear was really good.

Kept thinking they need a drummer.

Inverness has proved to be a composite of some of the cites we have already visited. There are the broad, working class shoulders of Liverpool and the broad smile of Glasgow. At the same time there is a sense of dignity and grace, an almost sophistication that reminded me of London. Certainly a diversity that we saw only in London. In speaking to a local at the pub, she co aimed that when she walked the few blocks from the train station to her house the other day, she heard a half dozen different languages, and not one of them was English or Gaelic. The cab driver who brought us to the train station was also openly bothered by the changes in his town saying that it’s grown three fold in population in the last twenty years.

Inverness would be one of those days where you must meet the disapproving father first. You would admire that she comes from a close family, that they have a nice home,  and you could see yourself marrying in . . . But it would mean becoming one of THEM . . .you would have to give up your own idenity. I’m thinking of the movie, “Meet the Parents” with Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. I think it would be hard to find your way into the Inverness circle of trust.

This gets me thinking about belonging. How painful it is to watch the stock Ben Stiller character; the guy who will lie and manipulate just to belong. George Castanza from The Seinfeld Show is a more annoying version of the same thing. The panicky need to belong, to get your share of acceptance before it’s gone and you are left alone.

Travel, I think can reveal the George Castanza in all of us. At least it can in me. By definition, you have placed yourself in a setting where you do not belong. This is disturbing, and one can find oneself grasping for acceptance, grasping for that “familiar connectedness” I spoke of earlier, like a floundering child grasps for her daddy in the deep end of the pool.

I consider a day of travel successful when I have looked Robert DeNiro square in the face, told him that I will be taking his daughter out for a nice dinner, and not succumb to the impulse to extract his approval in some way.

Driving through the “backwards” roundabouts of Inverness with a smile on my face, knowing where I was going and having the available mental bandwidth to look around at the countryside was like that. Hearing Brenda (my real date) tell me I was doing a good job was icing on the haggis.


3 thoughts on “July 27, 2011

  1. Icing on haggis? Really? You’re funny and I’m glad you are conquering the driving. Too bad about the £50. If you had to pay, a memory of the crime would’ve been nice.

  2. Nice. I can hear Brenda smiling when she says that. And I love your analogies. I’m not sure I ever want to go to Inverness now. All I can picture is a menacing, frowny Robert DiNero.
    Yes. I guess I would still want to go.

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