If anyone ever stumbles across this backwater of the internet, they may well be asking, So if this trip’s so bloody secret, why are you shouting about it here, then? – which is a fair enough point. Because it’s already happened, is why, and I went and came back without anyone (mostly) finding out about it, bwahahaha!
Meh. Things have been a bit trying lately, and though I am not in any way going through anything outside Regular Scheduled Levels of ‘Trying’, I have just turned another year older, and the chances of me doing anything kick-arse with my life are receding faster than I would like to admit. And while I have been hankering to go back and see the valley I grew up in for around a year now (and with the caveat that it be with someone Awesome! AND IT IS HAPPENING!) …at this point, I really don’t want to broadcast to the world that I will be Coming Home (bitches!) in case someone pops out of the woodwork to make the ‘helpful’, but alas, quite truthful, comment that I have done nothing kick-arse with my life since leaving. And then I will feel even more like a pathetic loser.
Plus, I have heard the rumours that did the rounds about me after I left, or at least some of them; and while I have since heard startlingly similar rumours about other peeps, it turns out that even these peeps believe the ones about me, and I don’t really want to run into anyone quite capable of merrily wandering up and spouting them all in company. Well, not twice, thanks. Maybe once I have saved at least a minimum square acreage of the world single-handed, or own a tank or something, but not just now.
So in lieu of taking it all on the chin and everything, because I simply don’t feel like courting any more bad memories for the bad memory chest, we’re sloping up on the fly for a quick scenic tour, maybe a pint, and sodding off again.
Or, we were going to. However, while I was in the throes of the latest epic whinge about me job, I got contacted by one of me bestest mates from school (we are still in contact, joy, but it is, alas, sporadic) who was helpful and sympathetic and, until recently, in exactly the same boat. ‘Lo, I may be damn good at that job but I don’t want that to be the thing on my gravestone, and nobody gives a toss anyway because they all think it’s piss-easy’, to paraphrase part of a recent missive. WORD, doll.
It seemed suddenly churlish not to give her a heads-up and invite her out for lunch.
So we surfaced bright and early and sodding ravenous, which never happens to me ever, and my god, there was the champion of breakfasts; toast and exotic fruit and as much coffee as you want in a wee filter thing Brung To Your Very Table and pancakes and all the bacon and eggs you can take. And it turned out that was quite a lot.
I woulda been quite happy to go back to bed after that, but instead I had to decide what to wear. Ah, hello ego my old friend, I thought you had died of starvation years ago; but no, here you are and demanding I attempt some approximation of Damn Fabulous. So I put me hair up and a skirt on and swithered on the makeup but ultimately rejected it as going too far beyond the norm (I feel there lies a threshold beyond which even foundation is war-paint. And conversely, one beyond which no make-up at all is warpaint and I rarely get the two the right way round.)
Anyway, off we set through the rolling valleys, Billy Idol blaring out for the meander up one valley, and Front 242 for the much more memory-laden drive down the Destination valley. Not only was I
making the most of not being the one in charge of not smashing us into something having a lovely time with the mountain scenery and all, but the Bossman was quite amenable to stopping wherever it was safe, so I could leap out and dance about taking photos of dreary grey clouds rolling down over dreary grey landscapes. Dammit, this place is in my blood; I get really antsy if, every few months, I can’t get a good few hours in some dreary grey landscapes, preferably with crummy weather. Go figure.
I was really quite worried that I was going to be massively emotional about returning home; would I cry buckets? Would I become catatonic? Would I actually recognise anything at all; they say the village has changed so much? The ante was upped when, round about the top of the pass, I realised that ninety percent of my dreams are still set in the familiar places of my childhood (no matter whether they feature the common motifs of Being Late, Being Mocked, Shit! An Exam I Was Supposed To Know About! or Zombies, I Fucking TOLD You Zombies, But No, And Did Somebody Unlock That Door Again FOR FUCKSAKENOWWEWILLALLDIE). Ooh, this could be a belter of a bad trip – sixteen years’ gap and eighteen years’ mixed bag of memories land on your head all at once…
But no, all was fine. Except the Bossman had to put up with a running commentary of, Oh look we have bus shelters now, ooh lala, and That’s where my art teacher lives, and Oh that bin is new, and other such viscerally exciting information.
And we went to see me mate and she came out looking exactly the same as ever, except she also had her hair up and a skirt on and nae makeup and I had called it completely right, superb! (Later, the Bossman questioned me closely as to whether I was totally sure we were nothing closer than friends. No, not like that, Jesus wept. No, apparently, we look very, very similar.) And we went out to lunch at me old watering hole and apart from the fact that I now find the accent I heard all my non-adult life to be very, very forrin, nothing else had changed at all. They even ran the train around the shelf around the pub, which hopefully delighted the Bossman. Well, little else had changed – in the meantime, me mate has become quite the expert on Italian culture and Southern US cookery. I was glad I had had so many dodgy adventures abroad that I could now use as hilarious anecdotes; at least until we dropped her home and her mum remarked to the Bossman that dawn would rise and find the pair of us still giving it, Oh my god! (Jesus, she remembered ‘Rex’s Island’, I had forgotten ALL about that…) and the hint was taken and we hugged and parted.
I will actually try and not leave that another sixteen years, this time.
We had one last errand to do – a drive-by on the house I grew up in. Ooh now surely THIS will be the moment of truth!
…not really. Looked familiar, but I felt nothing. I could probably have insisted we pull in and go see if Rex’s Island was still there (it’s basically a rock in a pond, I had a really grandiose imagination as a child cough cough cough) but I figured the Bossman had been through enough nostalgia for one day and might need a stiff drink or something.
So that was us departing, although we did purchase a selection of local brews from the local shop (now a scary, spacious shiny place rather than the cramped and dingy store with wood panelling everywhere and a rack of every videotape in existence running a route round the whole thing. I really miss the original version). Also, I was very nearly run over in the carpark; practically on the spot where me mum had that massive prang that time, too. Go me.
When we got back to Pitlochry, I was amazed to realise my home village is probably significantly larger than it – although not as massively endowed with restaurants; Pitlochry has more and we still exhausted all our possibilities because they were all full, but eventually we found a place to do us something filling, and it even had rhubarb crumble. God, I just had three squares in one day, I can’t believe it.
In conclusion: anticlimactic, but thoroughly enjoyable mission: accomplished!