'98 Chronicles
Part Six
Leisurely Plockton
A More Leisurely Pace
A Highlands Funny
Singing to the Seals
The Great Upload A Word about Scottish Food
A More Leisurely Pace
A Highlands Funny
Mobile bank

First things first:  Monday is bank day in Plockton.  Because Plockton is too remote to have a bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland sends a mobile bank to the village -- another very civilized custom.  So I waited anxiously for the van, then ran over to change some more travelers' checks to stirling.

Black house on the RhuNext stop, the spanking new post office, to mail a picture of Wallace & Gromit to Kevin.  Since it was low tide, I could cross the draining bogs on the walkway at the red payphone, passing some of the many stranded boats. On the way, I passed a genuine black house with thatched roof, the first I'd seen up close.

SpunkyOn the way back, I ran into Sara, Calum, and their sweet dog Spunky, and had a cup of coffee while Calum sorted through newspaper articles about the Hamish filming and the seal trips, and gave me copies to use for the Plockton site.

Alan, Leslie, KlausNearly everyone's wonderfully friendly in Plockton.  You can hardly help running into each other everywhere you go, so it's a good thing.  That evening I had a spell of laughter with Leslie, Klaus, and Alan, and heard from Klaus about Ben Nevis, and the little-known fact that it's taken the most lives of any mountain in the western hemisphere.  They also cracked me up with a very Pacifica-like saying.  An old man was asked: But the Highlands are so quiet, what do you do here? And he answered:

Wall, in th' soomer there's th' fishin' and th' fornicatin'. In the winter, there's no' th' fishin'


Singing to the Seals

The next morning I decided to see the seals again.  Calum & family were due to go on holiday soon, and I didn't want to miss the chance for another jaunt.

Crab fishermenThis trip was even more fun than the last.  We got a very close look at the lighthouse, which is 125 years old.  I got a beautiful shot of cormorants with Applecross in the background, and of crab fishermen pulling in their traps.

VanaWhen we reached the seals, we came to a stop and just drifted near them.  We were a small group -- Karen, and Mairead (mar-ADE) & Colin, fellow guests at my hotel, and it was a magic moment.  Legend has it that the seals like to be sung to, so I sang to them of bamboo and coco palms.  To my delight, a seal popped right up from the water and watched me, then another.  Heaven only knows what they thought about coco palms, up in the north of Scotland.  The water was clear as glass, and we could see the sea urchins and star fish at the bottom.  Calum briefly brought up an urchin so we could get a closer look.

Ulluva rockThen we chugged over to the yacht Ulluva, named for the island with the stone tower on it, and just idled away some time most companionably.Calum relaxing near Ulluva  We were all thrilled with the trip.

Colin watercolourIn the late afternoon Mairead & I sat and talked about loving life, while Colin did some watercolor studies of the harbour.  The light was beautiful, the yachts bursting bright out of shadowed water.  I can't think anyone in the world was having a better time than we.

The Great Upload

The next day was the most beautiful yet, welcomed sunshine even in the morning.  I'd made friends at breakfast with Murdo & Mine (pronounced "mynah") and we adjourned to the water's edge for some more of our highly athletic harbour-watching.  Actually, it was rather athletic, because Mine had me rolling on the ground laughing with her stories, particularly the many ways her mother used her handbag as a defensive weapon.  There's a little island in the harbour, which we'd walked to several times at low tides, and she told me the story of the geese that used to live there.  When she was young, they attacked her (as geese will) and her mother drove them off -- with her handbag, of course.

I was determined that this day I would try to get an upload and my mail.  I'd had nothing but trouble so far.  Cyber cafes are few and far between, and they weren't quite the answer anyway.  B&B proprietors were curious and positive about the internet, but paranoid about letting anyone connect.  I'd seen an ad for a general store in a neighboring village, Balmacara (home of the Stag Bar), offering Email, and I noticed that they had the same ISP as I do.  So I called them, and they seemed to be saying that I could connect my laptop from their store.  So I packed up modem converters, power converters, and all the regalia, and set out to call a taxi.

Luckily, at that very moment, Mine & Murdo were getting into their car to go to Kyle, and they so kindly offered to drop me off along the way.  Away we went, and laughed all the way.

McRae Jones StoresThe store is McRae Jones Stores, and I was led up to the computer room by Hazel and helped to connect.  I was in rigid suspense -- not a bit of this had ever been tested.  I changed the ISP number to the UK number, got everything going, and watched it dial.  Lo!!! -- Things began to happen.  Email flowed in, Email flowed out, and the site updates began uploading.  I felt like hopping up and down.  I felt like I'd won the Lotto.

I took a taxi home, then avidly read my mail.  It was so good to hear from everyone, so far away.  To tell the truth, I'd been having some pangs of homesickness, in spite of how much fun I was having.  Candy gave me the news that bad-butt boy-cat had come in, but then escaped again.  What a git he is!  Anyway, it was a treat to hear that Pacifica had neither burned down nor washed away.

(Good golly -- I have the TV on in the background, and just heard them say, "Rich creamy Horlicks can make you sleep better... dream better..." -- THAT got my attention for a minute!)

If you ever come this way, check out the wonderful people at McRae Jones:

McRae Jones Stores
& Balmacara Post Office
"Everything under One Roof" (& it's true!)
Reraig, Balmacara
by Kyle of Lochalsh, Ross Shire IV40 8DH
Tel: 01599 566226 . Fax: 01599 566341
Email: mcraejones@compuserve.com

A Word about Scottish Food

We've all heard the bad press about Scottish food, but I must say the only bad meals I had were in Burger King and in the train station.

Most nights I ate dinner at my hotel.  I quickly discovered their smoked fish soup -- it's one of the best things I've ever tasted, on a par with the green chili soup at Duarte's, which is saying the most one can say.  Also very good were their smoked salmon platter, mussels with garlic (grown on ropes right outside the hotel), vegetarian moussaka, and venison.

But on this afternoon, having missed breakfast in my rush to upload, I stopped at the Plockton Inn (not to be confused with my lodgings, the Plockton Hotel).  I had heard good things about their food, and thought I'd give them a try.

The first problem was the menu; it had such a gorgeous array, it was painful to choose.  I finally chose a soup to start.  They offer each day a vegetarian soup and a fish or meat based soup.  Today's choices were West Coast fish soup and cauliflower-almond soup.  Since I'd been delighting in my own hotel's fish soup every day, I chose the cauliflower-almond, and it was heavenly.  It was served with bread that was up with the best I've ever had -- thick, yeasty, crusty.  Next, the Plockton Inn pie, which was a casserole of salmon chunks, fish, fresh mushrooms and more, topped with cheese.  It came with fries that were perfectly cooked, crisp and dry, and a fresh salad with lots of variety.  Running amok, I finished with banoffee pie: a ginger crisp crust with toffee, bananas, and whipped cream.  Trust me, all of this is typical of the meals I've had since I got here.

But you know what's the very best thing about Scottish food? --- NO CILANTRO ! !

In case you're wondering, no, I didn't eat any dinner that night <G>.  I enjoyed a fun chat in the pub with residents Ian and Lennie, then off to bed.