From Uig in the Isle of Lewis to remote coves in south west Turkey, we travelled far. Yet many of the rocks on which we have trodden or admired have travelled greater distances: the 3000 million (yes million) year old Lewesian gneiss rocks just north of Ullapool in Scotland originated from near Antarctica. I still have the finger nail size rock fragment Steve gave me – reminding me of its ancient lineage and our minuscule place in the world.
We have spent six lovely weeks travelling round the UK seeing family and friends including 10 days in Scotland. It has been wonderful renewing friendships and family connections. Revisiting old haunts such as St Abbs (where millions of kirawee and guillamots nest – and what a view!) and Alnwick as well as Oxford and Otley in all types of weather was both nostalgic and delightful. I loved: the ‘memento mori’ tour on the headstones in Hutton cemetery with cousin Kath, visiting a tiny rural cottage just outside Settle and having a thermal bath in the outdoor pool overlooking Bath Abbey. Likewise roaming around old Oxford town for 2 days meant I fell in love with it and thought place I could live here very easily.
Visiting Scotland (Glen Afric, near Inverness, and the Hebridean Islands of Lewis, north and South Uist) was definitely a highlight and we loved watching the ever changing landscapes especially the wide sandy beaches and the huge open skies in UIG on the Isle of Lewis. A walk on South Uist golf course offered fabulous 360 degree views of the area and the stroll up Glen Afric, in perfect sunny weather, were memorable. The birdsong was noticeably quieter than Sydney; softer and lighter. No squawks here! Ullapool was unspoilt and the hotel perfect: full of nooks and crannies with good old fashioned service and a light and airy restaurant. It even had a music and bookshop attached. Kate Badstock was the fab singer and jazz musician we heard at a local hotel. Had 2 swims in the sea mainly to help my back but also why not? Not as cold as the freezing lochs and I spent about 10 minutes floundering in the waves! We were sorry not to spend more time in Harris and only had time to admire its dramatic mountain scenery as we drove through. Must revisit sometime. And we can’t forget the Oban whisky distillery tour.
Now in Turkey, first visiting Istanbul before sailing for two weeks. Istanbul was full of bustle and eons of history. Loved the Haggai Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Even the Great Bazaar was fun and I enjoyed buying the Arabic script of life and death from the Sufi Gallery man.
Now nearing the end of two weeks en famille. All good. We preferred the more remote coves in the west and travelled east in the second week which is much busier – maybe school holidays have started? Lots and lots of swimming. Today’s early morning swim was the best: perfect silence and stillness, I swum above a huge shoal of tiny translucent fish. Hard to beat! And then a turtle came along! A touch of culture when we visited the old Lycian City of Kaunos, obviously once a port but now silted up. The rock tombs in the hillside were dramatic; sadly my sketch looked like a row of seaside cabins. Terrible! The only one I tore up. Looking forward to watercolour lessons, soon!
As usual, I ask myself why do I live so far away in Australia and so far from my place of origin? I definitely miss the family and the cultural choices in London but would I go to as many things as I think I would? Possibly not! Loved the Matisse Cut Outs Exo especially seeing the real blue nude of which I have a huge reproduction. Made in 1952! Perfect for me. We must hang it up again. Bought a reproduction of ‘Destiny’. Loved the colours.
I am happy in Oz but it always takes time to find myself again. I am not sure I have totally sloughed off my English skin yet. David Tacey (DT) is right when he said that European spirituality is connected to its history. The buildings in Oxford, Bath and London just ooze history and tradition from every turret and stone. Quite the contrary in Australia where the essence of European traditions and values did not somehow ‘survive the journey’ down under.(DT). The overlay is superficial; the transplant not a good fit either into or over the ancient Australian culture. Judith Wright and DH Lawrence write that ‘the conqueror of foreign ground cannot conquer the spirit of the place that he has appropriated in material terms’. Hmm, I think I agree with that statement.
For me, it has taken time to realise that understanding the landscape in Australia and indigenous spirituality is key to me living here FULLY. City life means it is hard to explore, notice or be open to it. Am trying! A taste of the outback in the last few years has made me want to unearth (ha!) the true essence of this country and to understand Aboriginal thinking: ‘we don’t own the land, the land owns us.’