Still life with broken tile

Kinblethmont estate, outside of Arbroath, Angus, Scotland

Kinblethmont estate, outside of Arbroath, Angus, Scotland

When we arrive at our flat outside of Arbroath the owners ask us what are we doing here, politely, which is a fair question, and I mumble something about coming from Newcastle by way of Amsterdam and touring 90 days around the UK so we can stay out of the Schengen because we’re living with my mom in Germany, and they pause and nod and go quiet the way most do when we say that.

I go too long without anything to eat because we were tired coming in and agitated, I was, and said I’d go out in the morning to the store for breakfast stuff but then got distracted with the Internet and the blogging, and the wonder of how the morning light came about in a subtle, black-to-blue fashion, and got over-hungry and filled myself with oat cakes standing at the sink, smearing them with the complimentary raspberry preserves, all of it dainty and crude at the same time.

And then I went through the Guest Book later, the handwritten notes in different languages and people from France, Germany, the UK, Florida: all of them rhapsodic about the estate, the local history and so on, and feel a schmuck for treating it as just a pass-through here, when for so many others it’s a real destination with so much to see; they come here to celebrate important birthdays, return to it as their special place.

We go to Glamis castle, the setting for Macbeth, but the castle wasn’t a castle when the actions took place in the play, it was a hunting lodge, and it seems Shakespeare wrote it as some political maneuvering to appease his new king, a lover of rich, Scottish heritage with a fetish for witches, because we’ve discovered the Scots seem very superstitious about things, even slept sitting up for fear the devil might mistake them as corpses lying down and steal their souls, which is why their beds were so short, they slept with their backs on their headrests and pillows to prop them from falling forward. And in the private chapel we crowd in and I sit toward the back, near a chair they keep clear for the ghost who’s rumoured to haunt here, the one King James V had burned at the stake as a witch for he envied and feared her.

Our tour guide in the castle Euan is distinctly nerdy about the history and for this I love him, and gravitate closer, and realise Lily is the same, as she asks questions with a slight giggle and shaking voice, so enrapt with the history and possibilities of it all, the ghost stories and paintings of the Queen Mother who spent her summers here: you can see the sharkskin suitcase she used in a painting from 1923 and even touch it, and the sharkskin was thought to be waterproof and good for journeys by boat, in case it got dropped in the water.

We get lost going to the castle, we go off-route. The navigator leads us under tunnels and into fields, and the sky gets confused with the ground in the grey slate, with splashes of colour from the trees here and there, and Dawn and I both feel elated, gloomy, creative, ripe for something meaningful in our Northwest way, how the fog makes the colours go abstract and this may be the only time all of us are driving to a castle in the middle of nowhere-Scotland at the end of October in a car we bought in Germany.

We get an Arbroath smokie then, haddock smoked over oak and beechwood in an oblong pit until it turns golden-brown, good for a chowder they call cullen skink soup, served with artisan bread and butter, everything with butter, and we’re going the wrong direction from Germany if we think we can lose weight here with the lorne sausage slices, black pudding, pork sausages and hash browns — but I make a leek soup with milk and oatmeal, bacon rashers as a garnish, spring onions, and find a Speyside single malt that’s aged eight years in oak barrels, and put a dent in it, wake wondering where I am, what day it is.

At night the rain is like the rain from a film set for a scene on the deck of a boat where everything’s fucked, it’s raining sideways, blowing rain, and the wind has the trees animated like elephant trunks or Greek monsters with multiple heads, the way the limbs sway and bloat and leer, and despite the ill nature of it there’s a part of me that wants to run out and just disappear into the wild, wants to be consumed by the dark.

Some Scotches start sweet and end dry I read — they’re classified by regions from the Highland malts like Speyside, flavoured by the wood in which they mature, like old sherry casks with European oak, imparting a dried fruitiness — or the coastal malts, north of Inverness, — the inland malts, the island malts, the Lowland malts, and so on. I thought I could come here with a month to learn and really own Scotch, and now that feels foolish and impractical, a kind of hubris.

We go to a new movie theatre in town to watch the film Pan and we’re the only people in the theatre, and order tea in a ceramic cup, a bottle of beer, and sit in opposite ends from our children until the action gets too dicey and they come to sit and snuggle with us, and we clap on our way out and take pictures of the sun setting around 3:20 GMT, as shown below.

DSC_0026

“The days are like a shadow that reclineth”

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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20 Responses to Still life with broken tile

  1. MartynWrites says:

    Abroath smokies and single malt. Two of the finest things in life !

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      I am humbled by it. Could die here, I think! I’m from the Pacific Northwest in the States, and it has many things in common here, but quite exotic too, and the people so lovely. A great time. Thanks for reading and commenting, Martyn! – Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  2. rossmurray1 says:

    I’m loving this trip.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      I’m so glad Ross, thanks! With any luck, it will only get better. We told a couple older Scots in the tourist office yesterday where we’re going next, Inverness, and they said with a thick accent, Ahh, Inverness…well if ya’ get snowed in there, they’ll at least send the helicopters in fur ya’.

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      • rossmurray1 says:

        Were they wearing sporrans? Tell me they were wearing sporrans.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        I had to look it up. I didn’t know the word, sorry. Learning lots here. Arrived in Inverness last night, walked to the grocery store across a foot bridge, by the castle, many shops selling kilts, decided I won’t, seems an excessive indulgence, not practical. But my birthday is coming up you know, as is yours. Pop over for a few nights?

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      • rossmurray1 says:

        I grew up in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, whose motto is “The Highland Heart of Nova Scotia,” home of the Highland Games, my dad (though Protestant and from away [one county over]) is past president of the Highland Society. He owns a kilt. Bagpipes give me chills. So, yeah, I’m on my way.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        Now in the shops, on the streets, all I see, sporrans.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. kelly says:

    Such a coincidence I should see your post in LinkedIn and then catch a bit of your adventures. Lauren is studying MacBeth right now and we’ve been spending weekends talking about corruption and symbolism – funny you were at Glamis. I ALSO just was talking with both girls about black pudding …like 5 minutes ago, so I laughed when I see you mention it. Little threads of coincidence.😃

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      A good time of year to study the play, and what better way to connect kids with literature than through VIOLENCE! Ha! And I fried the black pudding alongside some other slabs of meat I got in a family packie at the local store here for just like £2! Our tour of that castle was the best I’ve been on, having seen a handful in Germany, France, Ireland — that one took the cake, right did.

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  4. walt walker says:

    I read this post on my phone while at work and I liked the post (of course) and was thinking about the picture. But after I got home from work, which was about 51 minutes today, which was pretty good time considering the construction on 35E S, and that my wife asked me to stop at Walmart to get something Halloweeny that my daughter could wear to school tomorrow so she didn’t feel left out, I pulled up the post again on my computer at home, and I’ll be damned if that’s not a fantastic picture. The hay bale one. That’s a hell of a picture.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Ah, the stopping-at-Walmart-to-get-something-Halloweeny-so-they-don’t-feel-left-out thing. I know it well. We’re doing that here in Inverness today. That will be the focus. It’s a really sentimental, special holiday for the kids, funny. Was one of my favourites too, as I know it’s yours. So happy Halloween Walt! And I’m glad you liked that photo, I did too. When I came upon it on a muddy road I stopped and froze, and took a lot of time trying to get it. So I’m happy you enjoyed it too. Enjoy the weekend my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lynn Love says:

    What a fantastic post. You’re getting a proper snapshot of Scotland, by the sound of things. Arbroath smokies and Single Malt sounds wonderful. Yes, you won’t lose any weight while you’re there – the Scots, I’m afraid have the lowest life expectancy in the UK (possibly down to the fried food and the booze, but the English love those just as much, so …) I would say try a deep fried Mars Bar while you’re there, though that delicacy has become such a cliche (especially with the English media), I fear you might get your block knocked off if you did!
    Dear old Bill Shakespeare was a bit of a sycophant when it came to the Tudors and Stuarts – he painted poor Macbeth in much darker shades than he was in real life. I don’t suppose he was any more ruthless than any other Medieval king. Though you have to love Bill for the witches … ‘When shall we three meet again, thunder,lightning or in rain ?’ Fantastic!
    Keep posting – your journey is such a good read 🙂

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Hi Lynn – thank you for the encouragement! I’m so glad you’re enjoying our time here, as you can really picture it having been here. I’m lucky I can make time for it while the kids sleep in, had them up late last night playing Monopoly, a game that can go on much longer than you would ever imagine, and ends quickly when the youngest starts loading up on hotels, and doesn’t win gracefully if you follow. We have an English version of the game here in our flat in Inverness, where the properties are Bond Street, and so on. I don’t want to even open the game again, feel a bit scarred by it. Thanks for reading, sorry I’m slow to respond and so forth – toggling between being online and wanting to not be, with all there is to see here. Cheers! – Bill

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      • Lynn Love says:

        Ah, the joys of Monopoly! I was always too cautious, never ruthless enough to win it. It’s nasty, ruthless – probably a good life lesson for kids 🙂
        My son and I play Super Monopoly – an adaptation of our own devising which involves having two extra dice (two to decide how far you move and one to give you extra cash, extra Community Chest cards etc). You start with a bigger pot of money too, move round the board quicker (so collect more ‘Go’ money). It’s all a bit frantic, the cash flows like water, but it’s over much quicker and everyone feels they’ve achieved something. It’s daft fun.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        We need that faster, daft version – I like it. It is cut-throat, you realise how real estate and investments really work. Suck them down to dry husks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        Yes, a very negative game in many ways, teaching kids you have to be ruthless to be successful. Sadly, I just don’t have it in me to be good at Monopoly – a character trait which directly correlates with my real financial state. 🙂

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        What is it about ruth, and why you have to take it away to be cut-throat like that? Why can’t one be ruthy? Or ruthful?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        I know, weird isn’t it? Same for feckless and reckless – who’s full of ‘reck’ or ‘feck’? Sounds a bit rude, that. 🙂

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