I spent last weekend in Perthshire, with a lovely group of friends. I thoroughly enjoyed their company; there were lively conversations, with discussions on topics ranging from the independence referendum, the definition of tesselation, some recipe swapping and reminders on how to stay safe when hill-walking.
Some of the weekend was spent alone, walking along the old railway line from Killin to the end of Loch Tay. It was a grey day, and it drizzled on and off, but there was still much to see. I sat under an old oak tree, nearly into full leaf, wondering if the beech further along might provide shelter if the rain became heavier. I sat still and looked. the light on the loch changed as I watched. My awareness of this was heightened by the fact that I was doing some watercolour sketching, and had to adjust the dark and light areas of the loch quite regularly. A heron flew past, from my left to my right - low and slow and graceful above the water. It landed further along the loch bank, behind some shrubs. A couple of pairs of mallard ducks were very busy in the reeds about twenty feet away, dabbling and diving in the shallow water. A birdwatcher came past - we chatted for a while. He had been watching a redstart, and trying to get a good photograph of it. I quizzed him about another bird I had seen flying to and fro above the water, wings beating very fast, calling shrilly and tilting from side to side very quickly. He thought it might be a redshank. I shall consult my bird book.
I would have seen none of this, had I marched along the lochside. There is merit, sometimes, in being still.
"So, is there anything to do round here, then?" I was asked by someone I met on the beach the other day. They had never been to the area before.
My answer at the time was a bit glib -
"Well, there are no shops or cinemas, if that's what you mean."
I meant clothes shops, department stores and multiplex cinemas, of course. There are grocery stores, a very good butcher and a rather well-stocked book shop. Since then I have been thinking.
It's all a matter of what you want to do. This is your kind of place if -
- a stroll on the beach, gathering cockle and limpet shells, empty sea urchins and the occasional starfish appeals to you
- you can stand and watch the waves crashing on the shore, without being impatient to move on
- you see the rapidly changing weather as a source of fascination and varying light conditions
- carrying a camera is a way of life
- carrying a sketch book and pencil and maybe a small box of watercolours is a way of life
- you like mucking about in boats and fishing, both fresh and salt water
- you enjoy any kind of walking - hill-walking, mountain climbing or a brisk march along a sandy beach
- you play golf
- you like horse riding
- you don't get phased by single track roads and know the appropriate polite gestures to use when driving on them.
I don't think I'm finished with this theme. To be continued.