May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Brief encounters at Fort William

I had a few days on the west coast with a friend, Susie Bagot. We stayed near Loch Morar which Susie knew as a child, and we went to Skye (I will record this later). We talked and laughed for four days, and stayed at some stunning places. But our location for Susie's last night was Best Western car park in Fort William. It was close to the station and she had an early train to catch.
There isn't much between you and the night when you sleep in a campervan and that night I lay in bed and overheard a man outside on his mobile arguing with his wife. He spoke with a lot of expletives while pacing up and down, not drunk but not entirely sober either. The gist of the conversation was that this was the first night he'd had out in months, and that he didn't like his job any more than she liked hers... but it went on, and on. I went from thinking I would open the door and deliver some expletives of my own, and feeling very sorry for them both. Eventually I went to sleep.
I felt sad to see Susie go. The reality of doing a trip like this - that I spend a lot of time on my own - is both good and bad. I meet more people on my own and I am a happy traveller, but at times it is lonely and I have no diversionary tactics, it's just me and Baa. But I met lots of people that morning.
It was wash day, and the lady at the Fort William station cafe told me there was a good launderette at a small village called Caol, just out of town. It didn't open until 9am, so I had breakfast in a cafe run by a very happy man from Birmingham. By 9.30 I had the washing on the go and was back in Fort William for fuel and provisions.
I met Bill Cottle in the Morrisons carpark, his VW Trident was parked next to Baa. He lives in his van at this time of year for for his work and was, I could tell, pretty envious of Baa's spacious interior. I won't explain the mechanics of campervan beds, for fear you might nod off, just say that he found his sleeping arrangement tiresome. But his van is fantastic (galley down one side, the bed/sofa at the back facing forward), the walls are lined with book-shelves and racks for his rods, and there's a pervading smell of pipe smoke. Bill, a professional ghillie, teaches people to salmon fish and was stocking up for a few days on the River Shiel, close to where Susie and I had just been.
When I was driving back through Caol my phone rang... and I picked it up. I saw the police car drive past, and I watched in my rear view mirror as it turned round and followed me to the launderette. Blue lights! Damn. The two policemen were very nice (the driver's mother has a van just like Baa) but I was cautioned in the back of their panda car. I will be hearing from the Procurator Fiscal. “Don't think about it, enjoy your trip!” Yes, but it's likely to be a £100 fine and three points... and I can only blame myself.
Onwards to Inverness, through classic highland scenery - (some) snow-capped mountains, vast lochs and miles of forestry. I was heading back to the east coast, to the mouth of the River Spey where I had left my anti-clockwise coastal tour.

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