Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Scotland days 2 and 3

Fionnphort at dusk
Day 2:

Well, there was no choice but to jump in and drive once we landed in Glasgow.  Dean managed the left-right reversal magnificently and we navigated our way through multiple roundabouts (it felt so wrong to turn left), onto a major freeway, down a few (what we felt were) poorly marked roads and 15 minutes later were at our hotel.  After getting settled and foraging for a bit of food, we wandered the streets of Glasgow, ooh-ing and aah-ing, until we met our friend Lisa for dinner.  She had promised to take us to a place where Dean could get proper haggis, neeps, and tatties (a sausage-like mixture made from sheep's pluck, parsnips, potatoes) and that she did.  I ordered a cider and a plate of mixed vegetable goodies and even got brave enough to sample the haggis (pretty major deal for a mostly vegetarian) which was quite flavourful indeed.  Another walk around Glasgow after supper, this time with Lisa as guide, and we were ready for bed.  The next day was going to be our trickiest one for driving and making connections.
Sheep just outside the village of Fionnphort



Day 3:

Have you ever had one of those days when no matter what you do, things just don't seem to go your way?  Day 3 in Scotland was one of those for us.  It started out well enough with a brief visit to Riverside Museum which traces the history of transportation in Scotland.  It was packed with families enjoying all the different vehicles on display and eating picnic lunches right in the museum.  We didn't stay too long because we wanted to allow plenty of time to catch the 4 pm ferry at Oban.  And we thought we had left plenty of time.  But then things started to go wrong.  We couldn't seem to find our way onto the proper road out of Glasgow; the signs and maps and directions didn't add up.  We kept going in circles and finally Dean just picked a road out and I tried to load up a mapfinder program on one of our devices (which don't work all that well in Scotland without wifi) to tell us where to go next.  We finally escaped Glasgow and things seemed to be going well as we drove along twisting narrow roads in Loch Lomond Park.  The landscape was absolutely stunning.  We stopped for a bite to eat and to go to the bathroom and got on the road fairly quickly.  We were both watching the clock race forward while the miles were not go as quickly as we had hoped. 

Then we started to hit roadworks.  That meant that several times the road was reduced to one lane and we had to stop to wait for traffic.  Dean was getting pretty intense by this time, trying to hurry because he realized how tight we were going to be for time.  By the time we pulled into Oban, it was only a few minutes before 4.  We raced to the ferry and pulled up to talk to a man who said the ferry was running late, so if we quickly parked and ran, we might make it.  We parked (another really stressful experience because the rates and instructions for parking were not clear and there was no one to ask and no time to ask) and ran, but the ferry pulled away as we were panting up the street.

Right beside the ferry in Fionnphort
This left us in a bit of a quandary.  Missing the 4 pm ferry meant that we had also missed the last bus to Fionnphort where we had a reservation for the night.  Alas, there was no room for our car on the 6 pm ferry so that wasn't an option. Unfortunately, Dean and I were not at our best at this moment.  We were both so frustrated by the situation that we didn't have a lot of grace for each other and had no idea what to do next.  We asked a number of people for advice regarding our options at the other end of the ferry (we had already purchased tickets) and didn't come up with anything concrete.  I finally decided to call our host for that night and explain our situation.  John was very gracious about it and said he would try to find us a taxi if we were willing to pay for it.  I said that would be great and because time was running out again, and we got on the 6 pm ferry without knowing if John had found a taxi or not.  He called just as we were pulling away from the terminal and said that he had found one for 90 pounds (about $145 dollars).  The price was so high because the driver had to come from Tobermory and after taking us to our destination, drive all the way back. Dean said it would cost us just as much to cancel the room and find alternate accommodation, so we said yes.  And for the first time in about 4 hours, we finally relaxed.

The views from the ferry were stunning and we both just stood at the rail in silence for a bit, spent from the turmoil of the afternoon.  We ate a quick supper on board (Dean had local fish and chips) and soon we were at Craignure.  The taxi was waiting for us and let me tell you, that taxi ride was worth every penny.  Roads on the Isle of Mull are single track which means that when you meet another car, one of you has to pull over at a passing point.  These turnouts are pretty frequent, but this type of driving is not for the faint of heart.  Our taxi flew through the countryside and barely slowed down when meeting another vehicle.  We made the trip in under an hour (the bus takes 1 hour and 20 minutes), pulling up to the door of our bed and breakfast just before dusk.  The rugged landscape of the island had impressed us all along the ride, but when we stepped out and saw the Isle of Iona across the water, it made the whole stressful ordeal seem like a small price to pay for finally being there.
Beach at Fionnphort, right across from our Bed and Breakfast

Our hosts were friendly and welcoming (as were their dogs; everyone has a dog there it seems) and after getting settled in our room, we went for a walk.  The sky was filled with swirling clouds, the water was calm, the breeze gentle, the sheep quiet as they wandered the hills around us.  I felt like we had entered another world, a place of peace where all our frantic and frazzled thoughts and emotions could be washed away.  It was the worst of times followed by the best of times. 

I have thought much about that day of contrasts where extreme frustration and panic about having to work everything out were followed by serenity and quiet calm.  To some extent, I believe that had we not had such a hellish time getting there, we would not have so fully appreciated what we found at Iona the next day.  I hope I never take peace for granted, nor take lightly the cost involved in pursuing the things of God.  It is not always easy to come into the presence of God and definitely not easy to stay there.

This morning I was reading an article by a professor on the importance of learning to fail well.  The writer observed that those who are afraid to fail are afraid to risk and it is only through risk that we discover new possibilities.  In his classroom, failures are celebrated as learning opportunities and he actually grades his students on how well they respond to failure.  Frankly, it is a lesson I find easy to write about and very difficult to incorporate.  I feel like a failure when I make mistakes or find myself inadequately prepared for certain circumstances.  The tendency is to heap condemnation on myself, promise to never let that happen again, and feel that this somehow atones for the mistake.  But it only chips away at my self-worth and makes me more fearful about future failures - both unhelpful. 

I think that while we were fretting about all the things that went wrong on that day in Scotland, Jesus was perhaps speaking to us like he did to Peter when he began to sink:  Oh you wee faint-hearted ones.  I have you in my firm grip.  Don't be afraid.  Why did you take your eyes off me?  There was no reason to doubt I would get you safely to shore.

To be continued...

the photos: the village of Fionnphort at dusk 

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