Jul. 9th, 2015

Saturday, 27 June. Met my friend, Brian, in Lymm services at some unGodly hour of the morning. Actually, it was only 7.30, but he'd been on the road since 3. He then managed to drive all the way to Kilchoan, on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. (I'd have been fighting my eyelids after that length of drive.) We pitched Brian's comfortable 3-person tent on the midge infested coast in a camp site run by explorer, Trevor Potts (http://www.trevorpotts.com/). Actually, the location was superb, with fabulous views over to the Tobermory Lighthouse on Mull. But the midges were real enough.

The following day we rigged Brian's boat (actually, it's his Dad's, but never mind) and set sail at around 5pm in some less than perfect weather. We later heard tell that some locals thought they'd be calling the rescue services as they watched us depart. The original intention was to sail west, around Ardnamurchan Point (yes, THAT location from the Shipping Forecast) and sail north. However, as the wind was a pretty brisk westerly, Brian thought it might be prudent, as I was a novice at the game, to go with it and sail into Loch Sunart and stop there for the night before venturing out into the Atlantic.

Well, fine idea, but I was a little concerned that we seemed to be shipping rather more H2O than I'd expected. Brian was unconcerned and said it would drain out of the bailers. Trouble was, his previous expedition was with his daughter, who, qualified sailor though she is, could almost fit into my pocket. So, along with 10 days worth of supplied and equipment, we were lying rather lower in the water than usual, rendering the bailers somewhat ineffective. By the time we anchored off Oronsay, Brian had come around to my point of view; we discovered water in the buoyancy tanks, so something was definitely not right.

We hauled the boat onto the pebbly shore and let it drain overnight. Despite the presence of no less than 8 other boats, all with luxurious accomodation, we spent the night in my ancient, though serviceable tent on shore. It was only a 2-person tent, so was a little cosy. If I thought the midges were bad at Kilchoan, they were nothing to this place. Fortunately, a quick blast with a spray afforded us a relatively peaceful night.

I say, 'relatively' as Brian was too worried about the boat to sleep well and was up at 4pm to check it over. To cut a long story short, he concluded there must be a leak and, not being in a position to fix it, decided to return to Kilchoan and review our options. So, at around 8am on the Monday morning, we hauled the boat back up the slipway and put it back onto the trailer. And watched the water slowly draining out. Our sailing adventure had come to a rather untimely end.

To be honest, the weather had been wet and not particularly warm. As we had not had to tack or jibe much, my role as crew was not very strenuous and I'd become a little chilled in the open boat, in spite of the layers and waterproofs. Typically, on subsequent days we looked out on gloriously sunny seas from the security of dry land and wondered what it would have been like to sail in that, somewhat more clement, weather.
Having decided the boat was unable to go the distances we'd planned, we were in a dilemma. Situated, as we were, at the end of a peninsula served by a very narrow and twisty road, what could we do and where? If we left the boat at Kilchoan it would be quite a trek to retrieve it. Conversely, anywhere we went we'd have to factor it in. Every ferry crossing would be double the cost, for example. In the end, we decided to stay put and just explore the surrounding area.

One visit was to the cafe at the Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse. It was a beautiful, clear day and we were able to watch - with some envy - other boats sailing past the point. On our way back to Kilchoan, we saw a calf that looked completely stuck in some mud and in obvious distress. We back-tracked to a nearby house and, though the calf wasn't theirs, the bloke came out to deal with it. I have to say, I'm glad I wasn't that calf, because the man rather unceremoniously grabbed it by the ears and hauled it out of the mud. That said, it trotted away, seemingly none the worse for the experience.

One rather lovely aspect of camping where we did were the evenings. When the weather was fine we could watch the changing shadows and colours as the sun lowered itself gently between Arnamurchan and Mull, sending shafts of light towards the land around Loch Sunart and catching the peaks on Mull, such as Ben More. We saw an occasional seal and quite a few birds. We might have even seen a porpoise, but not the whales and basking sharks we might have seen further out to sea.
Have you ever watched the children's TV show Balamory? I'm told it is filmed in Tobermory so, if you have, you'll appreciate the beauty of the place. (http://www.tobermory.co.uk/) On the day we went the sky was clear and the sun was doing what it does best. From Kilchoan you cannot see the town, so rounding the lighthouse it's quite a sight when it comes into view. It is everything a child might draw for a perfect seaside cove; the bay is about a 3/4 circle, the sides are steep and wooded (where they are not built on) and there were dozens of sailing boats bobbing idyllically in the harbour. The buildings lining the harbour road are painted in beautiful primary colours and a more pleasant spot to sit and while away some time over a good cup of coffee, as we did, would be hard to imagine.

There was a bus to the west side of the island and, pleasant though Tobermory is, we took it. The road is single track and very twisty. Not as precipitous as some Alpine roads, but still as challenging for a driver. And they did present the passengers with some wonderful views. The destination was Calgary (yes, the original) which is a place of barely a dozen buildings around a dazzlingly white sandy cove. Having eaten out lunch on the beach, we then headed out along the north shore, across some pretty challenging rocks, some eroded into razor sharp edges, so surefootedness is essential to avoid a visit to A&E. While out there we spotted a white-tailed sea eagle, one of the species recently re-populated on the island. (http://www.white-tailed-sea-eagle.co.uk/) Glad I took my binoculars, even if they were only my small ones.
Wednesday July 1st. To climb a Munro. Sgurr Thuilm, to be precise. Situated at the head of Glenfinnan, we parked in the road-side car park and set off. The first few miles are along a well metalled road that follows the river, so a very gentle start. From the road you cannot see the famous viaduct, but it looms into view quite soon and is as impressive in reality as it is in pictures. (http://www.visitglenfinnan.co.uk/) Standing under the arches you can test the acoustics by singing "Ping" and hearing it reverberate. However, we are much too mature and sober to have indulged in such childishness.

Just as the viaduct disappeared from view we heard the characteristic hoot of a steam locomotive whistle. Bugger. However, a few paces back along the road and we could just see a small section of the viaduct between the trees and saw the nostalgic sight of maroon coaches under the fluffy white cloud of steam emanating from the funnel of a rather beautiful loco.

Having walked a few miles along the flat, the subsequent climb up Sgurr Thuilm was all the steeper and soon demolished our smug belief that we were reasonably fit. Counting 100 paces then resting was our alternative to just sitting in the wet moss and weeping. Half way up we had to hurriedly pull on waterproofs. Despite the blistering heat at the start of the day, a tremendous thunder storm hit us. One thunder clap was so close we both almost hit the deck in fright. We think we must have only been at the edge of it, as it did not last long. Later, we ate in the local restaurant and were told the storm had knocked out all the phones in the village.

By the time we reached the top of Sgurr Thuilm the storm had passed and we had some lovely views while we ate our lunch. There were two possible routes of descent; one circling round to take in another Munro and another straight down, following the line of a stream. As it was getting late, we decided on the latter, though I'm not convinced it was much of a time saver. Not being a well-trodden path - if trodden at all - picking our way down was occasionally rather scary, though did take us to some lovely spots, as the stream cut its way through steep sided gorges, albeit small ones.

By the time we reached the metalled road our feet felt hot enough to cook eggs and bathing them in the cool waters of the river I'm sure I could see steam rising. The local hotel were then called upon to satisfy our resulting hunger, and they did so magnificently.
I realise that one always looks at other languages through the prism of ones own and that no two languages automatically need to use similar structures to express the same concept. However, does Japanese always have to be so perverse?

In the 3 languages I know; English, Indonesian and German, the imperative is pretty simple; I must, ich muss, saya harus. And that's it. OK, they all have Indo-European roots, so are bound to have similar forms. But, does Japanese have to be so complicated?

The verb to go = iku. Active form: i-KI-masu. Negative: i-KA-nai. So far, so irregular. However, you then get the conditional form 'if I go' i the negative:

ikanakereba = if (I*) do not go

So, the English phrase 'I must go' becomes:

ikanakereba narimasen = if (I) do not go it will not do.

Finally, if you want to put this into the past tense:

ikanakereba narimasen deshita

Really? The trouble is, if you hear '~nakereba narimasen' but miss the initial 'i' then you have absolutely no idea what is going on, only that it must be done.

Please. I've only a simple brain. If I get even the slightest grip on this language it will be a miracle.

* fortunately, the verb does not reflect the person and the 'I' or 'you' is usually omitted if obvious.



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