No, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not in Tibet but the borderlands of Scotland.
I had arrived at the Bhuddist Monastery in the last gloomy shades of light the night before. In the distance I had seen something which looked like a large white chess piece, as high as a two story building. I wasn’t sure what it was but I knew it looked Bhuddist.
I was shown to my room by a woman monk in robes and with a shaved head on which I judged there to be two day’s growth. ‘ This isn’t the reception. It’s the overseas operations.’ she said. She kindly offered me a cup of coffee from the urn.
‘ You can imagine with Nepal, we need a lot of coffee. How far have you come today?’.
‘From Gretna Green.’
‘So, not so far?’
‘Well it seems quite far’. I was dog tired, but then the distance I had traveled was an infinitely small fraction of that which most souls travel to perfection, or so it must have seemed to her, or perhaps she had only ever gone to Gretna by car. ‘Is there any food for me?’ I enquired hopefully. Since supper was served at the early hour of six, Catherine had asked for something to be left out for me. No, there was nothing. I went to bed feeling mildly aggrieved and determined not to miss breakfast. I pondered how I might negotiate a reduction in the bill. Perhaps I should ask to speak to the manager.
At breakfast I found myself sitting next to a nice woman from the Isle of Man. ‘My son is on a football tour, so I thought that I would have a bit of piece and quiet.’ She was a spiritual healer. I asked her what had been served for supper the night before. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘the menu said, ‘Jacket Potatoes and Soup’ but when I asked where the jacket potatoes were I was told they had been the ones left over from lunch and that they were in the soup.’
As I left, I passed two lay sisters, not yet, nuns but aspiring to be. One was painstakingly brushing lichen of a stone wall, and on the other side of the drive another was picking inch high sycamore seedlings out of the ground. ‘I hate killing things,’ she said holding up a bunch of saplings in her hand, ‘but you see I’m transferring their conciousness to these two’. She gestured to two little saplings in a pot which had been saved from this massacre of innocents. ‘The rest will go on the compost heap’. ‘Well, that’s perfect,’ I said hoping to cheer her, ‘composting is reincarnation in action’. She smiled sweetly.
The road climbed up out of the valley and then descended through commercial forest. It was a small road but from time to time lorries hurtled past throwing up dust. There had been a heavy frost when I awoke that morning, and although not strong, the north wind was very cold.
I sheltered in the dark forest to have some lunch and pressed on. Before I arrived at Ettrick the ground became swampy. Willows grew by pools of water. A sign planted by one of these read, ‘Midgehope’ in fading paint.
I turned west down a lane towards the church, behind which the path would take me up to an old drovers road. There was a beautiful avenue of beech trees leading up to the church, behind it some cottages, and beside it an elegant house I took to be the manse. I climbed up hill, from time to time looking back on this pretty scene.
Common mistakes in fence crossing. Example 1.
Startled sheep looked up with a jolt and skittered off, calling their lambs to follow. This one was so newly arrived that all it could do was sit and wonder how it had got to this bright, cold place.
I took a bearing across the hill to join the Southern Upland Way. This is beautiful, a turf road, here following the contours of a valley. I left it, following a similar path downhill and then east above the southern shore of Loch Mary. At Tibby Shiels Inn a tall man, well a man who is taller than me, asked, ‘Are you the man who is walking to John O’Groats. Come in and have a cup of tea’. His name is Alister Moody and he owns Tibby Shiels Inn. He’s a nice man and it’s a nice inn with music on many nights, and I was very grateful for the cup of tea he gave me.
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