Going somewhere else

For somebody who has had to do a lot of travelling as a part of his business life but who has seldom found it a joy, much less exciting, our position in the far Highlands of Scotland has entailed much road, rail and air mileage. That is if I ever wanted to sell my products or if we ever wanted to see our family face to face. Of course we would receive visits from family now and then, particularly in the early days, but the vast majority of our familial meetings of latter years would be away from home. I find this completely natural. The young always will find less of compelling interest in the lives of the old than vice versa. That applies just as much of course when we were actually ourselves the younger, meeting with our aged parents - Dee's mother, Wynne, and my father, Eddie, whether out of a sense of love or of duty or most likely some of each. 

Honour your father and your mother.’ is the Fifth Commandment. We still love our fathers and our mothers. ‘I did; of course I did. But we do not honour old age. Our generations honour youth.

For me, the modern compulsion to be somewhere away from wherever one is, whether for so-called holidays or for business whereas you're always so pleased to arrive back home again is one of modern life's great mysteries. Airports in particular I have long likened, if not to hell then at least to hades! Who really likes being encapsulated with a polyglot melange of people you would usually go out of your way to avoid, beset on all sides by noise and commercialism and being treated by computerised people ('handled' is a more appropriate word) like some computer fired piece of human jetsam? Actually I suspect the answer to that question is 'most people like it'. That for yours truly is so very sad! You may be relieved to learn that I'm not going to be getting right here into 'the meaning of it all'. (Perhaps you'll need to await the publication of my novel in progress for that!!). But how many times in my life have I been propping up the bar at an ungodly hour in some airport - any airport, anywhere - nursing a drink and pondering what it's all about - what indeed is the answer to the question a sombre American drunk sitting alongside me once gratuitously asked:  so, pal, what do you want chiselled into your headstone? In casual prior conversation I had told him I was marketing director of an international plastics cup making factory. In response to my silence; Five little fuckin' words? he suggested; I - SOLD - FUCKIN' - PLASTIC - CUPS. Great! Whatever, he'd made me think!

Personally I much prefer the answer to that question, given I think by the inimitable Rabbie Burns possibly whilst at the bar of the Globe Inn in Dumphries. Having borrowed from a friend a diamond ring he proceeded to scratch on the pub's window glass just this ...
Well, if it wasn't Burns it ought to have been!

As mentioned, by the mid-late noughties when I was in my mid-late seventies I was regularly travelling most of Wester-Ross and Easter-Ross on a mission to sell my cards, prints and books. My self-appointed sales territory extended by then from Achiltibuie / Elphin in the north to Kyle of Lochalsh / Castle Eilean Donan in the south to Inverness in the east (the west is just water until you come to the Hebrides; I've not yet ventured over there thus far.) Basically I'm talking a couple of road hours of driving in each direction, which is why my poor eight years old Renault Megane Sports Estate has suffered the ravages of fifteen thousand potholed, stony, snaking Highlands road miles each year. I have about thirty regular retail customers now - down from a peak of fifty two because I can't afford by time or health to visit the less productive shops any more). Most of these regulars have become my friends, which is why my 'trips' seem to take longer and longer. Note: not because I am driving slower and slower - not yet anyway, but because I'm taking more and more cups of coffee and indulging myself in more and more minutes of chit-chat with my friends!.The fact is that, although my days of creating and managing 'proper' business have long gone I am still fascinated by those retailers I visit and those who supply me with materials - the why's and wherefore's of their ups and their downs, changes of strategy and tactics, etcetera. The sort of issues that used to occupy me so absolutely.

You might well have gathered that I am not a fan of the two words, holiday and retirement. I hope that doesn't offend. Should it do so, then my apologies, I can only quote the usual; we are all different, aren't we? Even when I used to take family 'holidays' it was always to do something with an objective, (usually fishing or walking the hills or visiting relatives) rather than simply to be somewhere, much less just to 'travel'. I genuinely never felt the need to get away from work as such. As hard as sometimes work was, both physically and mentally, and as welcome an opportunity to spend more hours with my nearest and dearest , work was my life - my raison d'etre. Why would I want to get away from it? And retirement? What's that all about? I would by far prefer to die in the saddle! I may not be able to ride as fast or as far as of yore but it's better than walking, never mind standing still! You may or may not believe it but this has little or nothing to do with money (income.) It has everything to do with why I was pleased to wake up and get up this morning and why I shall be equally pleased to do so tomorrow, God willing.

Back to travelling. By far my preferred means of getting from a to b would be by train, should rail be an option. There's something about the clicketty clack of a train, the feeling of having all the options to pass the time that one would enjoy at home, the opportunity to view the passing landscape, the possibility of conversation with fellow travellers if that is what you (and they) want, the benefit of arriving smack in the centre of the city and not least the comfort and security aspect compared with car, coach or air. My most memorable rail journeys were always Kings Cross to Inverness on the overnight sleeper. The bar-room carriage was as good as a pub or a club as a place to pass the time, often late into the small hours if you got talking to someone with something interesting to discuss. Mind you, the two tier beds themselves were not very comfortable, especially if you found yourself staggering into your bedroom cubicle already occupied (always on bottom bunk, leaving you to the difficult climb!) by some total stranger (male of course) not especially impressed or good humored by your arrival. As morning came and that great Scottish breakfast beckoned I became quite practiced in the art of appearing fast asleep whilst said stranger got himself dressed and out!

But there really is no place like home. No matter how many times you've moved - home is still home!

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