As Covid19 spread, it made sense for Governments to tell the public to “Stay at Home”, but what do you do if you don’t have a home? As our house has been rented out and hotels have been closed, we have had to depend on the generosity of family and, as Vivien Leigh famously said in A Streetcar Named Desire, “on the kindness of strangers”.
We had booked our next adventure in the Pyrenees but could not make it there when Europe started locking down. At the time, we were visiting family in Glasgow for a few days, which in the end turned into over a month. It was so generous of them to host us and we had the enormous pleasure of bonding with our adorable nephew and niece. It was wonderful to introduce them to our favourite books and films, like Winnie the Pooh and Wizard of Oz, and a little less wonderful to endure Paw Patrol every day, but we are so pleased now to be a part of their lives and besides, perhaps this experience will prove one day to have been good practice for grandparenthood? Getting physical exercise in Glasgow was challenging. We managed to go out for walks in the park and to the supermarket but we had continually to beware of others who were not always demonstrating best behaviour…people not keeping their distance and one drunk person actually swearing and spitting at one of us. We soon started to ache to be in nature and for real physical activity and, as soon as the Workaway* scheme started to accept volunteers, we decided to move on.
* Workaway.com allows travellers to stay and work for hosts around the world on such activities as house renovation, fruit picking, etc
At the start of May, we managed to find a Workaway scheme in a grand castle near Auchencairn (in the Dumfries and Galloway area, close to the border with England) which is in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around except spectacular scenery and wildlife. Our jobs involved mowing vast lawns, strimming bracken in the woods, and a multitude of things. One of our favourite tasks was to help create a library from an old wreck of a room with thousands of books which had been in storage for years and furniture gathered from many of the castle’s forty rooms. As half of the books were about movies, we sometimes struggled not to just sit down and read. We both simply adored looking after the chickens plus Sylvie was in her element with flower arrangements and furniture renovations. Most of the tasks were, however, physically super tough and they didn’t do any favours to our old knees and backs, so we went to bed exhausted every evening…physical activity is what we were striving for, but maybe not quite so intense!
Another thing we have struggled with in the castle – and it’s possibly the same with other workaway experiences – is having to cope immediately with a new community which at first feels alien. Looking back to our youth, it’s a bit like the time we both spent on Kibbutz where we worked with chickens, fruit picking, etc and where we ate with the community. In both cases, there is little privacy. At least the size of our castle allowed us to hide somewhere in its grounds, although most evenings have been spent eating with everyone and then playing board/card games, table tennis, karaoke, etc late into the night. And like on Kibbutz, we did meet some lovely and interesting people including other Workawayers from China, France and the USA. The weekends were our own and we went on long walks around the coast and countryside, up hillsides and across to uninhabited islands close to the mainland. The most memorable adventure was spent walking on the bed of the Irish Sea at low tide, getting completely stuck in the mud and, after being rescued by a friend, beachcombing on the shoreline for sea glass and driftwood. More than anything, such escapes on our own and into the wild are what we have treasured most of all.
Heading back soon to Glasgow for a few days and then Brussels via London. Desperate, like everyone, for family hugs and itching to get back on the road.