Our last choir practice before the Mod out in Stornoway in the Western Isles was on Thursday. We still lack a bit of confidence and technique but we aren’t bad! If all goes well we’ll aquit ourselves quite nicely. Doyle, from USA, had been learning the songs through Skype calls with Jackie, our conductor, and was with us in person for the first time that night. He joined us in the pub afterwards, sounding really excited about singing with us and going to the Mod. As the night grew late and choir members began to slope off, the farewell catch phrase went round – Bye! See you at the Mod!
I was leaving the next day, to drive up the A9 to Carrbridge where I was to pick up Jennifer, then on to Ullapool to catch the afternoon ferry out to Stornoway in Lewis. It was to be an early start – well, for me, the night owl, 8.OO a.m. is early – but I was up and out in good time. The morning was pleasant and mild as I headed for Edinburgh city bypass and the Forth road bridge. Soon I was feeling the holiday spirit as I reached the Perthshire hills. The trees were beginning to show their autumn colours quite spectacularly the further north I travelled so by the time I reached the Kingussie area I decided to take a detour off the main A9 and travel a bit on the old road, so I could stop and tale a photo or two.
There was plenty of time before I had to meet Jennifer at Carrbridge, so I took another detour and found the ….. Centre by Loch …….. where they advertised woodland trails, canoeing, yachting, etc. as well as a restaurant and shop. The autumnal woodland trails were beautiful, the problem being there were so many directions to go in, which one to choose. I chose well, though I daresay if I had chosen a different path I would still have been delighted! Alongside the loch, through beech and oak woodland, the highlight was seeing a couple of tree creepers, birds I have never seen before. There’s no doubt that’s what they are as they do creep up the tree trunks, and fairly well camouflaged too, I have to say! Birdsong was all around and I could hear a robin or two, chaffinches, bluetits and great tits….. and they were just the ones I knew.
No time for a cup of tea but it wasn’t far to Carrbridge and I knew Jennifer would be up for having some lunch. She was waiting for me as I pulled up at the horse riding centre where she had spent the morning, and having packed her bags in the car we made for the cafe/gallery on Carrbridge main street for soup and a sandwich. Fed and watered, we were on our way again – just a brief stop at Dingwall for some groceries – arriving in Ullapool in good time. The ferry was late, but we were happy to wait. Ullapool is a pretty place and the harbour is always bustling. I even bumped into a former neighbour from Peebles!
Once the ferry had arrived and the incoming traffic disgorged, it was our turn to drive on to the car deck. With all the cars, motor bikes, campervans, sheep lorries, and food supply vans, it is quite a task to get everybody parked safely in the right spots, but eventually everyone was on board, and we were off, leaving Loch Broom to cross the Minch, the area of sea between the mainland and the Outer Hebrides. The Minch has a reputation for being a bit choppy, and let’s just say that although our crossing wasn’t too bad, I wouldn’t have liked to be in anything much smaller! It was a bit of a bumpy journey – and the ferry is not that small!
The crossing took about three hours, which we passed quite happily, having a bite to eat, chatting to various people including members of the Carloway choir, and having a snooze! Now, I mentioned Doyle learning the choir pieces by Skype, but the new Carloway choir have ALL learned their songs that way. Carloway is a small village on the west side of Lewis, the next village to where Jennifer has a house and croft – a smallholding, for want of a better word. Earlier in the year she came up with the idea that Carloway should have their own Gaelic choir - after all, Lewis is one of the main Gaelic speaking areas in the country - and brought the subject up with some of her friends and neighbours. It seemed there was a good lot of interest but not everyone with the connection to Carloway or the west side was actually still living there. One was in Dingwall, another in Oban. Two of the tenors were in Aberdeen and Inverness respectively ……and Mairi (MAAHree), who had volunteered to conduct the new choir, being a music teacher herself, lives in Somerset in England! So, on practice nights everyone got together on Skype to learn and practise with Mairi. Pretty novel, eh? Apart from a general gathering in August, the members didn’t get together again till Saturday – and on Saturday night gave a concert in Carloway Community Hall! What an achievement! They were excellent! I hope they do well on Thursday in their competition.
Well, we arrived in due course at Stornoway – in the dark - and took the road for the west, pulling into Jennifer’s drive-in around 10.00 p.m. On with the heating, a cup of tea brewed and supper eaten, it was time for bed! It had been a long day!
Talk again soon.