Thursday, 3 March 2011

But I Digress | Waves, Windups and Whiskey on the Isle of Skye (Oh Aye)

Guess who's back?

Well, yes: it's me. Whoever else would it be, really?

So I took a week away - a week and a few days - and although the weather did its very worst, and the impromptu holiday took me quite by surprise, leaving me precious little time to prepare such fun and games as to keep you all entertained, would you believe it... I managed to have a wonderful time anyway.

The isle of Skye really is an extraordinary place. My folks own a self-catering cottage up there, hence all the sudden holidays - who am I to turn down an early Easter break at the low low cost of a tank full of petrol when a booking falls through, for instance? - and I've been saving up quality time with my lovely other half to spend in Wavecrest three years running, now.

Needless to say the cottage is lovely. Right on the coast - then again most everything is on such a tiny island - it comes with its very own sheep, who will gleefully leave poop on the patio for you if don't run the wooly buggers off, particularly comfy beds, such that sleeping at home now that I'm back has been somewhat deflating, and a glorious view.

It's a barren place, is Skye, by and large. Utterly rural and handsomely rugged, I think you'll agree. There are hills everywhere... great, ragged half-forgotten pillars of rock jutting up from the earth - natural drama wherever you cast your eye - and though the Old Man of Storr easily sees the most foot traffic, I've always had a special place in my heart for the Quiraing.

And for good reason. Here's a snap I took of the scene from atop said summit on a good day:

That's the Needle there. Pretty effing dramatic, right?
As luck would have it, luck and something else perhaps, Wavecrest just so happens to sit directly beneath the very mountain you see here. To say it's well situated would be to sell it desperately short.

Trouble was the weather was only with us a few days, this year. Time enough to hit the high points - both of the aforementioned peaks were conquered, and we've a favourite cafe in Portree which the howling gales which kept us up nights affected not at all - and though it'd have been nice to see a little more, do a little more, those days the heavens weren't for letting us revel in sunny splendour were spent relaxing. And playing. And reading. And chatting. And drinking.

Not all at once, honest.
Malt whiskies were of course consumed: for one an 18 year-old Talisker which had a distinct smoky something to it (like that weird tea which has been making my cupboard smell funny for months now) but went down a treat regardless.

See why I don't review booze? :P

Played a buttload of board games, too. In fact I'd like to take this opportunity to declare: Catan, I love you!

Risk: Factions, meanwhile... I really rather wish there was more to you. There was also chess, Scrabble, and many, many hours of Picross 3D (inhale) and Dragon Quest IXSentinels of the Starry Skies (exhale) on the old DS. But then, the DS games excepted, that's the very roster of rainy day fun I've been dragging around on holiday with me for years, and I'd love to learn another board game for next time. Anyone out there have any favourite two-player games to recommend?

Oh, and I read a few books, too. I took a bag of maybe ten books up with me, and read... half of them. Including, some of you might be interested to learn, Gardens of the Moonat long bloody last! So much better progress than expected! :)

Reviews of my other holiday reads will be gracing The Speculative Scotsman over the next few weeks, just as soon as I can neaten up the notes I took on this battered old reporter's notebook. So there'll be write-ups Loss of Separation to look forward to, which is to say the new Conrad Williams, as well as The Windup Girl, Shades of Grey by the ineffable Jasper Fforde, and one other, TBD.

Good times!

But seriously, they all were. Not a bad book among the bunch. And a few honest to God greats, come to that.

You'll have to wait and see which is which, I dare say - and it wouldn't do to tease all the lovely proofs and review copies awaiting me upon my return here. That's what The BoSS is for, after all. It'll be back at the same Bat-time, same Bat-place this Sunday.

Between now and then, I should have at least one new review for you all ready to go before the week's out, but I might have mentioned already: I've started tutoring kids studying for their Highers and Standard Grades, and though I'm only required to be in classroom for a handful of hours, preparations and lesson plans have been taking up a swathe of my time of late. Trust me when I say you don't want to be caught with your trousers down by a murder of teenagers! It hasn't happened yet, and I pray it doesn't, ever - so I'm working on the better safe than sorry principle. Thus, a touch less time to blog, I'm afraid.

But we should be pretty much back to normal next week. Here's to that!

Now before I go, I want to take a moment to say thank you. To all those of you who wrote in to Ask Me Anything while I was AFK, on me hols. You guys are stars. I've got more than thirty solid questions to sort through, including a good few folk who took the piss, as instructed, and that's more and better than I'd imagined, to be truthful.

You've still got a few more days before I close out this round of friendly interrogation, so if you want, send along an email to thespeculativescotsman [at] googlemail [dot] or leave your submission in the comments, and I'll happily consider it along with the others for the first official Ask Me Anything column - which I'm hoping to have up sometime next week.

Along with everything else I'm behind on! :)

So. That's that. Holidays = had. I wonder, do any of you lot have plans in the offing for Easter?


  1. Glad you had a great holiday Niall. Skye looks brilliant, if a bit grim... but I likes me a bit of grim every now and then ;-)

    Can't wait to hear your thoughts on Gardens of the Moon. If you enjoyed it, you will want to devour the next two which are regarded as two of the best of the series...

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