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Friday, 25 June 2010

End of the Road Blues

Part One:

As the car winds up the partly paved ('metalled', for some unfathomable reason is the correct term) single track, cliff-top road from Gairloch to Rubha Reidh Lighthouse, the tension, among some of our party in the vehicle, becomes palpable. The reason for this burgeoning trepidation is that the whole future of object recognition research across three continents - Canada, Europe and Hull - has been placed in the hands, amid the dying light of a Scottish evening, of a half-blind, astigmatic Scouser (who's solitary remaining thought is "BEER!!!!") tasked with steering a vehicle both unfamiliar and unsatisfactory, the remaining nine miles of our voyage. And loaded into that vehicle is the combined brain power of Large, Culham and CCP, not to mention et al (with 'al' being the suitcases).

Co-temporally with the vehicle rounding another hair-pin bend, the Scouser in the party (AKA self), democratically minded as always, decides to assess the alert level of his co-travellers in order to decide whether a new operational plan (ie get out and walk) is necessary and safer, given my percepion of our impending doom and immediately discovers two things. The first discovery is that the second year of one's degree programme has not been a complete waste of time because it is now within one's acquired vocabulary to scientifically identify as "less than a phoneme", the unit of sound that it is possible to interject into the conversation occuring between the other three in the car. And the second discovery, gleaned from the conversation of my fellow argonauts, is that they are not echoing my own alert levels (which are set at "Post-Double Red") and I am, apparently, 'flying solo' in my elevated alertness levels . Their conversation, illustrating this, follows a path which, to me, sounds like :

Large: "...of course, the reaction times are less than a micro-second so we have to adjust the sensitivity of the manganlangous timbrational speracity ..."

CCP: ".....I know, but Culham and CCP (2008) quite clearly demonstrated that the occipital parietal/frontal vermiculite sporangieoform nucleus deters reciprocity across the ventral falagacious..."

Culham: "...that's true, CCP...WOW...what a cool cliff . See right here next to us, it plunges at least 330 foot down ..."

The car, therefore ploughs on, and I conclude that it would be an act of extreme impoliteness to interrupt their conversation by reminding the Red Haired Boffin, especially here and now on this road where visual cognition is paramount and hazards such as cows, vertical plunges from cliffs and the onset of evening require acute observational skills, that the driver (self) is a person who is banned - after spectacularly failing as an experimental subject for said visually oriented boffin - from even mentioning the words "object" and "recognition" within the same week let alone the same sentence. In short, I remain schtumm and point the car towards where I think the road probably is, and the cliff probably isnt.

Eventually, we reach the lighthouse, intact and a quarter of the party amends it's thoughts from the previous incarnation "BEER!" to a rather more expansive "BEER !!!!!! NOW!!!!!!!!". That same fourth is also amazed to find that, whatever its preconceptions about a lighthouse might have been, the structure that is to be our accomodation for the next four evenings is a rather tall building perched at the edge of a rocky promontory. Retrospectively, one supposes, it would have been more surprising to find that the lighthouse was a small, squat building in the middle of a field in Leicestershire, but having never stayed in one before, and at the end of ten hours of travelling, excuses, I suppose might be made. But another explanation is that all of our conquistadores are, simply put, 'gobsmacked' by how beautiful the building is, and its placement within the landscape.

The next four days are a blur, but I will try to summarise. On the first night, plans are made by everyone to buy, and move into lighthouses. The next evening, after a hike near to a loch, plans are made, by everyone, to buy, and move into small cottages at the foot of loch-nestling hills. On the third night, all are agreed that a croft on a sea-shore beach overlooking the Atlantic is the most desirable real estate. For self and RHB, this is our first trip to Scotland in about fifteen years and our memories of how beautiful vast swathes of this country can be, are not, for us, exagerrated.

In our next installment, an opinion is offered in respect of our fellow hostellers, a series of curious roadsigns are discussed, Mazzer O'Reilly makes a number of groundbreaking archaeological discoveries and the Fab Four get into serious trouble.

Scotland 2010

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