Sunday, 24 April 2016

Life affirming moments.

It's nice when they catch you by surprise.

Going back to work was initially quite enjoyable; there was something nice about a bit of routine, and even the rather different social dynamic of an office.

That quickly faded however, as the reality of a Scottish winter working night shifts set in. The atrocious weather, some unexpected van repairs and the desire to save money for travelling combined to ensure I was doing very little with my free time.

I started working the odd overtime shift. Before long I had the pound signs in my eyes and it seemed the only thing I was doing outside of work was sleeping. I took to just parking up in the city all week. I rarely saw trees and countryside any more, or sunlight for that matter.

Life was getting rather dull.

Towards the end of one 70 hour week, I awoke to discover someone had blocked the van in the car park. My attempt to drive out over the grass was not entirely successful - due to the biblical amounts of rain that had been falling, my front wheels were promptly buried up to the axles. Half an hour of crawling around in a freezing peat bog digging with my hands got the snow chains on, and was able to pull myself out - just in time to see my tormentor jump in her car and drive off. I didn't even get the chance to rant.

To use a scottish turn of phrase I was fair scunnered, and that evening I came very close to handing in my notice.

Coming out of work the next morning I decided I needed a change of scenery. I headed towards the Crow Road, unsure even why I was doing so with the wind blowing the sleet sideways. The van skidded around on the icy hill, and there was still snow in the corners of the car park.

There were also three gentlemen with heavy coats and camera tripods hanging out by their cars... they must know something.

Sure enough, the sleet stopped, the clouds started to clear, and I watched a gorgeous sunrise as I made my dinner. I briefly wished I had my camera too, but then realised I was better without; I didn't have to worry about angles and apertures - I could just sit and watch nature at it's best.

That evening (my morning) I awoke with a renewed sense of perspective. The night shift flew by with a smile on my face, in the realisation that I'm a pretty lucky guy. I've found a sport and a lifestyle that I love, and which gives me the freedom to spend quite a lot of my time not working. After 18 months on the road I walked into a job which, whilst not exactly intellectually stimulating, is reasonably well paid and in an office full of really good people - and for a while at least I got to choose between three nights a week and a life, or six nights a week and quite a lot of money in the bank.

I decided to stick with the six nights a week, and reward myself for the hard work with a new toy inspired by the guys in the car park; I'd been wanting to get a DSLR for some time, but had found it hard to justify the cost. On the road however, I became quite frustrated by the limitations of a point-and-shoot so now it seemed a worthwhile investment.

Over the next five weeks I battered in the overtime like a man possessed, which means that in six months I've earned enough to sort out the van and put aside enough for another year on the road.

Since then I've spent quite a bit of time catching up with family, and out in the countryside getting photographs. In the process I've fallen in love with Scotland all over again, but I think it's almost time to move on.

I've booked a ferry from Barcelona to Mallorca at the end of August, for a month of DWS. That gives me four months to finish up at work, re-fit the van and get rock-fit again.

Perhaps a summer in Llanberis might be calling...

Winter morning on the Crow Road between Kippen and Fintry
Heading up to Glencoe for a day's skiing presented this stunning view.
Looking out to the Summer Isles, just outside Ullapool
One of my favourite shots of the winter - taken from Sighthill Cemetery one morning after work.

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