Musings and Trossachs
The doctor peered at me over a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles which sat in a case on his desk.
‘You need a break,’ he slurred. ‘Like all great artists, you’re in danger of becoming a figment of your own imagination.’
He was right, of course. I was reminded of a similar crisis in the career of Arthur Conan Doyle.
‘Doctor,’ he attested, ‘I keep seeing fairies at the bottom of my garden.’
The doctor peered at him over a smouldering Meerschaum which nestled in the crook of Arthur’s chin.
‘Fairies, eh? That’s most disturbing.’
‘It’s not the fairies I’m worried about,’ replied Doyle. ‘I don’t have a garden.’
But stress. I needed a break. Preferably with clean air and gentle perambulations. Where, though? I mulled this over as I negotiated the used condoms, casually discarded bottles and rusting syringes which obscured the door of my flat in one of London’s more sought-after areas. I surveyed this mountain of filth with an almost spiritual distaste. The time has come, I thought, to mend my disgusting ways.
I closed the door behind me, stepped gingerly over yet another petition to rid the area of writers, and headed straight for my books. Was it fate that sent me – also straight – to the travel section? Fate, again, which chose A Brisk Hike up the Trossachs by Hector Baden Powell, maternal nephew of the boy scout chap, as my first port of call? Perhaps, and perhaps again, but whatever the reason, I was soon lost in its exquisite prose: such poeticity; such… limpidity. His frequent references to the female sex as ‘an inexcusable aberration’ may, perhaps, jar with the modern reader – it was, after all, published in less enlightened times; spring of last year, to be precise – but set against this his delightful passages on nature, as witness his exhilarating chapter on rolling naked in gorse with the prettier members of ‘F’ troop.
But I digress. Beautifully, I might add, but a digression, as Burns might say, ‘s a digression for a’ that. And for a’ that and for a’ that. And so on. I propose, therefore, to digress from the digression and return to the subject: My proposed destination; Trossach. ‘An idyllic hamlet deep in the heart of merrie Scotland’ – West Lothian tourist board. Trossach. You can almost smell the exclamation mark.
It took me some weeks to wind up my affairs in London. The term ‘affairs’ has two meanings, of course, but I’m not trying to suggest an exotic lifestyle. I merely refer to the many women in my life. On which subject I propose to draw a discreet veil. There are real people involved. Mostly.
I travelled by train from London to Stirling, headed west by train, and decided to finish the journey by train along the old Inverclarty-Trossach (or vice versa) line. Unfortunately, this picturesque route had been turned into a nature trail in the late fifties, and I must say I left a generous scattering of surprised cyclists in my wake as I steamed on through.
I had booked into the aptly named ‘Ed and Breakfast’, chuckling inwardly at what I assumed was a missing B. My mistake, as I later discovered to my cost. I met Ed the following day at cock crow, relaxing beside me in my hammock and enjoying a pre-coital fag.
‘Hi’, he chirruped. ‘I’m your alarm clock call.’
I dispensed with breakfast, but not, I feel bound to report, with Ed. Call it a holiday romance, but some hours later our relationship foundered and I was off in search of pastures new. Preferably with a roof. I needed somewhere quiet to rest my weary quill.
I speak metaphorically here. It was I who was weary. My quill was but the outward manifestation of same. It wasn’t even a quill as such; more a V-2000 Hi-tecpoint extra-fine bic. But you take my point. My writing had become jaded and flat. Not limpid, if you will, but limp.
I was mulling this over and absently fondling the aforementioned bic when I spotted a sign in a shop window.
‘Association of Scottish Buddhists,’ it read. ‘Chew your porridge slowly.’ Odd, this. I had no interest in Buddhism, but the brain works in mysterious ways. Had I not noticed the sign I would probably have continued to stare at the not unattractive escort of the huge man with the facial tattoos who was just about to spot me. And so it came to pass. He did indeed spot me. I was reading the notice. Had I not been reading the notice he would have spotted me ogling his mother. Eastern mysticism had, in a very tangible way, saved my life. This particular life anyway.
But the sign. It made me aware of other signs.
‘HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN?’
Yes. I had.
‘AND JESUS SAID LO! I AM THE DOOR.’
‘WANTED: MUSE. APPLY WITHIN.’
Just so. Buddhism was about to be responsible for introducing me, albeit inadvertently, to the one great love of my life. With possible knock on effect in the hereafter.
‘WANTED: MUSE. APPLY WITHIN.’
I firmly believe that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they write, so I examined the typing closely.
Warm, I concluded. Sensuous.
Needs a new ribbon.
That was good enough for me.
The door – patently not Jesus, by the way, but that’s his problem – was open, so I went in, and there, standing by a row of books, was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Full stop.
She turned to face me.
‘My God,’ I thought, ‘she looks even better from the front.’
I swallowed hard and braced myself for speech.
‘Greetings,’ I ejaculated. ‘I’ve come about the job.’
ad for a muse is from Magi Gibson’s poetry collection, Graffiti in Red Lipstick (Curly Snake Publishing, £6.95). Ian Macpherson is an author and stand-up comedian.
Prose copyright Ian Macpherson 2003, poem copyright Magi Gibson 2003