A winter in Argyll – part two

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Over the next few editions, we will continue the serialisation of a short story by an Edinburgh writer with an enduring love for Mid Argyll. We hope you enjoy it and look out for another chapter in next week’s edition.

By Carolyn McKerracher

I imagined George Orwell looking over from Jura towards me. He was writing 1984.

I was writing – well, a children’s story. Not quite in the same league.

My story was not about Argyll, but there on the third floor I found inspiration, not just in the view but in Frances MacDonald and Ross Ryan’s paintings, in the gallery’s eclectic collection of objets d’art and in the stunning wooden furnishings, which clothed the restaurant and the bar. At low tide, I was fascinated by the tiny people with their miniature dogs, far out on the narrow sandbank at Crinan Ferry, almost defying the impossible and walking on water.

Chris and his team provided stability for each day and hospitality second to none. The staff and all the painters, plumbers, electricians and fixers, the customers, visitors and two rescued sailors, all encouraged me with their banter, support and enthusiasm.

‘You’re the writer,’ they would say and I would shake my head.

‘Not really. I haven’t published anything, but I am writing.’

I was writing. Every day. I read it out loud to myself in the privacy of the empty gallery, gesticulating wildly and laughing at my own jokes, irrespective of the curious seagulls and the CCTV.

‘Just one more paragraph,’ the wind would whisper from outside and I would obey, keeping going until lunchtime was gone and the woods beckoned once more.

On Mondays, I volunteered at Blarbuie Community Woodland, high on the hill above Mid Argyll hospital in Lochgilphead.

I fished the winter leaves from the paths and ploughed the stream of mud and branches. Such a sense of satisfaction to work outdoors and testify to the difference one person can make. Forest bathing it is called. Not an icy dip in the river (perish the thought) but the experience of immersing yourself in trees. Walking, sitting or working amongst trees has been shown to be good for both your physical and your mental health and I can testify to that.

Working with wood is also good for the soul. On Tuesdays, I chiselled and drilled and planed and sanded on the free five-week woodwork course at Blarbuie, patiently instructed (and corrected) by local craftsmen Colin Campbell and Tony O’ Conner. In the Men’s Shed (not only for men) they were making all kinds of boxes. Homes for squirrels, for bats and for birds, though presumably not all at the same time, as that would be a little crowded.

Blarbuie offers lots of options. If you prefer plants to planes and trowels to spades, then Roots, Shoots and Leaves may be for you, a 20-week horticulture course starting in April and run by Dan Griffiths. Join in. Volunteer. Meet people.

Support your local community woodlands and they (and you) will flourish.

To be continued.


A woodwork creation at Blarbuie Community Woodland. no_a14ShortStory01

The view from the Crinan Hotel’s third floor gallery. no_a14ShortStory03