Friday, 26th October 2012
There's a Brigadoon quality to this part of Scotland. I came in late to Glasgow Airport and drove (on the left-hand side of the road, which is always an astounding challenge, even if that's how you learned to drive all those eons ago when you were 18 years old) almost solo along Loch Lomond, over the pass and around loch roads. My headlights alone lit the wayside trees, bare now for the late autumn that it is, and the rusty bracken in its unlikely retreat from summer. After almost three hours, you turn a bend, and then out of the darkness appears the white town, it's front of small-windowed houses lit by spots of yellow light, unchanged from those far-off 18-year-old days. It is not yet the middle of night, but no one is walking, the shops all shut up tight. No wonder it has provided me such a wealth of life for my, perhaps unusual, imagination growing up here.
Beyond the town you're back in pitch black except for the car's yellow eyes, along narrow roads that were never built for more than the plod of a horse and cart. You flick on the ticking indicator, turn down the lane, and there she rises like a figment in the night, the great mound of Dunadd, tight-lipped, still guarding the memory of all she has known, from the Druids and warriors, to the farmers and holiday makers, to the tourists mounting her back to wrest what they can from the other lives she has lived.
The break of morning finds me in the cottage where my book "Veil of Time" (now the title seems only too fitting!) takes place. I haven't been back here since I wrote that story, but here I am, a cup of tea between cold palms, staring out the window on the river winding through fields of sheep that my heroine, Maggie, looks out in between bouts of slipping back into this country's naked past. What comes to me in the silence of this place on this frosty morning is how easy a slip that might be.