‘Are you ok there?’
‘Yes, we’re just doing a treasure hunt.’
— Meeting wanderers on a twilight path, somewhere near Newport, Pembrokeshire.
I awake inside the headmaster’s office of an old school building in Aberystwyth, a small but pretty university town by the sea. The students are still away for their summer break, giving the town a tranquil but not too desolate feel. I look out its jaunty multi-coloured Victorian terraces, so self-contained and sure of itself. Yet there’s little around Aber, and nothing in the landscape I passed earlier would suggest its existence. It’s not sucking the life out of its surrounding areas, unlike most of the major cities, nor is it desperately trying to prove a point, often badly, like many of the smaller cathedral cities. I hear the cry of the gulls in the air, and as Nia and I wander into the town for some breakfast, I can’t help noticing passers-by with a swing in their step.
* Readers: I apologise for the now fortnight backlog in updates. I’m still alive and travelling, but have had little time, electricity, and internet connection. Fortunately there’s been some extraordinary adventures and encounters – some really magical people and experiences. In the meantime, please bear with me.
‘People have stopped going to the blockbusters…’ – Nia, Aber.
I awake in Machnylleth, a sleepy town on the mid-Wales coast with dormant dreams of a green revolution. I’ve slept the night in a lovely house in the town, eating and talking with a group of housemates who I’d like to count as another collection of friends made on this journey. Travelling by the day, one meets so many inspiring and curious characters, and it’s been a delightful treat to gorge each day on anecdotes, ideas and opinions. I believe that every person possesses inside them a small universe, their own unique imaginative internalisation of the world around them. Connecting with people can, at its rare best, feel like an electric connection, charged and powerful, transforming both interlocutors in the flow of ideas. Or, on a less mystical note, just damn interesting. There’s a lot of damn interesting people on these islands. Keep faith in one’s fellow companion. That stranger is a friend not yet made. I’ve held close to that dictum, and so immensely profited from every encounter.
‘I’ve been skiving for like, the whole week!’ Young teen to older brother, Tollcross, Edinburgh.
Every part of me had started to ache: knees, legs, heart and head. I needed a few days rest with my partner in some cosy, lovely and friendly town, surrounded by wonderfully sunny weather and friends old and new. Edinburgh has therefore been a gentle delight.
It’s also a city of contrasts. Its historic Georgian town centre just about conceals large and troubling social problems cast out to the suburbs. Its confidence in displaying its own past is undermined by an uncertainty about its future. And for a town that some remark as being the ‘most English’ Scottish town – on account of its seeming gentility perhaps? I’m not sure – the built scenery often reminded me of a Scandinavian or German town, pleasant if somewhat sterile. I’ll try to relay what I’ve found, and I encounter visions of its past and future quite at odds with each other.