Glengorm Castle

13. Juli 2012 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

And then I end up in a fakey tale castle on the edge of the world where the lawn peters out into a sheep pasture and then gives way to the azure Ocean. It’s all a coincidence really. I had cycled a whopping 115 km to Oban on Tuesday and gave myself a day of rest in this bustling yet provincial port town. I checked out possibilities to chase up remnants of the Scottish Gaelic language, and as with the Ladin of Val di Fassa (see entry for 29 June 2011), I was prepared to go out of my way for it. I read somewhere that apart from the Outer Hebrides, Gaelic was most alive on the small island of Tiree (with 47% Gaelic/English bilinguals), but try as I might, I could not reserve accommodation in advance and I didn’t want to risk the 4-hour ferry trip and end up spending the night under the bridge (if they have any there at all).
So I gave up on that and opted for Mull. After spending three nights in hostels with increasing numbers of male snorers, I decided to treat myself to something special, a night in the B&B section of Glengorm Castle. The getting there, I must admit, was more than half the pleasure: lonely island roads, spectacular views over the straits and to Ardnamurchan, the rocky peninsula, and then the quaint (yes, I know) harbour town of Tobermory that one wants to leave quickly for all the fish-and-chips munching tourists. The Castle is five miles out on a yet lonelier country lane and emerges repeatedly from behind a forest only to hide away again. The weather is now sunnier with interesting patterns of clouds. Finally, my Schwalbe Marathon tyres crunch over the gravel of the forecourt. The castle is comfortable, corresponding to the dream of the house of a laird, but ultimately a phoney affair, the kind of thing that is bought up by aging B-rated rock stars.
And this is precisely the look of the man I meet in the evening on the doorstep smoking something distinctly herbal: stooped posture, slurred speech, skinny legs in jeans. A second look disconcerts me: blue mascara on the eyelids, auburn-painted fingernails, a sad pensive je-ne-sais-quoi in the eyes.
He is totally open about it: He’s in the process of becoming Fiona, and he’s on a romantic holiday with his wonderfully understanding wife of fifteen years, Monika. He’s from Manchester (and yes, has done it all, the drugs, the music, the lot) but has been living in Switzerland for the past 18 years. As Monika joins us, we quickly find out that not only did we attend the same school in Winterthur, but the two of them also met and fell in love with each other at KZU in Bülach, where I had been teaching English a few years before. We reminisce about all the colleagues, the eldest of whom I now hear has developed Parkinson and dementia, and the headmaster, big bad Wolf.
Later, in the library we admire the gorgeous sunset through the bay windows, helping ourselves to various complimentary single malts from the shelf: I taste Ledaig, Tobermory and Jura, in ascending order of appeal.
We talk about these amazing encounters, coincidental or not, and about transitions and shifts. I ask Fiona how long he has felt this woman/girl in him. Since he was three, he says, but the sex change is an arduous life-long affair. The conversation reminds him that he has to take his pills. I ungraciously ask if they mix well with the alcohol. You have to take risks, he says, and goes on to talk about this small paradise and the most glorious sunset he has ever experienced.
It’s a fairy tale of peace and tranquillity, and if he shakes the snow globe and lets the flakes settle peacefully, I’m sure she’ll wake up next morning over a marvellous breakfast with smoked trout and scrambled eggs, served with a view over the lawn and the azure sea.

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