Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Leaving Scotland

(Stuart in party mode at the Arches.)

I’ve been on the move again.

After two and a half months back home in Scotland, I’m back out in Australia, ready to start my new job. The original intention of this blog – in addition to being a diary to entertain me in my old age (well it has to entertain someone) – was to keep distant friends and rellies up to date with how I was getting on in exotic lands on my year out.

(Right: Sombrero Craig)

So it seems appropriate now that I’m living and working down under that I should start up the blog again. But no more books, I promise…

Before I mention Australia (and the gorgeous weather here!) maybe I should start by filling in the details since the last update.

As mentioned before, I got back to Scotland around the end of August. It was an odd feeling being back, and I especially remember being on the British Airways flight from Heathrow, looking out of the window over the Firth of Forth and seeing the buildings of Edinburgh and then the Forth Bridges.

(Left: Sheena, Nic and I)

I wondered what had changed as I stepped off the plane. It seems there were two big stories in Scotland in the year I’d been away and both were evident before I’d even ventured out of the airport.

The SNP’s victory back in the Spring had – whatever its long-term merits – promoted a new sense of pride in Scotland and I felt I could discern this optimism and hopeful nationalism in the adverts at the airport.

The other big event was, of course, the terrorist attack on Glasgow airport in June. A certain John “Smeato” Smeaton is now a part of Scottish folklore – and a hero to rival James McFadden – but while Smeato and friends’ actions are also a source of pride for Scotland, the re-envigorated security measures at Edinburgh airport were more a signal of the negative indirect impact terrorism can have, whether their direct actions are successful or not.

(Right: Kate and Tony)

But anyway, I never felt that my time back in Scotland would be about Scotland per se. It would be all about catching up with friends and family. It was great to meet up with Stuart and Lorna for lunch that afternoon, just a couple of hours after getting back. After that I headed down to Ayr where I surprised my mum by knocking on the front door unannounced. As I’d only secured a place on my flight at the very last minute, I hadn’t had the chance to let my folks know I’d be home a week early. I thought I’d rather leave it as a surprise than phone from Heathrow.

So the first week was spent catching up with family and friends in Scotland. One person had certainly changed a lot. My niece had gone from 3 months to 15, from burbling and not doing much, to walking and (kind of!) talking. Some cute photos attached. After missing my own homecoming party it was good to catch up with Kirsty and Gordon. And Rowan and I had a good laugh at the Simpsons movie.

(Left: Colette looking a little nervous about the camera in her jim-jams)

I only really had one major task to sort out in Scotland – my new job. With my work sabbatical extended for a year and having met my old colleagues in Edinburgh, those ends were easily tied-up. Sorting out the job was far less easy. Time differences and a busy workload for my new boss meant that I didn’t get my application in until two months after I got back to Scotland. Though this involved a lot of testing late-night calls and extensive emails, it didn’t leave me with a lot to do during the day.

And so it seemed obvious to write the book, about which I’ve send enough below. Aside from this and catching up with people, it was a fairly relaxing couple of months in many ways, though the tension of waiting and hoping for my visa to be approved was tiring in itself. But at last the visa was approved on the last day in October.

I booked flights a couple of days later and arranged a last run around to catch up with people. Most of the photos here are from those nights out, including a couple of really enjoyable visits to London. It was great to meet up with old friends, and new friends from my travels.

So I flew out to Hong Kong on the 8th of November, for a few days of (more!) travelling before getting to Australia and my new job.

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