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Travelogue I31

October 26, 2016

The local roadway’s considerable signage brought us safely back to the M6 at Penrith, where we entered the motorway and raced for Carlyle. As foreseen in G.’s binder, we had managed to leave the park by late afternoon, such that we would arrive at that day’s destination before night fell. All the same, a certain haste, even agitation, found its ways into our words and G.’s driving.

The road to Carlisle was flanked by numerous towns and villages, of which a fair few sounded evocative my ears, as well as my companion’s, when we tried them out: Greystroke, Edenhall, Hutton-in-the-Forest, Hesket (both Low and High). Still, we would not see these Northern English settlements and could only conjecture at what they might hold for the visitor: a decaying guildhall, a Sunday wood, the remnants of small-scale industry and craft. Half an hour swiftly passed and Carlisle with it.

Our agitation grew with Carlisle’s passing in that it signaled England’s end, at least in a political sense. For a bridge soon carried us across the Channel of River Esk, the syntax of which I had difficulty untangling, and there appeared to the west the settlement of Gretna, the sign that G. and I had at last crossed over into Scotland. As the M6 became the A74 and bent northwest, we shared a small cheer.

There followed a crude joke, but there we were, within the bounds of an entity of which we had only ever spoken, often into the wee hours. For my part, it was difficult to put my finger on precisely what had so held my imagination in that place. I could make claim to neither Scottish blood nor tongue, but only a token Scottish friend, what I had seen of the country in film and an appreciation for its whiskymaking tradition. As often proves the cases with tourists, my fascination owed to an idea more than any reality. Still, I consoled myself with the thought that perhaps all tourism sets out from such ideas, constitutively unable to integrate the real.

Dusk would see us arrive at Glasgow’s outskirts, with its industrial stretches and metal circus maximus, of which neither G. nor I could make much sense. That said, we managed to negotiate the evening traffic and turnoffs with little difficulty and arrived before our guesthouse just as the sunset gilded the tops of the West End’s 19th century tenements.

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