This is the 30th post of a series which is introduced here.
Thursday 20 June 2019
It’s almost midday and I’m waiting to meet Jenny and Angie off the train at Aviemore. I lean against a pillar and stare out along the railway lines to their vanishing point, but I’m not really looking outwards – I’m looking in. Despite still waiting for biopsy results on my womb – and now with a date for my two-year breast check – I notice how much more relaxed I feel after the difficulties of recent weeks. I contemplate the incomprehensibility of the low I’d succumbed to then; how layers of different pressures had caused thoughts to become monsters and my mind to feel diseased. The power and depth of that blackness had taken me to a very bad place, but one which now seemed a different world away. I recall how I’d cried uncontrollably in a crowded Italian restaurant the night before my first book festival talk . . . but how much lighter I’d felt when the talk, in actual fact, went well. My youngest son disappeared to Ibiza for a week giving us both some space and, at the same time, restoring equilibrium between me and Paul. And, the day before flying to London for my TV debut on Lorraine, just when I really needed it, I received a massive confidence boost by way of a review of my book. I’m not out of the woods, but edges of depression are lifting. Bit by bit I’m getting back on track. Suddenly the alarming sound of air horns pull me back to the present. A train’s coming . . .
I look anxiously amongst faces of disembarking passengers. At last I see Jenny (my agent) and Angie and feel relief. I smile and wave. Us three have never walked together before, and in fact this is the first time I’ve met Angie (she is buyer for all the Scottish Waterstones). But here we are. Brought together because today the book I wrote is finally in shops, and to celebrate this we are going up Meall a’Bhuachaille – fitting since it’s the first hill I write about in Just Another Mountain. I drive to Glenmore to the start of our walk. And from the off we all chat away openly and easily.
The route we take goes up by the reindeer centre and right at a fork onto a wide track, passing stands of Scots Pines. I always admire these impressive trees with their great red trunks full of knots and knurls; twisting branches and bluey-green needles hiding bug and bird life. Patchy cloud fills the sky and the wind makes it feel chilly, but the moment the sun breaks through, it’s pleasant and warm. Cairngorm dominates the view on my right. I was up there at the start of this month, when my inside self felt asleep. Thank God I’m on the up, I think, and feel the happiness and safety of being outdoors surrounded by nature again.
‘So, how does it feel to be a published author?’ Jenny asks.
‘To be honest it’s kind of like having a birthday – another year older but I don’t feel the leap. There’s been so much going on I can’t say I feel any different really. But it is super cool to have my story in print and I’m well chuffed with that as a personal achievement.’ What Jenny asked gets me thinking about the fact that people will now be reading my story. The thought fills me with dread. What if people don’t like it and are mean? It’s my real life they’ll be picking apart and I’ve left myself wide open to criticism. What in the name actual fuck have I gone and done?
‘How was the trip to London yesterday?’ asks Angie, breaking up the private conversation in my head. I tell her and Jenny about the trip.
‘It was a tight schedule!’ But great to meet the team from Elliott and Thompson (my publishers) and be treated to a lush dinner.
‘I was up early to go to the ITV studios, didn’t even get breakfast,’ I said, ‘but Lorraine Kelly was lovely. She came to see me in the Green Room before the show aired. We even had a giggle when I told her that her aunty had taught me Home Economics at school and had given me a telling for cooking the wooden spoon.’
Jenny, Angie and I continue along the trail which grows narrower as it tapers toward the wide path that runs up the valley. Lochan Uaine remains hidden by trees for now, but I know it’s there at the foot of Creag nan Gall’s steep scree slope. It’s all so familiar and safe: not like live TV. Sheesh! That was a baptism of fire! I think, as I play over the intense moments before my TV debut. Paul Merton and his wife Suki had walked by. She’d smiled, he had not. Piers Morgan’s voice had seemed to boom from the big screen fixed onto the wall behind me. Then Lorraine came on – and I was called to the studio floor. Havoc wreaking adrenaline heightened and panic seized my mind. I must’ve had the old startled rabbit in headlights look because members of the production team were doing their level best to give me reassurances, but too late, my brain was already being a total fucker and fully freaking out. Don’t swear don’t swear don’t swear it’ll be fine you’ll be fine just don’t fucking swear!
Click link above to watch the interview.
Rain begins to fall and the wind blows colder. We are on the main path, sploshing through puddles. Ryvoan bothy is in sight. Rain drives down harder. It’s time for waterproofs so we dive into the stone shelter. Musty, woody scents intermingle. Angie thinks it smells like peaty whisky. Jenny is more focused on getting out of the rain, but we both notice how much tidier the place is. There’s even new sleeping mats and foils neatly laid out and a tidy stack of firewood piled up. We scoff cakes Jenny treated us to before returning outdoors. It’s so dark in the bothy and as we leave I accidentally bounce my head off a low beam – be warned Ryvoan goers.
Views over Abernethy forest and Bynack More open up as we gain height, and I love how I can see the weather coming in up the valley. At the summit I see the whole sky is a patchwork of light rain and sunshine; to the north Ben Wyvis is partially obscured but behind me the Cairngorm range is free of cloud, and in the valley passing showers have rained themselves out. I breathe deeply and let my lungs fill with mountain joy. Looking out over the Speyside landscape I think about the man I met on my flight home from London yesterday – he’s somewhere here and I like knowing that. Release of all the adrenaline in me had caused me to sleep in the plane til we were over Glasgow and the plane began its descent to Inverness. It rattled about in some turbulence. ‘I don’t like this.’ I’d said out loud. The man smiled and asked if I flew often. I explained it had only been a flying visit to London – and of course told him I’d been on the telly that morning. Turned out he was on a flying trip north – visiting Cairngorms to film for Netflix series The Crown. He’s only the director! And he tells me he’s interested in, and done, a lot of real life stories. At this point I’m convinced we were destined to meet and ask if he wants the copy of my book I have in my bag. He says he does so I tell him it’ll cost him fourteen pounds and ninety-nine pennies.
I’m in the middle of fantasising about the film of my book when a squeal of delight makes me turn round to see Jenny producing a bottle of prosecco from her bag. I get first swig. Bubbles expand and explode in my mouth. I swallow, and we all laugh.
I’m happy as I walk down the mountain and I hope the high will last longer than it did after being on Ben Macdui and Cairngorm with Mel. I’m well attuned to how my feelings can simmer, ready to resurface any time, and I know I need to be careful. But things are cool. I’m walking and I’m writing which are good outlets, and I’m seeing a counsellor next week – talking will also help. We all have struggles and these are ways I deal with mine.
Thanks for reading. If you want to follow my journey please click the link at the top of the page or give my Facebook page a like. Tune in next time to see what happens next.
If you are interested here is the review I was emailed the day before I went to London.