Opinion: Robert McNeil – Let’s talk about the road to a mild woodland.



I have to confess that it’s disturbing how Covid made many people live the way I’ve had for years: working from home; not talking to anyone for days to come; walking around in the great outdoors.

For days on end, not talking to anybody; walking around in the great outdoors.

A religiously uplifting sermon this week concerns the latter. British people spend five hours and 43 minutes a week outdoors to boost their mood, according to a study conducted by NiQuitin, the manufacturer of anti-smoking paraphernalia.

This is done in part, it says, simply by moving away from partners and hectic households. But a great part would be attributed to the phenomenon that raises the soul just being outside in the greenery.

How this works, I don’t know. Perhaps the phenomenon is atavistic. Perhaps it’s the way we’re meant to be: wild, wild. It doesn’t sound like me too much. I like living in the wild out there. But I like tea and scones as well.

Let’s not get this over analyzed. Instead, let’s go for a stroll. Ok, come on, I’m going to have you on mine. You better take those high heels off. Yeah, sir, you are.

Where we are, I won’t tell you. Let’s call it Rabadoon, a fantasy land of fun that happens to exist. Long, thick underpants made of old velvet curtains; knee-high socks tucked over wellie tops; polar fleece-lined pants; an anorak built for the U.S. There’s snow on the floor, so we’re well wrapped Arctic Air Force personnel; fuzzy fleece; neck warmers; ear-covering woolly Skandi-style hat; gloves the size of Wales.

Outside, it is cold, but I’m relaxed. We’re waddling along, down the hillside lane, then through the village. In summer, if they have not managed to hide in time, I sometimes speak to three or four people. There’s no one on the road today. In reality, on the whole hike, we won’t see another soul.

True, we’re late and soon it’ll be dark. But then, one or two dog walkers are usually there.

We leave the village along the forest path that runs alongside the road, then turn and go uphill to the wider path of the forest. On one side is a hill, and on the other is a deep, dark, natural pine forest. I go inside occasionally. But I’m usually too afraid. It’s eerie; completely silent; the snow doesn’t penetrate; I feel like I’m intruding; I’m careful not to break any branches, hoping the trees will accept me.

Onward, passing the cottages with their fantastic views of the sea and the mountains. The moon has already risen and makes the snow-covered peaks shine. Again we enter another forest area, but more open because the huge deciduous trees need space.

Down the hill we come to a gate that leads us into the castle park, which is also mostly wooded. Crossing the small humpbacked wooden bridge and passing the castle ruins, we come to my refuge, an arbor overlooking the sea and mountains. Here I practice my real profession: Wave watching.

I don’t know what I expect from the sea. Maybe break out in song. It is Rabadoon, after all. But I just like to watch it rise and fall, older than time, still here long after I’ve been burned.

Whoa! Horrible thought. To comfort me, a friendly robin lands on the fence and asks how I’m doing. I’m fine, actually. And how are you, dear readers? Are you feeling better? No?

No wonder, you’ve been sitting in the shed pretending to be out with me.

Come on, put on your rubber boots and hit the road. Tell your loved ones that it will take you a while, but you’ll be back in time for tea and scones.

Bladder Problems

I’m going to be blunt here and confess that I rarely drink champagne. It’s usually drunk to celebrate something, and apart from the Hibs winning the Scottish Cup in 2016, I can’t remember anything in my life that was cause for, you know, celebration.

Even then, I celebrated soccer’s great triumph – the last time I openly wept – by drinking 10 pints of beer. Champagne, on the other hand, might have made me antsy.

However, there exists a photo of me with a Hebridean friend on a New Year’s Day in which we each have a glass of beer, whiskey and champagne in front of us. Our respective partners have only champagne, and not even in a half-pint glass like we do.

The photo was passed around among friends and triggered d


Leave A Reply