Monday, 2 May 2016

Well-smoked and slightly confused

Well-smoked and slightly confused
at the Highland Folk Museum at Kingussie

last thoughts of a blackhouse on N Uist
I don’t know why these places feel so familiar, and so comfortable. I didn’t grow up in a blackhouse or spend my summers in one of those quaint 2-room tin-shack summer houses by a windswept western beach, but they feel so instantly familiar that I am left confused.

N Uist, looking out
 In the peat-smoked interior of the long, dark, heather-roofed house, the box-bed, the worn dresser, the enamel pans on their nails, I know them all. My grandparents lived in a tenement in  Campbeltown at the tail end of the Mull of Kintyre - the dead-end, they call it now although when we visited there, there was still an RAF base at Macrihanish and a ferry over from Glasgow. That row of tall houses, with their stairs worn into alarming ripples by years of shuffling feet and the outside loo where giant sea-slaters lurked in wait, is long gone. My memories are of darkness and dark uncomfortable furniture and a coal fire range and a tin bath and the cheerfulness of family and the stern-ness of grandparents who were yet indulgent. And the walk in the morning with a jug to the dairy down the road…
and i wonder if the furniture in that upstairs apartment was essentially that of any highland home or any highland couple of a certain vintage, a sort of standard set that might have been found in blackhouse, or croft or tenement apartment in Campbeltown

And that doll’s house of a seasonal home, corrugated iron and sleepers shaping two rooms and looking like the refuge of a maiden aunt. Perhaps that what it is: those clothes hanging behind the door could be her clothes, that coat her coat, the smell of soap, the pin-point neatness, the small ornaments, the understated evidence of a quiet life lived by being and not by owning, all this could be hers.

But I am still standing here in the Highland Folk Museum, blinking in the sunlight and heading for a bit of singing stillness in Leanach Church
N Uist, looking in

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