Chapter One. Ceilidh.

– In which I do a lot of walking, hitchhiking, driving and flying – Also dancing – There’s quite a lot of boozing too –

I have a large family. I don’t own them, nor did I make them, but I would still say that they’re mine. I’m willing to defend this standpoint in a court of law but hopefully it won’t come to that.

I have four brothers, one sister, and the usual amount of parents; two. The brothers range from older and hairier, to younger and less hairy. The sister, whilst remaining the same relative difference in age to me, ages at the regular rate and that means that nobody was surprised when she turned 18 last week. We’d expected it for quite a while; 18 years, to be exact.

And so, bright and early on Friday morning, I shoved a bunch of clothes, books and mints into my rucksack, grabbed the hat that my good friend Imogen had made for me, and jumped on a bus in order to start the journey back to rural Scotland to attend her birthday party.

The problem was, halfway up a mountain isn’t the easiest place to get away from, and middle-of-buttfuck-nowhere in Scotland isn’t the easiest place to get to, so all in all my little four-day excursion would boil down as follows:

  • 12 hours travelling to Scotland ( bus > funicular > transfer car > plane > hire car)
  • 16 hours sleeping ( a luxurious 5½ hours a night)
  • 5 hours setting up the ceilidh ( if that word confuses you, read on)
  • 6 hours dancing, spinning, thumping and generally moving around a lot
  • 4 hours eating ( because when there’s five boys and one girl, there’s a lot of food)
  • 12 more hours travelling back to Les Arcs 1800 ( hire car > plane > transfer > hitchhiking)
  • and so on…

Evidently then, the need for a high-speed bullet train running directly from the French Alps to a field near my home is high. I’m making a Kickstarter.


ceilidh (kai-lee)

noun

– Scottish traditional dance/event, made up of dances involving two – six people. Most of these dances are basically just polite fights, and bruises/wounds are proudly shown as evidence of a good time.

For more information on how
ceilidh dances work, watch this.


Once the dust had settled, the siren of the ambulance had receded into the distance, and we’d worked out who’s false teeth where whose, we retired back to the house for some more drinking, a good old talk about how fun it was that nobody died, and an in-depth discussion about the vagaries of the bar trade.

If you’re wondering how many vagaries the bar trade has; it’s a lot. It’s riddled with vagaries. It has vagaries coming out the wazoo. I’m sure I’ll do a rant about them some time soon.

The fact that this discussion took place while I made a round of cocktails is neither here nor there. Or rather; while I made a round of the janky-ass home-grown no-measure version of cocktails.

If in doubt, always add more alcohol and sugar.


Then, after a few more minutes of that aforementioned sleep, it was back in the car, back on the plane, back into the transfer, then out into the valley town below Les Arcs… 5 minutes after the last funicular train finished.

Bugger.

Oh well, time to hitchhike. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. Granted, last time was on a balmy day in Scotland in the middle of a forest, rather than in a snowy French town heading up a large and increasingly loomy mountain. But the principle is the same, right?

Turns out that, while the principle is indeed the same, the temperature isn’t. Add to this the fact that I very cleverly managed to stand on my headphones and break them, and that hitchhiking can get very boring, and I had a long wait.

You have to be stoic when you hitchhike. You have to have an upbeat attitude towards people and the world in general, because every time a car sweeps on past you and completely ignores you, or beeps their horn as they pass, your faith in humanity takes a little knock and you wonder whether we’re just a little bit overdue a plague.

Then some kind person stops and your faith is utterly restored. You throw your bag in the back, clamber in a spare seat, introduce yourself and (as I did) stumble through the language barrier to exchange stories.

And then, when you get decanted and you walk the rest of the way up the mountain, through the snow and fog towards the lights that you’ve temporarily nicknamed ‘home’, the warm feeling stays with you through the walk.


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