of Mountains, and Circles, and Russian Dolls

Cairngorm

Above is a picture taken from the top of the  Cairngorm Mountain, which in no way captures how windy it is up there. Loch Morlich can just be made out in the distance.

Gales aside, the mountain is always grounding. It is so huge and so solid and high. Worries recede. Ridiculous dramas can be seen for the trivial nothings that they are. And I was wearing my new, very cheerful dress:

russian dolls dress

There’s a scene with Russian dolls in my book, so I love this. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most appropriate clothing for hill walking, but I did wear sensible boots and a good coat and felt great solidarity with the man who had teamed shorts and plimsolls with a furry hat. We both attracted what I like to think were admiring looks.

Loch Morlich

Everything was serene down below by the loch, amid the sand and the trees.

loch waters

It was warm enough to paddle before heading to the stone circle at Aviemore:

Aviemore stone circle

This circle is rather unusually situated in the middle of a housing estate, but a peaceful and energising place nonetheless. *enters tour guide mode* There are over 150 stone circles in the Grampian region, more than the rest of Britain put together, but this is the most urban one I’ve encountered. They’re more commonly nestled on the brows of hills, sometimes surrounded by trees, sometimes overlooking open countryside. *reverts to ‘woman wearing a silly dress’ mode* I have a definite ‘thing’ for them; I write about them, I kiss them, I dance round them.

Aviemore stone circle

Yesterday I needed to soak up the calm, to absorb it from the stones and carry it with me into the week to come. However: I’ve already made one critique partner cry; I’ve got myself into a horrible manuscript formatting tangle and I have eaten too much chocolate. And it’s only Monday…

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pictures from a quiet weekend

autumn

Autumn is tinging  the tips of leaves now. A quiet point has been reached, a small breathing space between frenetic activity. It makes me sleepy. I sit in a beach cafe eating chips and watch others be energetic:

chips 033 (550x413)

In fact there’s rather a lot of sitting going on this weekend. Sitting. Staring. Watching. Contemplating the busy time to come. And smelling the birthday flowers, because that’s always good.

flower

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grey skies, blue skies

golden hay bales and grey skies Ailish Sinclair | Author

It’s harvest season in Scotland, the start of autumn, the time of illuminated crops set against dark grey skies and heavy rainfall followed by hot golden sunshine. There’s bright blue skies too, crisp fresh sunny days, new winter boots and stripy tights. That ‘new start’ feel is in the air as people head back to school or begin fresh phases of work and study.

This is my favourite season, it always feels exciting, regardless of whether I’m partaking in any ‘newness’ of my own. I feel a deeper connection to nature as the earth quietens down in readiness for winter; my predilection for sitting in trees is at its height just now (or at its most disturbing if you’re an unsuspecting passerby).

I dig up tatties, make soup and bask in the beauty of it all.

Berrybrae Stone Circle below:

Author Ailish Sinclair reaching for the skies at Berrybrae Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire

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Tarlair

Tarlair outdoor swimming pool

I recently explored Tarlair open air swimming pool with my husband and children. Despite having fallen into serious disrepair over the years, it retains a certain beauty, and is evocative – for me anyway – of times past.

It was the scene of many halcyon days one summer; I was fifteen, and due to head off to college that September. I recall lying on the grass in the sun, messing around in the boating pool, buying sweets from the shop and chatting with friends. The hazy, golden hue of these bright points in memory is augmented by the nature of other events from that time.

There was a face off with the girl who used to beat me up in primary school. There was an abusive incident with an older family member, he was much respected and I didn’t feel able to tell anyone. An older boy grabbed me on a bus and kissed and bit my neck; actually that’s not a dark memory; non-consensual and unexpected as it was, I found it rather exciting at the time… There were other daily disappointments, but it can be bitter to dwell too deeply; some things are over when they’re finally over, and they are now.

Tarlair as seen from the cliffs above today

But Tarlair remains bright, both as it is now, and as it appears in my nostalgic image of the past. Three girls on the brink of being women laughed together and talked of their hopes for the future. We swam in the water of the North Sea with all our clothes on and got changed in the only one of our homes that was free from adult disapproval. We ate chocolate in an abandoned campervan. We drank White Russians in a local nightclub where no one questioned our age; hangovers were revelled in the next day by the pool.

None of our lives turned out quite how we hoped, we trailed far off those teenage maps we drew for ourselves that summer. We’ve all tasted despair but known great joy too. Maybe we couldn’t have had one without the other.

Strong emotion increases our capacity to feel and to live and to love, surely the greatest experience of all.

Below: looking out to the wider ocean through The Needle’s Eye, a rock formation beside Tarlair.

through the Needle's Eye

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Glen Affric in the Scottish Highlands

search and rescue sea king helicopter
Track leading into the Glen Affric in the Highlands of Scotland
Here we go!
Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain
Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain

The day out happened and it happened at the stunning Glen Affric.

Page on it here

The Dog Falls at Glen Affric
Beside the Dog Falls…
Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain
Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhain from another vantage point!
heather at Glen Affric
Heather.
Loch Affric
Loch Affric.
search and rescue sea king helicopter at Glen Affric
Search and rescue Sea King helicopter over Glen Affric.

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Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

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A Day Out, A Day Off

Tolquhon Castle
Tolquhon Castle: a good place for a day out

Every so often I take a day off from writing. Not because I want to. I resist and avoid and cling to my desk in a desperate fashion. Friends persuade and entice me outside… and it is always good, always nourishing and refreshing. There’s a planned outing later this week and I can just picture my characters’ reactions when they realise I’m not there at the keyboard…

Justin notices first. He looks up, listens and checks again. “She’s gone out!”

Every character, from the main protagonist to the young police officer who only gets mentioned once, sags with relief. They go back to bed and sleep in till lunchtime. Later they shuffle downstairs to get tea and food and sit in silence in the dining hall.

People who usually snipe and gripe at each other pass the sugar without word. Two of them exchange a wry smile, for without my omniscient presence to keep them busy they can sense what’s coming, not the details, but the shadow of ‘something bad’ ahead, something they would avoid if they could. But like my day out, it cannot be avoided; it has to happen.

They head to bed early, exhausted by the hours of doing nothing, tired from the rest and relaxation.

No arguments. No sex. No laughter.

How boring! These people need me! Maybe I shouldn’t go out after all…

***

Keep up with all my news by signing up to the mailing list. It’s occasional and always contains some exclusive photos.

Set in a fictional castle in Aberdeenshire, Ailish Sinclair’s debut novel, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR, blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story.

Amazon

Waterstones

Barnes and Noble

GoodReads

The Mermaid and the Bear