Irrespective of whether I am sure of its exact coordinate position or not, the fact remains that I did spend the weekend there. Two days during which I speculated if I was closer to France than I usually am, twisted my ankle six times, developed a convincing, almost arthritic crick in the knee, and slept in a pub, on a dining table, on two different buses, in a bus stop, and on the deck of a ferry.
By this time, the reader has probably left – being, as most normal people are, completely disinterested in the weekend activities of a somnambulist. But if you haven’t, (and in case you’re reading this, you haven’t) let me hasten to explain that Arran is an island which is supposed to be a miniature model of Scotland – the island contains, among others, thick forests, waterfalls, a 2000 foot mountain, crazy bus drivers who think they’re driving roller coasters, and rubbish bins exclusively for dog poop*. In fact, the only thing I couldn’t find were large numbers of friendly Scottish drunks looking for someone to talk to about how Englishmen are evil incarnate (something one expects to find as a matter of course in every Scottish city).
Part I – The Trip to Arran
The day that I got onto the bus to begin my trip to this little isle dawned fresh and beautiful. It didn’t appear all that fresh and beautiful to me because sleeping just two hours results in one having a rather jaundiced view of things.
After drawing a small Nazi swastika on the condensate on the bus stop window (and hoping to alarm some pacifist or idiot into thinking that it was time to wear yellow stars around their arms again), I got onto the bus and staggered to the most comfortable seat I could find.
It was then that I found that I had forgotten to zip my fly up. Finding oneself with an unzipped fly when almost completely surrounded by women is probably the kind of thing some people actually enjoy – strippers, streakers, and miscellaneous other perverts.
But, being none of them, and on the contrary, being a nice Indian boy, I found myself in a highly uncomfortable situation. After having settled into the most fetal position I could possible contort myself to settle into, I slept fitfully – dreaming all the time of most unpleasant occurrences. All of which involved me accidentally stretching my legs.
Two hours later, I found myself being woken up by a few rather impolite jabs, and being pushed into a ferry.
And talking of coffee served at the lounge where one waits for a ferry (not that we were, but let’s assume we were), I had an argument of great pith and moment with someone over why it is alright to leave a coffee cup on a chair if one cannot find a dustbin anywhere in sight. As I walked away after having lost the argument, I decided that this unnecessary attention to detail is probably why Asia looks all set to supplant Europe in the world stage. You wouldn’t find an Indian or a Chinese bloke spending hours looking for dustbins when the whole world is at his disposal (pun intended).
As I watched the ferry move slowly towards Arran, I began to wonder if that landmass that I sighted yonder was France. I turned to a friend of mine, who happened to be contemplating similarly deep thoughts, and spoke
‘Hey, is that France that I see out there?’
She laughed. I am often used to girls giggling at my witticisms, but this didn’t sound right. Girls, when they giggle, do not often sound sarcastic. And neither do they look like she did just then.
‘We’re sailing to the west of Scotland. How on earth do you expect to find France here?’
I was perplexed for a bit. West, according to me, was a perfectly natural place for France to be, unless it had moved since I heard from it last. After all, I’d been led to believe all along by my geography teacher that France was a western country.
But before I could say that, realization dawned upon me. Us Warriers are not perplexed for long. I turned towards her and said, rather snappily, ‘Ah! We’re on the Pacific then!’
A long silence, punctuated by hyenasque gasps, followed, as she held onto the railings trying not to fall over. Dashed inconsiderate of her, I must say.
‘No, you idiot! This is the Atlantic! And what you think you see is Northern Ireland.’
I was not convinced and decided to consult a local, as Scotsmen are unlikely to double over with laughter when one asks them a question of great pith and moment. I found a local yokel leaning over the railing, smoking a meditative cigarette.
‘Er, excuse me, mate, but are we on the Atlantic Ocean?’
‘ARRh…nayy, we aRe on the fiRth of <some word that has slipped my mind for the nonce>. If we tRavel another hundRed miles, we would be on the Atlantic, aye! And that theRe is the isle of ARRan. ’, said he, enunciating each ‘r’ loud enough to wake the dead.
Ah! I knew we weren’t sailing to Ireland. It had to be the isle of Arran.
I turned to my friend in triumph. ‘See? See? It’s not the Atlantic! We’re at the confluence of the Pacific and the Atlantic. And the firth of whatever it is called is just Gaelic for the Pacific. Almost everything is called a firth of something or the other around these parts’
(Cut to: Fifteen minutes later)
A long geography lesson punctuated with condescending and funny remarks which weren’t remotely funny (though the other hyenas seemed to think otherwise) culminates.
- Do not argue with a woman. You’ll lose.
- If the captain says you’re sailing to the Isle of Arran, believe him.
- The Atlantic is closer to the firth of whatever it is than the Pacific.
- The firth of whatever it is is not the Gaelic word for the Pacific.
- I should never have passed my geography examination in school. Somebody made a big mistake.
Will our intrepid hero be thrown to the sharks for his ineptness in Geography? Will he fall off the Goatfell mountain, and add to the multitude of goats that have already fallen off it? Will he continue to write such arrant nonsense? All this, and lots more, in the next episode of this breathtakingly boring travelogue.
*Vilasrao Deshmukh must have, at one time, been mayor of Arran.