Outlandish

Temperatures have dropped in Madrid and it’s raining.

I had to grab a jacket from the coat rack before I took the bottles out to do the recycling earlier. How neglected they all looked hanging up there. And the shoes — kicked to the back of the cupboard save for a pair of knackered old trainers I use for shopping trips and taking the bins out. 

Once on the street, I pulled the toggles of my hood and it closed in around my ears, amplifying the patter of rain. Puddles were collecting in the uneven pavement slabs and small streams were racing around the turn in the curb. 

I felt as though I had been transported back to Inverness.

If I shut my eyes, I could even have been walking up the road by my house on the Black Isle. Constant drizzle. Clean, cold air. Hands in pockets.

When the quarantine began, I felt close to those back home as I was inundated by messages asking after my safety. But now I feel miles away.

After five years, I consider Spain to be my home but it’s not as profoundly my home as Scotland is. 

If I was to try to quantify it, I’d say that I have soaked up Madrid skin deep — its language, its way of life, the friends it has offered me. But Scotland goes all the way to the bone like an easterly wind blowing up Church Street in Inverness.

The kind of wind that feels like it has a personal vendetta. One that can penetrate a 10-pint beer jacket. But not one that will stop you from getting chips and cheese.

The weather in Madrid, by contrast, is a breeze. 

I only usually get homesick on Sundays but as the days blend into each other under lockdown, every day could be a Sunday. The fact that I’ve binge-watched 10 hours of Outlander in the last two days doesn’t help my cause. 

For those of you who haven’t seen Outlander, it follows the story of a Claire Beauchamp — pronounced Bee-chum for some reason — who is accidentally transported from the 1940s to 1740s Scotland when she touches a stone circle during her honeymoon in the Bonnie Highlands, leaving her new husband, Frank, distraught. 

Back in time, she quickly settles into life among the Mackenzie clan. Her attempts to get back to her husband become fewer and farther between when she shacks up with a ripped ginger guy called Jamie. 

I, myself, am using the quarantine to become a ripped ginger guy.

But all too often my workouts consist of me writhing on the floor like a worm in the rain while an American fitness instructor with impossibly white teeth shouts at me from Youtube. 

“Smile through the pain, you can do it.”

If only you could see me, Mr Popsugar, you would not be saying that.

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I find myself jealous of Claire BeeCHUM, not because of her polyamorous and cross-dimensional love life, but because she is free to stroll down Church Street in Inverness. 

When I’m not seething with jealousy watching Instagram stories of friends back in Scotland on the beach (must be rough), I’m constantly pausing Outlander and shouting “I know where that is! I’ve been there!”

I can’t be transported back to Scotland. There are no stone circles near my flat, just recycling bins. 

The shattering of glass bottles as I pushed them one by one through the hole echoed around the square outside the market as though I was announcing my presence. The only person nearby was a man wearing a surgical mask walking his dalmation, and he wasn’t keeping count, which was my main concern.

It got me thinking, though. There must be at least one day a year when the sun shines directly through the holes of these bins. 

When that day comes, I shall crawl through the opening —providing I’m not too ripped by then — and perhaps I’ll emerge from the bins near the Fairy Glen in Rosemarkie. 

From there it’ll be a short walk up the hill to get home. 

And if it’s raining, I’ll just pull the toggles of my hood tight around my head.

 

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