With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-wheeled things.
Seen here beside great beauty and our first proper (big) loch of the trip, Campy's pompadour and wing mirrors can be enticing or intimidating depending on the immediate purpose.
My Scottish friends might be baffled by my quotation from a well-known English nationalist? The answer is complex. There is that intangible romanticism about Scotland that so many of us cling to. I have let on, in my previous episode of this blog, that I have a certain not-quite-evanescent tie to Scotland via my Gran, Molla. I found my tenuous links reflected in GK Chesteton's ironic poem and his claim: "that his mother came of 'Scottish people, who were Keiths of Aberdeen'. He goes on to say that 'partly because of a certain vividness in any infusion of Scots blood or patriotism, this northern affiliation appealed strongly to my affections; and made a sort of Scottish romance of my childhood'".
Or maybe I'm just an opportunist looking for a description of the behemoth that carts us around on these expeditions:
"The tattered outlaw of the earth" is soon to become more tattered ...
But first we must pause to admire the vast swathes of water and crags and peer into the distance over Loch Linnhe with our mid-morning tea. There is a dedicated cycle path that starts in front of us. It is part of the still-to-be-completed Sustrans traffic free route from Oban to Inverness and it is very tempting for us to get out our bikes and pootle along the coast.
A peaceful pause in the journey in the vicinity of Appin, home of the Stewart (Joan and her son, Robbie, are mentioned in a previous blog) ancestry, although not necessarily the house in the picture.. Little wonder that Robbie and his son, Murray, turned into world class paddlers. Olympic gold medallist in Murray's case, who could know what Robbie might have achieved had he not had his heyday in the Apartheid years. Ironically, his family was strongly condemnatory of that regime.
But Shelley-ann (Shan) has always wanted to spend some time in Oban and Scott has given us a list of other delights to visit if we have time ...
Another, more authentic, Poet
None other than than the great Robert Burns, in addressing a mouse:
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley."
Actually, donkeys are bigger than mice by anyone's reckoning, but do they go further a-gley? Yiz shall find oot ...
Many of you will have come across the Mars bar benchmark, the inflation indicator. The standard bar remained an identical size for many decades and it was theoretically possible to calculate the value of a pound today vs. some time in the past depending on the prices now and then.
I'm going to steal this concept and try to apply it to Minis.
The above picture, stolen from a mini brochure and messed around with a bit without altering the proportions, shows a latter day Mini (R) alongside an original version, dating from about the last time most UK roads were altered (and resurfaced).
Every now and then some highways authority widens a bit of a road but it becomes too difficult (read expensive) in most spaces, especially urban ones. The new mini is almost 40% wider, taking into account "ears". Therefore, two cars that might have comfortably squeezed past each other within 3 metres would, in current guise, need another metre.
A motor home and a Volvo (similar in width, especially if the Volvo is equipped with errant wings for towing a caravan) would need close to another metre on top of that. Very quiet roads in Scotland are absolutely fine because they sensibly stick to single track roads with passing places and the Scots are generally very courteous about giving way.
It's a bit more awkward on highways such as the A85 that carries most traffic from Oban North towards Fort William.
We were travelling south and joined the A85 just beyond of the sanctuary of the Connel Bridge, an old iron structure that can only accommodate single file traffic.
So all you need is an almost perfect storm when you rejoin bidirectional traffic. Google street view helpfully provided a little inverse serendipity here. Add a few workmen (ones you have no wish to decapitate with errant wings) on the pavement on the left and honest gov ... BANG.
"Was that a mirror?" I asked my wife fearfully.
"Yup," was the reply.
I'm pretty sure the occupants of the other vehicle felt equally as devastated. Our holidays, nay our lives, were ruined. Depression set in as we sat around for an hour or so exchanging details and reconnecting the mirror to the tattered outlaw. Shan had painstakingly run along the road retrieving all the pieces
Needless to say, Shan and I'd lost the appetite for a leisurely stroll around Oban let alone exploring some of the more ambitious items the Scott had suggested. We repaired to a supermarket car park and bought some sandwiches that we ate listlessly while I had a deep and meaningful chat with the Insurance company.
I suppose one consolation was the existence of mobile phones. I guess they didn't have those in the early 60s, the days of original Minis.
A couple of hours later we drove gingerly on to the ferry to Craignure on Mull.
At long last we no longer had to drive for a while. I still marvel at the excellent ferry network for its frequency and value for money. Who needs a bridge to feed the selfie brigade?
Our motorhome site was a few hundred metres from the destination quay as you'll see in the following episode. And we were so stoked with our pitch that, with Campy aligned and Shan thoughtfully placing a perfect G&T in my hand, the whole incident slipped into perspective.
Sadly the mouse won in the tragedy stakes, poor little mite. He lost his home, we cracked a mirror.
Coming soon: Mulling over Mull and some REAL serendipity.
 The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (Dodd Mead & Company, 1927) (with one minor amendment!)
 Actually, this text may have have been taken out of context for my own convenience and trickery. For more detail, I'll defer to The National and Joseph Farrell's examination of the influence of Scotland on the English writer GK Chesterton
 The UK network of cycleways