Forgive me if I appear obsessed with the parallels between the two nations of Scotland and South Africa. I wanted to call it two oceans but that would entice Southern pedants into a debate I'm not entirely equipped for: where do the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet?
I left you, a couple of months ago now, to sneak off to do a few Grockle impressions in the very same vehicle that made this Scottish Odyssey. I promised to be back after a few weeks but that nasty ol' Covid-19 bistid postponed the resumption.
So here we are, back in Craignure, Mull, enjoying the peace that was ours in April 2019. Before all the excitement that was to follow on our return from Bonnie Scotland.
Sun creeping towards the horizon; rowing boats pulled up for the night; a gentle susurration almost imperceptibly rippling the surface of the Sound of Mull; a small child gathering shells in the distance while her parents grab the last rays; absolute bliss.
The good news is, we don't have to to anything tomorrow. The other good news: there are so many things to do tomorrow, only if we feel like it.
Tomorrow dawns and a gentle cycle ride to familiarise ourselves with the environment seems a braw (lekker) way to ease into our sojourn on Mull. On our way over on the ferry, still smarting from our contretemps on the mainland, we spotted a majestic edifice as we entered the Sound of Mull. Duart Castle, we discovered. A reasonably flat and more-or-less along the coast 12 km round trip. Shan hadn't been out on her bike for a while. It would be a good test that we could extend a bit if we felt so inclined. There was also a Scottish National Trust cafe where we could grab a spot of lunch.
It was a serendipitous decision for more than one reason, the first of which was a spectacular ride on good roads with not a car in sight (well, on or two on the access road who passed us at a snail's pace).
The other reason was a connection that slowly entered my brain as we meandered around Duart's rugged estate.
In the preceding blog to this one, I mentioned the Stewart family from Appin and their kayak paddling prowess. I have two other long standing mates who are both extraordinary paddlers and who seem to go from strength to strength as they close in on their 70th birthdays. The three of us were at school together from 1965-1968: Guy Haines, Rob Maclean and I. Sadly their athleticism never completely rubbed off on me. Guy and Rob continue to snaffle all the seniors' paddling trophies in our old stamping ground. So kayaking had obviously subliminally insinuated itself in a memory recess by the time I read the plaque below.
Before I continue, I need to turn to Rob's prowess as an organiser. He has been the driving force behind keeping the alumni of our "68" year together over all these years. I helped him a bit in the earlier stages but the man is tirelessly relentless. He does not give up.
In deference to colour not having been invented when we were in our final year at school (and possibly to tone down Peter Clarke's luminous sock), this is re-rendered evidence of Sandy and Rob Maclean (top left) surveying their work proudly. There are alumni from at least three continents in this picture. The legendary Wally Fry seated on the extreme right of the second row (seated).
Rob had been plugging away at Wally's defences for years to get him to attend the bash. I think only the Macleans thought it could be done ... import Fry from Australia for a reunion.
Back to Duart Castle and the subliminal connection.
I was reading the plaque in the middle picture below and spotted the Maclean name. Call it an earworm or whatever you like but I'm sure Shan will bear me out that I mentioned to her this lingering memory that Rob had told me about an ancestral castle in Scotland.
Duart Castle on its splendid headland. Some details of the castle's history. Rob and Sandy Maclean presiding (at an altogether different event 9,000 miles South)
It gnawed away until I posted the picture on the left on Facebook on the 16th of April last year. This was Rob's reply:
"Morning Harri - yep, that's the place. I attended a Clan Gathering there in 2012 with my brother, his 2 sons and his grandson, to celebrate 100 years since the castle was refurbished by the then Chief of the Clan, Sir Fitzroy MacLean. The event was hosted by the current Chief, Sir Lachlan MacLean. It was an amazing few days and there were some 1500 MacLeans at the gathering! I even met my namesake - there he was with a name tag on his jacket...'Rob MacLean - Sydney, Australia'. He was one of the pipers who played at the gathering. My wife, Sandy, son Iain and I spent a week on the Isle of Mull back in 2006. Incredibly, we had sunshine for the entire time that we were there and so were able to tour it extensively. A truly beautiful place. Thanks for posting the pic."
Of course he was there!
And BTW, he's the only person on the planet who calls me "Harri". I'm choosing to see it as a mark of affection.
Fed and watered at Duart's cafe, Shan and I moseyed back to Craignure and carried on out the other side, this time in a North-Westerly direction. Intrigued by the eagle watch with no eagles at that time of day, we resolved to return the next morning and then cycle on to Salen and cross the island at its narrowest point.
"My lamb," Shan intoned as we were heading back to Campy, "do we have to leave so soon?"
"I'll speak to the management in the morning," I responded, "ask for a couple more nights."
Oh, and by the way, the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean at Cape Agulhas. Rob lives in Muizenberg.
Coming soon: Mulling a bit more about this enchanting island.
 A word Seffriikin Grockles use as a riposte to contradict any queries about their ancestry.