Life on Tiree has literally been that for the past five months. Our last visit to the Mainland was In early December 2020 when we had to visit Oban for hospital and dental appointments Fully vaccinated and after allowing more than the required three weeks for immunity to be built up, we set out last Friday (14:05:2021) for a long weekend in Glasgow.
The ferry, although still operating with a restricted capacity due to social distancing measures, is sailing to the Summer timetable. On a Friday the ferry departs Tiree at 10:00am as opposed to 11:20am thus affording an earlier arrival time in Oban. On Thursday it was so still with hardly a breath of wind and flat calm seas. The day was crowned with a beautiful sunset. Thankfully the calm conditions continued into Friday and so we had a pleasant crossing.
Apart from remembering to put into practice the covid regulations – mask, hand sanitising, social distancing and contact details, it felt quite normal to be in Oban. We did remark on how many people were about, especially compared to life on the island. Importantly Mrs Life on Tiree could visit the hairdresser and there was time to visit the Oban Chocolate Factory for the essential coffee and a strawberry waffle.
We were already in transit when the Scottish Government announced that unlike the rest of Mainland Scotland, Murray and Glasgow would be remaining in Level Three Covid19 restrictions. The advice was that people should not enter or leave Glasgow for other than essential reasons. As we were already on our way there was little else we could do but enter the city.
The lighter evenings meant that it was still light when we arrived by train in Glasgow. Glasgow Queen Street Station is very striking, even although the work on transforming the station is not completed. The train itself had been busy but the alighting passengers were soon lost in the vastness of the station. Our accommodation was no more than a five minute walk from the station.
It was on Saturday that the contrast between life on Tiree and life in the city struck home. We thought of the tranquility we had left behind and the buzz of the city – even in lockdown. What a contrast between island homes and the height of the magnificent city centre buildings for which Glasgow is famous. However as the day wore on the contrast became more acute. By lunch time football fans were streaming into the city, despite the appeals not to descend on Ibrox or George Square. Even at the time of the day many of the fans were drunk.
By late afternoon 15,000 fans were in George Square. By 9 o’clock the police took the decision to disperse the crowd as fights were breaking out among the fans. As we were staying only five minutes away from the square we could see the police helicopter flying overhead. We could hear the deafening sound and feel the blast from the pyrotechnics that set off burglar alarms. And there was the almost continuous sound of the police and ambulance sirens. The following day we heard the grim statistics.
We certainly chose the weekend to visit Glasgow. There was a demonstration in George Square in support of the Palestinians. A much smaller event, it passed off peacefully and with none of the drunkenness of the day before.
On Sunday afternoon, we visited Glasgow Green, something we could not ever remember doing before. It was so good to see trees and blossom. There were people in the park but it was so heartening to see them observing social distancing regulations.
Monday was given over to essential shopping.
Some things you just cannot buy on Tiree!
We had an early start of Tuesday. Breakfast at 7 o’clock in order to catch the train at 8:23. The train journey from Glasgow to Oban is part of what is known as the West Highland Line and the view from the windows can be stunning. Leaving the city behind the train runs along the north bank of the Clyde and at Helensburgh you cross the Highland Boundary fault line and you begin to climb into a landscape of lochs and glens that included at times views of rhododendrons and carpets of bluebells. On this occasion the train split at Crianlarich with the first two coaches going to Oban and the rear coaches going onto Fort William and Mallaig. Our arrival was in good time for lunch.
In the summer the Tuesday ferry departs Oban at 3 in the afternoon. In Oban the sky was a mixture of clouds and sunshine. As the ferry progressed up the Sound of Mull the clouds began to disappear and by the time that we berthed at Tiree it was wall to wall sunshine. It was great to see familiar faces among the staff on the ferry and they were working so hard at keeping the ferry covid secure. CalMac may be having serious problems with the reliably of the ageing fleet of ferries, but the staff could not be more helpful or friendly.
What a beautiful calm evening to arrive back on Tiree. It was good to visit the Mainland but it was great to be back home. Busy city streets, crowds of football supporters and the sound of sirens were replaced by the familiar faces of the pier staff and the tranquility of Tiree.
This is ‘Life on Tiree’
On and Off the Island.