After the fight with Violet at King's Cross, after I packed up and walked out of Violets life, it began to sink in. I found myself regretting every foul word and the pain I inflicted, I wasn’t myself, I was in a spiral of drugs and out of balance due to all the calamity that collided with my life and plans since early in the year. I was hurt by the loss of Violet, but with all the things coming in her life, all I could foresee was how much I would hold her back from her dreams. After all of it, the pain I felt, the downward spiral of drugs, I found myself in the bath, crying near hysterically, muffling the whimpers from a roommate that could barely hear me when I spoke directly to her. What a mess I’ve mad I thought. What a mess I have become. My grand vision of uniting the world and seeking glory were mangled into doubt, a dull everlasting depression and the rage you feel when you continually find yourself in situations you feel are unfair.
I meditated for a while in that bath until the water was cool, I recognized all I had to be grateful for, spent time manifesting my confused thoughts into what I wanted in my future and finally shook it off. I spent the next night, day and night again painting at home without sleep. I barely snuck out of room with the exception of the end of my late nights walking to the café around the corner to get an egg sandwich that I was considering dinner. I had torn through the entire supply of dope I had received in the mail already and besides hysteria in the bath, was holding myself together. Valium and Ritalin where propping me up just enough to research heading to Scotland via train, then renting a car to journey to the Glendronach Distillery. From there I figured I could just head home after a couple nights, the Virgin train north was only a 6-hour trip, after returning home I could make preparations to depart from the UK. After 36 hours awake I caught myself making less sense in what I was doing, frantically chasing strange new and unnecessary things into wormholes of distraction from what I needed to accomplish, so with a few more Valium I crashed for the night and slept through until late morning.
I got through the first days of being without the Dragon and ordered enough and timed it so I would have it for Scotland. As I started to clear the fog and sober up a bit I started to feel an overwhelming burden of sadness, Violet, the possibility of not being able to return to the UK, the limited money I had and was about to blow to chase down a whisky distillery and the coming loneliness that was awaiting me on the road. The summer sun was shining outside and the beauty of England was hard to ignore, sending me further into a state of discomfort knowing all the comfort I had become accustomed to in my little 6-month bubble was about to burst into chaos. I was also becoming increasingly anxious about Amsterdam, and whether or not I would be able to cope in a famous tattoo shop, I would remind myself how I perform best when under pressure but with the gaps of time separating my hands and my career I would be at a severe disadvantage upon arrival.
I found a place in Holland, not too far from the shop, a one bed room apartment with a big living area for €2600 for the month. With my parent’s contribution since they were coming to stay, leaving €1600 for me to sort out in the immediate future to secure what was pretty much the only non-hotel accommodation left in town available for the whole month. I ended up borrowing the rest and got the place locked in and was relieved to not have it hanging over me any longer or the idea having to deal with potentially moving 4 times over the month skipping from AirBnb to AirBnB for double the cost. I booked a ferry from the UK to Holland to hopefully pass through a much more relaxed immigration crossing then I would work for my 2 weeks, then spend about ten days with my Mother and Father and once they departed, in the remaining time, hopefully have figured out where the fuck to tattoo next in order to survive. The rest of the summer with most of the shops having long since booked in all their guest artists. It was going to be an uphill battle for the rest of the year and I knew it.
As my mind cleared I found myself locked in my room and buried in built over what transpired with Violet, soon I found myself sending her a text to see if she was coping. That evolved into a friendly, but sad talk and eventually continued until she asked if we could still go to Scotland together as planned. I told her I would need to think about it and if I decided to that it wouldn’t mean we were together and repeated my thoughts about me only holding her back and the uncertainty of how long we could be parted. She agreed and by the afternoon I decided I missed her, I cared for her deeply and if this was the end, I would let it be on a happier note and try and let it conclude without the burden of regret. A day later I packed a small bag and headed back to Kings Cross, the English sun was hot and people were drinking in the pubs and laying out in the parks while children splashed in fountains near the flat Violet was house sitting. I knocked on the door after being buzzed in floors below and was immediately greeted with a blow job. We cooked a light meal and slept close that night, I remember thinking that she was likely hoping for this to evolve back into what it was while I was looking for a happy and mutual understanding that the timing and conflict of our worlds was just too misaligned to suffer the next couple years while I aimed to complete what I started all those years ago.
Early the next morning we were on a train and speeding north, we spent the entire time trying to book a reasonably priced rental car in Aberdeen and having conflicting opinions about travel styles, I liked to book my rooms as I was in transit while she wanted to book them all immediately. We arrived in Aberdeen less than 6 hours later and took a taxi to the rental agency where my debit card was refused and my credit card was about £180 short to cover the deposit. 20 minutes and a phone call later I luckily had my limits raised and the agent gave us a free upgrade to a speedy little 1 series BMW. We hopped in the car and our Scotland adventure began. I immediately felt free from my troubles being so far from the city and was able to let the beauty of Scotland and the kindness of its people wash away my anxieties. In Aberdeen we hit a few sites in the failing light before checking into a little cheap hotel. Violet was obsessed with sex as usual while I was a bit bored of it, though thinking it would be the last few times I obliged while she fucked me to orgasm and then finished me off with a blowjob. Soon after, cuddled close we were both sleeping soundly.
The morning sun woke us early and we jumped in the car and headed south to Dunnottar Castle. We arrived before the sun had ventured too far from the horizon and I was able to get quite a few shots of the deteriorated medieval fortress built on an outcrop of rock that stuck out from the mainland.
Dunnottar was famous for being a victory for William Wallace when he took the seemingly impenetrable fortress, surrounded by sea and cliffs on all sides. It dated back 2000 years and was a playground of photography for me. Violet was enjoying being outside and wandering about the castle while I took photos and a few portraits of her looking especially lovely.
Once back in the car I showed her the my google maps and the places I had flagged that might be of interest to her and told her that since this was about me going to my whisky holy site, you go ahead and decide what you would like to see. Violet had only visited Scotland once when she was just a girl and couldn’t remember much of the trip. I continually had the sense that her upbringing in Islam appeared to me to have been a burden to her experience growing up now that she wasn’t a believer, she would often look back with sadness over things she missed out on. While I was deep in thought about religion, Violet had picked two places, the Glenfinnan Viaduct (the Harry Potter bridge from pretty much each of the films) and Loch Ness, both of which were on the opposite coast from where we were sitting, I knew deep down that she would want to see the Harry Potter bridge and was already aimed in that direction. With a grin I put the car in gear and navigated us through the center of Scotland taking a longer route into the Cairngorms National Park to see a few things along the way. We stopped at the Burn O’ Vat waterfall to find it nearly dried up, we hiked a bit and laughed about Violets clumsiness trying to navigate herself over the rocks. Inside we found what in a more common Scottish summer, would have been a large waterfall and a chance to swim, was barely a few drop trickling through a narrow opening between large stones that revealed a concave of high rock walls that would have been gorgeous had the rains not been missing from Scotland for over a month.
Continuing east through the park, hours passed and the canopy overhang from the birch trees that seem to bend to make the twin lane road romantically tunnel-like and magical. As the canopy of trees gave started to thin as we started descending out of the higher elevation of the park. As it gave way to rolling hills and infinite views and mountains that make Scotland so majestic. The fields had all turned to faint bronze color that glowed in the Sun. I caught my eyes starting to get heavy and we swapped spots, and I was amazed how exhilarated (even a bit frightened) Violet was to be driving up and down hills, the first one was quite steep, like a San Francisco street and after reaching the peak and then back down she exclaimed “that was the biggest hill I have ever driven over!” I couldn’t help but laugh while I realized that she really didn’t have that experience growing up in the lowlands of England, having relied on public transport for most of her adult life, it was one of those strange moments where I get to witness those quirky cultural differences one can only find when immersed in a society for extended periods of time. Eventually we came to the Old Pack Horse Bridge on the northeastern edge of the national park. An arch of large square stones hung over a picturesque stream and felt like it was a window into the past. we climbed down to the water and admired how something so seemingly delicate could still be holding together, a few photos and a brief intermission from all the driving and suddenly the afternoon was beginning to fade and we were in a pinch to find a place to stay.
It was high season and nearly everything on the west coast of Scotland was overpriced and booked solid. Tensions rose while Violet was unable to find anything near the viaduct and became frustrated. Eventually, I had to pull over and after a lot of effort and fighting a flickering mobile signal, I found us a place pretty far north but right on Lock Ness. It was overpriced but about the last room I could find that was available close enough to Glenfinnan that we could see it the following day. I sped through the final hour and a half to arrive just in time for violet to see the Loch before the Suns light hidden behind the mountains across from us had completely faded to black. It was a secluded converted mansion turned boutique hotel that creaked groaned as the wind picked up. It looked like some of it had delightfully fallen into disrepair which added to the charm. Our room was downstairs, and without any that same charm, an addition made to the foundation sometime in the recent past and was pretty much the equivalent to a countryside Motel 6 room, all the same we took a little rest from our full day of driving through the country before getting dressed for the fancy restaurant on the balcony above us. The chef there was exceptional and our meal, although too expensive for our budget, was worth the money. Both of us limited ourselves to a single glass of wine and enjoyed what we both knew would be our last formal dining before I would be heading off into Europe. I enjoyed her company and the conversation, laughing and talking about the pictures. suddenly I found myself conflicted about the choices I had made about her, she had so many qualities I had longed for, so close to being the Jackie O girl of my dreams, she was only missing a little glamorous vanity and a dash of rock n roll, which I knew was only a matter of her confidence and actually being exposed to rock n roll. I shook off these thoughts quickly and thought we have this time together now, don’t spend it arguing with yourself about what to do while you’re out adventuring around and spoil the moment.
That night Violet was out before the lights and I stayed up doing research to ensure she could see the train as it cross the bridge. Morning arrived and I told her we had to be at the Viaduct at 15:00 to see the train cross and if we hustled, we could see more of Loch Ness. Shortly after. We were driving north up the eastern edge of the Loch for what seemed like an age, until we neared the northern most tip of the Loch. We got out and she was thrilled by its beauty, I had seen it before but was enjoying watching her excitement over the famous body of water.
After her gleeful moment was finished, Violet asked to drive down the opposite side going south, although it would take us longer and I was already eyeing my watch, I do hate to take the same route twice so on we went. Our time was so pleasant and comfortable, my conflicted heart only grew fonder of her during this time, especially with my troubles safely locked away, far behind us in London. we drove south down the western edge through roads that snaked the border of the Loch as my speed grew increasingly faster as the time to catch the train crossing was narrowing.
Nearly two hours passed and I was weary from driving as we pulled into the car park at the Glenfinnan and with about 40 minutes to spare grabbed water and cameras and took a short hike down a gravel road, under the viaduct, up a hill and secured a good spot to watch from.
I set up my cameras and we sat in between the rocks and mud as a small hoard of the Wizarding World hardcore started to surround us. The train was ten minutes late, the sun was hot, but the site of the train crossing was worthy of the trouble to took to get there. Uncommon for my generation to have a love for Mr Potter and the fabulous mind of JK Rowling, but I am, watching that train conjured up an innocence that I feel when I watch the movies, I had never read the books, (Violet aimed to fix that with an audio book on the return drive to London).
Violet was so happy over her magical train experience she couldn’t contain it; her big white smile couldn’t have gotten any bigger. I remember thinking in that moment how confused that made me, how I wished I could find happiness as often as she did. While the mountains and lush green of glorious Scotland glowed all around me, as I had finally escaped the weight of all the drama I had been dealt. There I was, wondering why there were so few moments from my life where I remember being happy, or even satisfied. I shook it off and blamed it on my sobriety, that my brain was literally rewiring itself to detangle the Dragon while I was still using large doses of Ritalin and Valium to keep it all together.
Following our Harry Potter stop we took a short wander through and grabbed food at the market to cover our next couple days and Drove around the outskirts of the park towards the middle of Aberdeenshire. Following the country roads we stumbled on so many glorious views while navigating through the now electric green of the Highland meadows.
Violet had booked us a little AirBnb a few miles north of the Distillery in an old, charming little village called Aberchirder (but no Scot would ever be caught calling it that) the locals called it Foggie from the original 17thcentury name Foggieloan. There we had been instructed to go to the pub where we could meet the owner of the little house and get the keys, we went into the tiny pub around sunset and inside it was packed with locals as it was the only pub in town, we enquired with the bartender who asked a man at the bar to watch the pub as she grabbed the keys and took us a block up the street and gave us a quick tour. The place was old and made of stone, gorgeously remodeled to closely resemble its original state. Everything was cast iron; the bedroom was upstairs and the staircase was narrow and ceiling low. It was packed with all kinds of modern amenities too, which surprised me. The owner asked about our plans and we said Glendronach was our plan for the following morning. She explained that they were very strict about drinking and driving, a complete paradox compared to every other Scotch distillery I had visited in Scotland. She went on to explain that taxis would charge a fortune for the ten-minute drive and she would arrange one of the retired men from town to drive us and she would pick us up personally once finished. I marveled at how genuinely considerate and kind the offer was and we graciously accepted. It was in no part because we had rented her place for a couple nights, if we were strangers in the pub the offer would have been the same, that’s the real magic of Scotland, the warmth and welcoming of its people. Over each of my visits I find that a large part of my faith in humanity is restored. While the sun set that evening, Violet and I made dinner and opened a bottle of wine. We held each other close watching an old Robert Redford film, both in silent state of evade the thoughts of how quickly time was closing in and how dramatically our lives were about to change.