I had all the emotions—it was an emotions tasting plate. I had a sun-induced sunny dispositon. I had a certain amount of unexpected fear. I had elation and excitement. I had awe. There was frustration, turned annoyance and then plain grumpiness. I had the joy of new encounters with people. I had disappointment. And I had pure exhaustion. Some of those explain themselves, the others need more elaboration.
I am beginning to think there is something wrong with my inner ears because heights are starting to make me nervous. I get vertigo—that strange urge to go over the edge. Two things made me a bit spooked today and the first was to do with heights: I had to cross an aqueduct. It wasn't so much the height, I felt nauseous thinking about that. But, rather, I was convinced that I was going to end up in the canal as it passed over the duct with me. Two factors: narrow path, high wind. Wind into my pack throws me off balance. My centre of gravity is all wacky. Whatever it was, I thought I would never get over the aqueduct, and I breathed huge breaths of relief every time I went behind one of the solid posts. I did survive, and I didn't end up in the water. The second obstacle was a six hundred and twenty meter tunnel. The towpath ran through the tunnel alongside the canal. There was at least a rail between myself and the canal this time. I would have completely freaked if there hadn't been. The path was sloped toward the canal and slippery as underground gets, and it was dark. And full of fools. I feel that the edges of my invincibility are being gnawed at. Damn. I feel too young to be vincible. I breathed great gulps of steamy air when I came out of there, and, like the cure for that other cold thing, Dementors, ate lots of fudge to make myself feel sugarly better.
Elation and excitement:
Yesterday evening when I found myself back on the towpath headed from Linlithgow to my accommodation in Belsyde, I called out to two ladies in the front of a canal boat who were having a bevy in the evening sunshine, that their's was the life. We had a bit of a chat—one has the obligatory relatives in Perth. They joked that if they saw me tomorrow they would give me a lift. It was their boat (I wasn't aware at the time as the ladies were inside) that spurred me to walk at speed for about half a hour earlier in the day (they are only supposed to go four miles per hour, and I paced them for that time). When I got to just before the Falkirk Wheel they were moored alongside the canal edge. The ladies, Maree and Liz, invited me on to go on the wheel—they were just about to go on it. I jumped on board. The rest of this story is mixed up in 'awe'.
Liz has a dog called Charlie. He appeared to be a Jack Russell. When I saw the boat earlier he was pacing back and forth on the back of the boat, unable to decide which side to watch from. He has a lifejacket—now, he took a dive into the canal the first time the guys, including their partners, Captain and Skipper (sorry, forgot the boys' names), did this canal system. This is their third holiday here. The lifejacket is great because it enables him to be carried like a handbag if needed. After the wheel we went down a lock as well. Charlie had a friend, Jet, who was a black dog who passed away eighteen months ago. Now Charlie has a fascination with black dogs, which is why, as we watched the lock edge advance past the windows, there was nervous yelling for Charlie to come away from the black dog watching and get back on the sinking (in a good sense, this wasn't the Minnow) boat! All was well, and the crew dropped me off after the lock and headed on their way. It was fabby. And just a low number of hundreds of meters not walked.
The Falkirk Wheel links the Union Canal and the Forth & Clyde Canal. The two canals run their respective courses at an about thirty-five meter height difference. In the past it would take all day to get from one to the other on a course of eleven locks. That was prior to 1933. Between then and 2002, the link between the canals was broken. And then the Falkirk Wheel. Effectively the wheel is two pools of canal on a wheel that rotates, aided by the counterweight of the two edges. A boats sails onto one end. The gates close to lock the adjacent water off. The wheel rotates until the top part is at the bottom and vice versa. The gates open and the boat sails off on its new level. All that takes the same energy as boiling eight kettles. It is an amazing structure—beautiful. See, awe.
Frustration, annoyance, grumpiness and disappointment:
At the wheel centre I went into Tourist Info to get some accommodation. It is Linlithgow all over except that there is no Nan at the end of this story. The only place available was on the north-eastern edge of Falkirk—I am west, and Falkirk isn't that teeny. I have to say that the people who helped me were lovely—it was just the situation that got to me in the end. I decided to just take the long-searched-for and finally found room at the Travelodge. Victoria at Tourist Info tried to book it for me but poor thing ended up in trauma because she thought it had double charged my card and not finalised. I spoke to a robotic customer service person who made the booking reluctantly. Apparently Travelodge's website doesn't like foreign credit cards—that is good for an international company? Victoria directed me to the bus and the lovely bus driver, while he drove me into the centre of town, devised the best route for me then on to Beancross. His instructions were amazing except for one little confused right instead of left (understandable as it wasn't his route and he, I believe, just remembered the wrong hotel in the right place). After walking a kilometer in the wrong direction and ending up on the freeway entrance, I went back and found the hotel in the other direction. It was where disappointment kicked in. I am too spoiled by B&B's, but I fail to see how hotels survive alongside with their bad rates, no inclusions and icky rooms. Because of desperate people like me obviously. I think at least a hundred thousand people have been in that room before me. The bed was hollow, the pillows and doona mean. The walls were filthy and the carpet too. The heater didn't work. There was a sparsity of electrical plugs and only half of those worked without causing concerns for electrocution. But it was a bed, and a roof. With views of the freeway. And I was pooped.
After all that, and despite being excited to sate my growling appetite at the Beancross Pub, which looked lovely, I lay down and had a snooze. Snooze became nap became ignoring the alarm became three am change into pjs became the ignoring of the alarm again. Fourteen hours of sleep.
Good night to Beancross, good night to you.