I'm at Huntly, in the north-west part of Aberdeenshire, and within an easy drive of both the Moray Firth coastal towns and the Grampian Mountains. In fact today I embarked on what seemed to be a monumental nine-hour drive that included Lossiemouth (lunch stop), Duffus Castle, Burghead, Findhorn, Forres (afternoon tea), Tomintoul and Corgarff Castle, the last two high up in the mountains. In fact it wasn't that long a drive: about 140 miles only. But I had plenty of stops for photos. Anything that caught my attention. For instance, the 'air show' at RAF Lossiemouth - I was visiting Duffus Castle nearby (pretty well in line with the runway) and at five-minute intervals fighter jets roared into view, flew round the castle, and returned to their base. Practice flights, I suppose. I haven't got the right camera for shooting fast-moving aircraft, but I did my best.
Another instance. Not far from Duffus I spotted two male figures in check shirts and jeans stiffly pointing across the field they were standing in. And as I drove up, they kept pointing rigidly, as if frozen in that one position. Aha, I thought. These must be scarecrows - very life-like to be sure, but nobody holds their arms motionless like that for so long. They would make an interesting picture close up. I screeched to a halt, and was getting out, when both 'scarecrows' came to life, dropped their arms and looked at me. Oh dear! They were real men all along! I got moving, not wanting the embarrassment of having to explain.
I went to Forres for two reasons. First, someone had mentioned to me quite recently that a couple they knew had just moved there. So I was keen to check it out for pleasantness. Second, a secondhand book I'd bought in Huntly had a write-up on a very tall, carved Pictish standing stone called Sueno's Stone, which was on the edge of Forres, and I wanted to see it.
The actual highlight of my visit to Forres was however the conversations I had in Maclean's Bakery with two women in their early thirties. Their names were Karen and Sally. Karen was serving behind the counter when I came in looking for a refreshing pot if tea and something savoury to go with it - it was approaching 4.00pm and I was getting really peckish, and with a long detour through the high hills yet to come. Well, we must have been kindred spirits. A ten-minute chat ensued, curtailed only by a spate of customers coming in. Then her friend Sally arrived, a care assistant temporarily off work because of an injured foot. Finishing my snack, I came over, wanting to say to Karen how much I'd enjoyed the tea and steak pie, and then found myself discussing boyfriends for half an hour with Sally. It turned out that both girls had ended up in North-East Scotland because of a past attraction to a local man. Neither were native to the area. Sally herself was from Nottingham. Both had burned their boats by moving, but hadn't regretted it, Forres and the north of Scotland generally being so much away from the rat race of big cities. And both had found true love.
I said they weren't by any means the only persons I'd met who had moved north from far away down south. For example, the girl who had served me at Fat Face in Aberdeen two days before - Sarah - had moved up there from Knaresborough in Yorkshire. And she too had done so because of a man - in this case her husband, who had a shore job in the oil industry - and she too hadn't regretted the move.
It made me ponder how readily people will embrace an entirely different and unfamiliar location and lifestyle, when love draws them. And how it seems true that the average woman will follow her man to the ends of the earth if she believes that he loves her. Well, I'd met three women in the space of two days who really had uprooted themselves for the man they loved. This proved something about what a woman might do.
Was I capable of doing the same? I thought no, surely I was too old and independent to heed the call of love. But who is immune? Who is so very unusual that love cannot move them to do very strange things?