When I first stepped off the train at Stirling with my suitcases, from Edinburgh, I was rooted to the platform. It was a clammy foggy day, the cold wind was blowing the sprays of rain onto my face, but all I could see were the mountains on the horizon.
I do not think I have ever felt such sadness as I did then. The train dropped me and disappeared northwards, to Aberdeen or Inverness, I am not sure.
During my stay there, I came to love Stirling with all my heart. It was paradise. It was a piece of land conjured up out of childhood books.
My house was a classic Victorian structure. It had a gray facade made with cold large stones, winding staircases that lead up from the streets into the main door upstairs. The streets outside were cobbled and the bars, inns, and establishments, were housed in buildings averaging around 500 years.
Early mornings on weekends, I would walk up the cobbled pathway up to Stirling Castle. It was a steep climb.
One time, when I was halfway up the winding pathway, tiny puffs of steamy vapors rising from the sweat on my face and hands in the morning cold, I was startled to see two figures staring at me. Though I walk the path early, it was an unearthly time to be around, especially because the path leads upwards only to the centuries-old castle and nowhere else. I looked back and from the elevated bend, I could see the entire ancient settlement of Stirling below nestled in milky fog. There was no sound of human activity and yet, straight ahead, through what source of light I did not know, I could see the silhouettes of what looked like a mother and child.
I paused, peering into the gray, inching back to the walls on the side of the path. I still do not remember how I resolved those silhouettes to belong to statues in the numerous cemeteries dotting the path.
Once I walked all the way from Stirling to Dunblane on a blustery day. I had planned to just visit the Wallace Monument, but when I climbed the stairs and took a look at the countryside, I did not stand a chance.
I do not know a pheasant from a curlew, but walking the lonely lochs and by-ways of Scotland, I was surprised I could connect so many of my memories to this faraway land that fate helped me visit and work in. Long-forgotten British stories of childhood rose up through my consciousness to earmark even the tiniest of details with special significance.
After a stay of 4 months, I packed my bags, gave my books to Oxfam and left for Dover.
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