Monday, September 30, 2013

We Shall Return

We Shall Return
There are winds that blow round the Isle of Mull.  Exhalations from the ancients, they spiral and corkscrew down through the hills to coalesce with their brethren billowing up from the sea.  At approximately eleven-thirty on the morning of Monday the sixteenth, one of these winds rode the back of a crashing wave to hit the green hills like a reprisal.  It whorled round the turrets of Glengorm Castle, twisting and spinning up one side and down, till it spied an unsuspecting Songwriter standing alone in a patch of green grass down, down, far below.  Homing in like an arrow, this gust of Scottish wind made for the hapless fellow, knocking his cap off and sending it dancing like a taunting laugh down the hill.  Instinctively, The Songwriter made for the chase and in less than a second his world turned on a dime.  His ankle was broken in three places and the game, pardoning the pun, was afoot.....
I was waiting in the rental car for The Songwriter to take a photograph when my mobile phone rang.  Glancing down, I noticed it was him.  Strange.  I looked out of the car window and saw a sight that shall be forever burned into my brain.  Our innkeeper, Tom, was helping The Songwriter, who was white as a ghost and clearly in pain, back up the drive.  A call to the doctor, instructions to meet her at the hospital, and the car keys were placed in my hands.  Never having driven in the UK before, I swallowed hard and took the wheel.  
The hospital on Mull is a small one and, unfortunately, their x-ray machine was broken.  But one glance at the offending ankle told anyone with vision that it was every bit as broken as that machine.  An ambulance was called to take us on the ferry to the next hospital in Oban where x-rays were taken and dispatched to Glasgow.  The answer came back almost immediately.  “This chap needs surgery; get him here posthaste.”  And so.... another two hour ambulance ride later, we found ourselves at the door of the emergency wing of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland.  It was here that the enormity of our situation began to dawn on me.  Clearly, The Songwriter was to have surgery.  All of our belongings, and our car, were back up on the Isle of Mull, three hours away.  How long would we be here?  Who knew? I am humbled to say that there was a baby in the emergency wing and every time the poor thing would cry, so would I.   I had the presence of mind to phone our doctor back in the states for some information and reassurance, and then my iPhone battery went dead. 
The Songwriter was taken to a ward at four-thirty in the morning.  The nurses then turned to me and said, “Goodbye!”.  “What?!”, I stuttered?  “Where exactly am I supposed to go?”.  As gently as possible, they informed me that, unlike American hospitals, there was nowhere for me to wait; no vacant sofa or chair in the whole of the building where I could stay.  Nothing.  Visualizing myself on the streets of Glasgow with nothing but the clothes on my back must have given my already pale visage a unearthly glow, for they took to the phones in an attempt to locate a hotel room for me.  This proved difficult as there was a conference in town and all available rooms were booked.  Finally, one lone room was unearthed at the Holiday Inn Express by the airport and I squared my shaking shoulders, applied a fresh coat of red lipstick, and climbed into a taxi.  I fell across that Holiday Inn bed, heart thumping, for a scant hour and a half.  (It is here that I reluctantly admit a crime.  I asked the nice man at the desk if he had an iPhone charger.  He gave me one and....well... I stole it.  Sort of like those nuns in The Sound of Music who stole the car parts from the Nazi’s so the Von Trapp's could escape over the mountains?  Not a fair analogy, I know.  But I’ve since mailed it back, so I hope I can be forgiven.  I was fairly desperate, after all.)
I rose at first light, (more lipstick) and called another taxi to take me back to the hospital where I donned the often obnoxious persona of the over-confident American and strode right past those nurses, into the ward, and straight to The Songwriter’s bedside.  I pulled the curtain and waited for the doctor’s visit.  A very impressive surgeon soon appeared, along with his entire team, and gave us both a detailed description of the operation soon to follow.  Words like “pins” and “plates” were bandied about and before I could take a deep breath, it was time for me to leave once again.  There was no room in the Holiday Inn for this night, so I set about trying to find another room on my own.  I did, in a refurbished hotel on the other side of town, one known, supposedly, as an excellent venue for weddings.  As there was no place for me to wait during The Songwriter’s surgery, I left for The Lynnhurst with a heavy heart.  He’d never had any type of surgery before.  What if the anesthesia turned him into a muffin?  
I fell on my back on the overstuffed bed and it was then, as I lay there staring into space, that a maintenance man strode into my room and I realized with a start that my door didn’t lock.  Frankly, I couldn’t have cared less.  The Songwriter texted me when they were taking him down to surgery.  I tossed and twisted for three hours then, (more lipstick), headed back to the hospital.  I arrived at the ward about five minutes after he’d been wheeled back in and found him grinning and laughing with his fellow patients, all of whom had similar injuries.  There was a member of the House of Commons who’d fallen off a sea wall, a golfer who tripped over a stone marker.  There was a fellow who’d fallen hailing a cab, and a carpenter who’d taken the term “hand saw” a bit too literally.  They’d renamed their ward, Stalag 23, and seemed to be having a whale of a time.
The breaks were clean and the surgery had gone well.  He was on crutches and I was told by both doctors, Scotland and stateside, that he should not immediately fly back home.  He needed to rest with his leg elevated for a few days.  So, I went back to The Lynnhurst where I pushed a chair up under the unlockable door, and waited, thinking feverishly, till morning.  Feeling a strong kinship with Frodo Baggins, at first light I went back to the hospital to say farewell to the still smiling Songwriter, made my way to Queen Street Station in Glasgow where I applied more red lipstick and boarded the eight o’clock train to Oban.  Then the ferry to Craignure, back on Mull.  I found where I’d parked the car and, taking a deep breath, drove the hour’s drive back up the island to Glengorm Castle where the innkeepers, Pam and Tom, took incredibly good care of me that night.  A hot bath, a change of clothes, finally.
Providentially, on our first night in Scotland we stayed at a wonderful place called Barcaldine Castle where we met a delightful couple at breakfast.  The four of us bonded over our love of our dogs and the wife gave me her card so we could stay in touch.  As it happened, she runs a highly respected chauffeur tour company in Scotland.  Knowing I wasn’t skilled enough to drive myself back into Glasgow, I had fished that card out of my pocket in the hospital and called her.  To say that she took over is a blessed understatement.  The following morning I packed up our bags, loaded the car and drove back down the island and onto the ferry.  Pulling off in Oban I spied a handsome, avuncular Scot standing there in the rain, holding a sign with my name on it.  He opened my door, took the keys from my hand, and told me to settle in for a backseat nap.  Upon arrival in Glasgow, he carried our luggage up to the ward, shook The Songwriter’s hand, gave me a hug, and returned our car.  Amazing.
As it was imperative his ankle remain elevated, I booked The Songwriter and myself on the Caledonian Sleeper train from Glasgow to London and the hospital provided a taxi to take us there at ten-thirty that night. We settled in like Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, me in the top bunk and him in the bottom, and slept like logs till we pulled into Euston Station at seven in the morning.  A taxi to our beloved Draycott Hotel where we were tucked into a charming pale blue suite and given breakfast.  The next several days saw The Songwriter partaking of room service and watching BBC movies.  I managed to use our theatre tickets to see Vanessa Redgrave in Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic, as well as wander through St. James Park and spend entirely too much money in the scarf department at Liberty.  We boarded a plane bound for home on Monday morning,The Songwriter in a flat bed seat, and are now recovering under the watchful eyes of Edward and Apple. 
We have much to be grateful for, not the least of which is that The Songwriter did not break something which could not be fixed.  I will be forever grateful for a good friend who was traveling on business in Istanbul when I reached him and who texted and called me hour upon hour, helping me feel much less alone and more confident.  I am grateful for our doctor back in the states whose texts and phone calls were frequent and reassuring.  I am grateful for a husband who is always smiling, always funny, always optimistic.  I am grateful for travel insurance.  I am grateful for landing in the hospital that sees all the fallen hill walkers who come down from the Highlands and that consequently has a fabulous orthopedic surgery. I am grateful for our two dog-sitters who take such wonderful care of Edward and Apple, giving us no cause to worry on that front. And most of all, I am grateful for the Scottish people who were so unfailingly kind, so unbelievably helpful, and who treated me like family at every single turn.   
We shall return to Scotland when the cast is off.
And I hope Cate Blanchett plays me in the movie.

Glengorm Castle
Chauffeur Tour Scotland
The Draycott Hotel
Barcaldine Castle
and last but not least, my favourite red lipstick... Dior Addict #987


  1. Oh my goodness Pamela, what a time you have had.
    I am so pleased tht you were treated so well and wish The Songwriter a very speedy and full recovery.
    The only good thing is that you might have caught the first episode of the new series of Downton Abbey !!!! XXXX

  2. Much love to you both! Sometimes adventures can only be properly enjoyed after they are over and you can recount them from a safe distance!

  3. I am so happy to finally have the entire story!
    I am happy you are both home safely,
    and I know what I'm getting you for Christmas!

  4. I'd say that the old saw, roll with the punches, is in evidence. Good luck to your husband on his recovery and on your heart for having lived it too. I always get travel insurance and now I'm glad to hear of its usefulness.

  5. Good heavens! What a trip! I am glad you did not decide this was the moment to learn to drive around the UK or you BOTH might've ended up in the hospital! Well, you played nurse to Apple a few months back, so I'm sure you will take equally good care of The Songwriter!

    And as for the red lipstick, I am so envious of you! I've always wished I could wear red lipstick, but I just look scary. (Maybe for Halloween…) Glad your favorite red lipstick helped see you through this ordeal!

    Best wishes--and a speedy recovery--to The Songwriter!

  6. You deserve a medal. Mull is remote enough but Glasgow is another universe ! Hope all is healing .

  7. Gosh Pamela what a story! This is a concern when we travel too - being injured or taken ill when far from home. We never leave without travel insurance if going out of the US as our health ins. plans don't cover us overseas. Wed. we're off to Budapest, Vienna and Prague so I'm already thinking about treading softly on the cobblestones, and of course wearing flats!

    You saw how the British system works and fortunately it did well for the Songwriter - I'm so glad about that. I pray he heals quickly and fully - there will be a lot of therapy I bet - Bob had a similar injury years back and still has the plate and screws in his ankle, I recall what he went through!

    Hope all is going well now dear and you are writing the movie script, the Songwriter the music! Love Cate B. but perhaps you should play yourself - think we may be looking at an Academy Award sometime down the road!

    Is Scotland still your favorite place?????

    Take care - Mary X

  8. I am sorry that your visit was marred by worry, pain and a hospital visit. There have been times when I wondered what would happen on this trip, so many times we have had things go wrong, visits to doctors and hospitals. But thankfully for us and for you and many others, it all comes right in the end. It is times like this that you do realize how precious the kindness of others is .. I am glad you are both home and safe and sound.

  9. I am glad you are both home and your love is healing well. Life is full of IF's as the middle of it suggests.

    Love and hugs


  10. Gosh darn! and Praises Be! (2 God).. This is phenomenal. Can't believe how many Twists and Turns (and Breaks) life gives us.. as we go along The Path.. Pamela- tell Pat.. oops- The Songwriter- that we are lifting him up.. as his leg is lifted up.. LOL.. if u have time on your "off" days while Pat is recovering, chk out my blog: We love your Blog. I've never met you. But hope to one day. Thanks Bob in NC =)

  11. A memorable holiday for certain. But on the flip side, as you said, there were many wonderful things too. And, Cate told me she had been offered the role. xx's

  12. Brave woman! And a tale well-told. So glad all is well and hoping that the Songwriter will soon be dancing (shuffling) to his own music.

  13. What an unfortunate happening, Pamela. A break is bad enough, but, so far from home. Glad you are both home, safe and sound, and that so many hands helped you along the way. Penny

  14. In awe at the courage all around... and the red lipstick!!!

    Joan and Just Harry

  15. What an ordeal for you and The Songwriter, but you certainly persevered with the help of red lipstick no less! Hope The Songwriter is recovering quickly and so glad you are both home safe and sound!

  16. Oh dear, what a difficult time you've had. So glad for all the help and support you received. Hope the Songwriter has a speedy recovery.


  17. Oh, Pamela! What a frightening affair. My best wishes for a speedy recovery to the Songwriter. I'm happy to hear you are home, safe and almost completely sound. :D

  18. Fascinating, I admit, to read about you experiences of our health service.
    All good wishes to the Songwriter for a full and fast recovery.
    Gail (in Scotland).

  19. were BRAVE!!!

    best wishes and a speedy recovery for the both of you...xoxo

  20. Oh Pamela - what a story. As you say - surely good enough for a film.
    It is one of those things that you will look back on and it will make a good dinner party story, although at the time it must have seemed like a nightmare. Best wishes to the Songwriter - may be soon be walking around again. Meantime give Apple and Edward lots of hugs and get comforting hugs back.

  21. Sounds like the start of a wonderful movie script, please don't forget snow, cottages, castles and a handsome man in a kilt! Get well and best wishes to your husband, and just high-light your new crop of gray hair. LOL

  22. Lordy!
    Thank God he is on the mend!

    Scottish people are divine!

    When I was there; my friend Mary had the same thing happen! (but she was inside a house!)

    Amazing! And she didn't pay for anything; not even the crutches!!

  23. I'd assumed you were offline having a pleasant vacation - poor you! I'm relieved to hear that the Songwriter pulled through and am impressed once again by the National Health Service. Why are Republicans so afraid of Obama's plan to bring National Health coverage for all to this country?

  24. Dear Pamela,
    How brave you both were.
    How you manage to make light of what must have been a very alarming experience.
    I'm so glad you were taken good care of - but even so it must have been nerve-wracking.
    So lucky you ended up in a hospital with a lot of experience with broken bones.
    Well done putting on lipstick! I always look a wreck when disaster strikes.
    So sending the Songwriter all best wishes for a speedy recovery....and, as Sarah says, three cheers for the National Health Service.

  25. Needless to say, you'll have tales to tell about this trip for a long time to come. What a harrowing ordeal to happen anywhere, much less across the Big Pond! Those Scots are fine people. Hope the Songwriter has a very speedy recovery and perhaps before you know it, you'll be ready to Haste Ye Back to Scotland! Take good care of that young man.

  26. Pamela, what a trip! This sounds like a crazy, trip but as you say all turned out well. The Scottish people are the most kind, welcoming and friendly I have ever met and I have enjoyed every trip I have ever made there.

    I hope the songwriter is feeling a lot better. And I hope that you had something bracing like a strong cup of tea to steady your nerves.

    Take care, Elizabeth

  27. Oh, my word!
    Thank goodness all was well in the end and you have left our shores with good memories, albeit of a difficult time. Let's hope your next visit here is trouble-free!
    All good wishes to you both.

  28. Yes, I can definitely see Cate Blanchett is this movie. What an experience you had! I have only been to Scotland once and can't wait to return. I loved it. I am happy you were able to have some fun in London. Scaves from Liberty, sounds divine!
    xxoo Sunday

  29. Oh, please, I wish this hadn't happened. When you have planned and planned a trip, waited for months and then have a disaster I can't imagine how you stayed as cool as you did. Why don't you tell us about the kind of Travel Insurance you bought so we can figure out what to purchase after we get our Dior lipstick! Keep your very interesting articles coming down the pike.

  30. Oh Pamela, I ran the gamut of emotions reading your breathtaking post, at one point I almost applied imaginary lipstick with you in unison so as to steady my nerves. What a roller coaster of a trip, thankfully finished with a calming, canine happy ending!

  31. Pamela... what an adventure! I am only sorry I missed you and I am so sorry for the Songwriter and his accident... I am happy that you were looked after so well and that he is on the mend...
    Next time you come... yes to the lipstick, no to the drama... ;)

  32. I hope his recovering goes smoothly and well! {{hugs}}

  33. Pam, I just read this...after reading today's post referring to Pat's cast and the "dramatic Scottish vacation". Bless you guys...and your own recovery from hip surgery. Noah (our just turned 18-year old), also broke his ankle this fall and required surgery, so he's been crutching it and using nifty little scooter around Smyrna this fall as well. Hugs to you both. Gives advent a new twist...sitting waiting quiet.

  34. Aside from the pain and suffering, a wonderful holiday to memory visit, time and time again.


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