A couple miles past Callander, on the main road up to Fort William you will find Loch Lubnaig. I might have told you before Lubnaig means bend. The Loch is nearly north to south until just after the second car-park when it kicks off to the west a wee bit. I have mentioned this Loch a few times in previous Blogs. The notable ones would be, in my first decent post To wetsuit or not to wetsuit , there is a description of when I nearly drowned myself, not on purpose obviously, but wild swimming has a steep learning curve and another post Top of the Loch. Please when I challenged myself to swim from the top of the Loch to down to the second car-park on my first big adventure.
The second car-park is the perfect first stop for buses carrying the tourists North with cakes and coffee from the friendly staff in the cafe and the bonus of toilet facilities. In the summer it’s rammed and in the winter it’s empty, well, apart from us sometimes and the odd tourist in a hired car. For most tourists sitting on one of the many 16 seater buses this stop is their initial chance to leave they city they arrived in. It’s their first real Scottish wilderness experience. You can see most of them are in awe when they jump off the bus to capture views of their first Loch and first decent sized hill, Ben Ledi. They are completely blown away when they see us fully neoprened up, wading into the water to swim into the distance or returning to the shore where we stop to remove our wetsuits for a wee skins swim with ice floating about us in the water. I have a friend that drives his travel bus up past Lubnaig nearly every Friday morning on the way to Skye. A wee while ago he told me during winter on one of the trips a young American girl shouted in complete disbelief “hey I think there is someone swimming in that water”. There was even more disbelief on the bus when he switched on his microphone and told the bus “aye that’s my friend.” (I have enjoyed his bus tour a couple of times, the Blog Magical pools has some of the highlights )
Some tourists want to know the temperature and some are curious to know if we are training for an event, either way they are all bemused when we reply “ Naw, it’s just for a laugh”. One American lady was so completely taken by the whole swimming in cold Lochs thing that she chatted to us for ages, got some photos at the Loch side, then chatted some more, went away again for more photographs. Eventually I had to say “come here you “and this middle age tourist practically jumped into my arms for a cuddle before she would get on her bus. I hasten to add I was changed into my clothes at this point but I still got a strange look when I got home off Clare when she asked me about my swim and I said “Great, I got a cuddle.”
Cuddles are f&#king amazing. I have to apologise for my course language. My knowledge of words is pretty limited and superlatives like hyper, epic, mega, absolutely, really or just amazing would not have cut the mustard. No doubt there are boffins that could explain a chemical release during the bodily contact but for me they are truly amazing. It’s that lift you get from (if the other person is strong enough) a lift. It’s nearly as good as the feeling you get from swimming.
My work takes me away from home but when I am home I have days to bash on with what I please. I long to take my van on camping trips up into the Scottish Heilands, but my wife is a magnet. I love it when her alarm goes off to wake her in the morning as she requires five snooze extensions before crawling out of bed so on the first snooze I slide across the bed and enjoy some innocent sleepy cuddles before attacking the day. I try to be home when she gets in from work so I can physically and emotionally pick her up and listen to her day. But this isn’t a boring mushy tale of how I have somehow managed to keep my wife from presenting me all my clothes in a council Gucci bag and a foot up my hint end.
There have been two hugs that kinda freaked me out, not in a bad way more in a good way. I got the first when I was relearning how to fit carpets, we were in a big house in a village close to Glasgow. The couple had high earning stressful careers and wanted their massive house looking like an amazing home. Our job was set over two days to give the family a chance to get rooms clear for us ( carpet fitters don’t have the time to be furniture movers). The Hug happened on the day the Forth Road Bridge was closed, over two years ago, I think November or December 2015. The husband had nipped out to see a client in the morning and was meant to be home to start clearing rooms for us but he ended up held captive in Fife all day unable to get out because of the traffic chaos caused by the bridge closure. We arrived late afternoon expecting empty rooms and cups of tea but we were faced with a locked door. A few phone calls and an hour later the lady of the house arrived home full of apologies and we started moving furniture. I was down the stairs lifting old carpets and chatting to the customer whilst my carpet fitting buddy was up the stairs beavering away. The customer was very anxious. In fact extremely anxious and it was not just the stress of having the carpets fitted in their house, there was other stuff as well. We have all experienced it before, instead of taking a breath and relaxing, our jaws keep rabbiting on, as if our teeth are counting oral rosary or worry beads trying to relax. It doesn’t help and the more she spoke the more worked up she got. I explained we had organised another two fitters to come and help and everything would be completed that evening. This didn’t help. She grew even more concerned and I had just added to her worries. At this point she threw her arms down at her sides stamped her foot off the bare un-carpeted floor and expressed, in fact nearly shouted, “ It’s getting to much”
I just looked at her, (I am pretty rubbish at trying to talk to people and it seemed every time I opened my mouth it was to making matters worse) and my instinct was to step over the rolled up old carpet take her in my arms and give her a cuddle. But that’s how you get arrested and put on the register isn’t it? She stood their immobile as I stood there with the same statue like pose until I uttered “ look, are you okay? Do you want a cuddle”? It was a mental thing to say and I couldn’t believe it came out my mouth and was equally shocked when her face softened and said “yes that would very nice”.
Lets remember carpet fitting is a physically demanding job and most of our jobs are inside warm cosy, un-ventilated rooms, so I was wee bit conscious of the fact that this stinky carpet fitter had this well dressed executive relaxing against his chest. Not in a fifty shades of tartan way either but it lasted longer than a goodbye or welcome embrace. When it felt appropriate I let her go and she released her arms from my back. “Are you okay?” I asked.
“Better” she said.
We turned away and she headed for the kitchen as I headed directly up the stairs to give a shocked high pitch description of the events of the previous 5 minutes to my carpet fitting buddy. As I recall I also used the same high pitch freaked out voice as I recounted the events to my wife when I walked into our kitchen that night.
“But you shouldn’t cuddle customers”
“I f+&ken know, but I didn’t know what else to do, it seemed the only thing to do”
My wife gave me one of her looks.
I didn’t end up on the register and the job was completed that night and my wife is still talking to me.
The second hug that freaked me out happened about a year later. I was refurbishing a flat in a wee village close to Stirling and as I was walking towards my van to get some tools I saw a large fellow walk towards me. He stumbled and bounced off a shop wall. If I had not caught him he would have hit the deck, probably damaging himself. I helped him upright and asked if he was alright.
He didn’t appear to be drunk or full of chemicals. He looked more than dazed, not in a flu type unwell, just a wee bit like treading water waiting for everything to catch up. He said thanks but felt kind of dizzy.
Again, I don’t know what came over me but the words escaped my mouth before I thought about it, “do you need a cuddle mate?” Now, we are talking about a big bloke, over 6 foot, with a big belly who must have been over 16 stone ( he was well over that but I am giving him the benefit of doubt )
He scratched his head and went “Yeah would you mind “
Gulp, oh well in a for a penny.
My arms didn’t meet round him. The hug didn’t last as long as the posh managers hug but it did last longer than a greeting and it was nearly an exact rerun of the last freaked out cuddle. We released, went our separate ways and I carried on with my jobs and went home and as I walked straight into the kitchen with the same high pitch began” the big bloke street embrace description” to Clare she said,
“but you can’t hug big strangers.”
“I f+&Ken know…….. “
I got another look.
You know when folk say stuff happens it’s always in threes, well, there was a third cuddle and actually maybe that was the real first cuddle. It happened in Tarragonna, years and years ago when I was really really drunk and let’s just say it sobered me up completely.
Sorry you signed up for swimming adventures not hug chit chat.
Lubnaig has not given any full on adventures this year so far. That is not to say it has not been enjoyable though. We couldn’t get to the flag in the middle once because of ice. In fact right now the flag is lost. I have tried to find it twice this week and failed. A couple of weeks ago I had three 2km swims in a week and managed to rip my suit before the third one so I had a mad mental and physical struggle to get back to warm clothes.
Anyway come up and experience it, that’s Loch Lubnaig’s second carpark not the hugs…..well……. you never know you might just leave calling it Loch Hugnaig.
(You have probably guessed, all the photos are of Loch Hugnaig, I mean Lubnaig from the last six months.)