Well – we did it. We hit the road (Jack). And while we will come back – it won’t be any time soon…
For those of you who haven’t heard, Susan and I are fulfilling our life-long dream to take a Gap Year to travel. Home-sweet-home for the year is our trusty Hymer camper van, Hans. Our route is completely unknown and our adventure is being made up as we go along. As I write, just a few days into the journey, we’re camping at the foot of Ben Nevis, surrounded by epic snow-covered mountains and glowering rain clouds (which decided to stop glowering and just empty their entire contents upon us instead as we took a stroll into Fort William town earlier…) We hear reports that there’s a heatwave elsewhere in the UK but the news hasn’t reached the North of Scotland!
We’re still reeling slightly (in a good way) from the unforgettable farewell y’all gave us as we undocked from The Dock. To everyone who called in, sent messages, gave gifts, wrote letters and wished us well – we could spend the entire year thanking you and it still wouldn’t be enough. The day we spent in Dock Cafe, with an amazing succession of the world’s best people calling in to see us, and the stupendous evening you organised to send us on our way, will be treasured memories throughout our travels and beyond.
(One wonderful and unexpected benefit of taking a Year Out is that everyone says farewell as if you’re boarding the Titanic, never to return – such an outpouring of love – some people go their entire lives without receiving a tiny fraction of that encouragement. Even if we were just hiding in a barn just down the road for a year, it would all have been worthwhile just for that!)
It was much harder than we had expected to say (even a temporary) goodbye to The Dock. Being part of the story of this incredible, diverse, welcoming, creative community has been life-changing for both of us. Watching Samson & Goliath and the Titanic Quarter fade into the mizzly morning as the Stena whisked us away from home, there were all sorts of emotions whirling around.
Retiring to the on-board coffee lounge to drown our sorrows with a cappuccino and a croissant, we were served by a friendly young chap who handed us our coffees and then asked, “Are you… do I recognise you from Dock Cafe?” Turns out he was a Dock regular during his days at the Met. We confirmed our identity, and with a shy smile he told us our coffees and croissants were on the house!
The poor guy doesn’t know how close he came to being drowned in a flood of grateful over-emotional tears – that simple act of generosity, a reminder that the last 9 years have had an impact and made a difference, was the perfect grace-note to set us on our travels.
So, with gratitude and love, this is me signing off for a while. The Dock is in good, good hands and I’m not going to be pestering you and checking in. Unless the need suddenly overwhelms me, I’m not intending to blog and regale you with stories of our adventures – I think that in writing this blog, as in many other things, a wee break will do me the power of good.
The Dock will continue to thrive and welcome and laugh and love and live – and no matter what wonders we see on the road, I’m pretty sure we won’t find its like anywhere in the world.