Friday, July 30, 2010

Lay By Adventures

A lay by is the little goiter dotted strategically along single-track roads. It allows a vehicle to pull over and let an oncoming vehicle use the main road. I have also described them as aneurysms, but goiter seems less sinister and volatile. They are oases, an opportunity to practice a model of negotiated space and social agreeableness in a constrained setting, and an integral part of both the physical and social fabric.

A lay by allows farmers to pull over and check their animals. Drivers can use their cell phones or capture a photograph; cyclists can catch their breath and let vehicles move past them. Sometimes a lay by is an opportunity to catch up with news from your neighbour or relay a message about an essential item forgotten, " I forgot milk, can you run past village store and get some." A lot can happen in a lay by.

I have never had a keen sense of orientation in the physical world. "You were there once" does not work for me as if leaving a trail in my mind like the magnetic tracery that birds use to return to nesting grounds or the salmon find their way back upstream. The first two years up here were really a bit of a blur. Putting one foot in front of the other and parsing conversations was about all that I could really manage. I kept telling myself that finding my way from one winding, unmarked country road to a distant location on another winding country road would be a project for another day.

And so it came to pass. I wanted to go to a friend's house. I had been there before (I followed her) and now I was on my own. I started out with only the first leg of the instructions clear in my mind. "Cross the main road"-(it has taken me some time to suss what is a main road, but that's another story) on the Barrock Road. At some point the Barrock Road has a sign that actually points toward Barrock, but another wrinkle in my finding my way around is that roads are named for places that no longer exist or names get recycled. Barrock Mains, for example, is not on the Barrock Road.)

But I digress, which is exactly what I did once I crossed the main road. I followed the road around a curve and then had no idea what to do. I saw a car moving swiftly up ahead of me and decided for no rational reason at all that it must be another one of my friends headed to the same friend's house. I followed her. When I realized the car was going to Dunnet Head (a stunningly beautiful site well worth a visit, but not where I had intended to go). I turned around and wondered what on earth I was going to do, when I pulled into a lay by for an oncoming car. Serendipity. The oncoming car contains another friend. We carry on a conversation in a lay by as true locals do. As I see an RV (or caravan as they call them here) approaching, I hastily ask for directions to my destination and hey presto, I am on my way in time for the RV driver simply to give me a grouchy face as he is delayed momentarily. Time is different for vacationers, I understand.

I was jubilant when I arrived at my friend's house and shared my adventure with my friends. For me the best news was having a place where I could acknowledge my--foibles--direction-wise. Having acknowledged my foibles, one of my friends let me follow her out (it is much smaller once you know where you are going) and even stopped along the way to point out where another friend lives so that I would be able to get there on my own.

The next day I drove all the way to Halkirk to find another friend's house and was pleased with myself and my manoeuvring until I had to back into a tiny lay by to allow a lorry filled with flammable materials to squeeze by. Clearly there are many more adventures with lay bys in front of me.


At 12:26 PM, Blogger Amy said...

So if the roads were broadened, a lot would be lost.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh yes that is a way of looking at it. BTW did you recognize your photo? I don't know where the road is (natch..) but I have the photo in a folder entitled something like "Coming home from Orkney and Amy's photos"

At 2:58 AM, Blogger Amy said...

I don't think I recognized the photo. But now that you mention it, it is the one you sent me! I made that comment because I thot I remembered one of you commenting that the govt. or someone was considering widening the roads.


Post a Comment

<< Home