Who would have thought I would know what that meant?
Who would have predicted that from humble beginnings, my 50 year path would lead to... the romantic Highlands of Scotland?! But life certainly is a series of decisions, choices that are made and events that take you in, perhaps unexpected directions, ultimately to the moment that you exist, reading this.. before you lose interest and scroll down!
Maybe it is my age.. but I have recently found myself reflecting on the sliding doors of life and realise that this feeling for where I am now, even if I don’t know the philosophical big word for it... is a place that I love. For now I know that I am in the right space, with the right person... my soulmate, to chase the light with, to share the moments of beauty that nature shows us and feel the warmth of completeness. Shit.. I actually have turned into a soppy old romantic!!?
I smile briefly at the thought and normal service is quickly resumed as I kneel in the wet moss before Solveig, our model for the day. Despite my mock protestation, I arrange the most aesthetically flattering folds of her tartan dress, amidst the Glencoe heather, standing back proudly to observe my new found drapery skills..
‘If they could see me now...!’
Solveig stood majestically in front of the Highland canvas, just as Kristy had envisioned.. to tell a story of emotion, of drama and loss, as she looked to the glen, dramatically clutching a sealed letter! I looked on with Jonny, her partner and we too saw the vision. It was a photographic tale that Sir Walter Scott could’ve have scripted and Kristy had nailed it. I was filled with admiration, for the letter that I had crafted from printer paper and stained with tea the night before, actually looked very authentic!
A tear fell like a diamond, as the sun caught its path on Solveig’s cheek... Ok enough... I was getting carried away with this romantic malarkey. This was the first outing under our ‘Auld Romantics’ banner and ‘The Koala’ had now been officially retired, to a eucalyptus paddock in branding heaven. Our direction together was clearly defined and although I had dusted off my pens to draw a more appropriate logo, nothing outwardly had changed. Internally however, this was a big step for us, perhaps it could even be a romantic gesture. A rename of the business to reflect our journey and express our commitment to each other, that goes beyond the matching £1 ‘mood rings’ that we both wear?
There were brand complications involving changed SEO, loss of Google ranking and other such adult themes, that really should have added to a sensible discussion, but in the end Koala... erm Kristy (old habits) insisted that we needed to change and that ‘the business needed to be.... us’. And just like that, I had a job description and responsibilities.
Hmm.. maybe I should’ve researched ‘Romanticism. A business perspective.’
In reality, nothing had changed.. we still forget that we are not ‘just on a road trip with friends’ but actually we are supposedly professionals... with clients! Today in our ‘tour bus’ were the Team from Sandgrouse Travel, Jonny and Solveig. More used to luxury holiday consultation but now exposed to our ‘normal’ opinionated discussion pattern, that led from the ‘mistake of building the Skye bridge’ through to the ‘rarity of dead cats by the roadside’. Luckily however, our couple soon realised that this was no ordinary photography collaboration and were more than happy to indulge us in our brand of Romanticism.
Jonny has completed many exciting expeditions away from his Scottish homeland and had faced many challenges across the globe. He has lived in the South African bush and led his own team of huskies across the Arctic, but this was new ground and clearly my informative tour chat about the existence of white dog poo in the 1970s was inspired, even to this well travelled man.
His partner Solveig, a hugely successful Scottish travel blogger... no pressure, could not restrain her enthusiasm and Kristy revelled in her willingness, or was it fateful acceptance, to wade through the bog in a Victorian silk ball gown!? Normally I would have tempered such artistic requests of an Aussie in full creative flow, but today it was soon clear that Solveig was prepared to suffer for her art. The decorative leather boots that she had brought as an accompaniment were clearly 3 sizes too small and unused to the demands of actually being worn.. but this was indeed art and the best romance always has hardship to endure.
My attention was drawn to Jonny, as he emerged from behind a ruffle in Solveigs dress! He was on his knees in the mossy bracken trying to stay out of shot, after successfully ‘flouncing’ the fabric in the right direction. Kristy approved and clapped excitedly, as the bagpipes swirled in the distance...... The unexpected April sun had obviously gone to my head as I mused and stared longingly at the parked Sandgrouse emblazoned Landrover, teasing like a promotional catalogue image, in front of the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor. Was this Romanticism too? Well either way I love being part of it and wondered if our budget would one day stretch to this particular vehicle.
Solveig was drawn by a passion for all things Scottish, to settle here from her native France. This is a landscape that she ‘has a real connection with’ and now designs trips with Sandgrouse Travel, for clients to experience the country that she has made her home. Kristy and I nodded approvingly towards each other, knowing that feeling all too well. Scotland does that. It is a romantic familiarity that we, and our clients feel when we round the bend on the A82 at Rannoch Moor or walk the dusty path down to Dunnottar castle. A feeling that exists, beyond the cliche of hairy cows and shortbread tin images, that we want our clients from all over the world to experience.
We were once again with like minded people and reminded why we set out to become the Auld Romantics in the first place and exactly why the Koala had to go. The landscape was confusing for a marsupial and, I am reliably informed, an animal that is neither native to Western Australia or high on the ‘most romantic’ list. Who knew? Like us, it was a love for a country, a history and a heritage that drew Solveig and Jonny together... for them a literal Auld Alliance and I wondered if that has ever been mentioned to them before..?
A Vieille Alliance no less and I smiled smugly at my discovery but lacked confidence in my facts of the 13th century pact to vocalise the thought. I thought back to the question on Puffin behaviour from last year that continues to haunt me and made a mental note to research Franco Scottish relations for my tour notes and perhaps focus on the steady supply of French wine rather than the shared interests in controlling English expansion...
I drifted briefly to a random mental image of a boxing Kangaroo and a Unicorn as I held the reflector skyward to catch the failing light across the lochan’s. The bagpipes swirled...
‘‘Time for a dram and shortbread?’
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We LOVE our adventures. Being outdoors is elemental to us... particularly surrounded by spectacular landscapes, sharing our enthusiasm and documenting the emotion through photography. Nothing can beat that feeling!
We are Kristy and Richard... come and join us on our journey. Follow Kristy on IG for the full pictorial story or read Richards Blog for the alternative route!