Weekend watching last Saturday was Nomadland, a film based on the non-fiction book of the same name. This film follows Fern, played by Francis McDormand who takes to living in a van after her hometown is emptied out when the only employer shuts down. Although the central characters are played by actors, many of the other people appearing in the film are real life nomads from the non-fiction book playing slightly fictionalised versions of themselves.
The film depicts Fern’s first full year on the road, starting as a seasonal temp at Amazon for the Christmas rush. She then goes to the annual rendezvous of the nomads in the desert. Here she, and through her we, learn more about the way of life. She works then as a camp host, in a fast-food restaurant and at a seasonal harvest of sugar beets. The film goes full circle and ends with her back at Amazon.
The film doesn’t shy away from showing the hardships of life on the road and as a first timer, we see her make some potentially fatal mistakes such as a flat tyre in the middle of the desert with no spare. But the film also goes into the freedom of life on the road with Fern visiting many beautiful locations. There are friends made and lost and we see a camaraderie amongst the nomads. The visual sense of the movie is breathtaking with the director of photography doing a stunning job capturing the beauty and desolation of the landscapes in equal measure.
Fern herself seems to be a very insular person. She stays behind at several locations after the main group has left and while there is a romantic subplot, it is very much two older people dancing around each other. She seems to have taken to the nomadic lifestyle and when offered a permanent home, refuses twice, and moves back into her van.
The film is a profoundly moving one. It is an exploration of a lifestyle very different to the one that most people live, and it shows these people as the inheritors of the pioneers that made the USA. It also provides gentle but damming commentary on the modern capitalist era that folk in the twilight of their lives are forced onto the road and have to do backbreaking work. Many enjoy it but quite a few were forced into it with no other choice.
The most profound moment is at the end, it is in the trailer so no spoilers here, where Bob, leader of the nomad rendezvous says, “There is never a final goodbye, always that I’ll see you down the road”.
It was time for a summer holiday and so it was off to one of my favourite places in Scoltand, Blair Atholl. The Blair Castle Caravan Park to be precise. To be honest I wasn’t looking forward that much to this trip as the Met Office were not promising good weather but nevertheless it was good to get away.
After the usual pit stop for food, the road was a straight one up the M90 and onto the A9. There were some road works just past Perth where they are dualling the A9 and that was a 40mph crawl in heavy traffic but at least at that point, the sun was out, and I had some good tunes blasting on the radio.
The trip up had a bit of a detour in it as I was wanting to visit the House of Bruar. I’ve heard about the place many times, including a hilarious monologue from Susan Calman, so this was an opportune moment to visit. Problem was that this being a sunny Sunday, most of central Scotland had also taken the opportunity to visit. The place was rammed, and I had to wait for some time for a parking space. This wasn’t helped by someone deciding to take a large twin axle caravan into the place and then nearly jack-knifing it trying to get it out. I got parked but didn’t tarry long there as with Covid still doing the rounds, it wasn’t good to be in such a crowded place. I did pick up some down slippers though which will be nice when the weather turns even more inclement.
It was a short trip from there to the campsite and they were doing contactless check-in with my details waiting for me outside reception. Got to my pitch and in about 30mins was set up, awning included. The sun was still really shining at this point, and I had to sit in the shade of the awning to avoid burning. But with the weather so good dinner was some steak grilled on my gas grill which was very nice. I managed to cook it without cremating it.
Monday dawned dull and overcast. I just made it to the showers and back before the rain came on. And started coming down in buckets. It basically did not stop for the whole of Monday and at times was torrential. There was a steady stream ( no pun intended ) of people arriving on Monday including a fair few tent campers who must have been soaked trying to get pitched. There was nothing to do but read for most of the day and play asteroids on a Nintendo. I’d brought three books with me. The first is “The Origins of Totalitarianism” by Hannah Arendt. I’d been reading this for a while and it is a fascinating, if somewhat terrifying, book. But a bit of a slog. Next up was “The Walker: On Finding and Losing Yourself in the Modern City” by Matthew Beaumont. This is a fascinating book where he’s looking at the depictions of walkers and their city haunts in literature. Last was “The Cut” by Christopher Brookmyre. I love his books, have since the very first and this one, while a slow start, had become a page turner and I finished it while on holiday. I was not disappointed by the twist at the end, kept me guessing the whole way through.
With Monday given over to reading, Tuesday was promising to be a better day and the forecast was right with the morning dawning overcast but dry. I pulled on the hiking boots and hit the Glen Banvie trail from the campsite. This was a 9-mile circuit, but I was planning a detour to see the Falls of Bruar.
From Old Bridge of Tilt, the trail climbs up by a gorge through some woods to a folly known as The Whim. This is a strange set of arches that overlook the castle. Plenty of time was taken to get some photos from the spot.
From The Whim, the trail climbs up on to some moorland and here, while a little muddy, the going was good, and I was striding out along the track watching as the weather continued to improve.
From the moor, it was down through some forest and onto the detour to see the falls. There wasn’t much to see from the viewpoint itself, it being quite densely wooded but a little further along, there was the most fabulous bridge over the falls themselves and I was able to spend an enjoyable few moments looking down the falls.
From the falls, it was back onto the path and by now the sun was well out and it was t-shirt weather. Up till now I had had the place to myself but as I got closer to the campsite, there were more people out and enjoying the sun.
The Met Office had not promised that the good weather would last and right on cue about 2pm the rain started, not as bad as yesterday but it rained till early evening. I was expecting it and had my feet up in the van and was getting stuck in again to the books.
Wednesday started dry but as packing up began, it was obvious that the awning was soaking wet, and the roof canvas had some water beads on it. Still packing up was achieved in only slightly more time that pitching up and at 8am, it was time to start up, turn left out the site and hit the A9 for the road south and back home.
As mentioned at the top, for some reason, probably the weather, I wasn’t looking forward to this. However, I went, and it was a decent time away. Got some walking done and a few really good photos. Here’s looking forward to the next trip.