Bothy Diaries part 1: Moving to Scotland and the coming of COVID
June 2019 saw me pack up my life in Berkshire, England, and head north. I was headed for the Highlands, specifically Aviemore, home to the world-famous Mountain Café.
As the landscape grew more wild and more beautiful I thought about what had brought me here. I had visited the Café many times over the years. As far as I was concerned their flat white was second to none, their cakes were the perfect indulgent fuel after a day in the hills, and their veggie breakfast was the only proper way to kick start a mountain biking adventure through the gorgeous Rothiemurchus forest.
For the past 10 years I had been running a Café myself and had always had those cakes, coffees and amazing fresh food in the back of my mind as my gold standard to aim for. I never got anywhere close but it kept me aiming for the stars and occasionally hitting the moon.
I’d lived in Scotland previously and, despite being away for over a decade, I still had a hankering to return. I feel most alive
when I’m walking in the hills, swimming in a loch or simply breathing mountain air. I
’d reached the point in my working life where I needed a change of scene and a fresh challenge. Kj advertised a position and I applied. After a trial weekend working in the Café (when the sun shone endlessly and Kj plied me with incredible salads eaten on the balcony for my lunch breaks) I took the plunge and made the move.
The first few months were a baptism of fire. It was the start of the summer season and I was learning the baking section. Each day the list of cakes, breads and scones I had to make seemed to grow longer. I used to feel confident when working in my own Café, now I felt like a clumsy beginner and frustrated myself with my rookie errors (using self-raising flour instead of plain in a tray of brownies springs to mind as an epic, exploding-all-over-the-oven kinda fail).
Although I was hard on myself I can honestly say that Kj never once voiced any frustration or annoyance with me. I’m sure she felt it at times but she was unfailingly kind, supportive and encouraging. The kind of boss I wish I could have been all those years in my own cafe.
I had promised myself I would give this new adventure at least one year. There were times when I would have happily packed up and moved back south. It was tough getting to grips with not just a new job, but a new life, a new country, and trying to make new friends. I definitely questioned whether I had made the right decision. But by March 2020 I was in a good place and beginning to look forward to the long days of summer.
Then came Covid
I left work on a Friday for my usual days off. I never went back. The UK went into lockdown, the unthinkable happened. After 14 years of incredibleness the Mountain Café closed its doors. No-one realised it then, but it was for the last time.