As I was driving back from Lochgilphead the other day, I passed a bus stop.
It was not like an ordinary bus stop, as it was on a stretch of road with no visible signs of occupation for miles around.
Standing on the ground next to the bus stop was a red mug.
The mug stuck in my mind somehow. So much so that it formed part of some writing I was doing elsewhere- some fiction. Here is an extract;
The bus was virtually empty. Tourists in these parts mostly travelled in cars or big white land barge camper vans. The only people who used the heavily subsidised service were school kids (the early morning and mid-afternoon service buses were ordeals best avoided) and a hardened group of locals whose incomes had no headroom for petrol money.
Despite their shared poverty, Millie often felt like a suburban Leylandii amongst pine trees; they had grown where they were planted; whereas she grew up in a plastic pot- artificial but surprisingly robust, despite the rough treatment.
The bus turned a corner and dropped a couple of gears for a steep hill, before lurching forward almost from a stand still past another empty bus stop. There was no visible sign of habitation for miles around and Millie wondered if anyone ever used it, but then noticed a bright red mug placed on the kerb next to the stop sign.
She found herself captivated by the mug in the middle of the wilderness. Who had left it there? Would they ever return? Which kitchen was it filled in? She found herself imaging all sorts of fantastical explanations involving two lovers thrown apart or last cups of tea before emigration to the Americas before settling on the mundane likelihood of a house hidden in some hollow of ground and a slightly eccentric morning routine.
The cup seemed to capture something about the contradictory nature of life in the Highlands; at once both expansive and claustrophobic. A tiny red dot in the middle of wilderness, swallowed up by towering trees and the sweep of the implacable mountains.
Millie smiled to herself at a sudden certainty that one of the other people on the bus would know exactly whose mug it was. She suspected that some would disapprove of the impropriety of such domestic revelation and that the red cup might yet be used as evidence of weakness of character.