In January 2017, I returned to the Scottish Highlands after a 20 year absence to attend a winter mountaineering course at Glenmore Lodge, the Scottish national outdoor training center.
When German author and journalist, Theodore Fontane, embarked on his first journey to Scotland almost 160 years ago with a suitcase and tickets for the night train from London, his third class accommodation on board the train was like my EasyJet flight to Edinburgh.
I left my hotel to explore the city at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning. I encounter few pedestrians in the streets of Edinburgh. The shops are closed, and a steady stream of empty buses and trams pass during my walk in to town.
I am standing on the platform waiting for my train when I notice a young lad with a mountaineering backpack out of the corner of my eye. He approaches the overhead sign announcing the next train's arrival. He glances at me and walks in my direction.
I am already awake when the alarm clock rings at 7:15 am. My roommate, Jon, whom I met for the first time an hour before the night before, struggles to find his mobile.
Twenty meters below me, Jon flashes a big, wide grin. I am uncomfortable, and I look down and shout, "Climb on!"
After two aspirin and an early bedtime, my fever from the previous day breaks by morning. I feel much better. I am ready to rock!
As the sound of an approaching RAF Tornado pieces the clear blue sky, I scan the horizon trying to make visual contact. I catch the fighter plane, swept wings pinned back towards it tail, making a simulated, low flying bombing run over Loch Avon.