A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 127

The real Scotland (part one)

An occasional series usually subtitled Reasons for Coming to Farmington - or in this instance, a compelling case for returning to the peaceful banks of the Cocheco River.

* * *

"I’ll take you off the tourist track," I promised my girlfriend Candace, as we stepped down from the plane at Glasgow airport, "but it's no a pretty sight!"

As things turned out, it was grotesque.

The first few days went well enough, as we borrowed a tent and drove a rental car northward, up the rugged western coast of Scotland with its sea lochs and heather-covered mountains. On the first night, we camped in Glencoe, a brooding pass between jagged peaks where, in 1692, a regiment of Campbells massacred a village full of McDonalds, triggering a three hundred year grudge and a spate of folk songs. Then we struck out for the Isle of Skye, where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid from the English redcoats for a while after the disastrous battle of Culloden in 1746.

The weather was uncharacteristically warm and cloudless with … (Cut the travelogue and get to the grotesque bit! - Bored readership.)

Okay. Okay.

… and so racing through Achnasheen, Kinlochewe, Inchnadamph, Altnaharra and Shin, we sped, late one Friday evening, into the ancient burgh of Dingwall, a wee town mauled by the Vikings in the 13th century, but which had been fairly tranquil ever since. Until this very weekend…

We were politely directed towards a campsite not far from Dingwall’s town center. Crossing a rail bridge, we turned down a street skirting a soccer stadium that had posters for a punk rock festival plastered along its walls. A little further on, this street petered out at an iron gate blocking the entrance to a site operated by the Caravan & Camping Club of Great Britain, an organization famed for its obsession with order, cleanliness, best behaviour, discipline, and lack of mirth. CCCGB members are expected to gather up their meal crumbs from the manicured grass, tiptoe demurely around and whisper after evensong.

The site manager, an ex-military English type, eyed Candace and I up and down, made us fill out several forms, warned of the absolute necessity of whispering, and showed us precisely where to pitch our tent, once he had swung aside the gate that protected the campers from the Scottish savagery lurking just beyond in the Highland gloom.

Being dog-tired, we erected our canvas home, dutifully whispered for a short time and then went to sleep … to be rudely aroused in the small hours of the morning by the din of an advancing maelstrom, tramping down the road from the soccer stadium.

Curses rent the air. Jovial, carefree, drunken curses at first. Then violent, raw Scottish curses, as the many-headed monster clashed with the English ex-colonel at the iron gate. And then raging, embittered, vengeful curses to cover a retreat back up the road, just before the police arrived.

* * *

Candace and I went uptown when daylight broke, and ordered breakfast in a small cafe. While we waited its arrival, the door opened, and eight or nine members of the Skull and Crossbones Bikers Association came in and occupied the next two tables. They were cursing in a rather familiar jovial and carefree manner, until I caught their eye, after which the tone became violent and threatening. At that moment, the tourist track beckoned Candace and I strongly, and bolting our eggs, we drove south from Dingwall to visit the tragic but currently serene battlefield at Culloden Moor. _

'Twas here that the last battle was fought on British soil, when the Scottish Jacobite forces were routed, with great slaughter by a merciless English army, comprised largely, one imagines, of ancestors of the Caravan and Camping Club of Great Britain.

Anyway, we had come to Dingwall to enjoy a folk festival scheduled for that Saturday, the same day, strangely, as the punk rock festival - and so, at noon, we headed back north from Culloden.

The roads leading into Dingwall were strewn with hitchhickers trying to reach the music, and the variety of these footsloggers defied description, but Woodstock and Napoleon's retreat from Moscow were two images that came to mind. As a barometer of the Scots music scene, however, the punks numbered thousands and the folkies could be counted in hundreds. The strains of grossly over-amplified guitars became audible, causing sections of the crowd to become excited and surge forward towards the soccer stadium. Then the rivaling screech of bagpipes drifted through the air. Dingwall was awake.

(Riot & conclusion next week - Click Next, below)

Library news

The building was a hive of activity, last week, as the Bicentennial celebrations raged and preparations continued for the Big Parade. Jayne Gibbons was almost finished the careful lettering of a sign for the Library float when, to her dismay, she noticed that she has written LIBARARY. And she works there. Ooops!

Meanwhile, downstairs, beneath the scampering of gerbil feet, noteworthy display of hand-stitched quilts were on display, some 25 in all, with helpful ladies at hand to explain the subtleties, and name the styles - Crazy Quilt, Baby Block, Log Cabin, Sun Burst, Dresden Plate, Friendship and Oak Leaf, every one a delight. Mrs Barrett exhibited one with 1,150 different fabrics, Ethel Canney (somewhat over 80) made one that depicted all 50 states with their bird, flower, and date of entering the Union. Mrs. Thayer put in a quilt of luxurious silks and with intricate embroidery that she said had come from the Alton area. Local treasures, indeed. One must also pay tribute to Ruby Towle and Alice Lawrence for adding much to the occasion by dressing in period costume.

Also, in this tumultuous week for the library, there were displays of dolls, daguerreotypes, and Bedouin jewelry from the collection of Lorraine Meyer, a local Bedouin authority. What a town! What a town!

Tire Watch

At a recent selectman's meeting, a citizen with 14 tires appealed to be allowed to deposit them in the town dump without paying $1 per tire. Turning down this request, Selectman John Scruton revealed that he was stuck with almost 2,000 tires on his dairy farm, which may prompt the Conservation Commission to monitor adjoining Baxter Lake for flotsam on a round-the-clock basis.

June 28, 1988

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