Always up for a chat in friendly old Scotland
I WAS born in the deep south of New Zealand, home to many Scottish migrants. The farther south you venture the more you hear the use of the word wee in conversation and the rolling Rs of the Kiwi accent.
Memories of the winds that blow in from Antarctica and feel as though they could slice clear through layers of merino and Gore-Tex come back to me when I arrive in Edinburgh on a chilly September morning. I immediately feel a familiar attachment to this country of bleak weather, craggy outcrops, cairns and girls named Morag.
The Scots I meet say what’s on their mind, and often. The garrulous taxi driver from the airport speaks with conviction about almost everything for the entire journey. The fisherman whose cottage I rent and whose family has lived in the same house for 400 years seems to have risen up from the sea surrounding his home, talking and talking.
The two middle-aged women behind the counter at the local women’s association, their handknitted argylepatterned cardigans held tightly over their soft bosoms, gossip quietly and seemingly endlessly to each other while assiduously ignoring their hungry customers.
I have a lengthy and animated conversation with the owner of a cafe without customers or cake who suggests I visit her market stall ‘‘for home-made chutneys and doll’s-house furniture’’.
When I mention my birthplace, I am greeted with monologues of length and vigour about rugby, a sport that interests me not a jot. These wordy Scots don’t seem to notice my eyes glaze over. This is not to say they are uninterested in what other people have to say. Rather, I suspect the Scots are more excitable than their melancholy reputation suggests.
While in the Highlands, I read a book written in 1886 that features historic characters with evocative and faintly funny names such as Big Duncan of the Axe, Alexander the Upright and Mackenzie of the Nose; there are brutal tales of Viking invaders and the tragic love story of a dead princess being borne across the black water to be buried on an island in Loch Maree.
People in these spellbinding valleys have retained an animated eccentricity that is expressed in their storytelling and engaging with others. But always on their own terms. RANT OR RAVE Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column. Published columnists will receive a Kathmandu digital travel scale ($59.98). This device, with a highprecision strain gauge sensor system, is ideal for weighing luggage at home. More: 1800 333 484; kathmandu.com.au. Send your contribution to: travel@theaustralian. com.au.