On our 3 week trip this summer – thru’ some of the UK, and mainly Scotland, we mainly used #Airbnb to find a place to stay. As I was/am recovering from my slight burnout and find/found it hard to take decisions, (note that even here I can’t choose a tense!), I left it up to my dearest and nearest to choose the trip and the places we’d stay at… mostly. Once in while I poked my head over his laptop, consulted with Google Maps and said – “What about here?” And that’s how we ended up in a delightful stay at Moniaive – where I would definitely go again!
Country Roads in Scotland – 27 July 2019
“How did you find us?” Yvonne asked, in between sips of a large glass of white wine. My husband and I looked at each other and smiled.
“Well,” said Theo, “Just like we chose…”
And then the next song began, with Fudge singing loudly, only slightly out of tune and playing his guitar. His wife, next to him, a blondish woman in her early 60’s with bangs on her forehead and sporting a square pair of glasses, peered at the words and belted out the song in perfect harmony. The rest of the bar joined in. They’d heard it before, probably last Friday.
At the next pause, since there was nowhere to sit, I asked Theo if he’d like to check out the room next door, labeled ‘Ladies and Gentlemen – Games room.’ He leaned over to me, so I could hear him over the loud laughter and talk of the people at the bar, “There’s a pool table there, and some darts.” “Ok,” I replied, pulling my scarf around my shoulders and holding my tonic in one hand. “Let’s go.”
We looked around the adjoining room – with its dark oak furniture, a pool table, a casino game flashing obnoxiously and an empty but brightly lit bar. There were two doors – One with an image of a lady; one marked “Gentlemen.”
Before we could proceed to try our hand at darts, Fudge, looking like much like a Viking in shorts and a rock band t-shirt, came up to us and asked Theo, “Aren’t you a guitarist? You look familiar.” I answered instead. “He plays the guitar, yes. But “a guitarist”?…”
“Did Ann-Marie put you up to this?” asked Theo, thinking the bartender had told Fudge that we wanted to take part in this musical jam session.
“No, you just look very familiar.” Said Fudge. “Where’re you from?”
While Theo thought of a smart reply, the man continued, “Shall I fetch a guitar from you from upstairs? We’ve got an extra one here.”
And soon he had returned, with a classical guitar, a stool for Theo to join the impromptu band, and they began playing the next song. I was standing by the bar, at first, watching with amusement and wishing I knew how to play something too, when an elderly man, in a striped button-down shirt, sitting at the table next to me, stood up and offered me his stool. “Here, you can place it next to the bar, and then you can even lean back.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Quite sure,” he nodded.
“The locals are quite friendly,” shouted a woman from his table, a woman with shoulder length grey hair, and a friendly smile.
“They are.” I agreed.
They went through a song or two, while I sipped my drink and my headache from the morning slipped away. I could at least hum along to most of the songs . They were all familiar and felt like some version of home.
Yvonne came up to me from the other table (there were three tables in the small bar: one with the musicians at it – by the window, one left of the bar and one to the right.) Every seat was taken and a few people, like the elderly gentleman who’d given up his stool to me, were standing, leaning on the bar.
The bartender, a pretty young woman with tattoos adorning her upper arms, was walking around, offering everyone ‘some chips’ from a grease-stained white paper bag.
“Too much salt,” said a man much older than my father, as he shook his head.
“Aw go on,” said the chirpy young bartender, “This is a another bag.”
He dipped his hand in a pulled out a couple of chips, and bit into them.
He shook his head, like the old muppet guy in the balcony. The waitress burst into laughter.
“It’s not that I don’t like salt…,” he said.
I declined, having just finished a large pizza at the surprisingly upscale Italian restaurant only a few doors down. Yvonne stood up and came up to me, “Tha’s your ‘usband playin’, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Well, come join us, then, we’ll all scoot over, bring your drink and sit with us.” As one, four stools scooted over and they made space for me.
“Hi, I’m Audrey,” I said.
“What was that?” asked Yvonne, leaning in.
“Ah, lovely, I’m Yvonne, this is Robert, my…, and Anne and Carol and ….”
I didn’t catch all the names, but nodded at them with a smile.
A new song began, and the woman next to me pulled out her ukulele and put a sheet of paper with the words on the table. I recognized the song and as I joined in, she turned the paper with the lyrics more towards me.
“Country Roads, take me home, to the place I belong…”
I sang loudly, hearing a drawl in my voice I’d never heard before.
Oddly, in this tiny bar, in this tiny town, down unknown country roads, which we’d found quite by chance, I’d found myself completely and utterly at home.
PS. Yes, very possibly we choose it also because of its proximity to a castle which is used in Outlander… but which one?! That’s up to you to find out! Let me give you a hint: This castle has a real (and highly guarded) Rembrandt painting hanging in one of its lovely rooms!
PPS. The George Hotel is reputed to be haunted! But if it is – then only by friendly ghosts, like Casper, I think!