Virtual Vacation: The Hoot in Hootananny


I woke up this morning to another visit from the Scrabble Fairy at my door, though this message, like the others, only makes sense if you’d been here. It would take me a whole blog post to explain why I laughed out loud when I stepped out of my door and saw these tiles:


But then I went down for breakfast and soon after, we were all on the bus for a long day trip to Inverness. During the first few hours we were there, I must have clocked a good eight miles walking – all the way from the bus station to the botanical gardens and back. And all around the city – shopping for cashmere sweaters, finding the best place for Cullen Skink (fish chowder) and eventually meeting our group at Hootananny, a local pub famous for its music.


I was the first of our crew to arrive and I staked out a big oval table where i could sit back and watch the locals while nursing a Guiness Stout. I was the only tourist in the room and I enjoyed the quiet and scribbled in my notebook while I waited. The band – two accordions and a snare drum were setting up in the corner.


Larae and Julie were the first of our company to arrive. They’d obviously been shopping and were laden with bags.


Mary was the next to show up, delighted that she’d found the Highland House of Fraser and found her family crest. She belongs to the House of Buccleuch.


On a trip to the bathroom, she ran into a woman who told her she had a secret. And Mary is so friendly and outgoing, she’s not really someone you can keep secrets from. And so the woman told her there was a secret drawer in the pub, one that even the owner didn’t know about, and she told Mary that you can write notes and put them in the secret drawer and that people did that from all over the world. And so as our other group members arrived and the music started, Mary drafted a note:


And this is what it said:


Now I got pretty curious about this so I went over to meet this mysterious woman and her husband and to see this secret drawer for myself. They invited me over and bought me a beer.


And they introduced themselves. His name is Karl Engel and he works on the oil rigs because he said, “There’s no work in this town.” She is Carla Fischer and she works with old people and so we got into a long conversation about how they treat old people here and how they deal with people with dementia. I was curious, of course because of my mom, and also because I’d seen this sign when I was out walking earlier:


Karl and Carla (yep, that’s right) have three teenage children, twin boys and a girl and so we talked about parenting, too. And in the meantime, Carla and I started reading all the notes in the drawer. They were written on old napkins and on the back of train tickets, and even ripped pieces of cloth. They said things like, “God save the Queen!” And, “We are ‘lucky 13’ on a Haggis Tour of Edinburgh.” And “Visit and Old Flame. Rekindle an Old Fire. Please help me do this, Universe.” On the back of a Canadian lottery ticket were the words, “I’m not a winner. I checked before I left it. Just a Canadian girl enjoying a Highland experience. Cheers, Jenny.” And “Life is a waste of time. Times a waste of life. Get wasted all the time and you’ll have the time of your life,” and the inevitable, “Sarah Smith is a whore, a big one.” The notes were in Gaelic, English, French, and even Arabic.







I didn’t put a message in the drawer myself, but I sure enjoyed chatting with Carla. She told me if I was going to try haggis, to eat Coburn’s Haggis and if I was going to eat black pudding, to eat Stornaway Black Pudding. I don’t think so . . . maybe next trip. Mostly I was glad to have made a fast friend:


In the meantime, the dance floor was hopping:


And one older lady with hearing aids and few older gentlemen kept getting our ladies up to dance.

After we spilled out of there, I walked across the street and confronted this sign:


When Emily and I investigated further, reading those white pages stuck up on the glass, we realized this whole thing was one person’s vendetta. Some guy must have rented the storefront just to make a point. The letters were his long-winded campaign for recognition that the police had screwed up the case of a stolen laptop computer and he seemed to want everyone in town to know it!

It was a long fun day in Inverness, but I’m tired and glad that tomorrow we stay here all day at Newbold House. Writing class in the morning. Open space all afternoon. My plans are for a nap and hopefully a load of laundry. And in the evening after dinner, for the solstice, we’re going to have a fire in the backyard and a Scottish storyteller is coming to regale us with tales . . . and share some of her tips about how stories can best be constructed.

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