Originally published at Vision Junkie
Settle in for the long haul, my friends. This is quite a tale. I will ply you throughout as Bob the Barfly plied me, but not with Glenglassaugh Whisky, but with pictures from the Dolphin Center on the Moray Firth.
I was housesitting where I was staying in Newmill, a housestay that I found on the website TrustedHousesitters.com in January of 2014. I was ecstatic, raring to go. I did a few housesits in the US before heading across the pond and always had amazing experiences with wonderful people…
But there was something up with the Newmill housesit. First, once I was chosen for the assignment, the couple I would be housesitting for began to watch my every move on Facebook, to the point of having an argument on one of my pictures because the husband made a randy comment about my physique. They asked me to come early, which I agreed to. More time in Scotland, I thought. When I explained I would be staying in Scotland after my housesit, they offered to let me stay with them, use their home as a home base. I thanked them wholeheartedly, but said I didn’t feel comfortable putting them out.
They pushed. My god did they push. I said I might return, but I plan to tool around, and my mother was considering a jaunt over to join me and road trip all over.
I chalked it up to awkwardness. There are awkward people all over the world, maybe these two people were just a little on that spectrum. I knew awkward people, I could get along with anyone, right?
Without going into detail, the moment I arrived, I knew something was wrong. They’d given my daughter her own room, but I refused to let her sleep in it while the homeowners were still there. It was unnerving. From being watched while I was lying in bed trying to get my iPad onto the wifi, to the wife vomiting repeatedly on a second plate at the dinner table, to their beating and neglecting their dogs, to the point of pinning one down and demanding my daughter hit the beast as punishment for nipping at her. I could NOT WAIT for them to leave for the cruise.
And leave they did, thank you baby Jesus! We visited Glenfiddich, the Moray Firth, walked to playgrounds and hauled ass on ziplines and death trap playground equipment that I WISH we had in the US. (Seriously, Scottish playgrounds are asking for death. All of them. Ziplines, three story high climbing nets, balancing rings in which one missed step and you’ll smash your face on cold hard steel, then be run over by the platform you fell off of as it slides back down. Amazing.)
My mother decided to come visit and take part in my month and a half long trip to the place my heart is called, and she arrived with the divine providence of an act of God. The couple returned from their cruise while my mother, Mebhy and I were out for dinner. My clothes were in fresh from the line, my underthings washed by hand and drying in my private bathroom they gave me, my food still in the fridge. I wasn’t planning to leave until the day after, as they’d requested. I admit I hadn’t wiped down the kitchen counter before they arrived home, but I walked in the house, ladies and gentlemen, and Oh My God…
I was under assault, instantly. They demanded to know what deliberate thing I had done to blow the circuit breaker. Demanded to know why I’d stolen the dogs new collar (he’d chewed it up the first night they were gone). Accused me of lying when I answered both questions. She was screaming at me about anything she could find, irrational nonsense that finally resulted in my usual pacifist self putting my foot down and proclaiming that I would be leaving, instantly. I went to pack up my stuff. They’d gone through my things, gone into my bathroom and my bedroom, inspected my underthings. Hours passed as they kept demanding I do more before I leave, THEN as eleven in the evening rolled around, they changed their tune and started begging me to stay, thanking me for going above and beyond in cleaning as I left, all while standing between me and the door so I couldn’t leave.
My mother saved me. Walked into the house to see why I was taking so long and I used her appearance to Scram. And I mean SCRAM!
That night we stopped in Portsoy, in the Station hotel (lovely place if you’re ever in the area) and despite my usual lackluster approach to drinking, I fucking hit that pub with intent! I needed a god damn drink. My nerves were fried, my skin was crawling. I’d never loved my mother more than I did that day when she rescued me from those lunatics. Still, I needed to slink into a god damn pub and sip something that might slow my brain a tick. I slipped onto a barstool, asking the elderly man at the end of the bar, Bob’s permission. He was clearly a regular, reading his paper with a dram of Glenglassaugh and a pint of something always on hand. I settled in to write in my journal and the Magners appeared before me.
Enter the Glenglassaugh. Bob was an advocate beyond measure of the stuff, telling me the tale of the shut down distillery that lay abandoned for decades, only to have a stock of unknown barrels, all steeping away in perfect condition, forgotten for ages.
Glenglassaugh, ladies and gentlemen, goes down fucking easy. It doesn’t hurt to have a romantic tale behind it, I won’t lie, but Bob demanded I give it a swig and the bartender poured me a taste. A very friendly taste.
Once he saw that gone, the bartender approached, only to have Bob inform him of my VERY stressful day. Well Michael – the Bartender – couldn’t have me stressing in HIS Pub. He decided I needed a Drambuie. He poured me a massive shot of that nectar like I was throwing Benjamins in a strip club. And oh did Michael know his shit, because that Drambuie was the sweetest thing I’d ever tasted. I annihilated it rather quickly, no tinges or cringes, just happy and ever more smiley sips. It was gone in a moment.
“Aye, tis bursteh comfudder Wilche, aye? Nice?”
Friends, I haven’t the profoundest fuck of a notion what he said at that moment, but I smiled at him, nodded, and said, “Aye.”
The fucker poured me another shot.
I finally paid my tab – he only charged me for the Magners – and made my way upstairs. I giggled to myself with each step up those stairs, slumped into my bed, and when my mother muttered something to me, asking how the pub was, I burst into fucking laughter and couldn’t stop for ten minutes straight.
When I woke up the next morning, I was still drunk.
That’s my Scotland for you. A pub full of locals hear that I’m stressed after housesitting for English expats from Birmingham and instantly speak ill of Birmingham, the English, and finally, pour me another Whisky. Somehow, in the span of three hours I’d managed to have the most horrible travel experience of my life, and one of the absolute best.
Scotland did that to me, and I was forever grateful. I had NO idea she wasn’t done with me yet. She was going to blow my mind a thousand times over after this one…
But that is for another day.