The adventures of the Fuming Four in Scotland part 2.
Click here for part 1.
Day 3: Saturday 30 April
I awoke with a headache, a queasy feeling and a thirst for water. Ah, damn.. Hangover.. Well, things could have been worse, I thought. With some difficulty I climbed over a snoring Thierry (we both shared the upper part of a giant sized bunk bed) onto the ladder. I fumbled in my backpack for some painkillers and swallowed them with loads of water. Silently I staggered to the bathroom, hoping that a shower would freshen me up. Suddenly it dawned on me that for the electricity in the lodge British Pound coins were needed. So perhaps the boiler did not work and there would be no hot water. I took the risk and while standing under the shower I mumbled a quick prayer that it would be warm. A weak trickle of water emerged and.. Damnit, cold! No, wait! After a long while it became hot. Aahhh.. Such a good feeling!
After the shower I got dressed and went to the living-room/kitchen part of the lodge. There I saw that Matron was awake and one look at his face told me that he was feeling exactly the same as me. The dishes had to be done so we did them together while groaning softly sometimes because of our hangovers. Matron did not have a good night. He slept in a bunk bed (in another chamber as us) on the lower part with Darren above him. In the middle of the night he was awakened because his sleeping bag felt a bit moist. “Shit! Have I pissed myself?” he thought. Carefully he felt his crotch.. No.. Then looked to the mattress above him and slowly saw some liquid dripping from it. He gave Darren a nudge.. “Pssst, Darren, wake up, did you piss yourself??” Groggily the inebriated Scotsman lifted up his sleeping bag.. “Ay..”
One by one the rest awoke. Alf, Gregor, Shaun and Rob all felt pretty ok considering the night before. Darren was still sleeping but Thierry looked like the ghost of Christmas past. He had tried to drink some water but it had all come out.. 1 time at night and 4 times in the morning, the poor lad. Luckily Matron had the solution: a good, hearty breakfast. He started baking bacon and eggs but also had the curry from the night before. “Anyone also curry??” “Ay!” Answered Rob and myself. I must say, I seldom had such a great morning meal. Bacon and eggs on a bun with some sauce combined with a leftover bit of curry. Delicious! Thierry was thinking the same, bit by bit he began to feel better. Such is the resilience of youth.. There was a bit of drama when Shaun went for a shower. Suddenly he came out the bathroom with a pale face. “Oh boy, I am really f*cked now..” It turned out that one of his special contact lenses (€3000 a piece!) accidentally fell down the drain. Lucky for him Matron found it back in the drain pipe where it got stuck. *pheww* Outside the weather was surprisingly nice, sunny and even a bit warm. I sat on the bench before the lodge and soaked in the healing rays of the sun.
Just before 2 o’clock we left for the nearby Dalwhinnie whisky distillery, I had booked a tour there. Darren and Gregor were not coming along (in fact, Darren had gone to bed again after breakfast. He was utterly demolished by all the Westvleteren he consumed..) so it was just the six of us. The distillery is set in a desolate, wind-sliced, rain-lashed patch of Highland wilderness. Especially with the two distinctive pagoda roofs the building and its surroundings look like a scene out of the Lord of the Rings. We were greeted warmly inside and soon met our tour-guide; an old chap with almost spiky hair and hands and a face that looked like he consumed quite a lot of the brew that was made there. But he was a truly amicable fellow and guided us with clear stories and a bit of humour through the rooms and halls of the distillery. It was forbidden to take pictures inside which I really regretted when we saw the 2 enormous and impressive copper stills where a lot of the magic happens. At the end of the tour we all got genuine Dalwhinnie glasses and of course a bit of the stuff itself. Before I could say “no” Rob (who was driving) already poured the contents of his glass into mine. Oh man, and I still wasn’t feeling too well because of the hangover.. But like the brave Dutchman I am I downed the glass in one gulp. And felt a bit better afterwards crazily enough.
Rob wanted to have lunch so we went to some snackbar/grill restaurant something at the edge of a nearby village. When ordering the Belgians made sure that this time their chips would be well baked. The Scots had a strange (for me) dish: beans on toast. Literally just canned beans in tomato sauce heated up and dumped over buttered toast. They seemed to like it. Once we got back at the lodge the weather was still that nice that the Belgians, Rob and I decided to do a group picture KPC style. So we took off our coats, sweaters and shirts and posed for the camera like real men with bare chests.
In the evening Matron was preparing a signature Scottish dish: haggis. He (traditionally) served it with “neeps” and “tatties“, boiled and mashed separately. Normally a “dram” (a glass of Scotch whisky) goes with it but after the alcoholic orgy of the night before some water sufficed. I must say, the haggis tasted remarkably excellent! Like a smooth mixture between black pudding and liver. For herbivore Thierry Matron had also made some vegetarian haggis. I had some and it tasted surprisingly great. The remainder of the evening was spend quietly in front of the fire. The rest was chatting away and I was reading on my new e-reader, such a great invention! Thierry dodged a bullet by the way, he fell asleep before midnight but just before Shaun and I were going to press our butts in his face he woke up.. Needless to say we all went to bed early.
Day 4: Sunday 1 May
After a great night’s sleep, shower and breakfast it was time to leave the bothy/lodge behind. The planning for the day was to go to the capital city of Scotland: Edinburgh. I rented an apartment there near the Royal Mile and opposite the castle. And the best thing was: we could smoke in there! The Scotsmen helped getting our gear to the cars where we said our goodbyes. In the short time we had together we all grew very fond of each other, that is for sure. Matron came along with us until the first stop: tobacconist G.T. Coventry in Kirkcaldy run by Maclean John Dorward. When we arrived in the coastal town at the shop Maclean was waiting outside. “The damn alarm won’t come off, I already called a mechanic but since it’s Sunday it can take a while..” Despite that he offered us a sneak-peak in his store, which was a bad move because the alarm immediately went off. And it made a truly hellish noise. Quickly we all went outside, Maclean kept waiting for the mechanic and we decided to go to a pub. Several streets further we could still hear the alarm..
Finding a pub was easy, but when we got inside we got the distinct impression we were not wanted there. It was a real Scottish pub for real Scottish people, not us. Across the street was an Indian/Nepalese/Chinese/Thai restaurant where an employee stood outside. “Are we welcome here?” Rob asked. (With an Indian accent) “Yes of course! Come in, come in, follow me!” We sat at the back of the place which had a lovely view across the sea. The food was more than excellent! I had noodles with chicken, mouthwatering good. On a small tray were some flakes of something which I fully added to the noodles. Rob looked amazed at me. “You realize you just threw in a bunch of spicy chilli flakes in you dish?” Whoops.. But despite that, great food, only my stomach pained me afterwards..
Suddenly Matron got a text message, at G.T. Coventry the mechanic had fixed the alarm. When we entered the shop we were (once again) greeted by Maclean. Looking around it was smaller than I though, but in a good way. It had a certain cosiness. Also because of the lovely old world style wooden interior. The building itself is really old. In 1720 it was a mill (horse-powered), in 1861 it was a chemist and drug-store and then a hatter in the 1890’s. Since 1906 a tobacconist has been located at this site. For a better and longer description of the store, see this KPC magazine.
Maclean proved to be a very nice, relaxed chap, answering questions and telling about the shop. Strange laws they have in Scotland, you are allowed to sample what you are buying but you can’t smoke it inside the shop.. Of course I had done some research about his store and in all honesty I must say, I was a little disappointed about the assortment. On pictures I saw that only a couple of years ago he had more pipes and pipe and snuff tobaccos for sale. Despite that, it was still pretty impressive. We all bought something and the loose tobaccos were measured in the old fashioned style on scales. I purchased 2 Gawith & Hoggarth bulk tobaccos (can’t remember which ones..) and a piece of black rope tobacco. I could not help noticing that things were going downhill for Maclean. “Alone last year I lost 8 regular customers..” Maclean sighed. How? “Well, they died of old age. And no new customers are replacing them..” When we left the store the good man gifted us a tin of Peterson Signature Flake (in the vein of Capstan). I really, really hope his business endures.
Outside the shop Matron said goodbye to us, he was going home. We all thanked him for some fabulous days we will never forget! On the way to Edinburgh we noticed that Shaun his bladder infection slowly healed, thankfully he brought medicines with him. In the capital of Scotland we parked our car near the castle, not cheap but the closest to our apartment. Once we got there I opened a small locked box beside the door with the key in it with a code I got from the owner. The apartment was more spacious than I could see on the pictures, excellent! There were 2 beds, 1 in the bedroom and 1 sofa bed in the living room. The one in the bedroom was large enough for 2 but the sofa bed not. Luckily I had brought an inflatable mattress with me. The view from the main window was great, we could see the castle and the Royal Mile.
At first we wanted to get some food at a supermarket and cook it ourselves but of course we could not find one in the city centre. After a short walk we decided to eat almost beside our door at Maxies Bistro. Since it was the last evening in Scotland Shaun and I both decided to dine a bit decadent with a Scottish border rib-eye steak served with black pudding in a rich Port sauce. Yummie! That also went for the friendly and good looking waitress. They had an excellent customer service by the way. Rob always drinks Coca Cola but they did not have that, they had Pepsi, which Rob hates. Suddenly a waiter came back with a can of Coca Cola. Turned out that a while ago they had run out of Pepsi and hastily bought some loose Coca Cola cans. Rob’s smile went from ear to ear. Back in the apartment Rob and Shaun wanted to watch Match of the Day, especially Rob is a big soccer fan. So we all sat there, smoking a pipe, watching TV. Afterwards Rob and Shaun decided to sleep together in the main bed, I had my air mattress and Thierry opted for the sofa bed.
Day 5: Monday 2 May
My air mattress was a bit empty when I woke up but nonetheless I slept well. Soon we packed our stuff and decided to have breakfast just beside our door at The Castle Arms. Shaun and I went for a simple bun with bacon & egg but Thierry and Rob opted for the full Scottish breakfast. Rob even had haggis with it! With a good “foundation” in our bellies we began the journey back to Newcastle. This time via the coastal A1 highway, well, highway.. Here in the Netherlands we would call it a provincial road. But it had some great views of the British coastline. On the radio there was not much. Luckily Thierry brought a little speaker with him which he hooked up to his phone so we could enjoy some decent music. Before we arrived at the ferry we wanted to get some food at a supermarket because of the high prices on the boat. On the outward journey we encountered plenty of supermarkets, now none.. Grrrr..
Entering the ferry went pretty smooth again despite Thierry and Rob receiving a warning from customs because they brought the wrong kind of pocketknife with them. On the boat our cabin proved to be a little bit bigger than on the outward journey, but just as hot.. Because we failed in buying food at a supermarket we were forced to dine on the ferry. This time we went to the Italian restaurant. I ordered a spaghetti bolognese (for a whopping €19!) and I must say, it was THE worst I ever had. Even when you get it from out of a cheap tin it tastes better.. Shaun also had a hard time eating his pizza quattro formaggi (4 cheeses). The crust was very weak and fat just floated on top of it.. Yuk.. On this boat there was no secluded bar where we could drink something so we just stayed in our cabin. Thierry was goofing around with his camera which ended up in one big hilarious photo-shoot.
Day 6: Tuesday 3 May
Once again I awoke sweaty because of the lack of air conditioning. Nevermind, it was the last night, today I would sleep in my own bed again. We decided to skip the expensive breakfast at the ferry and eat something along the road. But the journey home went so smooth and fast we did not stop. I said my goodbyes to everyone at Rob’s place and drove to a nearby aunt and uncle of mine to get some late breakfast. Before I knew it I was home again which surprised Ellen, she thought I would have been back later that day. We hugged and she asked how the vacation was. Well darling, do I have some stories to tell…..
I want to thank Rob, Shaun and Thierry for their great companionship during the journey, you’re the best! I also would like to thank Matron, Alf, Darren and Gregor from the KPC for their unconditional hospitality and friendship! You guys rule!
All pictures were made by Thierry, Rob and myself.
Update 25-10-2016: Today I heard from Matron the sad news that on 20-10 Maclean-John Dorward of G.T. Coventry passed away at the tender age of 60. He had an inoperable terminal cancer and associated problems with his kidneys. Maclean said that he’d been feeling unwell for sometime and “knew something was up” before he was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago. G.T. Coventry is now closed and will be sold. Also see this link from the local newspaper. R.I.P. Maclean-John Dorward.