In which 10 per cent of my life flashes before my eyes…
* It could have been worse. The week’s worst weather forecast threatened to kibosh today’s trip altogether but in the end, I managed to venture out with a delightful elderly gentleman, into a sheltered area of the loch, where he valiantly tried everything bar a trawler net, with not so much as a tap. No fish, then, but inspiration for my next TF column, so the business part of the day was not entirely lost.
* Just one false turn of the steering wheel as my boat partner exits the ad hoc car park afterwards and the back nearside wheel of our van finds itself pawing for traction at thin air as we reverse across a concealed brook. Brief panic as the world suddenly tilts to a 45 degree angle. Bad news: had I been driving instead of my whippet-physiqued new friend, there would have easily been enough grip on the offside rear wheel to get us out of there. Good news: had I gone for the full Scottish over kippers and scrambled egg at breakfast this morning, that 45 degrees would have been 90 in a heartbeat. It was that marginal.
* “There’s a word for this…” the fishery manager tells my sheepish driver as he shows up with winch and trailer.
* Word of the day – “Nudbile”. While we’re awaiting salvation, my boat partner tells me about the time he was fishing when some young German women had chosen to sunbathe naked, concealed in the nearby undergrowth. Not long after they nodded off, Scotland’s Public Enemy Number 1 – the midge – showed up with a few thousand mates. “Next thing I know, these very nudbile young women are running screaming along the bank…” So that’s “nubile” when they’re nubile and dressed, “nudbile” when they’re nubile and undressed. Works for me.
* ‘Gateway to the Trossachs‘, announce the signs for Aberfoyle and not for the first time I have to ask what this particular marketing gimmick is for, apart from – perish the thought – putting a favourable spin on towns unlucky enough to be overshadowed by something rather more important. Surely it makes more sense to talk up the town itself instead of making a rather sad lunge for some reflected glory? I don’t know if any of this is true but ‘Welcome to Aberfoyle – cheapest fish suppers for 50 miles and park within five minutes or we pay a tenner towards your fuel’ gets me far more interested.
* How on earth did I go for so long without SatNav? Where once I couldn’t go on a week like this without sheaves of Google maps, now I have one small screen and a firm, unflappable female voice that makes mincemeat of landmarks in the middle of nowhere. “I know we’ve only been together a few days ,” I told her on the way back to Crieff tonight, “but I love you and I think we could have a great future together.”
“Turn right onto slip road for A9,” she replied.
* Finally, as promised, a review of Crieff’s Curly Coo Whisky Bar, run by the petite Home Counties native Wendy (“I’ve tried every whisky in the place. Just not on the same night.”) I’m a great believer in pictures saying a thousand words, so…
[click on image for full-size]
The decor is strange – a cross between a bar, a departure lounge and a hairdresser’s – but Wendy is the perfect host, even to a comparative novice such as myself, although she’ll tolerate no abuse of her product: “If you see me clasp my forehead and faint, you know you’re putting too much water in it. If you ask for a splash of Coke, I’ll probably ask you to drink somewhere else…”
Having done ‘smooth’ (Glengoyne) I asked her about ‘peaty’. “Slightly peaty, or very peaty?”
“What the hell,” I said. “Let’s try very peaty.”
Its name is Ardbeg. Peaty? It’s what graves in Donegal probably smell like. Not an unpleasant taste but one that has to be acquired; in a drink that is not to be trifled with.
Curly Coo Bar. Highly recommended.