Bonnie Scotland calls

by Mick Rhodes |

“Whet you doone wit yer life?”

These words — delivered in a thick brogue — were the first I remember hearing from one slightly tipsy Rudy, recent Scottish expat father of one of my best friends in high school, on the occasion of us preparing to head out the door for an evening of teenage tomfoolery in Glendora.

The answer was usually, “Going to a party, Mr. Gnaulati.”

Rudy and his saint of a wife, Carmen, had only recently emigrated from Glasgow when I was hanging around their Glendora home in the early 1980s. I loved talking to him during the few minutes I would wait for his son, my friend Giulio. Along with “Whet you dooin’ wit yer life?” Rudy had a host of other intermittently understandable (to my unworldly ears) phrases and slang, all fascinating to me in that thick Scottish brogue. Every time I was there lovely Carmen asked if I was hungry and offered up leftovers from whatever delicious smelling old world supper she’d prepared. With all those faraway accents and aromas, these were exotic encounters for a 16-year-old kid who to date hadn’t yet been on a commercial jet and had only traveled as far as San Diego.

By the time you read this column, I will for the first time be up to my kilt in Scottish brogues, kicking off a 10 day adventure ‘round “bonnie Scotland.” Much like last year’s Irish jaunt [“Ireland is a green dream,” November 24, 2023], my wife Lisa and I have no specific plans other than to keep our eyes open and soak up the country.

Getting away has become a necessary regular thing for us. In today’s parlance, it’s our “self-care.” We both need the time to reset/reboot. I’ve been beat up and battered ‘round, as George Harrison wrote, and time far away from the battle is my prescription for remaining somewhat sane. It remains to be seen whether this 10 day regimen will have the same palate cleansing effect of last year’s near three week “green dream” tour of Ireland. I’ll let you know.

We’re also traveling by train this time around, as opposed to last year’s car excursion. Having a car in Ireland was especially invaluable, making the country’s lush, off the main road beauty easily accessible, as long as you don’t mind waiting for sheep to clear the road or lanes so narrow the hedgerows were slapping against both sides of our little Toyota Yaris. This time the train will dictate where we roam; first, a couple days in Edinburgh, then north to the Orkney Islands for two more, then a pull around the southeast portion of the country, stopping at a handful of towns for a night at a time.

I look forward to watching this new to me world roll by with a nice cup of tea and a book in hand. While I adored everything about Ireland, I did miss quite a bit of the show since I was driving for each of the 2,000 or so kilometers we put on the Yaris. I’ll suffer no such sightseeing deficiency in Scotland.

I still dream of the fantastic Irish breakfasts we had last year. And the good news for fans of the most important meal of the day is Scotland’s are apparently equally hearty, with the extra added bonus of something called “haggis.” For our vegetarian readers, I will refrain from publishing a list of ingredients. And since I will try anything mostly legal once, I will do as the Scots and again, let you know how it goes.

As usual, my brainy, organized wife devised our itinerary. After her home run in Ireland, I would be an idiot to insert myself into this vital bit of planning. I know we’ve dinner reservations at a fancy spot our first night in Edinburgh, that we’re staying in some very old hotels and bed and breakfasts, and visiting some castles, but aside from that I’m as clueless as a wayward infant. We like to travel this way — wide-eyed, suggestible — preferring to let it unfold and take advice from locals as to what’s fundamental and what’s meh. Yes, we’ve had a couple “mis-wanders,” but the wins have far outshone the losses. If the occasional “We better pull over and rethink this” moment is the price we pay for putting our faith in chance and curiosity, then so be it.

It’s not that I haven’t contributed in any way toward our Scottish adventure. I’ve done some research. For example, unlike Ireland, Scotland has a few vintage guitar shops. So there’s that. (Cue Lisa looking for a coffee shop to catch up on emails.) And City Explorers learned me that I will likely be havering and shoogly should I get blootered like a proper eejit. We shall see on that bit as well.

Scotland also has the allure of an extremely bloody history, or so I’ve been told. This darkness has exceptional pull for Lisa, a horror movie and murder podcast afficionado, and also a British citizen. I’m interested in battle sites and history, so Scotland seems to be a perfect blend of the macabre and the historic.

Though it’s only recently occurred to me, this trip is in part the fulfillment of a long held desire to set foot on the land from whence Rudy and Carmen came, a thought that seemed near impossible to my wee adolescent brain.

Like last time, I intend to (over) document our trip on my socials, so if you follow me there, prepare for the onslaught. Afterward, I’ll no doubt (over) share my experiences here. Until then, Lang may yer lum reek!


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