My third burger in a row is long gone. This one was average, though the chips were splendid. I’m halfway down a bottle of “Trade Winds”, that fine ale from Cairngorm Brewery which has brought me such pleasure the last two nights. I didn’t know they had it – I had a false start of a pint of some form of horse-piss from Tennants, thinking it was all they had.
It is Halloween Rock Night. Eighties rock music at about 7 or 8 out of 10 on the volume scale – Guns n Roses, later Whitesnake, that kind of thing. Even a little Bon Jovi. The locals are in Halloween costume. The bar is brown; all pine woodwork the colour of a sauna. It may have been cleaned since smoking indoors was banned, but I couldn’t swear to it.
Here is a corner, like someone’s living room, with a flat-screen TV, a fireplace with a lit and nicely crackling fire, and the skull of a deer on the wall. Sofas are drawn up around the fire. The rest of the bar is a tad linoleum rough – my kind of place – and the music only adds to the atmosphere.
Some ladies dressed as nuns have just walked in. The eighties MTV rock has been replaced by Queen’s “Fat bottomed girls” at high volume as a band starts to set up. As Paul Hogan said in the Fosters’ advert, “looks like it’s going to be a good night”.
Later, out into the night air to once again appreciate the holy silence. Nearly full moon and it is very cold tonight at this highest village in Scotland. Me and Tomintoul go back a long way. I first came here in 1996, stopping for tea after crossing Lecht for the first time, on the way to visit my sister on the West coast. Now, as then, I was in Aberdeen at my employer’s expense and took time off for a short break.
I am drawn to Tomintoul, though as a work colleague from Aberdeen notes, somewhat unkindly, “there’s nothing there”. It does not matter. This place is woven into the fabric of times of leisure in my life this last twenty years, that have meant much to me.