Jack’s weekly guest blog reaches us from the Old Country
One of the highlights of my year is the annual small group tour of Scotland I organize. This being an even-numbered year, we do the Highlands and Islands.
The tour started Sunday, and so far it’s been a delight: decent weather, good hotels and food and a delightful group of fellow travelers.
Not without its moments, of course. Our first evening in our Crianlarich hotel, we sat down to dinner and were approached by the ‘Maitre D’, whose lapel badge identified him as ‘Andy’. Launching in a plumby accent that would not have been out of place on Downton Abbey–or perhaps Fawlty Towers–he attempted to entice us away from our special group price dinner with pricey items on the regular menu. When that failed, he offered special deals on personal recommendations from the wine list (none of them particularly cheap).
Everyone’s got to make a living, but if the man had had an ‘Americans are rich–and cheap and easy’ sign above his forehead, he could not have been more obvious. As our meal continued he could be guaranteed to regularly interrupt our conversation as he got into the full flow of his ‘act’.
Fortunately, I’m traveling with a group of people whose senses of humor are as strong as their accents. And he’s made good fodder for follow-up impersonations as the week progresses. All someone has to do is say ‘May I recommend’ and the rest of the van passengers fall about laughing.
I was reminded of an overnight Wendy and I spent at a Bed and Breakfast in a historic area which shall be nameless. At breakfast we were having an interesting conversation with our fellow guests when the lady in charge, having served the food, launched into an hour long presentation (clearly learned by heart) on the history of the town – in a way that would brook no interruptions from any of us. Glances were exchanged and diversionary gambits attempted, to no avail. Bless her heart! But it was interesting. And she wasn’t trying to sell us anything.
And then there was the first Scottish tour I put together. At breakfast in the Birnam Hotel, we were attended to by the indefatigable Margaret, who had served under a variety of owners over the years and thus was effectively in charge of meal-time discipline. When one of our party wwondered aloud if she could order a variation on one of the menu dishes, our driver Colin opined “I’m sure that would be fine”. The hovering Margaret quickly put him right, saying, “I think that would be my decision!”
These are the unexpected things that, with hindsight, add a bit of spice and are remembered with a smile. I’m sure there are plenty more such moments ahead– bring them on!