Monday, April 14, 2008

at macleod's table

fuck trees and flowers and springtime. i don't like it, o'connor. the cocktail of allergy medicines and jameson i prescribed for myself last night had me sweating through the sheets in a feverish state, and at 2am i was back on the isle of skye, clambering up a grassy dunvegan hillside toward the Duirinish stone. i stopped to look up the hill and the sun dropped suddenly. the standing stone rent into equal halves the blood-orange wafer of the day and loosed a trammel of horses riderless and wild, bearing down and closing in on me and i could only stand and wait to be trampled, but they swept around me in a mass of motion and fury and i smelled the sea. they thundered down the hill to the tiny Duirinish kirkyard, then pulled right and careened toward the loch save one -- the only one with a saddle -- which gracefully cleared the 5ft stone wall, hooves divoting the soft earth. the lone horse moved through the kirkyard, the resting place of 5 chiefs of clan macLeod and their musicians the macCrimmons, until it stopped at one rough-hewn stone, the one with the face completely worn down, and there it paused, shook its mane and in the wind off the hill i heard the sound of distant pipes.

that was when i realised i was tired, hungry and still without a place to sleep. an inexcusable bitch on the best of days, i'm even more so when i'm hungry.

so i returned to the car and ventured into dunvegan in search of accommodations. the Dunvegan Hotel looked promising: plain and unpretentious, with a restaurant and bar and a crush of locals out front. no one at reception so i approached the bar, overseen by a mountain of a woman with a helmet of straight gray hair falling to her waist. she punched buttons on the till with beefy forearms and i thought she was probably no stranger to those horses.

- erm, hello. i'm wondering if you have any rooms available tonight?
without looking up she enquired - for how many?
- one.
- one? - and she looked up and truth be told i have never felt odd or discriminated against traveling as a single woman until brunhilde gave me that hairy eye and made me feel as though i'd just escaped from the home for unwed mothers. granted, i was covered with the filth of a day which included much hiking, running, lashing showers and muddy sheep pastures but christ woman, have ye not seen a thousand weary travelers?
- just one.
- well - she pursed her lips - we don't have any single rooms, so i'd have to charge you for the double.
- and how much is that.
- 60 pounds.
i suppose i didn't comport myself well by squeaking oh that's a bit high for me - but consider i'd just come from bucolic plockton, where i had a gorgeous room overlooking the water for 35 pounds. and compared to the plockton inn, the dunvegan looked like a shithole. if i were to shell out 60 quid for a room here, Derek fucking Dick better be at the foot of my bed singing me to sleep.

after my squeak brunhilde and i had a stare-down. surely she'd have some mercy, or realise there was money to be had here, just not 60 pounds' worth. but she didn't budge and neither did i, 'til ms. nosey pants at the bar piped in.
- there IS the bunkhouse.
i didn't break the stare-down.
- bunkhouse. is that like a hostel?
- yes. it's right next door.
funny. i hadn't seen it.
- like, right next to this hotel?
- aye - she piped cheerily. that red building right alongside.
- sounds perfect - i said with great relief, finally breaking away. sweat was prickling me in places brunhilde would surely disapprove of. but not so fast.
- WE own the bunkhouse - brunhilde pronounced, shooting ms. nosey pants a nasty look for opening her piehole.

so ms. macB and i repaired to reception while ms. macNPs guarded the bar.
- and how much is a bunk?
- 15.50 - she answered - plus a 5 pound key deposit.
- perfect. and how shall i return the key and claim my deposit?
- well, you HAVE to be out by 11. and reception here opens at 8:30 or 9.
- oh - i said with a moue - that's tough, cos, i have to be in portree by 9 so i'll need to leave here not long after 7.
this threw her for a loop, for she uttered that amorphous scots grunt of protest.
- snnrphh. well... i suppose then i would have to trust you... and not charge you... the deposit.
- works for me!
but poor brunhilde was utterly torn by this prospect; i could tell by her face and her halting speech. when he observed "i think it is possible that all scots are illegitimate, scotsman being so mean and scotswomen so generous" edwin muir had obviously not come up against helmet-hair. she thought hard for another minute, her brows furrowed.
- all right. if you come knock at my door tomorrow morning i'll take the key and return your deposit.
- and what time will you be up?
- well before 7. i'm always up with the dog, see.

let it be noted that i rang that bitch's doorbell 9 times the next morning, starting at a scant minute to 7. nine rings, and each time i LEANED on the bell, hard and long with james dean ease, because i could have stood there all day. it was now principle, you see, for as i was packing up the car for my early getaway i saw the Dunvegan Bunks sign i'd missed the night before, the sign with the "house rules" which started with this line: "when booking you will be required to pay 10pounds per person before being issued with your key." not 15.50 plus 5. 10.

the door finally creaked open to reveal her in a plaid housecoat.
- getting an early start are ye then - she warbled, in an attempt at amicability that i saw right through.
- that's right - i said, plucking the wadded 5 pound note from her palm and dropping the key - have a GREAT day - and i bounced right outta there to dunvegan castle where there was wasn't another single soul.


fatmammycat said...

Perhaps she owns a basset, I believe they're not early risers neither.

addon said...

hoots lassie!!

finn said...

i would expect basset owners to be zany folk with a solid sense of humor; i saw nothing of the sort in brunhilde. OTOH she did pour a good pint.