Sunday, September 30, 2018

Westering Home

Well, what a weekend we had at the wonderful Islay Book Festival 2018.  Oh, the sight of those big red Cal Mac funnels! By the time the Paps of Jura popped up, I was excitable as a puppy.



Big 'hats off' to all the organisers and volunteers who couldn't have done any more to help or make us all feel welcome. We stayed in the cracking Bowmore House B&B, all tasteful fabrics and fluffy  white bath robes. Never mind the free whisky, they must have known about my cereal weakness.


I met new friends as well as old ones. I talked love, life and all sorts with Gaelic author, Donald S Murray while we wandered Portnahaven as  moonlight fell on sugar-cube houses, and seals coughed and cavorted in the velvet dark of the bay.

I still get excited about chubby, speckled seals, their tails aloft on the rocks, but Donald said he sees them all the time in Shetland, so he couldn't get too excited. 'Like getting excited about cows?' I asked. Yeah, like that...

It was great to read in Laphroaig Distillery with acclaimed poets, Brian Johnstone, Chyrs Salt, Ian Stephen and Donald S Murray. A wee photo courtesy of Richard McFarlane -


Great too, to go back to Islay High School  to do a workshop with the kids, thanks to the brilliant Scottish Book Trust .

As far as venues go, the Round Church in Bowmore will take some beating. It was heart-warming to see so many old friends turn up to see me interview my Dad about his writing career and our years growing up on Islay. I look like I'm channeling Kirsty Wark here, but hey ho.



Afterwards we went to The Bowmore Hotel, which was jumping with locals, young and old. I was dying to leap up and join the karaoke, but since I can't hold a tune in a bucket, I had to make do with singing my 80's power ballads on the inside. 

The hotel owner, Peter, recognised Dad from way back and poured him an expensive dram. Later, he insisted on showing us many of the be-spoke hotel rooms, turning on and off power showers as we made appropriate approval noises. This is bonkers, I thought, but in a good way; in a wholesome nonsense way. 

I went back to the bar and thought, I love these friendly, partying Ileachs (the name for people from Islay). I want to stay up all night and dance and talk uninhibited gibber about anything. Just because it takes me back. Just for old time's sake.

But I peeled myself away and walked with my sister back through the peat-scented, blowy night to our B&B, to coorie doon beneath tartan duvet and remember the best of it from way back. What luck and fun we had growing up. What delicious freedom. 

Thanks Islay Book Fest, for bringing it back. Slainte and here's to you and All Your Pretty Horses. Until next time...





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