Monday, 22 April 2013

Day 339 – Wine fizzing for beginners. (Scotland)

Leading up to the end of the trip I had been somewhat concerned about what the actual finish line would entail. We had chosen Appin as our destination because as the village where I went to primary school and consider myself to be “from”, it was a significant end point conveniently located on the other side of the world. Throughout the trip it was this far away place that we were heading ambiguously in the direction of, but as it became closer and began seeming a bit more realistic we had to stop leaving it for Future Eilidh, Ben, Tom and Tom to worry about. I had an image of us driving up to the pier or the shop, stopping the car, probably not being able to see anything through the rain, but me assuring everyone that it was very pretty, then saying “ok well, this is Appin. We made it,” and turning around and leaving. Having moved away at the age of 12 I’ve kept in contact with a couple of people, but I had no hopes or intentions of organising any sort of welcoming party. To make our arrival seem a bit more poignant I asked my grandparents if they wouldn’t mind making the two hour drive up to Appin to greet us when we arrived and I knew two of my mum’s sisters and one of my cousins were planning to come. At the last minute a Kiwi friend of Ben’s and mine who we lived with in Port Douglas three years ago and is currently living in Edinburgh decided to hitch a ride with my grandparents too, so we’d have a small welcoming party.

There are two ways to drive from Glasgow, where we stayed for a couple of days with my grandparents, to Appin, and we chose to take the slightly longer but more spectacular route. The road wiggles around Loch Lomond and slices through Glencoe and is surely one of the most stunning drives in the world. You might think I’d be biased, and maybe I would be, but I appreciated this drive more this time than I ever had before. We had a 1pm deadline to be at the car park opposite the Church in Appin to meet a journalist and photographer from the Oban Times, so we left in plenty of time so we could enjoy the drive and stop a couple of times along the way if we felt so inclined. Unfortunately it took us a bit longer than expected to find the hidden away LPG station (LPG is available in Scotland, but not readily at most petrol stations and there very well not have been anywhere north of Glasgow that would sell it), but we still had time to pause for our last shisha overlooking the Black Mount and Loch Tulla. By the time we chatted to some other folks stopped there, finished our shisha and stopped for a couple of photos in front of the “Appin” sign we were running a little late for our 1pm date with the Oban Times, but nothing had us prepared for what was coming next.

As we drove into Appin, the sun shining on us through a perfectly blue sky as it had been the whole way up, I was busy pointing out to my companions, “there’s Lettershuna, and that’s where the Salvarlis lived. Those houses are new, and that view point thing was put up after we left. That’s Kinlochlaich where we’ll stay tonight with the Hutchisons, that’s the school and a bunch of new houses, and Shelia Lawrie’s house and the hair dresser’s. There’s Gunn’s Garage, Kirkton, and oooh what’s that fancy new car park opposite the Church? And what are all those people standing around in the car park for...?”

And then the FINISH sign strung on a ribbon across the entrance to the car park came into view and I spotted my grandparents and the others I was expecting and realised that this group were all waving at us. This group of 20 or 30 was our welcoming party!

“Is this for us? Oh wow! Oh wow!” We turned into the car park and we were caught so unawares we didn’t know what to do. “Do we just stop? Do we drive through the sign? What do we do?” We drove through the “finish” line as directed and stopped amidst our supporters. There aren’t many times I can look back on throughout my life and honestly say I was speechless, but at this point I really was, literally, speechless. Unable to wipe the grin from my face and still just staring around completely flabbergasted by the whole situation I was re-united with so many people from my childhood memories. We were introduced to Euan from the Oban Times who set us up for an arrival celebration photo shoot which went on to provide much hilarity.

He had Tom and Tom climb on top of the car, and Ben and I were to perch on the bonnet – the others were all fine with this, but climbing onto the bonnet with my long legs and natural athletic prowess (for those who don’t know me this is sarcastic, I have neither long legs nor any sort of natural athletic prowess) was not an easy feat and Ben kept having to push me up as I slid off whilst trying to rearrange myself. Eventually I got arranged and Euan handed me a bottle of bubbly and showed me how to make it fizz up. Then he decided it would be better if I was standing in front of the car with the bubbly – great, just wish he’d thought of that before the entire village had laughed at me scrambling up the front of my car! Well the hilarity was far from over. As it turns out fizzing up bottles of sparkling wine to make them spray everywhere in the celebratory fashion that we’re accustomed to isn’t all that simple. At first it just sort of dribbled out over my arms as I was shaking it up, and then when I thrust the bottle forward for the spray, nothing happened. I tried several times, and each time I was sure I was going to get it, and each time everyone held their breath as I thrust the bottle for the spray, and each time was only more ridiculous than the last. When the bottle was empty Susie Hutchison who was the brains and hands behind the “FINISH” sign and who we would stay with that night pulled another bottle from her boot and we tried again. Eventually I managed to get one half decent spray, and needless to say that’s the photo that made it to the newspaper, but not after having everyone in fits at my sub-par sparkling wine spraying skills. I don’t know how these celebrities manage to do it so easily all the time. Do they also have several takes for each wine fizzing? Or is it something one gets taught in celebrity school?

We were taken into the Church hall where a fantastic spread of sandwiches, cakes and drinks were waiting for us. Amidst interviewing with Euan we all continued to be touched and amazed by how closely all these people that I assumed would have forgotten me by now and were complete strangers to the others had followed the blog and our photos and how much they cared about us. All my concerns about the anti-climax of finishing the trip were gone, and we could not have asked for a better, more special end point. My image of driving down to the pier and looking around in the rain while I assured the others that it really was very pretty, then turning around and leaving, couldn’t have been further from the reality. Thanks Appin!

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