A lochindaal moment

A lochindaal moment

Dave Broom takes a deep breath and plunges headlong into the wonders of Islay

A Dram with Dave Broom | 16 Aug 2002 | Issue 25 | By Dave Broom

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If you stand long enough in an Islay bar the whole world will eventually come and stand next to you. The thought strikes me one night (or was it one week) at the Lochindaal Hotel. Archie McAllister’s band is playing away. His fiddling was impressive enough earlier at the Bruichladdich open day when we danced under a cornflower blue sky. Here, a few more drams down the road, it’s getting better by the second. There’s a choice of three attractions: the Port Charlotte Hotel, the clootie dumpling ceilidh or the bar of the Lochindaal. I’m very fond of the Port Charlotte, but really there’s only one choice. It’s the Lochindaal for me every time.The day had started with a Lochindaal Moment. We had just flitted house and since we were now living next door to the public bar decided to take up Iain MacLellan’s offer of lunch delivered to the back door. The Lochindaal is like that. That involved me going to the bar and ordering. Two locals were talking about whether the gathering of people in the hotel was for a funeral or wedding.“Aye, you were up late this morning,” says one to me. I look surprised. It was true. We had been an hour late in leaving our previous house, but I’d never seen this man before. “You’re the one with the wee girl and the silver car,” said his companion, who was equally unknown to me. You must remember that on Islay people know what you’ve done before you do it.The talk turned to boats … puffers specifically. Our family’s typical summer holiday was spent, in true Glaswegian style, “doon the watter” in Millport (Greater Cumbrae to you). We’d stay with friends, one of whom was the skipper of a puffer. Aged six I had fallen into the coal hole ruining a powder blue suit (this was the 60s remember). They laugh. “Give Dave a dram.” The lunch order still hasn’t been placed. “The Cumbraes eh,” says the first one. He thinks. “That would be Walter Kerr.” He’s right. Again. I begin thinking of six degrees of separation, of how we are all connected to each other, though the only separation I’m in danger of is marital if I don’t order soon.I’m thinking of this as the fiddler turns his amp up another notch – part of his undeclared war with the accordionist. The bar is filling up. The back door flies open and two Japanese burst in and start roaring. The locals roar back. Everyone cheers. The amp is turned up a little more. People start clapping. Faces are flushed. It’s like a cross between Seven Samurai and Whisky Galore. Some of the refugees from the ‘Laddie celebrations lean through the door having walked, as Neil Gow once put it, not so much the length of the road as the breadth of it as well. The heat is rising. I chat to Ruaridh McLeod, “the greatest distiller in world, the hero of the ‘Laddie” as Jim McEwan had introduced him at his masterclass. He spins the same improbable tale as he told at lunchtime, though it has grown somewhat in the intervening hours. “Do you ever tell the truth?” my companions ask him with a laugh. “You should only tell the truth,” says Ruaridh looking seriously at us. “When you can’t think of a good enough lie,” and shakes with silent laughter.The music is getting faster, the noise level rising. There’s Germans talking to French people, Ileachs talking to everyone. The Japanese start roaring again. “This is some show,” says a bemused American. This is normal, I reply. This is how the Lochindaal is every weekend. It’s the same, festival or no festival. You get sucked into a parallel universe where a chat about conserving migratory birds ends up with wondering how corncrake pie might taste. It is surreal, friendly, baffling. The world continues to walk through the door. Islay is the centre of the world and the Lochindaal is at its heart.
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