By Dave Broom

In the midnight hours

Dave enjoys a spot of midsummer madness in Orkney
It helps to have luminous balls. This is as true a maxim as any I’ve heard tonight. Imagine the uses! Life would somehow be so much easier, especially if one is playing golf at midnight... as I was.Before you jump to conclusions, despite my Scottish heritage, I am not a golfer ~ or as now been proven at least not a daytime one. Midnight golf is a different sport altogether. For starters it can really only be played in the middle of summer in the extreme north of the country ~ in this case Orkney.It has its own rules. Luminous balls is a given. Employing a spotter to work out where your ball has landed is handy. If not, play the first ball you come across.I had come to the conclusion (after losing a luminous ball) that the best solution to the lost ball scenario was to allow the rest of the party to ‘play through’ (as I believe the terminology has it), then use their shadowy figures as a target for your next shot.Hitting someone, while unfortunate, at least gives you a clear indication of where your ball is. If there is silence then you can search in the other direction.It made sense at midnight. Well, as much sense as anything does when you are wandering around the Orkney Golf Club barely able to see in front of you.“Aye,” says the professional, “it’s called midnight golf but the locals usually finish round about this time. It’s not meant to be taken literally.” He gives his luminous number a mighty clatter. It too disappears, never to be found. We pause for a refreshment.“Now this is traditional,” he concurs. “Right enough, last week one player was disqualified from the midnight competition because he was so drunk that his caddy had to take his shots. Come to think of it, it was the caddy who was giving him the drink.” The fortification came courtesy of whisky from Scapa. It too has had any number of people scrabbling about in the dark for many years.Who knew of Scapa? It never even became a cult, I suspect because it was simply too welcoming a dram. It didn’t have the abrupt peatiness of Port Ellen, the power of Brora, the strange complexity of Ardmore. It was just... a bloody good dram. And for some reason in these days of heightened sensibilities bloody good drams aren’t quite good enough.The connoisseur wants the strange, the quirky, the impossible to find. The mainstream, however, would love Scapa. If it had heard of it that is.Don’t get me wrong. It’s essential to be challenged and to be challenging, but at the same time it’s also reassuring to pull out a bottle knowing you will just drink it, rather than contemplating it for an hour or more.That’s Scapa for me ~ a ‘throw the cork in the fire’ kind of dram. The trouble was, you couldn’t find it.Its previous owner, the unlamented Allied, was scrabbling in the rough in the dark for a brightly lit jewel and failing to find it.The clubs have been put away. The moon, curved, impossibly huge rises from behind the low hills. In this half-light of solstice the Ring of Brodgar’s stones are now clearly silhouetted. A skylark’s sudden, endless song streams out of the dark moor, joined by the bubbling cry of a curlew, their poetry brought down to earth by the monosyllabic grunt of a passing black-headed gull. Waterfowl join in. These bird paths are older than we can imagine, as old as the angular stones. A different, complex geography.To be here before dawn is to experience a different world.All you can do is stand, back to stone, and wait for the summer sun. The sky whitens, pinks. The stones are no longer monoliths etched black against navy, but creased, layered, mottled with olive, yellow and white lichen. The new dawn comes up.We toast it with Scapa. Somehow it has changed along with the context. It too is emerging from the dark. Newly painted, rearranged, working and most importantly, available. It’s up to its new custodians to ensure that this new dawn is not a false one.