In the eighties Peggy and Rodney Collier came to visit my wife and me in England. For those who have followed The Obscure Penguin, you know that Rodney and I hitchhiked to the Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic in 1976 as our celebration for graduating from Amarillo College. If you remember we’d originally wanted to backpack across Europe like a lot of kids were doing in those days, but we didn’t have the money or the passports. However, I was drawn to England ever since I’d read “Lord Of The Rings,” and Zeppelin sang “I was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair, but Gollum and the evil one…” Well, you get the idea.
My wife, Sylvia and I were living in a town called Cirencester then and Rodney and his wife, Peggy, came to visit us. The main thing we wanted to do was go to Scotland. I don’t remember why Scotland particularly, but we were all gung-ho about seeing the lochs and the Highlands. My wife and I had traveled enough to know the best experiences were at the bed and breakfast establishments back then. These were just average people who just opened up their homes to you and served you breakfast in the morning. It’s not like the pseudo-hotel experience you get these days in America. Imagine your neighbor next door doing it. It was like that.
However, because they were essentially families, they weren’t going to be accepting guests late at night. Six was generally the cut off time. In fact, most things closed down at night in those days in England outside of the big cities so you had to get what you needed in a timely manner.
So here we are driving around Scotland. It was stunning, a beautiful, beautiful country. We drove up through Glasgow and on to the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Keep in mind we stopped quite a lot and it was getting into the afternoon by the time we’d hit the Highlands.
Wow. It’s very hard to describe its moody beauty. This was Braveheart country. We were near the town of Glencoe where the famous massacre happened when the Campbells slaughtered the MacDonalds.
So I had warned Rodney and Peggy that we’d need to find a bed and breakfast relatively early because it was tough to do so later but we were truly enjoying driving around the mountains and seeing the sights. Close to dusk we found a little café stuck in the middle of nowhere in the mountains and decided to have supper. We figured we could camp out if necessary. As we walked in, by the register, was a little poster advertising a bed and breakfast. We asked about it and one of the employees had to leave to go up into the mountains to ask if it was available. We had supper and it was very, very good.
When we finished they asked if we wanted dessert and they said they had apple pie and Rod said he’d like to have pie a la mode. They didn’t know what that was so Rod said it was pie with ice cream on top. When they brought it out they had a piece of apple pie covered in cream. They asked if that was what Rod had wanted and he said it was fine but usually the pie had vanilla ice cream on top. Rather than have Rod accept what they’d brought they took it away. When they returned the pie was covered with cream and there was a side bowl of ice cream. They asked if that was what Rod meant and Rod said it was perfectly fine, but usually the ice cream is on top of the pie without the cream. Rather than have Rod accept what they’d brought they took it away again. When they returned the pie was covered with cream, the ice cream was on top of the cream and there was cream poured on top of the ice cream. Rod said it was perfect.
By the time we’d finished dinner the kid had returned from the mountain to tell us the bed and breakfast was indeed available. We had to follow a guide along the winding road up the mountain to find the farmhouse where we would stay. When we got there it looked like it was out of a fairy tale, absolutely beautiful. The rooms were extraordinarily cozy and the people were wonderful. They said there was actually a dance that night down in Glencoe and wondered if we wanted to go to it and we thought, wow! We could see a real Scottish band, probably with bagpipes, and go dancing and so we drove down to enjoy it. When we got there it turned out to be a country & western band. Ha! We’d come from Texas to hear a Scottish C&W band!!! “I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so lonely…”
We stayed awhile and went back to the farmhouse. In the morning we had a very hearty breakfast, they roast tomatoes and serve it with ham and eggs, and they loaned us the Wellington boots, “wellies,” to walk around the farm and check out their woolly cattle and the loch nearby. That’s where we took the photo you see. We later went up to Loch Ness to look for the monster. I didn’t see it but Rod thought maybe he’d caught a glimpse. Wink.
The Scottish people were so wonderful to us. We had pie, ice cream and cream.