Summer in the Western Highlands and Islands has always been a time for re-acquaintances. Family members and cousins “exiled” to the mainland come home to visit and holiday, as well as the many tourists who flock to take advantage of the natural beauty and hospitality on offer.
A bridge and R.E.T. have done their bit too; as well as superbly organised festivals (unless you are thirsty), annual district shows and the ubiquitous highland games which continue to attract large crowds.
Competitors of renown and notoriety have been known to appear at these events. Despite an ability to throw their weight around at a local level, many appear past their prime. For some it may be their only chance to compete with other heavyweights, the step up to national level being a bridge too far.
But enough about politics.
Having seen at first-hand how busy Cal-Mac are these past few, and coming, months, I can only conclude that the tourist industry is on the “up” and that any decision to review the current concessions will take into consideration the effects on traffic to and from the islands.
Now I can cook a mean “full Scottish” and show you where the best beaches (and golf courses) are; I’m also quite an amenable type and enjoy a mix of new and interesting company, but I’d be very surprised if I could smile my way through the summer as various strangers traipsed through my living-room and toilet. Naturally there will be enough people who have set up their B&B so that their “interaction” with their customers is confined to asking how they’d like their egg in the morning or letting them know that the cheque is payable to the account of “Tarmod” MacDonald, not Norman, (separate bank accounts necessary for the tax-man), but I’m confident that the reasons behind “repeat business” is the friendliness of the welcome.
A decent washing machine and a healthy supply of “glade” is a must too.
I have always relied on my extended family for accommodation whilst on the mainland (unless someone else was footing the bill) and it is always great to see them home on holiday when they take a notion to visit. It’s far easier to have family about the place than strangers, as you can ignore them to your hearts content, change the television when you want and go to bed early if they begin to bore.
It’s ok because they do the same to me and I’m getting used to watching Balimory, smelling like a forest or a scented candle and being alone at 9pm when on vacation or just passing through.
I visited Scarista last week with a cousin, Donnie Murray, and his wife Denise, to check on the progress of their recent developments and also to re-kindle a rivalry that goes back some forty-odd years and many competitive sports. Donnie is a life member at Harris, a mainland member at Stornoway and plays his regular game at Deeside in Aberdeen. He is a keen golfer, was an accomplished footballer and could hold a decent racquet against you at tennis or badminton should you have wished. He turned the back of the old Aird Hall into a mini-Wimbledon every summer holiday (unheard of at the time) and also tried to introduce cricket to the village. When he came home we eagerly awaited the arrival of a new sport hitherto alien to us all. I still don’t understand baseball.
We wanted to beat each other at almost everything, despite him growing up on the south side of Glasgow and me in Point. Our school holidays were filled with sporting rivalry and I had to do just about everything better as a result of his all-round prowess. It still wasn’t good enough.
He also introduced me to Ibrox and despite not being a religious man; it is my faith and his conviction to ensuring a correct up-bringing for his teuchter cousin that keeps my heart there.
Whilst we slugged it out over eighteen holes in beautiful sunshine and t-shirt temperatures to a creditable draw, Denise stormed un-announced to an eleven point margin of victory in our Stableford.
Sometimes when concentrating on your small, private battles you can miss what is happening around you in the bigger “war”.
Life can be like that. There are many times when my own short-sightedness has been my downfall.
Short-sightedness is an affliction which is most definitely not prevalent at Harris G.C. Now with the clubhouse beginning to take shape, the greenkeepers shed erected and the concrete laid for the floor, they have at last the foundations to make even more impressive progress. The practice facility is impressive, the new equipment and hard work being done by (another) Donnie on the greens is beginning to show measured improvement on the course, and with the natural beauty of the scenery which surrounds them self-evident, they will soon become the “polished gemstone” from the rough jewel of but a few short months ago.
Past captain and one of the original architects of this development, Willie Fulton, seems to be making a habit of winning latterly at Scarista. His excellent nett 66 saw him claim the Nula Morrison Memorial shield a week past Saturday and he also bagged the three-club competition on Tuesday night. Last Saturday saw Kenny Morrison win the weekend medal in some very wet and windy competitions with a battling 71 and will go some way to consoling him from what he tells me was his worst ever match-play defeat on Thursday.
I think the Americans call it “bouncebackability”. George Galloway called it “indefatigability”. In Scalpay, where Kenny hails from they call it “riarachas”.
In Stornoway, Mairi Maciver claimed her fifth win of the season in the ladies Cancer Relief Stableford on Tuesday night and followed up with success in the medal on Saturday. Her fellow competitors cannot wait to see her board a plane as far south as it can take her: and very soon. Paul MacLean won the men’s Caledonian medal qualifier on Wednesday night with a superb nett 66 on a tough night for scoring. This despite going “over the wall” at the last hole and carding a treble-bogey six.
Saturday saw James “Caskie” MacAskill win his first competition at the club in only his fourth competitive round of the season. His nett 61, shot in the evening when conditions were at their most benign, knocked long time leader Sharath Shetty (63) off top spot and will have helped prove that he has what it takes to shave even more shots off his handicap.
His round saw him claim the Leukaemia Research trophy and will give him the confidence and belief to compete for more silverware..
Andy Macdonald broke 70 (gross) for the fifth time in his last seven outings and continues to impress and with Colin MacRitchie seen in the practice area nursing tender ribs back to health, every serious golfer will be looking forward to the forthcoming club championship as we move into August.
Before that sees the visit of Ullapool to Stornoway tomorrow (Friday 30th) and Harris on Monday (3rd August).
There will be plenty to report.
I will try to ensure some kind of Captains prerogative and see if I can avoid Willie or Kenny.