No woman is an island

We were invited to attend a 70th birthday party and last night we were there. We thought it might be a few folk chatting with glasses and snack plates in hand but when we arrived at the Gairloch community hall there wasn't room to park. Most of our friends were there - in fact most of the area were there. The belle of the ball, an incomer like us, has recently retired from her latest function as editor of the Gairloch and District News and in that capacity had clearly come to know the whole population. This lady is especially dear to me because she wrote and published reviews of all three of my works of fiction; excellent of course, otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned it!

Scottish traditional live music from Melvaig Mist* soon had most folk thundering up and down the floor, whirling and clapping and stamping. Dangerous stuff, this highland dancing. Apparently unlimited food and drink, you get the picture. But overall at any such ceilidh there is the craic. Craic equals chatter for those not in the know. Up here craic is the veritable stuff of life. Basically you all talk about what you and other locals are up to but never or hardly ever in a negative way. Events outside (or more colloquially here, 'outwith') Wester-Ross might get an occasional mention but it is probably regarded as over-pretentious to pontificate overmuch on that level.

It is absolutely astonishing how everyone except me seems to remember so many hundreds of names and faces: what they do, what they used to do, where they came from etc etc. One dear lady friend of ours, a 'local' born and bred, spends most of every single evening on the telephone to people living around Loch Ewe and even as far away as Gairloch. I recall Delia, quite soon after our moving up, picking up the phone having made the aquaintance of this lovely lady; 'Hello this is Delia', she said. The voice on the other end came straight in with what we came to understand is her usual salutation; 'What do you know?' Dee was quite at a loss until she got the picture. Everyone is a part of the verbal newspaper. In Wester-Ross no woman can possibly be an island.

*Melvaig Mist, besides being a six person band, is a local euphamism for a legendary make of illicit whisky, (now of course no more) that was distilled somwhere secret up in the hills above a remote settlement of that name. However I have to report that a very old lady, resident herself in Melvaig, and for many generations before, assured me that the hooch, although very much a fact, was not called Melvaig Mist. 'What was it called', asked I, fascinated always by all things local history. 'Och, that's a secret', quoth she.

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