Scotland 2007

Day 2 - The Runrig Concert, brought to you by Highland Taxis

weather: rain, rain and even more rain, and did I mention rain?

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The River Ness
The River Ness
I'm up early, so I sneak down to the breakfast room to have copious amounts of coffee with lots of milk in it while I start writing my diary. My travel companion hasn't exaggerated, Scottish coffee is good. One hour later, I return upstairs to wake up my friend, and we head down for an excellent Scottish breakfast. Fresh mushrooms, yum! And I try some porridge too, which is salty and makes a good meal, but I think I still prefer my oats as haverbread.

We pack our stuff, pay up and head back across the road to base camp, where they get the car and drive us to our next B&B. Once there, we sort through our stuff and talk about what we'll need to take, check out the community bathroom, organize some towels and stretch our tired backs a bit before we get going. It is noon by then, a fact that I neglect to communicate to my friend in a coherent manner.

Bilingual street sign in Inverness
Bilingual street sign in Inverness
We find a pretty route along the Ness, and cross it by a small pedestrian only suspended steel bridge that sways with the wind. Through the drizzle, we hear the faint sound of the pipes greeting us from the castle, which reminds me that I really am in Scotland. The plan is to go to Farraline Station first thing to pick up our concert shuttle tickets and to book our trip to Glasgow for the following day. We end up going by a roundabout route, since we don't check the map often enough. This way, we get to see a bit more of the town, which is nice. The 13:10 to Glasgow is already full, so we decide to take the 11:55 instead, which will turn out to fit perfectly into our schedule the following day.

The less trampled part of the ground
The less trampled part of the ground
The next order of business is to get some cash, so we can pay our B&B. The guy who uses the cash machine after me doesn't look too happy though about my sneaking back to grab my receipt, which I had forgotten to pick up. I check the watch and it's 2pm, perfect for having some lunch before we have to be at the 3pm concert shuttle. At least it would have been perfect, if my travel companion had known the time when she packed her stuff. Expecting us to have enough time to return to our B&B, she didn't come prepared for the concert, while I thought we had agreed to get ready for it without returning. Exhausted brains don't communicate very well, it seems. In any case, we need to eat lunch, because we both start feeling dizzy.

Luckily, my friend had spotted an Indian place which turns out to be excellent, and I settle the bill while we're still eating. So, we're through in half an hour and head for the taxi stand at the train station. Now, this is one of those times when I'm actually glad that I own one of these annoying little mobile phone thingies, because I can just dial up Highland Taxis. The operator tells me the wait is about twenty minutes at the time and we're so screwed. However - a sight for sore eyes - a taxi going by notices us and is available. While we're merrily on our way, I explain our problem to the driver, who waits for us as we rush upstairs, get outfitted for cold and rain, grab our stuff and rush back down. Because of the traffic he lets us out one street over, and we make it to the bus station with five minutes to spare.

As we join the bus queue, my friend notices that she has accidentally unpacked her bus ticket at the B&B. We decide to pass on panicking and simply head to the counter and ask if she can get on the bus with the printout of my online reservation. We're lucky again: no problem! We even find good seats in the front and are happy we finally made it! Now we're on the bus, nothing can prevent us from getting to the concert. Until my friend yells: "My ticket! We have to get off right now!" As she rushes off the bus my brain actually manages to parse the information: her concert ticket is missing as well! So, I get off the bus and accost one of the stewards while my travel companion is busy being off someplace having a nervous breakdown.

No, he cannot tell me if she can get in without a ticket, probably not (OK, I admit that was a stupid question). Yes, we can get on a later bus and they will let us on, not a problem. I thank him and see to my friend, who is pretty crushed because she normally doesn't pull crap like that.

I missed Julie Fowlis now anyway, so we decide to have a cup of tea at the bus station and take a time-out. After having relaxed a bit and laughing at the whole affair, we have a look at the concert schedule. My friend wants to see Wolfstone and they're scheduled at 18:45, so we decide to walk back home - we know the way by now - pick up her ticket, have a little lie-down and take the shuttle at 6pm, since they are going every half hour anyway. Feeling a bit refreshed, we make it back just in time. The place looks deserted. About five minutes later we start wondering where on Earth everybody is, and I go to ask the next best guy in a yellow neon jacket. Turns out the last shuttle left at 4pm, and the next regular bus won't go until 8:15. Swell. This won't do at all, since Runrig are due to be on at 8:45, and if they're on time we're screwed.

So, back to the train station it is, where a taxi is pulling up the very second we hit the taxi stand. I decide we'll cough up the 20 quid and off we go Drumnadrochitwards. Finally! We get into a traffic jam someplace between Drumnadrochit and Lewiston, so we pay the driver to release him from his misery and walk the rest of the way, which isn't far. It is just as well we came equipped for hillwalking, because the drizzle has turned to rain and the place is already a mud bath.

We spend the last few songs of the Wolfstone set in the toilet queue, being slightly amused by the inadequate footwear of the ladies in front of us. Two young guys with Scotland flags on their backs decide to get into the spirit of the thing and slide through the mud headfirst. Everybody else they come too close to is less pleased, but they are being nice and don't give anybody any hugs. After our visit to the portaloos - with bona fide toilet paper! - we enter the venue, which is flat ground and has a rectangular layout with eateries on each side. First order of business for me is to hit the merchandise stand for the obligatory t-shirt. I - yes, me! - forgo the special edition whisky though, because it would never survive the cargo hold on the plane ride back anyway, and I'm not one to gulp down a quality Single Malt in two weeks.

We decide to take a stroll through the venue to find a good spot, and we pick a space on the left where the big camera crane won't get into our line of sight, and where we will have both side screens and the stage itself in view. There are quite a number of people with folding chairs in that area, so the ground is less trampled and you can actually see some surviving grass. The backdrop towards our left is a hill whose top is engulfed in clouds, and on the right we can see the ground sloping up and some people gathering to watch from out there.

Lovely weather at Borlum Farm
Lovely weather at Borlum Farm
Our strategy planned, we head off to a baguette stand to have our dinner while the Red Hot Chili Pipers come on. We then make it back to our selected spot. Since it's a bit back from the front, we can stand freely. I have a folding chair in front of me, so nobody tall will be blocking my view. Before Runrig come on, the announcer asks everybody to take their brollies down, so nobody's view is obstructed.

Runrig on stage
Runrig on stage
As Runrig start playing, it seems like there's no-one else singing and clapping around me, but I decide what the heck and sing even louder. Still, it takes me a bit to get into the spirit, because I'm already exhausted from our two long days of rushing from one place to the next chasing our transport and accommodation. An Toll Dubh and Sona do the trick for me, I just love the Gaelic stuff! Then the sun goes down and they start playing The Engine Room. The audience is lit a bit, and the backdrop of the coloured lights on stage looks plain amazing. Some people combined their own countries' flags with the Scotland flag on long poles, so you can see where everybody's coming from.

On the left and right monitors you can see close-ups of the band playing, and they made new background films, which they show on a huge screen on the back of the stage, mixed in with older ones. For some songs they have created abstract films that are basically slowly moving or even still lights in monochromatic colour schemes. Very atmospheric, especially through the prism of the raindrops on my glasses.

And I learn something new: to keep clapping your hands hurts when they're wet! Like I care. And my rain jacket has straps with fasteners to draw the sleeves shut and they insist on getting caught in each other and tangling up. So, I draw them tight and pull the loops over my hands, with the effect that I can't really raise my arms anymore to clap overhead. About halfway through I have created two new little Loch Nesses: one for my left and one for my right boot.

As far as I can tell, the set is the same as in Hamburg a month ago, but they have two guest musicians: Laura McGhee on the fiddle and Gary Innes on the accordion, and the drum section in A Reiteach has been rearranged again. They finish with This Day while showing video sequences of the day in the background. Yeah, rub it in folks, show us what we missed. The drummer, Iain Bayne, gets a special mention for coming up with the idea and organizing the event, and the audience gets one too for having stuck it out in the rain all day.

As we walk towards the exit, we notice that the mud in the back has turned liquid by now. Again, we are thankful for our hiking boots and rain pants. Part of the road has been cordoned off, so everybody can walk safely through Lewiston up to Drumnadrochit bus station, which makes quite a long walk through the dark after a long and exhausting day. It doesn't help that my friend's blood pressure has been acting up from around the sixth song in the set and she's feeling dizzy. At one point they guide us off the main road through a side street - "campers, car park and bussies that way!" - apparently, we're the bussies.

At the bus station, we first come upon the Glasgow and Edinburgh shuttles. So, we ask where to go, and the steward points South and says "Inverness that way!" Wasn't Inverness to the North? Noticing our confused looks he explains about the queue that we can't see for the busses. After about ten minutes wait, the busses start pulling up and we can get onto the second one. The steward who collects our tickets is the same one I talked to at Farraline Station after we noticed the missing concert ticket, and he's happy to se we made it after all.

Off we ride into the night. On the seat in front of me is a guy with a Saltire painted on his face. He made the mistake of touching it, so his hands are blue. At some point he and his girlfriend signal the bus driver and he lets them off. I can't see where we are in the gloom, but we must have come up Glenurquhart Road where our B&B is located, and we missed the chance to be dropped off and stay on all the way downtown. We head towards the taxi stand, but the only taxi we find there is already booked. The driver points us to the office, which is just around the corner. They kindly let us in, although they're supposed to keep the door closed after dark.

We book our taxi and wait together with a bunch of soaked and shivering Riggies, while our hillwalking gear catches the odd envious glance. The office is also Highland Taxis' call centre, and we pass the time watching them work. "Highland Taxis... that's about forty-five minutes at the moment... hello? Hello?" There are nicer ways of saying no, thank you to the operator. After said forty-five minutes, the taxi assigned to us still hasn't arrived, but as a driver whose fare seems to have wandered off comes in we grab our chance, and he takes us home where we collapse onto our beds around 1am.
Last edited: 11 September 2007 10:41:16