My Ain Folk
He came to get a job done. Scotland – so far from his home and his world it might have been the moon. His Scottish nanny had told him about the hills, the heather and the happy childhood she had growing up in Inverness-shire, and so it seemed like a good idea to head for the Highlands to get his licence. His privileged life had made him wary of people. From a massively wealthy and equally reviled and feted family, he had worked hard to make his own way in life, and he had been successful. This success came at a price. Few people got close to him, few knew the real him and he avoided “mates” but he was happy. His wife and family were his joy and it was the move to France which sent him to Scotland – the “auld alliance” his nanny had called it. He needed a European bike licence and he didn’t speak French, so Scotland it was.
He arrived on the first day and was given a bike. He was suspicious of the tyres – although he knew they were legal he was used to new tyres on his bike every two months. Offering to buy new ones, he was surprised when the guy teaching him laughed. “I can afford it” he said explaining his circumstances without boasting. He hated doing this, but he had found from experience that it was better to do it sooner rather than later. He waited for the instructor’s eyes to glaze over as he dismissed him as a posh boy, or to shine with greed as he saw pound notes, but the guy just laughed more. “This is the Highlands” he said “It takes two days to get these tyres delivered, just pick the bike you like best and we’ll get started”. Surprised he picked one which had the newest tyres and they were off.
The lessons were surprising. He had to learn things he had known for years without knowing he knew. He was given instructions in basic maintenance of the bike. Bored, he shrugged and said “I just get my mechanic to do this stuff”. Again the instructor laughed and replied “Well you can fly your mechanic over here if you like but he can’t answer your examiner’s questions for you” then slapped him on the back and began talking about tyre pressure and oil leaks.
The ride outs were magnificent – the hills, the lochs – just as he had seen them through the eyes of his nanny. The colours were amazing – this country was so green compared to the sandy desert of his home. But the real surprise was the conversation. Miked up inside his helmet, he had an intimacy with the instructor that he had never experienced before. The conversations were not simply about the bike; the jokes, the interesting stories, the listening and talking began a change in him. Never one for closeness, he warmed to this country and this crazy guy, and talked about his life, his experiences and his hopes. He became more relaxed in this place than he ever imagined. He watched his instructor disappear off at the end of the day, telling him of his evenings in easy friendship with others, stories of firesides and tea with friends. He was a little envious – his dinners at the best restaurant in town felt small and lonely, after the intimacy of the bike helmet and the space of the hills.
“Come for dinner” his instructor said, “just a family dinner at a friend’s house” And so he went. Another bike instructor – this guy was as quiet as his instructor was loud. It was a chaotic house with grown up children, small children, grannie and granddad and dogs. Dinner wasn’t haggis, thank goodness, but roast dinner and chocolate dessert, laughter, stories and family. He couldn’t remember the last time dinner was like that, but he knew that this was what he wanted for his family, noise, happiness, laughter. He loved it when his wife cooked and he smiled to think how much she would like these warm people. When he left everyone hugged him. He was touched and delighted.
And so he passed his test – he thought a handshake and a pat on the back would see him on his way, but no, a night out was arranged and he found himself drinking whisky in the pubs in Inverness; hot, noisy with chatter and fiddle music playing the songs he remembered his nanny singing – the songs of his childhood. He sat in the company of the people he had met the last five days and wondered how he felt so at home. He loved these people – how did that happen? He hadn’t even known them a week ago. Was it the whisky he wondered – making him drop his guard? He found himself offering tickets for next year’s TT race, and wasn’t surprised when the guys said “That would be fantastic“. People liked to be taken out by him – hotels, restaurants, the works. He was however surprised when they said “We can take the tents and camp it will be great” and he found himself being swept along with enthusiasm but not expectation. He very quickly pointed out that he didn’t do camping there would very definitely be no tents – a hotel! They looked disappointed at this and he threw his head back and laughed, long and loud – he knew there would be no begging letters, no business propositions no inflated prices, just what his nanny had told him – what she had sang about when she sang “my ain folk”. He struggled for a minute as he remembered the words. He had thought it corny and silly when she sang it and he never thought he would understand why she loved it so much. As he looked around he knew he would be back. For here “in dear auld Scotland” he had found his “ain folk” for the first time ever.