Reflections on a more certain uncertainty
As the tectonic plates shift and the world judders, Colin Montgomery takes himself off to Ayrshire
Toto (our standard cultural signpost/shorthand for discombobulation, disorientation, and general dismay) is not in Kansas anymore.
General Dismay’s armies have been massing greatly of late across every possible battlefield - metaphorical or literal. It is in this spirit I offer reflections on a more certain uncertainty.
Before establishing our bearings, a quick apology: I know many of you may have wearied of my ongoing Citalopram Diaries.
Articles of late have seen me morph into a wannabe Marina Hyde (I wish) with my semi-literate satirical, despairing musings. I can’t reach her giddy heights, sadly, but I keep chipping away, like some demented angry woodpecker.
Anyway, self-pity is the least attractive of all the wallowing traits so I’ll get to the point of all this.
That sometimes maligned, sometimes beatified shire of Scotland where poetry, sectarianism and hard-nut footballers collide.
A place that resonates despite my limited knowledge. Because it’s the nature of that limited knowledge that comforts me. Not the nature so much as the feels. It takes me back to simpler times - complicated for my parents no doubt, but paradise for me. I say paradise, it wasn’t really a utopia. The quest for which, paradoxically, leads to misery anyway.
I have in my turn been equally scarred and delighted by my trips to Ayrshire when I was a kid.
The Ayrshire Lessons, as they shall henceforth be known, are diverse. However one thing emerges from all of them; the beautiful certainty of a certain brand of uncertainty. Which is to say a pleasant exposure to the unknown and the known (apologies to Donald Rumsfeld) actually, no, he can go fuck himself. This is bigger than twats like him.
Here goes folks – a self-indulgent nostalgia trip, very specific in its references, yet probably interchangeable with other people’s memories of places from childhood. We have more in common than what divides us after all.
So, all aboard the charabanc to the nostalgia-strained Ayrshire that provides solace from disquieting realities of late.
By the by, I have actually visited recently, this is not all sentimental flannel.
The Electric Brae
The A719 just outside Dunure, between Drumshang and Knoweside. What poetry! Rabbie would be beelin’ in his pit. For on that stretch of A-road lies the famous Electric Brae. It’s a ‘gravity hill’, an optical illusion where the road that appears to go up is going down, and the road that appears to go down is going up.
So that when you’re in a car, you can take the handbrake off and seem to be floating uphill. My Dad took us there in the early 80s to do just that. And I was mesmerised by the magic of it… Up was down and down was up. Like our lives now.
Tog’s Café at Troon
As kids we visited Troon a lot. Back then it was a cracking wee seaside town. I remember it with both fear and favour however. Fear is below. Favour is the magic of enjoying a 99 ice-cream or one of those tubular pink hot dogs at Tog’s Café in a stretch not quite at the front, but near enough. It had formica tables. The smell of hot vinegar and ‘fancy’ coffees. Such reassurance is the equivalent of a pint in the Cask and Barrel today.
The ’Big Crane’ at Troon
Troon Part Two – this time it’s personal. Or rather… terrifying. When I was a nipper of around four, my parents took me and my brother to a seaside carpark near the Troon rocks (you used to get frogmen there and we thought it compelling). Alas, there was a big timber yard with a huge noisy crane lifting logs from one spot to another.
As a sensitive wee soul, I believed it to be a monster, as real as my own hand. It seems stupid now, but the fear I felt from this mechanical behemoth was beyond existential. I inhabit the same fear most mornings these days.
My Granny (on my Mum’s side) is as Ayrshire as new potatoes, she hailed from the mining village of Kilbirnie. Residing there now in a different sense – buried next to her beloved Jock, the grandfather I never met.
We used to visit her a fair bit, up until my 20s. Then life got in the way of death.
But those days, with a light drizzle, a wee rustle in the trees, and a slate grey sky in the old cemetery, remain with me.
A sense of belonging perhaps, without sounding maudlin, to a place I never knew. A glorious tension that still prevails. Such is my Ayrshire and you, will have your own favoured ‘shire’.
I wish you safe travels to them. ■