Skye-Rimming*

*N.B. This article has nothing to do with Skyrim. Sorry.

In the summer of 2008 I spent seven long weeks on the Isle of Skye as part of my field mapping dissertation for university. There were eight of us in total; me and seven of my favourite guys from the course, all battling through endless days of pissing, shitting and masturbating in forests, on hillsides and in lay-bys (N.B. I only peed. I keep the shitting and masturbating for Chat-Roulette).  If I’m honest, I learned very little about geology during those long hours of standing in torrential rain getting mentally undressed by sheep whilst trying to write in a wet notebook with a blunt pencil.  As time went on, however, I stopped hating and began to realise that this summer, although geologically unsuccessful, was quickly shaping up to be one of the best in history, and it’s all thanks to a tiny village with the most ridiculously beautiful view you will ever see.

In your face!

Elgol is where my mapping area was located and where three of my uni friends, Beau, Luke and Mike were renting a flat from a local family. At this point we were on week three and I was beginning to get a little bit tired of actually doing work.  The fact the sun had made appearance for the first time since we arrived did not help my mood, as all I wanted was a god-damn barbecue. I arrived at their flat ready to map, only to find that they weren’t even home so, after trying on all of their underwear and cleaning the toilet with their toothbrushes, I decided to go look for them. I eventually found them stepping off a fishing boat which had just participated in a random boat race in the middle of the loch. The boat belonged to Alistair, an almost mythical creature, who along with his wonderful wife Joanie, also owned the flat that the guys were staying in. Alistair had been feeding the boys whisky and prawns all morning and I could tell straight away that there would be no mapping for us that day. They got off the boat, handed me a can of Tennants and explained that today was the Elgol Gala and we were getting involved. All I could smell was beer, fishermen and barbecued meat – I was welling up. In fact I was moist pretty much everywhere.

The Boat Race

What we didn’t know at the time was that participating in the Gala involved taking part in the Crofter’s Olympics, a Highland Games type competition in which we use our pathetically inadequate city ‘strength’ to compete against teams of Highland locals who actually work for a living. Upon hearing about this, we instantly ran back to the flat to put on our matching ‘Skye 2008′ t-shirts – if we were going to be beaten to a bloody pulp, we were going to do it whilst looking like a stylish team of professionals. We looked totally gay, it was awesome.

Luke, Mike and me – tossing hard.

The first event was the caber toss. For those of you sillies who don’t know what tossing a caber involves, you basically pick up a tree trunk and try to flip it 180 degrees in the air whilst at the same time ensuring that it lands as straight and as far away from you as possible. So, essentially the opposite of what any of us are capable of. What the guys on my team needed was something like a ‘Shoes & Belt Accessorising’ event or maybe a ‘Who Can Get the Most Girls to Suck them Off Behind the Village Hall’ competition, we would have totally won those. Needless to say, Beau, Luke and Mike all failed miserably, leaving it down to me. Alistair handed me a slightly smaller, but still substantial, lady-caber and I just closed my eyes and threw it. By some miracle, it flipped 180 degrees and landed beautifully on the grass in front of me. A few people congratulated me saying things like “Well done, that’s amazing!” – but we all know that it is not amazing. Being a female who is able to throw a tree across a field is less ‘amazing’ and more ‘I’m gonna rip your wife’s face off with my vagina and there’s fuck all you can do about it’. I’m not proud of what I did and to this day Billy still asks me if I’m absolutely sure I like penises.

Next was the five-legged race. At the start of this race, Alistair bent down and tied all four of our legs together, stood up in front of everyone and said (AS A JOKE) “Fuck’s sake Jillian, you could have washed your fanny, peeyoo”. Nice. I spent the rest of the day telling anyone who would listen how he was just kidding and that, in reality, going ‘down there’ was like getting a refreshing blast of alpine forest to the face. Anyway, after coming a close second, we moved onto the welly-boot throwing competition where Beau inexplicably threw the welly behind him and almost took out a small child.

Finally, it was the dreaded tug-of-war. We were sitting in overall second place when we began this event. We thought that we could take them, that we were going to come away from this whole experience victorious after our first attempt – then we realised that there were four bastarding rounds of it and (in my slightly tipsy head) the members of the first team were staring straight into our souls, salivating all over their giant steel-toe capped boots. I was pretty tired/scared at this point and considering that the opposite team’s captain was called ‘The Butcher’ and their anchor weighed more than Beau, Luke and Mike combined, we didn’t stand much of a chance. Our only hope was to at least beat the team that consisted almost entirely of old ladies – except these old ladies appeared to have been sent to destroy us from the depths of hell. One of them was rolling around on the ground and pulling so hard that she began bleeding profusely from numerous lacerations in her arms. They humiliated us with a crushing defeat and when it was all over we left her bloodied and sweating in a heap on the floor. It’s possible that she was dead. I hope she was dead.

The A-Team 2009 (Cameron, Beau, me and Billy) – raping the face-paint stand to achieve maximum intimidation. It didn’t work.

Overall, we finished in third place, which considering the trauma, I was delighted with. We spent the rest of the afternoon up in the village hall drinking beer, eating vulgar amounts of meat and walking around the numerous stalls which sell the inevitable pile of shit you find at every village gala. To give you an idea of what we are dealing with here, I entered a raffle and won a jar of olives, a bottle of men’s shower gel and some orange cordial. Rock and roll.

Alistair & the Butcher, trash talking.

In the late afternoon we were kicked out of the village hall so that it could be transformed into Elgol’s premier ceilidh venue. Now, I love a ceilidh more than anything in the world (except iced tea) so I was beside myself with excitement and headed home with the rest of the guys to shower and get whored up for a night of drinking, dancing and debauchery. When I realised that this night had the potential to be one of the highlights of the summer/my life, I called Cameron, Iain, Sam and Eoin (who had missed the day’s events because they had actually been mapping – lol) and told them to get a fucking grip and get down here.

Faces of pure glee!

Cameron’s trench-foot.
(You thought I was kidding. I would never kid about trench-foot)

I think it’s safe to say word had got around that there was fresh cock in the village because when we arrived back at the hall it was like a scene from 28 Days Later. There were salivating girls in abundance, ready to tear chunks out of anyone who got in the way of them and the scrotums of my poor friends. Luckily for the guys, the wristbands that everyone is given on the door were colour-coded according to age, providing them with a handy visual aid when deciding how best to proceed (the catchphrase of the evening became “GREEN FOR GO, YELLOW MEANS NO, BUT YELLOW CAN MEAN MAYBE IF YOU HAVEN’T GOT ANY ACTION BY 1AM”). At one point I went up for a dance with Cameron, which resulted in a blatant head-case coming charging towards me saying “You trying to steal my man??”, to which I replied “I’ve been living with him and his trench-foot, man-fart, sweaty-balls for the past month. Seriously, you can have him. In fact, if you promise to keep him occupied for the whole night I’ll even throw in a jar of olives, some shower gel and a bottle of orange cordial”. She took the bait, and from the looks of her, probably most of Cameron’s foreskin that night.

Alistair: Ten times the man you’ll ever be.

At around 3am we managed to make it home, exceptionally fucked but genuinely delighted with the day we just had. It was totally stealth, none of us were prepared for it, and although I woke up the next day feeling like death, it was the most worth-it hangover I’ve ever had. What had begun as a boring old day of mapping had ended in utter chaos and I loved every minute of it. It changed the rest of that trip for me and over the next few weeks we got to know a lot of people in the village: Alistair and Joanie, their kids Craig and Grant, even my once nemesis “The Butcher”, who is now my total fave and not scary at all.

As soon as I got home, I told Billy that he needed to come see it for himself and we have been back every year since along with various combinations of the original seven. I look forward to it more than any other holiday, which considering it is only a four-hour drive from Aberdeen, is borderline unbelievable for me. Over the past four years I have been fishing with Alistair on his boat (where I had to kill things with my tiny, bare hands), I’ve swam in the fairy pools, bottle-fed Joanie’s lambs, walked for miles, drank shed-loads of beer and ate truck-loads of BBQ – but I still have not won the motherfucking Crofter’s Olympics. Sadly, I will be missing it this year due to having to work for a living but I have a feeling  that 2013 will be my year so, Butcher, you better be trembling in your yellow wellies because I am coming for you and, this time, I’m bringing my sister. Yeah that’s right, Double Dingwall for the win. ;)

Wish I was here…

Scotland Haters – Stop Involving Me in Your Nonsense

In many ways it saddens me that I even have to have this discussion (and by discussion I mean I will be the only one talking), but I feel a responsibility to share this recent and unfortunate issue in an attempt to prevent it from escalating into violence.

Throughout my childhood and teenage years, living and working with people of different nationalities was never a problem for anyone. Aside from the usual friendly banter with some of the English kids – “We invaded and ruled over you for centuries” followed by the superb comeback “Yeah? Well we invented stamps…….and Tarmac” – the supposed rivalry was really nowhere to be seen.  Since becoming an adult 4 months ago, however, I have had nothing but ball-ache about the whole thing and really, I’m finding it about as enjoyable as a yeast infection.     

Here are some examples of conversations people have tried to involve me in:

At work:
– “Do you know what they’re giving us for lunch today, Jillian?”
– “Stovies”
– “Aw for fucks sake, what is the deal with Scottish people and stovies??  It’s just leftovers.  So disgusting.  Mushy, luke-warm, artery-clogging leftovers.”
– “Well I think it originates from back in the day when no one in Scotland had any food ‘cos you cunts ate it all. It’s considered quite traditional”.
– “Hmm, do you not think it’s about time you brought your traditions into the 21st century? You guys have plenty of food now, there’s no need to eat leftovers anymore”.

First of all, I didn’t invent stovies, stop talking to me like stovies are my doing.  Second of all, despite what people tell you, I’m not really influential enough to change the eating habits of an entire nation. Thirdly, you’re from Yorkshire, what the hell do you think Betty’s Hotpot is? Fucking leftovers. You guys eat the exact same things, changing the ratio of your ingredients does not make you better than me.

On a training course:
– “Up to anything exciting tonight, Jillian?”
– “Billy got a recipe for haggis soup from a guy at his work so I think we are going to give it a bash”.
– “Haggis soup?? Haggis…………soup?…………..Bloody savages.”

Well, sir, if you bothered to take a few minutes of your time to have a conversation with me, you would realise that I too think that haggis soup is quite a strange thing to eat. Also, if you knew anything about Scottish culture you would know that we love being referred to as savages, so thanks!  Now I wonder if you will look that smug when my dog is savaging your testicles?

This one is my favourite…..

At the pub:
“Why are Scottish people so genuinely happy when we lose at football?  We support you guys when you play.”

Firstly, stop whining and grow a set.  Secondly, of course you support us, you know we will lose. It’s like supporting that forest-dwelling rapist, Wagner.  You only voted for him because he was shit. If he had actually won the X-factor and released an album, you would not have bought it. We would support England if they were shit at football, but they’re not, they’re pretty good.  At the end of the day we are jealous and will openly admit this. When you lose it makes us feel better about our shocking lack of sporting talent.

You may be surprised to hear that it’s not just people of other nationalities who bore me with their jovial snobbery.  I have had numerous conversations with Scottish people who bizarrely think it’s acceptable to attack Aberdeen.  Yes, I get it, Aberdeen is a shit-hole – I whole-heartedly agree – but last I heard Glasgow city centre wasn’t the picture of utopian sunshine either. I don’t mind when people say Aberdeen is horrendous. What I do mind is when they say it in a tone that implies that everywhere else in Britain is on a par with fucking Monaco.  It clearly is not!  Britain as a whole is a terrible place and every town is fundamentally the same.  Same junkies dominating the queues at the local Spar, same generic high streets with the same shops, same ned-kids playing Cascada full blast on their shit phones at the back of the bus and the same greasy, fat, 40 year old women chasing their 25 kids around Iceland with a claw-hammer.  Don’t tell me I’m shit when you are clearly just as shit.

I appreciate that there are some hideously racist Scottish people out there (as there are in every nationality) and our food is questionable at times, but if you really feel so strongly about it I suggest that you either stop moaning at me and take it up with them or, like me, try not giving a fuck.  Do you have any idea how much energy it takes to repeatedly defend a country?  I cant be arsed hoovering never mind fending off constant digs at Scottish society. And before you start, no, I am not one of those weirdos who fantasises about wanking violently into William Wallace’s beard – I love taking the piss out of Scotland and by constantly attacking it you are denying me this right.  It’s petty and it’s rude and while I’m here, get some hills, your freakishly flat landscape makes me clammy with discomfort.

Scotland – Stop Growing on Me Like a Fungus

Ten years ago, if you had asked me to describe Scotland in three words I probably would have said something along the lines of “worst place ever” or “fucking shit fuck” or, if I was particularly pre-menstrual, “worse than rape”.  This is because for most of my adult life I have not been Scotland’s biggest fan.  I was removed from here at an early age and as a result don’t really have that strong sense of patriotism you get when you have lived in the same country all of your life.  Recently, however, there have been some interesting developments which I suspect could signify a thaw in our frosty relationship.

When I lived overseas, I was the most die-hard Scottish person you could find, probably because I was the only Scottish person you could find.  I’m not going to lie, the release of Braveheart in Malta when I was 15 did nothing to hurt me and I milked that fictional motherfucker for all it was worth.  For weeks I had American kids coming up to me at school saying “Wow, I did not realise you guys went through so much”, to which I replied “Yeah (*sigh*), if I’m honest you know, yes, it has been a long and arduous journey fraught with repression and violence but I like to think we’ve come out of it a better, stronger nation” whilst shakily pointing to a scar on my forehead I got from a rollerblading accident – or as I liked to call it “the English”.

In Tunis, at around the same time, I distinctly remember welling up during a St Andrews day party when a bagpiper came into the room (I was totally shit-wrecked on wine and could hardly see, but let’s just say for the sake of discussion that they were the tears of national pride) proving that I did have it in me back then, Scottish was something I wanted to be.  Little did I realise that this was because I had unwittingly adopted some sort of foreign, romantic image of our country:  “We have hills n’ shit, people carry fish around in baskets, awesome!”, etc.

It was with these fantastical notions that I returned permanently to Scotland at the age of 19.  I was excited about it, I could go into town and buy decent clothes, things would generally work as opposed to be broken, life was going to be good.  I think it took about 3 days before I realised that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.  I got a job at a local pub and in the space of a couple of days someone had called me a “yankee cunt”, a junkie had stolen my wallet and I had seen my first ever ecstasy pill.  Bearing in mind that at the time I had the street-wisdom of a Fritzl sister, this was a highly confusing environment for me.  Up until that point, I thought heroin was a fictional substance made up by Irvine Welsh to make Trainspotting an interesting read.

Looking back now, I can see that I must have been pretty annoying.  I sounded like a Californian cheerleader (really did not look like one) but was telling people I was born in Torry.  Bar a few of the locals at the pub, people were generally not very convinced by me and I don’t blame them, I was a fucking weirdo.  To make matters worse I was struggling to adjust to a life where suddenly I didn’t have any of my friends around me.  I tried to do things like go to college and speak to people in the bar I worked in but at the end of the day I had nothing in common with anyone, turns out no one is interested in talking about Maltese bus drivers or this one time at the British Club.  I think people may have mistakenly thought I was posh too, which is hilarious/offensive – I would be lying if I said that I haven’t pissed in a bottle at T in the Park and put it inside my jacket as a kind of make-shift heating device.  I don’t think Kate Middleton has ever done that.  Anyway, the fact of the matter was I had to get some friends, and if they all happened to be cats then that was just the way it was going to have to be.

It was right around this time that I met Billy (thank God, I fucking hate cats) and Christ knows what made him able to withstand what must have been the excruciating embarrassment of introducing me to his friends and family (I want to say it was my shimmering personality but I did have sex with him, so it was probably that).  For the first year or so, I don’t think much of his friends were clambering over each other to start a fan club; I didn’t take any drugs, I talked a lot, nothing I said was very useful, I dressed weird, I loved the Eurovision Song Contest, I swore constantly and was generally not very feminine but unfortunately for them I wasn’t going away.  Through perseverance I discovered that people can change their minds if you literally give them no other option and now I look upon a lot of them as my good friends.

Over time, my accent slowly began to return to a semblance of Scottish which made everything a bit easier and after about five years I had the foundations of a social life.  Despite this, I still absolutely hated the place and used to dream about leaving every day.  The weather was terrible, there was nothing to do, there were drugs everywhere, they were expensive, people moaned constantly (a bit like what I’m doing now) and no one really spoke to each other.  All of these things made me want to get the hell out of here and to top it all off, I absolutely hated my job at the time.

When I turned 25 I decided to do something about the situation.  I applied to study Geology at Aberdeen University in the hope of getting a job in the oil industry so I could get the fuck out of this hell-hole and back into the comforting arms of an obscure foreign country.  I got accepted and began what was to be four years of good times.  In our class there were people from all over the UK and abroad, none of whom knew each other so we were all in the same awkward boat.  For the first time since returning to Aberdeen, I was considered a local.  It was a very weird feeling because I still felt like a dirty immigrant but it was a good weird feeling.

During the course of my degree I made quite a few friends and was relieved to discover that I didn’t have to force myself upon them like I did with Billy’s poor friends.  We went on numerous field trips together and these were tremendous.  Not only was the banter so good that it was, at times, physically painful but I was starting to see all the hills and people carrying fish around in baskets that I had imagined all those years ago.  I had been so preoccupied with not killing myself I had forgotten that there were parts of Scotland better than literally anywhere else in the world.  I spent eight weeks on the Isle of Skye for one of my uni projects, for example, and it is now possibly my favourite place in the universe.  If you had told me a decade ago that out of everywhere I had been I would like a cold, remote Scottish island the best, I would have taken an angry shit in your front garden.

I now work offshore and get to spend two weeks of every month at home in Aberdeen with Billy and my dog, an arrangement I am pretty happy with.  Over the past few years I have found myself fantasising about leaving this country less and less and looking forward to the Wizard Festival and my annual trips to Skye more and more.  Billy and I want to buy a house this summer and because we are old, crusty and beginning to smell of death, we have been thinking about getting somewhere in the countryside.  The other day he said to me “The way you’re talking you would think that you were happy to hang around here for the next ten years” and, after swallowing some sick, I told him that I think I am.