The dust is just about beginning to settle on a fine long weekend which will live even longer in the memory, and I have just about had enough hours to try to gather my thoughts.
There is so much I could write about the experiences we had over the last few days – the thrill of discovering some proper new music at the Hebridean Celtic Festival, the stunning drive from Edinburgh to Stornoway we had to get there, the deeply relaxing fishing, the cycling, the drinking and tomfoolery – that I hope I will find the time to convey all that has made me happy to the core about my time home in Lewis.
I sense it will be a weekend that proves a turning point for the better for the Two Fat Laddies, but like Shaun I’ll probably have to split my thoughts into a few posts just to keep myself right, but whatever nonsense you read – I hope one strand comes through – enjoyment.
In this first one though I’d better explain why you’d be daft not to get your bahookies along to the Hebridean Celtic Fetival in 2012.
To anyone who is coming to this blog fresh I should explain that one of the planned highlights of our year of attempting to lose weight was going to be a trip to my home town of Stornoway to take in the festival, a three-day shindig that is the highlight of the musical calendar in the Isle of Lewis.
I left Stornoway longer go than I care to remember and despite annual trips home I have never been to any events at the Heb Celt in the 15 years since its inception.
The plan was to cycle furiously, to carouse with my pals, and to dance. To burn off some proper fat.
For me the whole notion of attending the Hebridean Celtic Festival was more an excuse to chum Shaun while hooking up with mates than any kind of musical pilgrimage.
I confess I feared a prevalence of nice, earnest yoghurt-knitting types and real ale buffs stroking their beards in a tent.
And what if Shaun turned out to be a loony. Or it pissed down?
As it transpired what I witnessed was young folk, doubtless some of them the kids of my old schoolpals, getting proper mad with it while enjoying some cutting edge music. The sun split the sky for much of our trip and Shaun was not only a great travelling companion, but more than semi-trained as a house guest too.
But the first piece of my enjoyment began with a wonderful journey home.
Going from the south east to the north west of Scotland on a bright sunny day when you have time on your hands must be one of the true glories in life.
I had an end point, a reason in getting us to Stornoway, but in reality you don’t need an excuse to go. Maybe to buy a lobster on the pier at Kyle, maybe to Skye to get your hands on a proper bottle of whisky. If you have never been just go. Do it for the hell of it, just to be there.
Glencoe, Glen Shiel, Spean Bridge, The Cuillins, South Lochs – they were all as gorgeous as I knew they would be and I could see from his clicking shutter that Shaun felt the same way.
In truth, the heavens were kind to him, the sun was out and the mercury nudged 22c. The Minch – often cruel – was like a millpond as we passed from the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Harris on the Hebrides.
From the moment we arrived back in Stornoway, I was already so blissed out it was great to be home. I parked the car in the town centre and in the space of maybe 100 yards between there and the HebCelt offices I was stopped by four pals.
The organisers, having heard of this blog, insisted on giving us VIP passes and we need to thank them publicly for it. It was an amazingly generous gesture.
Those passes allowed us to enjoy events at the main tent but also at the after party club in An Lanntair, Stornoway’s main arts and music venue.
I’m not in any position to tell you what was good and what was bad during the two nights we attended the festival, if you want a review read the Scoisman’s versions of events here or better still
the Stornoway Gazette but I can tell you what I remember witnessing- I’ll remember KT Tunstall, Eddi Reader and the Peatbog Faeries, I’ll remember how local hero Willie Campbell and his band Open Day Rotation brought down the house, I’ll remember even more a young outfit from Skye called Niteworks, and I’ll just about remember listening, slightly mesmerised, by the blur of fingers over an accordion by box player Mairearad Green in a Stornoway pub as the dawn came up.
If the music started out as an incidental, the condiment rather than the meat of my trip home, it became a much more key part when I realised that it wasn’t all sandals and sweaters. You don’t need to be a folkie to enjoy bands like the Scotland’s very own answer to The Pogues, the Vatersay Boys.
And if i wasn’t glued to the action on the stage, that is because I was happy to stop and be stopped by friends. It is far too long since I saw most of them and I was glad to see each and every one.
I will be looking out some new music as a result of my experience of Heb Celt, and I’ll be booking my ticket for next year.
But for the rest of the trip I still have lots to write, a few words on our cycling and fishing escapades, the restaurant at the end of the world, the inspirational man pledging to become the first Scotsman to row the Atlantic and a chance meeting with a woman who promises to change my life. But that is for another day.