In the summer of 1988 we took the long drive from our home in London to the Isle of Skye, a journey of over 600 miles. In tow we had our then 8-month old son and all the accompanying kit and kaboodle that goes with a travelling infant. On arrival scotch mist descended in no time at all and thereafter only lifted briefly. The swirling vapour is not quite rain, its dampness penetrates and its density and swallows up all landmarks and scenery within itself.
We therefore opted to visit mostly indoor tourist attractions, one of which was the world-famous (if you love whisky) Talisker Distillery at Carbost. The whisky is distinctive for its peatiness, firstly the malt is peated and the water used in the whisky distilling process then adds even more peatiness. Peat upon peatiness that is evident in most of the natural water sources on the island, an amber glow assimilated from the bogged earth that it pushes through.
In those days when accessibility did not have a capital A, it was not possible to take the son’s pushchair around all the higgledy, piggledy spaces with the vast vats and shiny brass pipes. So the Scotsman carried him round and the story goes (the one we have re-counted to anyone who will ever listen) was that the boy had the biggest grin on his face the whole way round. He was naturally a very happy infant but we like to perhaps elucidate that he was enjoying leaning over the colossal casks, inhaling and relishing every single one of the whisky fumes.
In 2008 a work friend held her wedding reception in a charming Peak District village hall. Since the wedding itself had taken place in Bakewell it was completely appropriate that their cake should comprise of a tower of bakewell tarts. Each tart had their initials M&S piped onto the glossy white icing. (She before he, they were a respectable couple you understand).. As the evening wore on a bottle of whisky and wooden bowl was produced at the edge of the irregular circle of guests. Slowly the bowl was passed round and each one of us lifted to lips and partook of a little of the gold-coloured nectar.
On the fog-laden, winding road back home, the Scotsman was driving and concentrating hard to avoid any mist that might suddenly morph into a sheep that needed to be avoided. He also explained that the wooden bowl was a Quaich, a special Scottish shallow, two-handled drinking cup (or loving cup). Although we didn’t know many of the people at the wedding we had just left, it would have been a significant and poignant act for the bride and groom to have drunk and shared from the same vessel as everyone in the room. Their people.
These thoughts rested and germinated in our minds for a while after. The following autumn we passed through the Isle of Skye on a trip to North Uist in the Outer Hebrides this time. There are no distilleries on North Uist so we made sure we returned to the home of Talisker and purchased a bottle in the gift shop. In the lead up to our Silver Wedding in December 2010 we asked the Scotsman’s parents to buy us a Quaich as a gift.
And so to our Silver Wedding.
We are not great party people but still wanted to mark the occasion with our family and a few special friends. We opted for a lunchtime meal in our home town, where our ageing parents still live, the Scotsman’s parents and my dad. The celebration took place between Christmas and New Year at a small restaurant called Queans, where the owner treated us like royalty for a few hours (she had closed the place that lunchtime and it was exclusively ours.)
After we had eaten we produced the whisky and the Quaich.
That room full of special people, family and friends who have loved, laughed and cried over many years.
And the One who knows it all. He walked my road and He shared my pain, joys and sorrows that I know so well.
The weight of things reciprocated and condensed into those few short minutes.
In liquid and wood, an amber kiss.
We shared with our people and it was good.