My Scottish love affair is steeped in a need for mountains and water to soothe my easily-overwhelmed nature, and marked by my affection for its people, many of whom are lifelong friends now: they are warm, friendly, generous, and chat as readily as I do with newcomers back in Canada.
I remember one telling me, “There’s no such thing as strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet,” and Scottish folks are the embodiment of that sentiment.
During my annual visits over the years I’ve met friends in the most peculiar places, some as recent as a few days ago when easy conversation with other fans in the line-up to enter a concert venue to see Del Amitri quickly grew into playful banter.
The only thing that rivals the Scottish landscape are the friendships.
Most of my friendships here have musical roots; my “other brother Mark” is a superb heavy metal fantasy author whose invitation to join his Rocktober literary podcast in 2012 was the beginning of subsequent adventures across Scotland and the adoption of his motto, “There are no laws in Scotland, only suggestions.”
We’ve climbed the walls of remote, abandoned ruins, wandered off the guided tourist path of a well-known castle, had an Insta-moment with a Viking helmet he pulled from his knapsack while inside a 15th-century fortress, and driven down an incomplete ramp that may have been strictly for pedestrians while on our way to see the Kelpies at the Helix – to name a few of our best infractions.
Many close pals are the result of Toronto’s Q107 FM former radio DJ Dominik Diamond’s help when I first published my rock fiction novels in 2012.
Facebook friendships became real life encounters, mostly in coffee shops and pubs. I was met at a train station with a Tunnocks and Irn-Bru by a kilted pal and also ventured from the lounge to the stands at Celtic Park with a glassful of cider to the absolute horror of my host, who feared expulsion from the opening game of the 2014 football season.
I’ve also met the Scottish branch of The Who’s fan family, and this recent visit includes attending the wedding of a close friend I call my “Who clan sister.”
On my way to a Biffy Clyro gig in Glasgow in August 2016, two sisters noticed me sitting alone on the bus; by the time we arrived at Bellahouston Park, they had “adopted” me for the day and we have remained “Biffy sisters” ever since. We hiked above Dundee with the family dog pack the weekend before last.
The circle widens and grows closer with each visit, a testament to the open, generous nature of the Scottish people.