Two weeks ago, I was visiting my roots. One side of my ancestry is Lowland, East Neuk of Fife for as many generations as we have been able to trace to date. The other side is Easter Ross, but, two generations back, it seems that we came out of the West from Lewis or Harris. As part of my 60th birthday celebrations, my close friends funded my first trip to the Outer Hebrides.
I was, of course, 60 in October last year, but the blood of the islands runs true in me and I did not get around to organising the trip until late September of this year. Totally unforgettable. The weather was dreadful, the scenery was spectacular, the various golden eagles, sea eagles, herons and seals were glorious and the people were memorable.
On the second day at lunchtime, we were right on the southern tip of Harris, looking out towards Skye and North Uist. We drove past a hotel which looked like it had closed for the season, but tried it anyway. It turned out to have one more day to go and they were happy to make us lunch.
The owner went off to get the Cullen Skink ready and I went up to the bar to get the drinks. The barman was an 18 year old youth. I tried to engage him in conversation about the beers which were from the Hebridean Brewery. He was pleasant enough but not particularly forthcoming. Not dour but just reserved.
The Cullen Skink was superb and I moved on to the mussels. Now, I have this thing that I do with mussels. I learned it from my favourite uncle when I was 16 and I have done it ever since. As I eat each one, I put the empty shells inside each other. Saves having a messy pile and just feels right.
If you have never done this yourself or seen the end result, it looks like this:-
So, I did my usual trick and took the above photo because I thought it was one of my better stacking efforts.
The aforementioned Hebridean youth came out from behind the bar to clear our table. He looked down at my mussel shells, then at me and said:-
‘Have you got OCD, then?’
Mrs M. and I could not stop laughing for about three minutes.