“I realise I’ve put myself in the role of feral drunkard who is averse to the gays”.
You can only get to Knoydart by a ferry crossing or a 26 kilometre walk over rough terrain. One of the most remote places in the mainland UK, its only village, Inverie, has a population of roughly 100 and also hosts an annual music festival which my pals and I thought would make a brilliant weekend. I love the Highlands.
I also love my boyfriend – we always struggle with an acceptable term for each other as we despise “partner” and “lover” (ugh), are not married and feel that boyfriend belittles a ten year relationship. Maybe if we wait long enough, we can become companions? That is what they are called for people of a certain age, right?
Sometimes, these two loves don’t always come together in the most favourable way and can leave you rather adrift trying to reconcile both, fearing you might encounter folk who are averse to the gays. But, as my Gran used to say in her more charitable moods, “it isn’t all what it seems and there’s a way ’round most things”.
A proper Highland festival is a jolly good time, no room for moaners, just get on with it, and Knoydart was no exception. Bring a strong liver and some strong legs and you’ll make it out having had the time of your life. Our second day was a bit of a struggle following the usual first day euphoria, so we started the afternoon in the marquee with a gentle sway and a mellow sing-song. Now, cut to eleven o’clock after a few pints and a few drams…
Rescuing some of my dignity, I self-consciously remove me from my deplorable ceilidh performance and head to the bar for another round. Swerving the masses congregating about the front, I find an easier course behind a gentleman who seems to have forgotten what he wants.
The chat goes:
Barman: “What do you want?”
Punter: ” “
Barman: “What do you want?”
Barman: “I’m gonna tell you your name. Your name is William.”
Barman: “Your name is Will-i-am. What’s your name?”
Punter: “Uh, William.”
Barman “Pint of William’s Draft it is.”
At least I know that if I really go for it, I’ll still manage to get served!
I place my order and wait while two young men talk about having just played their first set. My interest already piqued because they are members of one of the bands, I then turn into an eavesdropping embarrassment when I come to understand that they are in fact a couple when one of them makes a joke, “Only gays in the village, uh?”
If I hadn’t had a few, I would have smiled thoughtfully to myself and kept that as a beautiful memory. Of course in my slovenly state, I turn sharply on them and say excitedly, “What, what did you say?” As all colour drains away from their faces I realise I’ve put myself in the role of feral drunkard who is averse to the gays. They eye my up suspiciously as I try desperately to authenticate my gayness: “You’re not the only ones in the village! I am too! I’m here with my boyfriend! Together, for like ten years! It’s true!” Unconvinced as I assail them with platitudes and hand waving meant to convince them I mean no harm, one of them steps in front of the other in a touching moment of protectiveness I will never forget.
I hopelessly attempt to divert attention from myself by asking where they are from, probably not the best question coming from a raving, tactless old man who looks like he might either punch them or cum on them, or both. One curtly says he is from Leith, then they stop talking to me, I collect my round and don’t see them for the rest of the weekend.
One thing I have learned in my time is that I am expertly trained at creating irrevocable awkwardness and I may never meet them again. But if I do, I hope we’ll recognise each other and, thanks to my blundering behaviour, maybe try to rescue a snatched opportunity of friendship and reflect on our naïveté and fear about being the only gays in the village.