Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing…


Bits of Scotland; bits of family and friends too…

Many years ago the Textiliste and I saw a film. It was around the time Chariots of Fire was making it big the world over and British film making had one of its many, if short lived, revivals. Indie films were hip and British ones especially so. That trip introduced us to the formidable talents of director Bill Forsyth and his delightful comedy Gregory’s Girl. If you’ve not seen it, do try and catch it.

We fell in love with Gregory, his driving instructor dad and the Forsyth style of story telling.

It was inevitable we would watch out for Forsyth’s next movie. There’s always a little trepidation, isn’t there, when you loved something by an artist, as you await the next offering, for fear it will disappoint and so taint the memory of that first love. Forsyth doesn’t do disappointment.

In 1983 he brought out Local Hero with the aging Burt Lancaster in a leading role and an early break for Peter Capaldi, now at the pinnacle of his career as the new Doctor Who. The blurb – oil tycoon goes to buy out naïve Scots  and come a cropper – didn’t make it sound compelling but it was one of the most enjoyable filmatic experiences of my life. It was set mostly on the West Coast of Forsyth’s beloved Scotland. It was like entering a world I didn’t know existed. I was entranced and enchanted. So was the Textiliste.

We booked a week in a cottage near Oban and set off on the long drive north. As we scurried through Glasgow on the M8 we caught glimpses of the mountains ahead. We skirted the glowering glistening Loch Lomond and crested the ridge at Crianlarich. My skin still tingles at the memory of looking down Glencoe for the first time; there, revealing themselves with the bold confidence of a can-can dancer lifting her skirts, the purple and grey Highlands tempted us on.

It is bleak at times, threatening like a be-cloaked highwayman in the fog. It is often empty. It contains that most vicious of insects, the Scottish midge – genetically adapted over centuries to sniff out the blood of an Englishman and leave you with saucer sized welts. Yet, yet… It is extraordinary in its beauty and its variety. We spent that week open mouthed, constantly thanking Forsyth for giving us a reason to drive the length of our tight packed little island to find this extraordinary wilderness on our doorstep.

We took friends the next year. Children in future years. We worked our way north, discovering the Applecross peninsula and the route to the Isle of Skye. We climbed around the Cuillins and ‘bagged’ some Munros (a Munroe is a peak in excess of 3,000 feet; there are 282 in Scotland). We now go every year, sometimes more than once. It feels like it is now in the blood – maybe those midges have infected me with Highland Fever. We know what we will get and that’s always changing. Rarely is the sky clear in Scotland. Clouds scud across the sun and the shadowing on the hillsides creates a palate of colours unmatched anywhere. And I don’t even like golf.

All this was brought to mind by Charli Mills latest prompt. July 16, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story influenced by a musical score. If there’s a piece of music that has the impact on me that the Mark Isham piece has on Charli it is the Local Hero theme music, Wild Theme, performed by Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits. If I want to be taken to another place, this will do it.

It seems right somehow that it is this that appears in my flash.


Rupert, her half-brother, sounded desperate. ‘Please Mary. Come with me.’

‘Yes I know.’ Damn him, she thought; even after death her father controlled her.

Later as Rupert fiddled with the hire car, she thought of her dad. Just the same. Efficient but a bit of a prat. Her eyes stung; she swallowed. She wouldn’t give either of them the satisfaction. 

They walked miles, in the shadow of the Cuillins. ‘Here.’ Rupert took out the urn. ‘You first.’

She scattered ash and heard music. Rupert’s ipod. Wild Theme. Dad’s favourite. Tears coursed her cheeks. She no longer cared who saw.

So if Alex Salmond is reading this, ‘Back off big boy; you can’t have Scotland’. There’s a piece of me that will forever be tartan and I’m not giving it up easily.

Speed bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, onward the sailors cry. Carry the lad that’s born to be king, o’er the sea to Skye… Another little song that resonates…, just for good measure.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in flash fiction, memoires, miscellany, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing…

  1. Archaeologist says:

    “There’s a piece of me that will forever be tartan.”
    And of course your grandfather served in the Seaforth Highlanders


  2. I went with my parents in 1983 to see a film (don’t recall what it was) but it was sold out so instead we went (me protesting I didn’t want to go) to see Local Hero. My protests soon stopped as I was entranced by the Scottish community and the story that unfolded. I too loved the music Mark Knopfler wrote for it and have hankered to visit the area ever since. Perhaps one day but if I don’t you have taken me on a journey that has refreshed my own desire to travel there.
    A great way of including it in your flash. Where to next week I wonder.


  3. TanGental says:

    If you get the chance do. I’ve visited a fair few places but the highlands take a lot of beating.


  4. Sarah Brentyn says:

    Love it! The song, the flash, the continuation of your story yet again. It’s unfolding beautifully.

    Thanks for sharing Skye Boat Song, too. I loved visiting Scotland.


    • TanGental says:

      Thank you Sarah; I’m glad to find a fellow Scotophile. For some reason I’ll be visiting 5 times this year which, even by my standards, is a mite excessive.


  5. Charli Mills says:

    I had a busy weekend–the last visit of the Radio Geek and her hub the Geologist before he defends his masters and they leave Montana for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he’ll take over management of a geology museum. Which is like having your kids move to northern Scotland–far away but beautiful to visit. We seem to love remote, craggy places that infuse us with something ancient we can feel but not quite recall what it is. That’s how Knopler’s music feels. Very transportive. And wow–Paul Robeson’s voice is deep! Anyhow, I didn’t read over the weekend as it would have been rushed. I’m so glad I decided to take the time because your entire post is so rich. Great personifications–the land as can-can dancers and a be-cloaked highwayman. I can see how this space has seeped into you. It seeps into your writing. More on your flash at Carrot Ranch. This story is deepening!


  6. Sherri says:

    Love this post Geoff. You evoke wonderful memories for me of Scotland and the Highlands. I had never been to Scotland but always wanted to go so hubby, having visited many of the places you mention here several times before, at last took me and the kids (and my mum!) there for a stay in a lodge right on the edge of Loch Lomond. I was transported as were you to a place that I fell in love with. Unlike you, I haven’t been back but we fully intend to do so and explore the region more. Local Hero is another of hubby’s favourites ( a blur for me, can’t remember watching it to my shame) but I know the theme song and I can see how it inspired your wonderful flash. Love your writing, great post 😀


  7. Pingback: The Muse of Music « Carrot Ranch Communications

  8. Norah says:

    Beautiful post accompanied by beautiful music. The picture you paint with your words is one that is not only visually beautiful, but beautiful to the soul. Your connection to it is tangible and your words transport us there. Thanks for sharing so much richness.


If you would like to reply please do so here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.