‘Hey Trace’, starts the call. ‘Know anything about islands?’ It’s the Manager of a pro-golfer I work with and he’s found a possible golf course site in Scotland.
It is no coincidence that the manager was a Scot. Even less of a coincidence that the island was next to where he grew up. I had a sneaky suspicion that the Managers sentimentality was driving this, but what the heck.
‘Leave it with me’ I tell him and start leafing through the Filofax for anyone with a Scottish sounding name.
I’d like to say it was difficult to find a chartered surveyor who specialises in Islands but it was strangely straightforward. Serious smugdom. I booked him to meet us on the island.
With trip booked, the Golfer, takes a look in the meantime. In a plane. More fly-by’s than drive-by’s when Slebs are involved.
It’s a few years back and without the benefit of Google Earth and with Street View not even embryonic, I have very little idea what I will find. I am told there is a mansion for Golfer to ‘chill’ in, a lighthouse and a caretakers cottage. My role in all this is to verify value and to check out the ‘big house’ and see how it could work as a country retreat for Golfer. A watery pied de terre away from the pressures of Slebdom.
There are three of us at Glasgow airport. Mark the Manager, Ben the golf course designer and me. Now I’m not quite so stupid as to have worn normal garb, I am wearing jeans and a pair of biker boots. My only nod to vanity being a pricey blow dry and a full face of slap. More than can be said for the other two who are suited and booted. Ben is a portly chap with ruddy cheeks. They are going to get ruddier.
Hire car picked up and quick stop at a petrol station where ‘the boys’ buy up a trolley load of sweets. Off to the coast, it’s spitting and I’m wondering how much frizz-ease the hairdresser used.
We arrive at a sailing club and we can spy the island across the water. Quick professional assessment. Yep, it’s an island.
Brawny men approach us dressed up in black and red survival gear and bobble hats. ‘Ye lot gooin ovah too the wee island then?’ head brawny man asks.
I hadn’t quite thought through how we were actually getting over to this island, think I imagined a bridge or something but the ‘rib’ , rigid inflatable boat, had not crossed my mind, I’m quite sure of that. What came next hadn’t either.
‘Ye all need to wayer these’ (he’s Scottish).
Flaming Nora. Survival suits, one size fits all. If you’re a Yeti. They have also provided me with a bobble hat for extra stupidness.
Clambering onto the boat, Captain brawny directs me to behind him. ‘Yee’ll get leess wet’, he says. Less??!.. Less??!. And off we go. No warning, full throttle, nose in air. Thorpe Park white water ride without the safety belt and the photo at the bottom. Nails embedded in the bench, wind whistling up my bobble hat and a sea water facial.
Ben the portly golf course designer winks at me, bully for him, he’s not got eyes awash with ‘waterproof’ mascara.
The islands caretakers are waiting for us. A couple in their thirties who are keen to please, in their minds, we could be their new boss. We peel off our survival suits and our bobble hats. Bad hair day doesn’t do it justice. Dundee cake and mugs of builders most welcome in their rather cosy little hut turned bungalow.
The surveyor turns up on a boat from his base in Mull. Introductions made we head off to view the ‘big house’.
Damn, those photographers were good. Hadn’t sussed it was a 1950‘s build. Did wonder about no interior shots though.
Hallway big and bright. Antlers on wall.. check.
Reception room, electric fire and tartan carpet.. check.
Kitchens... industrial deep fat fryers... check.
And onto the bedrooms down woodchip papered, gloss painted corridors.. Lots of bedrooms. Lots of bunk beds. Lots of bathrooms with mouldy shower curtains and vacant/engaged on the doors.
It’s a bloody youth hostel.
Mark looks sheepish. ‘How much would it cost to get it up to spec?’ he asks me. Get it up to spec? Is he having a laugh. Entirely depends on what DemolitionsRus charge these days.
Drawing a polyester veil over the house, the next step is to ‘walk’ the island. Over the top we go, heading for the lighthouse the other side. I’m given ownership of the sweets as I have a fetching Peter Storm with deep pockets. Men in suits don’t. Not sure what the eating protocol is here but I tuck in anyway.
I notice seagulls as we trundle up the hill. I notice more seagulls the further we get. They are really quite noisy and getting noisier. They don’t seem amused to see us. In fact they are bloody livid. Swathes of them start swooping at us. Dive-bombing. It’s tricky waving your arms in a scary way whilst trying to protect your head. And seagulls are bloody big. It’s a cheap analogy but we are living the Alfred Hitchcock sequel.
Ben is getting pinker. Mark is striding purposely with the expression of a man who’s idea all this was. Determined only to see the positive.
‘What’s the score on culling them’ I yell at both them. Ben doesn’t answer, he’s concentrating on swinging his arms and breathing. Mark shouts ‘protected’. Well, this is going to make a golf course with a flaming difference.
We make it to the lighthouse. Mark is quite excited and starts ascending, but poor Ben, poor ruddy, nay, crimson Ben just plonks himself on the grass.
Mark wistfully explores the lighthouse and picks the surveyors brains for a costing on refurb. Even I know the surveyors blagging it. He may live on Mull but he’s from Esher.
We take the circuitous route around the island back to where the boat is. None of us want to experience the seagull blitzkrieg again.
Back at the caretakers cottage, I take in the view. I notice something, don’t know how the hell I missed it. It’s gargantuan. Grey and glistening across the water. Not so much glistening as radiating. It’s Scotlands answer to Sellafield.
Even Mark had to throw the towel in on this one now. Much merriment was had discussing warm waters for paddling and fish with two heads.
Back into the survival suits, back into the boat. ‘D’ya fancy having a bit of foon?’ asks Captain Brawny. (He’s Scottish). This fun involved throwing the rib over wakes and seeing what angle he could tip the rib to before it dumped us. Think banana boat in radioactive waters.
Oh how we laughed.