Which is how, after a succession of false starts and on-again, off-again phone calls,
John Jarrold and I find ourselves at an otherwise deserted Islay airport on a Sunday af-
ternoon, meeting Ann off a dinky little twin-engine Cessna which left Edinburgh just 40
'What was the delay?'
'First one of the engines wouldn't start, then the door wouldn't close, then there was
mist over the runway, then there was no air traffic control. The pilot was called Lorna and
she was only 25. I said sorry for making her work on a Sunday but she said she'd only
have been doing the decorating. It was brilliant !'
(Me, suspiciously:) 'Have you been drinking coffee?'
The rest of Sunday - after Ann has settled in, had a welcoming dram or two with Toby and
Harriet and promptly gone for a snooze - I spend with Martin the photographer, revisiting
most of the distilleries John and I drove to yesterday. They're still closed, of course, but
looking very picturesque in the gently hazy sunshine with the calm sea lapping quietly
against the rocks. We take what feels like about eighteen rolls of film, from which one
frame later gets used.
Martin is staying with friends near Loch Gruinart, in the north-east of the island, but
later comes to stay in the other self-catering flat along with Oliver, and apparently turns
out to be an extremely good guitarist, though Ann and I miss the impromptu concert.
Later it turns out we know people in common; Martin's done a lot of album covers, in-
cluding one or two for Shooglenifty; one of my favourite bands, plus I know a couple
of the guys. Actually, the last time I saw Malcolm the guitarist was at my birthday bash
in February; I vaguely recall getting all excited about a plan we hatched together about
doing a joint musical/literary tour of Cuba with - hopefully - British Council money. I
have a nasty feeling I was supposed to write the letter proposing this to the BC. Durn; I'd
better tell Malc about my gratuitous passport-destroying antics …
We go mob-handed to the Machrie for dinner, utilising the bus-like carrying capacity
of the Defender to transport everybody in one go. It's on the way back in the darkness
that I'm warned about the kamikaze proclivities of the local deer population, especially
between the hotel and the farm, and so crawl dutifully along at 30 miles an hour, eyes
peeled for antlers craftily disguised as branches lurking with malevolent intent amongst
the roadside trees.
Each evening, I'm watching the progress of the war. It opens without the shock and awe
we've been promised, but on the other hand there are no sudden chemical or biologic-
al counter attacks either. Which is good, obviously. Yet just a micron suspicious, too. I
mean, if you've got weapons of mass destruction - as we have been so assiduously and