Richard Lutz peers over the garden fence to watch a new resident move in.
A long-held cottage in the family name always beckons me back to Scotland. It has housed relatives for more than 150 years. Right next to Trump’s recently purchased Turnberry Hotel.
He’s pumping £200 million, it is said, into a major refurb of the Ayrshire resort which means any sparks, plasterers, plumbers or decorators within 80 miles are booked til the spring as his crews renovate the twin coastline courses, the 100 year old hotel (above) and the clubhouse which I recently noted had a framed picture of Trump behind the cashier’s desk, maybe to check up that the tips were evenly distributed by the tartan-trousered hackers coming off the 18th.
The presidential candidate in waiting (he is still only a Republican hopeful) quickly handed over day to day management to his son Eric. Intermittently, Trump Snr whirrs over my two bedroom cottage in his black chopper as he lands to see the latest improvements.
Most times, there are TV cameras there to capture his arrival. And it’s surreal to see the man half a mile away from me as he ensures he grabs the attention of the world’s media. The last time I knew he landed, he had slapped on a red baseball cap emblazoned with the slogan Make America Great Again and lambasted Obama and then pontificated about American affairs, including his latest thoughts on the Latino population. All this in front of his Scottish hotel with Scottish weather and mainly Scottish reporters. Turnberry – or Trump Turnberry as it has been re-named – is just another backdrop for a Trump political diatribe.
Slowly, as we watch from the neighbouring village which backs onto one of the hotel’s two courses, we wonder how the billionaire will play out things at this grand hotel from the past. After all, he is not only our neighbour, our billionaire neighbour, but employer to hundreds of folks around here who service the hotel, wait on tables, cook, run the back offices.
Will he buy our shoreline village common ground (which ironically has always had a sign that reads “No Golf”), tarmac it and slap a chopper landing pad right in front of us?
Will he buy out the small harbour trust and welcome in bling yachts? Will he tight-arm the county politicians, who are close to special measures because of financial problems, and force a new roadway system to guarantee another British Open which was last held here in 2009?
No one knows. But he has had his ups and downs with his other Scottish golf purchase.
The other one being the infamous Aberdeenshire development which was held up for a while by a single guy who refused a purchase bid and hung to his bit of private ground. It turned out to be a David and Goliath rumble well beloved by journalism. Trump then subsequently fell out with Alex Salmond, formerly first minister of Scotland, and then started moaning about wind farm plans off his North Sea Coast. Scots politicians are real rottweillers, as you know, and it descended into a right brawl.
So, will he get uppity in south-west Scotland at Turnberry…sorry, Trump Turnberry?
Will some bolshie neighbour refuse an offer and find that the big wheeler dealers and their henchmen can get churlish? So far, none of that.
And more to the point, there have been no reports of community investment such as helping out with the new public swimming pool in nearby Girvan which the town so desperately needs. Or helping out with the pot-holed roads that mar this part of the county. Just the raising of the biggest flag you’ve ever seen over his clubhouse – a St Andrews flag, natch – blowing proudly in the brisk Scottish south-westerlies.
My own opinion is that my new neighbour, once he throws in the towel in the American election bid, will wait it out so he can finally own a golf course that hosts an Open. Then, I think, he can greet the royalty, the A-grade celebrities, the hotshot post-Tiger golfing heroes and the seriously rich folks who drink and network their way through an Open.
Then he’ll sell the place back to the Dubai crowd (who once owned it), back to Starwood Hotels (who once owned it), back to the Marquis of Ailsa (who originally owned it) …or anyone, for that matter, who likes big prestige golf venues. And then Donald Trump will move on.
But who knows? He might fall in love with the South Ayrshire coast, with its views of Arran, Ailsa Craig and the Clyde estuary, and might even swing a little weight and get that bad road camber near my bus stop ironed out. Or increase the once an hour buses that whisk you to Ayr over backroads. Or pay for some permanent dredging around the tiny village marina. That’ll be neighbourly, real fine and dandy neighbourly.
After all, you know how friendly Americans are.