Richard Lutz wanders through the dying embers of Lockdown Land.
For Sale: Thirteen year old Ford. Colour: Black. Description: Saloon with geeky rubber trolls hanging from its rear mirror. Mileage: Good chance it’s been once around the clock. To view: On the Strathcarrick beachfront where it’s been sitting for the last three months. Price: Name it and it’s yours.
Everyone in the village knows about the black Mondeo, abandoned with the grass growing wheelbase high as the summer emerges. It’s one of two cars that are regular points of navigation as I deliver food and messages to those that can’t leave their homes during lockdown.
The other car is a fairly snappy white Seat. It’s not abandoned. As a matter of fact, it’s fully functioning with a driver. Almost every morning, it’s parked on the shore looking out at the ever-changing sea. Inside is a man on his mobile, and you can hear both sides of the conversation because it’s on speakerphone. And it’s on max audio, too. He sits behind the wheel and amiably chats to the unseen voice. Nothing of import. But the whole world hears about friends and family, about the virus, about football and gossip. About food.
Why here though overlooking the sea, Stratchcarrick beach the shape of a shell, the Isle of Arran, the Kintyre peninsula and, far far off, the top of the peaks of the islands of Islay and Jura (though we are unsure about that last point). Why here every morning?
Today the car chat is all about pubs. They’ll open next week down south in England. But not in Scotland. It makes for instant debate.
At John V’s house, I drop off bread, the paper, milk (blue topped), six eggs, a dozen Ayrshire potatoes that go by the local nickname GEGs. That stands for Girvan Early Growers and that indicates they were picked from the local fields. John, known as Jake, has eye problems after a life spent buying, selling and leasing huge agricultural machines that lumber up and down the county roads and keep food on the table. He’s not happy with the eggs I bring. They’re called Tartan Tasters and on the box is a pair of chickens in kilts playing bagpipes. The logo is “Only the shell can tell”.
“Just tell Paul to give me the brown eggs from McLaughlins.” Why, I ask, because I’m kind of partial to kilted chickens. “These,” he points to The Tasters, “have no taste. I need yellow yolks.”
I return to Paul’s shop to tell him about The Tasters, the yellow yolks and the shell that can’t tell. But before I go in, I’m sidetracked by a guy with a six foot python wrapped around his neck. I ask Paul about it. It’s not a normal sight in Strathcarrick, a snake curled around a person. “That’s Ian, Mary’s nephew,” he explains, as if that explains anything.
“He loves his snakes.” But, he adds, finding a box of McLaughlin grade A eggs: “Just don’t get Ian started on his tarantulas.”
I promise that I won’t. Pythons, I can handle. But not tarantulas. They give me the creeps.