An Accidental Songwriter and Moors, Music and Meditation. Mountain Bothy’s and Fans- a peculiarly Scottish way of gaining a few fans.

Now finding a fan base for ones music is particularly important – if you want anyone to appreciate one’s work. The obvious way to go about is to gig in all kinds of venues. A  hut, a wild mountain side and the pouring rain does not seem to be the environment where one would pick up fans. But, life is never predictable…..!

 My husband and I decided we needed to find free ways of creating some adventures. In Scotland, there are these wonderful things called “ Mountain Bothys” .  Bothys are traditionally where itinerant farm labourers would live or stay. They are extremely basic  but usually have a fire- but often no loo ( not fun in the pouring rain!). Mountain Bothy’s are now owned by the  Scottish Mountain Bothy Association and they are free for anyone enjoying the wilderness to stay in. They are in wild remote places and can only be hiked in to.  The bothy code is to obviously keep it clean, welcome whoever turns up ( even if there is no sleeping space), share your fire- your logs ( that you have to  lug in) , your candles and your alchohol and conversation. 

An adventure! 

So off we set plus dog- my husband looked like a pack horse and I looked something like a squashed dormouse with my back pack. Only the dog bounded carefree through the heather. We had blithely thought that 5 miles would be no difficulty for hiking. But, it is quite different walking with a full pack and then there was an issue with the terrain itself. It had rained pretty much constantly for three weeks- the weekend we went was supposed to clear up. We did set off with patches of blue sky but it deteriorated from then on, finally becoming a constant rainfall. The ground was sodden already so the already indistinct path going up and down gulleys through boulders was a sucking quagmire of sticky black treacle! Not easy to walk through plus fording streams- without toppling over- and jumping from boulder to boulder with a full pack on.

 Three hours later we arrived at where we though the bothy would be only to see a ruin on the other side of a raging burn. By this point my legs were shaking, I was covered in sweat and I ached from hauling myself over boulders. I felt like crying and was concerned that twilight was about to descend and we had nowhere to sleep- (I imagined sleeping out in the rain with the survival blankets taped together with duck tape for good measure. ) My husband thought we could ford the stream at it’s entry into the sea- if we took our trousers, socks and boots off to get to the ruin which would afford some measure of shelter! We were just debating this when 8 burly men bounded up – also going to the bothy. The bothy was apparently upstream – through more boulders and across a bridge. We gratefully followed them – by this point I was nearly crawling, to the welcome shelter of the bothy. Never have I been so glad to see four walls and a roof! 

Usually bothy’s only have a handful of people staying in them- and it is often a chance to meet interesting people who like doing wild mucky things and love nature and having interesting quirky lives. However, this particular weekend there was a massive party of men who had all been at uni versity together and were having a reunion . Altogether, with all the various parties of people, there were 16 of us. Fifteen men and me! And, another dog too. So, our imagination of having a room to ourselves was definitely out the window. All the bedrooms were taken as we were the last to walk in- which meant we just managed to squeeze into a space on the landing  under a skylight, with our very wet dog nearly on top of us. ( This skylight was ill fitted and the rain came through on top of us all night- luckily we had the survival blankets which kept the worst off!)

The ex uni crowd had their own party going on with a fire by a ring/outcrop of stones – they looked like something from the outlander movie. We stayed by the lovely warm fire and candles, chatting to another group of men; Fraser, Mick and his brother Joe. Mike is now the harbour master for the town next to Dubai. His brother is a photographer who does quirky things, I think for the Guardian and Fraser was a retired blacksmith- who never stopped talking and was full of tales, quirks, humour and was generally like a stand up comedian. They brought out their whisky, we brought out our home made barley wine and the evening turned out to be one of the most lively, interesting and fun that I have had in a long while…

At some point my singing/songwriting came up and my unusual childhood growing up with all things medieval. Fraser had a field day with it….asking if we had eaten off wooden platters, playing ditty’s on our recorders whilst our mother carded wool and skipped about singing madrigals. `The thing is- he was not far wrong, at all- which made it even funnier! It became a bit of a tipsy theme for the evening and gave much hilarity. Mike made some notes of my website and song, Phoenix, ( on youtube ) which he said he would look at once he got back to modernity .

We all parted company the next morning- my husband and I having to do the whole arduous journey in reverse. I didn’t really expect the guys to follow up on checking me out etc, I thought it was a passing interest due to a tipsy conversation as we sat around a flickering fire with the wind howling outside. But, I was wrong. A few weeks later I found the most lovely comment from Mike on my Youtube Phoenix song – (He was the harbour master out in the United Arab Emirates. )( Something along the lines of it being a great track and that I had a stunning voice!)

Lovely to pick up a few fans- but I do rather hope it won’t always be so physically arduous to do so! Perhaps I should do a Mountain Bothy Tour! A soggy singer, wet  probably vicariously tuned insturments, with the ambient lighting of candles accompanied no doubt by the sound of wind and rain! Hmm, I am sure the audience would be small. I think, that only in Scotland would one pick up fans in this curious and uniquely rustic way!

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