Matt Gemmell

TOLL is available now!

An action-thriller novel — book 2 in the KESTREL series.

★★★★★ — Amazon


personal 3 min read

We were down in Dumfries last weekend for the 21st birthday party of one of Lauren’s friends from high school. Uncommonly for events held in Dumfries, things turned slightly strange.

The first point of note was that the event was a full ceilidh, jointly for Laura’s birthday and her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. It was held at Easterbrook Hall at the Crichton, which interestingly used to be a mental asylum, housing Charles Doyle, the father of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) for the last years of his life.

Perhaps appropriately, then, all through the ceilidh a bat was constantly flitting through the air above the tables, seemingly desperate to escape from the music. Things got a little stranger still when the band finished their first set and announced that the buffet was ready in the adjoining room. Before we could go through to get something to eat, Lauren’s old English teacher from high school took the stage, picked up the microphone and said grace for all of us. The irritation of having religion foisted upon me notwithstanding, I found that pretty damn weird. I mean, it was a Friday night and everyone was already half-cut, men spinning women around the dance floor almost fast enough to topple them, and swapping partners every 30 seconds or so. Yet, god bless this feast, etc etc. Our table, at least, managed to keep mostly straight faces throughout the traditional Blessing of the Sausage Rolls.

Another old classmate of Lauren’s showed up clearly already very drunk, and proceeded to declare that “for once he liked her choice in boyfriends”, seemingly eager to be my bestest buddy in the whole wide world. Having forced tequila shots and more vodka and cokes into our hands, he disappeared for a while to go through his depressed drunk phase before brightening up again later in the evening.

After the ceilidh we got a lift to Green’s, a local pub (thanks to Harriet for being our designated driver). A few drinks later and it was off to the inevitable Jumpin’ Jak’s, where we met up with big Chris and got yet more drunk, eventually staggering out around 3 am or so.

When I say staggering, I mean that I was perhaps staggering a little, and Lauren was finding it almost impossible to stay upright. We made it as far as the near side of the suspension bridge (a walk of perhaps 3 minutes from Jak’s), before I had to stop us, take off Lauren’s heels, give her my shoes to wear, and walk back in my socks, supporting her all the way. Needless to say, when we went out the following night with Harriet, Alisdair and Lisa (Lauren’s sister, sometimes known as the Shrinkette), Lauren drank only water and orange juice the whole night.

As an aside, we took a walk down to the river on Saturday to get some fresh air, and noticed a bench in the middle of the River Nith (here’s another pic). Neither of us can quite recall if it was there in the previous night.

We were once again in Dumfries yesterday for the 21st birthday of the aforementioned Harriet, one of Lauren’s best friends from school; it was an excellent night, and I’ve posted some photos on my Flickr account.

At this point I’m pretty tired. Lisa moved into her student halls at Strathclyde yesterday so we went over to pay her a visit, then did a bit of shopping in the city centre, came back to the flat and immediately got into the car and drove down to Dumfries. We got there at about 5:30 pm and were out by 6:45 pm, not arriving back until almost 3 in the morning. Lauren’s folks had stayed in our flat in Glasgow so that someone would be nearby in the city during Lisa’s first night in student halls, so they were driving back down today. We passed them on the Dumfries bypass on our way back up, believe it or not. We finally arrived back here at 3 pm, making it a 23 hour round trip.

Upon getting into the flat, this little conversation took place:

Matt:You know what we should do in the next hour?
Lauren:Get pictures of you and me as babies and merge them to see what our babies will look like?
Matt:Uh... right. I was going to say we should go to the supermarket to get stuff for dinner.
Matt:And I am so blogging this.

Quite. So, in closing:

  • Happy Birthday to Harriet (and indeed to Laura), and also to Dianne when it comes.
  • Good luck to Lisa for her first year at uni!
  • In the immortal words of Derek, assert Dumfries == Long.MIN_VALUE + 1; (since it's fast becoming one of my favourite places to be).

Until next time, folks: do stay classy, and always remember to call me “Captain”.