Having dampened local republican ardour during their recent tour of New Zealand and Australia, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit thinking-about-breaking-away Scotland next week. They’ll tour Glenturret Distillery near Crieff, Perthshire, next Thursday, to ‘bottle their own Glenturret whisky’, if you please. Sounds like a pro-union royal initiative, but what will First Minister Alex Salmond have to say? He claims he’d like the Queen to continue as Scotland’s head of state, although some of his supporters disagree. When HM said in her letter to the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly last week that she prays everyone ‘will work together for the social good of Scotland’, whatever the outcome of the referendum, Salmond’s response was unctuous, praising her ‘typically gracious and considered remarks’. The oily devil. By the way, the Middleton Ancient tartan — predominantly orange and green — is very nice. Will Kate give it an outing?
I was honoured to be invited to an unusual event on Saturday: a dinner dance in the Glenlivet distillery, billed as ‘An Evening For George’. A magnificent feast, preceded by refreshments from a ‘whisky fountain’, this memorial event was to honour the late Speyside whisky expert George Hook, whose informal symposiums I was privileged to attend occasionally in the Ghillies Bar of the Gordon Arms Hotel, Fochabers, Moray. A man of giant stature and forceful opinions, George was memorialised fittingly by around 100 friends who missed him in the presence of his widow, Alison. Young lawyer Louise Duncan sang the evening to a close around midnight with her sweet-sad rendition of Scotland’s moving unofficial anthem, ‘Caledonia’. Having lived most of my life in England, I again regretted the lack of a decent national dance, or song, south of the border. Is it Scotland’s innocent chauvinism (in its original sense) that fuels dreams of separation?
Stopped by the Craigellachie Hotel, in whisky country, to see what its new owner had made of the imposing, old Speyside edifice. He is Piers Adam, better known for running London drinking joints attended by the likes of Prince Harry. According to Tatler, he is ‘the nightlife supremo who started with the K Bar, owns young-royal-set-hangouts Mahiki and Whisky Mist, as well as co-owning the Punch Bowl with Guy Ritchie (he was one of Guy’s best men at his wedding to Madonna)’. No doubt Harry will be choppered over from nearby Balmoral when he gets a thirst on.
Aberdeen’s Press & Journal, aka the P&J, reports that a private Boeing 757 containing Donald Trump, ‘touched down’ at Dyce Airport. (Planes always ‘touch down’ — even when they land like a skipful of dustbins dropped from 100 feet onto a corrugated-iron roof.) The man whose combover hairdo deserves world heritage protection is trying to charm dour Aberdonian city fathers into protecting the views on his golf course at Menie Estate from a proposed offshore wind development in Aberdeen Bay. Hugely impressed by his 757, the P&J enthuses: ‘As for on-board refreshments, guests can sip Trump Ice Water complete with a picture of their host on the bottle.’ Lovely, but shouldn’t The Donald have offered them something stronger?
The RAF and their Nimrod jets have left Kinloss, which is now occupied by the Army, leaving the vast air base to the tiny (three small planes) Moray Flying Club. As a trainee pilot, I visited in the hope of fixing up an occasional lesson when I am in the area. On the club wall was a yellowing clipping from the Northern Scot saying Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceship might be launched from there. The company’s Will Whitehorn gave a talk there praising Moray as ‘a leading flying centre’ and saying Kinloss and Lossiemouth were under consideration as launch pads. But hope is fading in Moray. Perhaps like the ‘cargo cults’ who built replicas of planes in the jungle to attract the flying ships which had dropped food and medicines, Moray Flying Club could fabricate at Kinloss a mock-up of old beardie’s amazing space machine to bring a fading dream back to life.
My niece’s fridge displayed a clipping illustrating the close attention paid to crime in the Highland papers. Four men and a woman were involved in a ‘serious altercation’ at 1.30 a.m. in Nairn, said the Northern Constabulary. One man was in a horse costume, wearing a straw hat; another in a cow suit, sporting a brown hat. A conventionally dressed man had to be taken to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, but his injuries were ‘not life threatening’. A ‘laughing at, not laughing with’ fracas?
Peter McKay is a columnist for the Daily Mail, and a former editor of Punch.