Patch Wilson, Scotland. Photo: Al Mackinnon
‘Left! Left! Just the left ye cont!’
I am hitting a heavy, sand-filled punchbag with my left hand only, which is hard work. I am only using my left on the fierce instruction of the punchbag’s owner.
The punchbag is in the lounge (!) of a council house in a seaside town on an uncelebrated part of the Scottish coast.
It is hard work using only the left, and also hard because the man shouting has just made me smoke some of his horrible hash through a Coke can. I have a hash headache. I am panting.
The man shouting ‘Left!’ at me is a local surfer cum fixer stroke guide, named Murdo.
Murdo is about 5 foot 3, flat, broken nose, wears t-shirts in freezing weather, and has a rapid twitchy gait. Murdo drives a mid 80’s Ford Sierra Ghear, and is one of the scariest people I have ever met.
On his lap sits his girlfriend, watching. Julie. She is young (25 to his 40) and beautiful, but also bruised. She is looking at us, my friends and I, in a certain way.
I mean, she is on his lap in the lounge with the punchbuch swinging from the ceiling looking fragile and beautiful and making eyes. I try not to notice but can’t help but notice that Julie has strange bruises on both arms. The eyes are making me even more scared of Murdo than the bruises.
Having passed the initiation of a few three-minute left-only rounds, we are officially in the circle of trust. Presumably, Murdo has sized up, based on my punching ability, how long it would take him to either kill or incapacitate me. My guess is between nought and two seconds.
He takes us to a couple of surf spots, they are all lefts, three lefts, in fact, all next to each other. We surf the lefts but he doesn’t. He watches.
During the week, he knows our every move. Where we’ve been/surfed/eaten/drank/parked the van. He knows where we are going before we do. Murdo also runs a cafe.
“Come for a slap up brekkie, like. Julie’ll make yese big slap up plates o’ brekkie.”
“Oh thanks that’s kind”
“It’s no for free yae cont!” He barks. He had a tendency to do that passive aggressive thing.
Julie winks. I shudder.
We eat cereal bowls in the van instead.
Towards the end of our trip, the lefts are on fire. Smoking. Nobody out but us. During the sesh we spy the all familiar Sierra Ghear arrive, then leave.
Back on land we discover the van window has been waxed, a tyre let down (but not slashed) and there is a human turd by the driver door. We are perplexed. What does this mean? Was this morning one slap-up brekkie snub too many?
We roll towards the main road, debriefing on this apparent throwing down of gauntlet/chilling of Anglo-Caledonian relations.
Left is the direction of the A road south, across Hadrien’s Wall, to England.
To relative summer, to safety. Right is back into town. More immediately right is the driver’s side window, which says E N G L I S H C U N T S in cold water wax.