After thoroughly investigating Huntly Castle, I wandered around town to see what else there might be of interest. The residential areas were unremarkable, lined with horrid pebble-dash houses.
I spotted a church that looked slightly interesting and started to cross the street when I sensed a vehicle driving along slowly behind me. I was just about to turn and yell, “Fuck off, creep!” when I heard Richard calling, “Anne, do you want to ride back to Dunrovin with me?”
Feeling a little sheepish, I hopped into the Land Rover and declined a ride all the way back to the house but accepted a lift to the square.
Lynn had sold all the raffle tickets and was now just enjoying chatting with all her fellow Huntly-ites. I stepped into the library—built by someone akin to Andrew Carnegie but who did not emigrate to America. What a ceiling!
Sadly, while there was all sorts of hustle and bustle just outside, the library was dead. The librarian looked up hopefully when I entered, pegged me as a tourist, and went back to whatever she was working on.
I walked down one street, then another. There was the wonderful Huntly Area Cancer Support Centre.
When my sister had cancer, she was handed sheaths of paper with links to websites where she could get information and support. Ditto for her kids and me and my mother as caregivers. But what my sister—who is an extreme extrovert—could have really used was a place to just go and hang out—with real people.
Lynn was done now and caught up with me. “Let’s stop in at the bookshop,” she said, “I need to talk to someone there about the Hairst.” The Hairst is like a mega farmers market, a harvest festival held once a year in Huntly that draws people from all over. The Hairst would feature the Harry Potter children’s party, which Lynn was helping to organize, a dog show, and other events.
Bookshop, as its name implied, sold books. But it was all volunteer run, and it served as a place to drop in and chat about books, art, and community events.
Lynn talked with the volunteer at the till while I nosed around.
In addition to book, local “makers” sold their hand-made toys and cards and hand-knit scarves. There was a sunny children’s nook, and I perused the Scottish-themed children’s books. Another volunteer seemed to be tailing me. Did she think I was a shoplifter?
“Are you American?” she finally asked. Ah, that was it. She had heard me speak and wanted to bend my ear about my war-mongering country and the insane Cheeto we have for a president.
I briefly considered claiming to be Canadian but if she caught me that would reinforce the stereotype of the untrustworthy American.
Instead she gushed, “Oh I so love America. It’s too bad ….” Her voice trailed off.
“I know, I know,” I said.
Then we talked about the bookstore and Huntly and what a cold summer it was. Her name was also Ann but without an “e”. She appeared to be about my age, and she lived with her mother. “Mother needs round-the-clock care, so I can’t work and I only get two hours a day respite so I come to the bookstore to do a shift.”
So she volunteered during her two hours out of 24 that she was free. Some people are a lot more self-sacrificing than I would be. She was clearly ready for a long, long chat but I really wanted to check out the merch, so I just told her, “I don’t mean to be rude, but I’d really like to take a look at the books and the cards and so on.”
She smiled rather sadly and I felt a bit guilty but then I got lost in the books. There were cheap used books and some new ones. There were loads of old coffee table books with Scottish themes and history books about valiant Scottish history and people. I cursed myself for blowing my cash on a made-in-China scarf at the Castle, although it did have cute foxes all over it.