Sabrina and Simon probably aren’t the first total strangers Lynn and Richard have hosted.
I’ve met an array of guests at Dunrovin. Some were neighbors, some were overnight guests. Some memorable ones were Bekti, a delightful young student from Indonesia and her quieter co-traveler Ahmed, and Sippi, a British-Iranian woman who lives near Huntly but who spends most of her time in Afghanistan working on gender issues for NGOs. One of my visits also coincided with a visit by Lynn’s niece Lauren, who is a math tutor and plays the sax in a Pink Floyd tribute band.
Then there is Christina, Lynn and Richard’s foster daughter who came to them as a Congalese asylum seeker. She has now finished a degree, had two children with her Belgian partner who she met in Aberdeen, and moved to somewhere in Europe. Her kids are growing up speaking French, Dutch, and English. I can’t tell you how charming it is when a two-year-old Congolese-Dutch boy calls dogs “daw-gehs” with a Scottish burr.
I don’t know what Lynn had been planning for dinner, but she magically turned the haddock into delicious fish pies and fish stew. I wondered if we would have a haddock omelet for breakfast.
After dinner, Richard made a bonfire on the patio and we sat outside under the stars and drank wine and whisky.
Neither Lynn nor I drink whisky, so I think Richard was happy to have two whisky aficionados in Sabrina and Simon. Between whisky sampling, Sabrina would leap up onto the lawn and play with Pippin the spaniel, declaring, “I love him! I want to take him home!” I huddled an inch from the fire, dressed in long socks, pants, and several layers of sweaters and jackets, but she didn’t seem phased by the cool night air.
Richard had thrown open the French doors that led from his den onto the patio, from which wafted old timey jazz. He and Sabrina exchanged their impressive knowledge of obscure musicians. At least they were obscure to me.
I particularly liked the British group The Temperance Seven and the South African singer Al Bowlly, whom I believe would be called “jazz crooners.” Such simple, nostalgic music. I made a resolution to buy a record player and buy their music, and I eventually did. In addition to classical, it’s now my go-to tension tamer music when I’ve had enough of the news of the day and want to pretend I live in a simpler time that probably never existed.
The next day, Richard took Sabrina and Simon on a driving tour while Lynn and I worked and prepped for the tutors’ dinner. Well, Lynn did most of the work; I set the table. As I’ve written previously, Lynn and Richard are supporters of the Huntly Summer School, during which professional musicians tutor local children and adults in music. Lynn and Richard used to host the school at Dunrovin until it became such a success it had to be moved to the Huntly community center.
This is the Tin Hut.
The Tin Hut Sessions, a number of which I’ve been lucky enough to attend, have always impressed me with the caliber of musicians the volunteer committee manages to attract.
This evening was no different. I worried that Sabrina and Simon, being urban sophisticates (as much as we have such people in Minnesota), would think it was hokey. Those thoughts evaporated when the concert began. The voice of the featured artist, Shona Donaldson, reminded me of Sinead O’Conner. There was a Scottish musician who played ancient lutes or lyres, or at least that is what I gathered because I couldn’t understand a word he said.
After the concert he let some local kids pluck around.
At dinner later, I sat next to the Scottish guy and after 15 minutes of him enthusiastically speaking to me, I was still in the dark about who he was and his music. I smiled and nodded until, just in time, Lynn brought out the singing bowl she’d bought Bhutan, which everyone passed around to experiment with, including putting it on our heads and listening to the magic muted vibes it produced there. It was like being in a counter-ironic JP Sears video.