GORDON URQUHART – A Retired Australian Businessman Comments Irrelevantly On The News

Gordon Urquhart – A Retired Australian Businessman Comments Irrelevantly On The News[1]

The good people of Scotland have decided against independence then. It’s hard to know whether this is a bad thing or a good thing. Certainly the British Prime Minister seems a thoroughly affable man and I can see why you would want to keep him in charge. Whenever I hear David Cameron’s voice it reminds me of a chap called Snellgrove – “Smelly” Snellgrove, we called him (his name was Charles) – who went to my school Frencham as an exchange student in the early 1960s. We won so many debates with Smelly as our third speaker, primarily because he charmed people with his beautifully modulated Home Counties tones, but if you got up close to him, well, he proved that the joke about English people never washing had some foundation. We used to say it was because he hadn’t brought a servant with him and he didn’t know how to lather his own soap, which may or may not have been true.

Lovely chap he was. Went to work for BP and appeared on the news a few years ago, fielding questions about that oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He gave non-answers, but they sounded commanding.

Whenever I think about Scotland I always recall the time Nancy and I spent there in 1978, as guests of the Laird of Invergowrie and his wife, at Clouston Manor on one of the lochs up in the Highlands. Hugh Masters, the laird’s real name, was a mate of mine from Cambridge. He was studying there when my rugby team arrived on tour and flooded the entire ground floor of his college when a plumbing prank we called “make your own geyser” went wrong. He was very good about the damage done to his room, accepting a keg of beer in compensation, and we became firm friends, culminating in a week of lavish hospitality and shooting at his family home some fifteen years later.

We became business associates, the best kind of associates.

It was a beautiful estate. A shade of green unlike the grass at home, so deep and dark, with misty evocative drizzle most of the time, especially in the morning when we saw a majestic stag standing proudly on a ridge about a hundred metres away, surveying his own realm. We missed him, unfortunately, but managed to bag dozens of grouse, a badger and four grey squirrels, which are really hard to see when there’s mizzle around. I had a pair of shotguns made for me, by a firm in London which doubled as a tweed outfitter, and wrote off the bill as a business expense, as you were able to do in 1970s.

Hugh kept apologising for our meagre haul, although it seemed pretty impressive to me. Perhaps the Garrick we sipped, for tasting purposes, at breakfast and at every subsequent meal, had something to do with the inaccuracy of our aim. It all seems so hazy now, and it was probably a bit hazy then too, if I remember rightly the number of whisky bottles taken away every day by the butler, but it was a happy time for us all to sit there in front of the huge fireplace, in the baronial hall with faces of the many species who lived on the manor looking down on us from the wall where they had been mounted. My wife and I wore the Urquhart tartan, and the kilt can be a fetching garment on the right set of legs, but the Laird and Lady said they only wore “fancy dress” when Japanese tourists were around.

Scotland has a dear place in my heart with very fond memories. I became a confirmed Garrick drinker after my time at Clouston and became a passionate advocate for the cause of single malt, which is something I would always vote for.

[1] That could very well have been the title of a series of these little stories, which I offered to do by way of a submission to a competition in which a journal which was offering readers the chance to win their own column. It’s not a good name for a column, but I was attempting to be silly and funny and not take myself too seriously (which I don’t) and to show the judges that I don’t take myself too seriously either. It didn’t work, perhaps because it’s not very good. They didn’t like what I wrote in this sample column or my ideas for future columns, such as Gordon commenting on global warming or reminiscing about the Oscars, or at least they didn’t like them enough to offer me one of the cash prizes and the opportunity to be read by many people on a semi-frequent basis. But that’s OK. This is a kind of publishing, I suppose. (And yes, this is a serious footnote, not a jokey one, which is unusual for a Gordon story. Apologies for that.)

Published in: on October 13, 2014 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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