During our second day with the MacLeod family, Eamon acted as our unofficial tour guide. We spent the entire morning gathered around the living room chatting away, when we were joined by Lena, the 5th Couch Surfer. Eamon made us what he called “egg in hole.” The name makes sense; you bite a hole in the middle of your slice of bread, and then you cook an egg in said hole. It was delicious! Doris knew them as “Egyptian one eyes.”
Eamon then showed us a YouTube video of his guitar superstar son, Malcolm, working all sorts of magic on his acoustic guitar. It wasn’t just that his hands were moving fast, or that he was using the guitar as a percussion instrument while playing the strings, it was the unique ways that he played the strings that awed me. His hands had minds of their own. They explored every square millimetre of the guitar neck. And he was only 15! And he’d only been playing for two years! I’m telling you now, people; keep an ear open for Malcolm MacLeod from Loch Ness! Like his father, Malcolm worshipped John Frusciante, formerly of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I’m sure he’ll have his own fans in no time.
The crazy thing is, though, that everybody in that house seemed to be able to play an instrument. Hence why there was an entire supply of instruments just laying around everywhere! Rihanan could play the ukulele, guitar, piano, and possibly another, and could sing beautifully as well! Later in the afternoon, she played what is quite possibly the best rendition of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on acoustic guitar that I’ve ever heard. And she’s only thirteen!
Eamon could play a couple of instruments as well. Hell, he’s the one who started teaching Malcolm the basics on guitar. Apparently , though, Malcolm picked up a lot of the tricks on display in his video from previous Couch Surfers who had come through. They’d show him how to play something, and he’d absorb it like a sponge.
And therein lies the beauty of hosting people in your home. I loved that Eamon was exposing his children at such a young age to people from all walks of life. It’s a totally unique learning experience unlike anything they’d ever learn in the classroom. It teaches them to be more open and accepting of differences. It also encourages to come out of their shells, as they’re constantly encountering new people and are exposed to such a wide variety of influences. Verena mentioned that since they started hosting people, Rihanan had become much more confident and she was no longer bullied in school. Verena was also happy to host myself and Doris because it showed Rihanan and Malcolm that it’s totally normal for a brother and sister to be very close and travel together
Billy, Eamon’s friend, came strolling through the door like Kramer in Seinfeld. They chatted away, and we learned that Billy, too, could play an instrument. (Of course he could.) His weapon of choice: The bagpipes. I asked him how exactly the bagpipes work, and he pulled out a recorder-looking piece from beside the dining table. I blurted out, “Oh, it’s like a recorder!” and he (jokingly) looked at me like I’d just insulted his mother. “Don’t you ever say that again,” he said.
Eventually, we left on our tour of Loch Ness with our guide, Eamon. (Minus Billy; he had to go into the city.) We drove out to Clootie Well, a wishing well. Along the way, though, we stopped on the side of the road to take in these beautiful hills of lavender.
The Clootie Well was just a small hole in the ground, but the magical part was the clothes hanging everywhere. People leave behind an article of clothing and make a wish.
This is an ancient tradition that was practiced in Scotland and Ireland. People believed that leaving behind a piece of clothing would cure them of their illnesses. Once Christianity came into the picture, the tradition was adopted by the new faith, and each local church became associated with a well. It was quite the popular practice in the early 1400’s.
When the Roman Church booted the Celtic Church in Scotland, such pagan rituals became taboo. The number of wells began to decrease until the Act of Parliament in Scotland made these wells entirely illegal in Scotland in 1581.
According to the Internets, this wishing well has been in service since AD 620. Pilgrims would circle the well three times before splashing some of its water three times on the ground. A cloth that had been touched by the ill person would then be tied to a nearby tree. The illness would gradually go away as the cloth deteriorated.
Unfortunately, today people tend to leave articles of clothing made of synthetic material, which will never break down. This is not only bad for the environment, but it’s also not good for the ill person in need of a cure. If the clothing doesn’t break down, they’ll never be cured!
An alternative, and far more terrifying practice, was apparently to leave an ill child stranded in the forest overnight in hopes that they’d be healed by the morning. Hope you brought a night light, little one!
After the Clootie Well, we went to a beach where dolphins are often spotted. We certainly saw our share that day! They were jumping and flipping all about! There were loads of them. People were huddled everywhere taking photos, but I just enjoyed the show they seemed to be putting on for all us silly humans.
Next up was another spot for making wishes. (I can see now why Scotland’s official animal is the unicorn.) This time, wee hiked along a muddy trail until we came to a waterfall. In front of the waterfall lay a couple logs with hundreds of coins hammered into them. Apparently people use a rock to hammer their coins into the log and make a wish.
So, when in Rome…
And so concluded our tour with Eamon. We headed home, and were serenaded by Malcolm and Rihanan while Eamon prepared us a delicious soup. Eventually, Eamon took the girls out for a swim while Doris and I stayed behind to get some rest.
We didn’t rest for very long, though, because not five minutes after Eamon left, a couple of French fellows showed up at the door. They were the last two Couch Surfers. Like Yana, they’d surfed with Eamon the previous year. (It’s very telling just how awesome the MacLeod family is that all these people keep coming back to Loch Ness. Believe me, they’re not coming back in hopes of spotting Nessy. They’re back because being a part of the MacLeod family is a unique and memorable experience.)
Doris, Malcolm, and I talked in the doorway and the kitchen for 90 minutes or so until the gang came back, at which time one of the two gentlemen produced a giant wheel of delectable French cheese they’d been carrying around in a plastic container with them throughout Scotland for the past week. As soon as they opened the container, though, half the room let out a huge moan. Apparently the cheese produced a wicked odour. I could only catch a whiff of it if I basically dug my nose into it. Whatever the smell was, though, it didn’t matter; it was delicious.
And of course, the French gentlemen could play guitar and sing as well; and so, yet another night was spent singing, laughing, and chatting away.
Now, Doris and I actually weren’t supposed to stay in Loch Ness on this day. The plan had been to set off for Applecross. But after the first day with the MacLeod family, we knew we had to change our plans. It was absolute organized chaos.