The Scottish Book Trust’s project this year is on Journeys – a theme which can be interpreted in so many ways. I thought I’d put my own attempt on here, just as it appears on the Book Trust Website. Check it all out for yourself at http://scottishbooktrust.com/writing/journeys – there is still time to submit!
Celebrate Good Times, Come On
I raised my eyebrows.
“He’ll be there, don’t worry.”
I was still unconvinced. “How will I recognise him if I’ve never ever met him? Do you have a photo?”
My friend Louie shook his head and giggled, as if suddenly struck by a thought of pure genius.
“Look. He’s called Fergus MacNeill, right? And when we worked together in London, he used to really like this song: Celebration by Kool & The Gang. That can be your signal.”
To me, an uninitiated German about to move to Scotland for the duration of my degree, Louie was the nearest thing to a native: a Londoner, albeit jobbing in Germany, but with a host of useful connections. One of these, his friend Fergus, was to pick me up from Glasgow Airport, drop me at his parents’ house overnight and see me onto some sort of transport to Edinburgh the morning after.
Simple and straightforward. But this was Louie.
“Sing the song. That way he’ll definitely know it’s you.” Louie winked.
I decided to leave it – after all, I didn’t want him to think the wind-up was working.Barely a week later, I’d done the necessary. Guitar and gargantuan backpack stored in the plane’s hold, I sat in my seat on the edge of the atmosphere and cried.
I cried for the parents I’d left behind, for my sister about to give birth, for the enormity of my decision – and for the country disappearing under clouds beneath me, which would no longer be my home as soon as I touched down on Scotland’s rain-soaked asphalt.It was dusk. The businessman beside me pushed his way into the queue; in fact, everyone who had dozed and lazed their way through the flight was suddenly in a rush. Except me. Like the landing jolt, it struck me – I wasn’t just scared of going. I was scared of arriving! What had possessed me to want to come here?
Guitar and backpack reclaimed, I shuffled through the exit gate. For all these complete strangers knew, I was naturally puffy-faced and red-nosed, and I had more important things to worry about anyway: Finding Fergus. I scanned the crowd, already thinning with joinings and leavings. A couple of guys were tall, I guess. I sauntered past them both. Neither of them paid me the slightest bit of attention.
If there is a way of waiting in an arrivals lounge late at night without looking panicked, I didn’t know about it – until it struck me. Stroke of genius, Louie! Very funny! He’s primed Fergus not to declare himself until…
I took a deep breath. So be it! Picking my guitar up, I sauntered past the first tall man who had sat down by now. Humming, with ever increasing volume as I passed. ‘Celebrate good times, come on…’
He looked up, but not with recognition. With something else I’d rather not think about.
I decided to give the other man a try, even though he was now hugging an elderly woman who’d been on the plane behind me. Singing timidly now: ‘Celebrate good times, come on…’ I’m ashamed to admit; I even sang the guitar riff which follows.
Both tall men disappeared down the empty arrival lounge, but, come to think of it, Louie was small. Maybe, to him, almost anyone would be tall. Nothing for it. ‘CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES…’
By the time I heard loud running footsteps echoing, I was pretty much singing out all my desperation at top volume. A ridiculously tall young man ran into the hall, where by now only a few people milled around – most of them cleaners – and a singing German student. He’d gone to the wrong gate by mistake.
By now, almost 25 years later, this country has become my country. I have arrived.
And if you recall a very odd time at Glasgow airport where a dishevelled then-foreign teenager spontaneously burst into song, maybe now you understand.