Last night I dreamt of Bute again…and the haunted hotel on the hill.
I’d never thought about how small Bute, the island I grew up on, was until Jose pointed out to me that El Hierro was a bigger island with more of a population…jeez, that made Bute seem really small.
I hadn’t really thought about Bute for a long time, but a couple of things recently had me reminiscing about the island ‘doon the water’ as it used to be referred to by holidaymaking Glaswegians. The first was when Andy, Jose, Colin Kirby and I had taken some time out from the hot steep La Orotava streets during Corpus Christi to have a beer and some pinchos in the cool leafy shade of a guachinche beside the town hall. I was telling Jose about the fact that people born on Bute were called Brandanes after St Brendan, coincidentally also the name of the Canary Island’s legendary eighth island (I’m not counting those other little ones near Lanzarote), San Borondón. I’m not sure how we got on to the subject of Bute, I think it was something to do with links between Scotland and Tenerife, but as we were speaking pretty bad Spanish (clearly not Jose); it could have been some other reason altogether.
The other thing that made me think of Bute was an excellent interview with Jack Nicholson I’ve just read. The interview was about the experiences he had working with Stanley Kubrick during the making of The Shining.
The Shining is the scariest book that I’ve ever read and the reason it reminds me of Bute is for the same reason that the book terrified me. At the time I read it a thousand years ago I was an impressionable youth working as a night porter in a grand old Victorian hotel which dominated the hillside overlooking Rothesay Bay.
As if choosing a book like The Shining to keep me company in the dead of night wasn’t foolhardy enough, at the time I read the book the hotel was closed for the winter and most of the lights were turned off to save on the electricity bills. Part of my job involved walking the corridors with a flashlight to make sure everything was in order. If you know the plot of The Shining you’ll realise that, whilst you probably couldn’t have dreamt up a more appropriate environment for reading The Shining, it might not have been the smartest move I ever made to read it under these circumstances. I spent night after night positively crapping myself.
There were places in that hotel which terrified me; places which sent the hairs on the back of my neck standing to attention like soldiers on parade. The toilet outside the ballroom where a guest had once been found dead, Elvis style. Every time I passed Room 201…and I don’t even know what happened there. I could tell you two or three tales of incidents which convinced me that if there weren’t such things as ghosts, there were some things at least that I couldn’t explain away…but maybe another time.
Anyway, these incidents reminded me of Bute and funnily my mum, who still lives on the island, phoned as I was writing this. My mum’s 77 and still works. She looks after old people would you believe? That cracks me up. She’s just told me about a woman she helps who’s 101. Last time she visited her, the old dear asked my mum to phone the police because her mother had gone out and hadn’t returned!
The funny thing is that Bute is an absolutely stunning island; especially the bit that crosses into the highlands…it is a scenery overdose. And yet I’ve hardly got a photo of it. I also know far more about Tenerife than I do about the place where I grew up despite it having a history which makes Tenerife’s seem like a toddler.
It’s strange how sometimes you only recognise the uniqueness and beauty of your hometown from a distance.