Quote of the Day - Rich is not better.
This post is part of a continuing series on Scotland that started on April 2, 2006, so if you want to follow along from the beginning, scroll down and read back up chronologically.
Host Alan Grant of Skibo Castle treated us to tea and toast upon our arrival. Tea is a bit of a religion itself in Scotland, as it is across the United Kingdom. Ceremony is complete as it is delivered with bone china saucers and cups, a silver tea service with the pot, creamer, sugar and strainer that straddles both sides of the cup, all properly placed on a silver tray, thank you very much.
Grant, however, stands diametrically different than what you would expect in an old castle of wood parquet floors, marble water closets, wood-paneled walls, old hanging portraits of people dressed in full Highland regalia and dark suits who died some hundreds of years ago as the Marquis of the Grand Duke somebody-or-other. Apart from what would appear to be a stodgy castle, it is Alan's shoes that strike you first.
Zebra-striped, fur covered cowboy boots that rise to just above his ankles, purchased, he claims, in Amsterdam (likely one of the only places you could find a pair of boots like this) with zippered sides but not zipped up, and topped with a pea-green pair of pants he dyed himself. This outfit (is there any other way to describe it?) was capped off with a three-quarter sleeved, striped dull orange and blue thrift-shop shirt covering a rumpled white mock turtle-neck, and a crop of ever-so-unruly curly grey hair and a burly salt-and-pepper moustache and half goatee just below his lower lip. Despite this outwardly spot-on eccentric appearance, Alan immediately conveys the warmth and closeness and genuine care that you know only from your closest, long-time childhood friend.
Grant is the self-styled resident ''deconstructor" of Skibo Castle, reminding its mega-millionaire, nay billionaire, members that neither position nor possessions can define them once inside the castle walls. All were equals, especially around Carnegie's dinner table, where it is instead now Alan Grant who holds court (he calls it his office). Privilege, I suppose, gave us the opportunity to have a four-hour conversation with this luminary, a philosopher without parallel.
Perhaps he developed his philosophies as a sheepherder (yes, that was his previous job prior to presiding over club members), but he has the uncanny ability to see your soul and delightfully allow you to see a glimpse of yourself as you listen to his incisive thoughts about life. You can't help but walk away from Skibo marveling not only about its grandeur, but also about those who occupy its walls and vast grounds. Alan would deny it, but he is every bit on par with economist Adam Smith and other great Scottish philosophers.
It is that grandeur that is Scotland; its history, its struggles, its edifices, its striking and weather and geography of both the Highlands and the Lowlands that have shaped it. But more important than all that, it is Scotland's people who set this nation apart from the rest, a place you will not want to miss on your journey through life. Today was my last day in Scotland, and I'm sad to leave, but comforted by the thought that I can return to the bosom of this country's wonderful lads and lassies again.
While MIPTC says goodbye to Scotland, stay tuned for Wales, coming tomorrow.