This is not about the whisky. It should be, Oban is all about the whisky, but this is not. This is about water, sadly unsullied by the famous, local, single malt, matured in American bourbon barrels(!) for twelve reverent years.
The distillery is just there, off the main street, right in the centre of this quaint harbour town.
I woke early that day, sunrise it would have been, if the sky had not been leaden with clouds plotting their downpour and my imminent downfall. Visions of fish and chips floated through my prone, early morning mind. Fish and chips followed by my hips, all of them stodgy. I could have, should have, stopped then but the vision called up action.
I made myself upright and, in the considerate dark of the bedroom -- not wanting to wake my slumbering husband -- I fumbled for my dormant active wear. Minutes later I was out the door of the dear little stone cottage and gazing, dazed, around me at the slick-wet cobbled street leading down to the harbour. The air was wet but I chose to read it as damp, just a little.
I set off, and because the first part was dramatically downhill, I felt brave and exuberant. The fish and the chips were separating from my hips. I ran on, almost like a runner, past closed corner stores and sleepy terrace houses. Down, down, down to the deserted waterfront.
The air was wetter. I saw the glorious dazzle of a white swan floating among the fishing boats in the dingy morning light. The waterfront curved and I ran around it, now just a little bit damp, like the air. Ahead of me the path swept away towards a misty, distant headland. Fabulous mansions turned bed and breakfasts, reared up on my left. A lanky boy, singular and sullen in a dark hoodie, sloshed past me, head down. I smiled broadly.
That was the way there.
On the way back the rain that had been drenching the oblivious back of me addressed itself to my face and the more wide awake front of me. Delighted with the vulnerability of its quarry, it proceeded to pelt down. I wore a jacket with feathers in it, a bit like the swan but not waterproof, not even water repellant. We, my jacket and I, were officially water absorbent and the running, which turned to walking often, felt more like swimming. I started thinking of what the downhill would be like going up. I looked around for a cab. There wasn’t one. Just as well, I had no money on me, so lighthearted and carefree had been my departure earlier.
When finally I stepped into the civilized quiet of The Manor House I left a damp trail behind me on the thick blonde carpet. My hair and jacket feathers were wringing wet, my face red and glistening. I was as victorious as one ought to be, surprised by the miracle of home and dryness.
The whisky happened later that day, bless its little heart. We did a one hour tour of the old Oban distillery culminating in a sacred, peaty, sipping. I limped a bit, in fact I limped a lot, and for many weeks after. The rain, the distance, my lack of runninghood had done something odd to my right knee that it wasn’t likely to forget for some time. Ah well, as my dad says, whisky is medicinal.