‘Whisky and Bad Decisions…’
I have this logo on a tee shirt. It has a penguin on too but I’ve never really known why?! Once upon a time I thought that this tee shirt was an ironic reflection of my life, like some badge of honour, perhaps to make me look interesting or perhaps a comedy alternative to my ‘Jesus Loves You!’ or ‘Iron Maiden’ tees. True, there will always be poor choices in life, some that you can blame on whisky, whichever way you decide to spell it… but mostly I think that life just happens and you do what you think is right at the time. I certainly have made a few decisions that have been ‘questionable’ but then again I’ve also sampled a lot of whisky that was entirely enjoyable, except for that one night in a remote village in Corsica.. bad whisky and bad decisions.. but that’s a story for another week.
The George Hotel was full, which was not unusual considering that it was raining heavily in Inveraray. The waiter showed Koala and I to the only free table in the bar. Everyone was in black but luckily so were we… we had, unknowingly, crashed a funeral. I considered the options. We could apologise and leave to find some alternative free table elsewhere, along with the rest of the wet tourists desperately looking for shelter in Argyll or we could respectfully be ignorant to the waiters error? We, uncharacteristically chose the latter. A good decision.
Jeff Bradford strode into the saloon in his trademark baseball cap and mirrored shades. The assembled mourners turned in unison to witness this being from another land enter the bar like some hilariously surreal episode from Monty Python. Loud tattooed American enters 17th century Scottish Inn, in the middle of a wake, followed by a cameraman! But no one questioned the authenticity of his relationship to the deceased. Brilliant. Great decision! Oh how we laughed…. respectfully. I listed the contrasts in my head as I extracted myself from his bear hug of a greeting. I think it is called a juxtaposition but I wasn’t sure.
Jeff has a story to tell and a dream to live
He is focussed and enthusiastically positive about almost everything. Hell yeah.. he is American and yes any kind of public exuberance would normally bring down my reserved social shutters, but Jeff is a brother, a fellow military veteran and a life of parallels with my own. Even a Yorkshireman can make allowances. Today however, we would refrain from pulling up the sandbags and the retelling of war stories would have to wait. Jeff and his videographer Yoel were here to ‘interview’ Koala. She was to be on the other side of the lens and was feeling apprehensive. To relinquish her control was a little out of her decision making comfort zone.. but Jeff had good tattoos so Koala can make allowances too, especially after a Gin or two with lunch!
Jeff retired from the US Army after 20 years service, half of which spent doing especially creative things in particularly dangerous, shitty places. But last year he had to sit down to consider his options… what to do and how to adjust to ‘normality’ Perhaps in the process, figure out exactly what normality was/is? The military provide a certain stability.. a structured, often fucked up pathway, but a single unified direction of certainty. It also provided safety and security. I pondered the irony of this and whether that this is a juxtaposition too? Maybe I should’ve done English at school instead of joining the military? Was that a bad decision too?
So, Jeff had a new mission and employed his years of tactical planning.. sat down and poured a whisky. Not a proper whisky but a ‘whiskey’ in the colonial sense just the same and wrote down all the things that would make him happy. It was a mixed list of activity, that some, in polite civilian life, would question as morally acceptable or even legal.. but he had narrowed his choices. There were options, lucrative options that would employ his.. ‘particular’ skill set, but as he sipped the ‘whiskey’ he made his decision and for the first time chose a route of uncertainty. He chose happiness.
Jeff would become an international Vlogger. The anchorman of his own travelling alcohol sampling TV show! The years of blowing up doorways would surely become transferable skills?! I admired that. Not the blowing up bit.. well not in this context.. but I admired the decision to choose a less obvious, less predictable path in search of what genuinely made him happy. Koala was animated. ‘That’s what we did! This was our choice too! When our options became limited we chose each other …and photography!’
Was this becoming a counselling session or some bizarre motivational intervention? I wasn’t sure. I was becoming reflective again…. we definitely chose happiness over money!? I could sense a mutual admiration grow around the table. Koala was enjoying this.. Hell yeah! It’s all about being happy… Let’s go to Glencoe!! I spat out my isotonic alcohol free lager and considered her rapid change of direction. Glencoe? We had driven to Inveraray?? ‘Yeah.. let’s take you to Glencoe!!’ Koala was fuelled with enthusiasm and Jeff was more than willing to be led! His lasting experience of Scotland would not be restricted to shovelling malt in Campbeltown and Glasgow airport. Hell no! Koala would show him the Highlands… in an afternoon!? Clearly the Gin was of a fine quality.
So we would continue the ‘interview’ on a road trip and climbed into the Mitsubishi to head north. Jeff and Yoel were instantly in awe.. as the familiar summit of Ben Cruachan rose in prominence on the grand range of sharp peaks between Loch Awe and Loch Etive. No one really listened to my description of the ‘Hollow Mountain’ and the spectacular underground power station which is built beneath the central corrie. My explanation of hydro electric power that was a little too detailed and we made an impromptu stop off at Kilchurn Castle. Jeff was impressed. The 15th century fortification is certainly an impressive sight, sitting on a rocky peninsula at the north eastern end of Loch Awe, but Jeff had embraced the enthusiasm of a Koala on home turf and suddenly developed a need to be the subject of a ‘Whimsical’ portrait?! Good luck with that I thought, still unsure of what the term really meant. Koala was back in control and the right side of the lens again. Jeff threw himself into the task never knew what had hit him!
He did a valiant job.. his canvas Vans sneakers were an added touch of whimsy, which only added to the humour of the vision. The interpretation of Koalas specific direction by this seasoned paratrooper was admirable and the resultant image was akin to a Backstreet Boys album cover! This was a great decision.
We moved north and Glencoe delivered. It always does. The drama is never lost on us and the reaction to a first visit is always the same… overwhelming emotion of awe filled wonder. Jeff and Yoel were no exception. I smiled. We need to be on commission. I poured the whisky and we had a dram. It was an inspirational dram. The scene, the company, the motivation… the decision to chose this pathway.
Jeff interviewed Koala and Yoel had his video. He asked Koala who she admired. Goodness…. but she had gin and a Springbank malt now. Maybe Koala admired me..? She often said she did… well, privately she hinted at it. Especially when I had carried her many and varied prop dresses up a mountain for no apparent reason. Koala stopped and thought. She looked at me and smiled before she answered the question. Did she admire me? She mentioned photographers of note.. some that even I knew of and suggested admiration, but no it wasn’t a photographer.. Then she answered. The wind picked up and I tried nonchalantly to listen in.. ‘I don’t really admire any one person’ Oh…? Is it me? I’m a soulmate, not a person? ‘No… not one individual. It is the people who are willing to achieve a dream… not for money but for happiness.’ Koala looked at me and smiled. Did she mean me? Oh I’m not sure now… did I mishear? She looked at me and said:
‘To embrace that you have one life and it’s to follow your dreams. It is a cliche, but it’s true. I admire the Dream chasers…’
Jeff had his interview and an endorsement from Koala. He had made a good decision… and so had I. We were at the place we were meant to be. He smiled and nodded to me. Whisky and good decisions. But… does that mean I am dream chaser then…?