Way back at the start of the year, my friends Jon and Mimi who are in a lovely little band called Mijuanito from San Francisco and who run Parks and Records, an independent US record label got in touch about a project they were undertaking. They had decided that they wanted to put out an album around Christmas time this year and were asking artists to submit songs with a Christmas or Winter theme. Now personally I tend to find the “Christmas song” a bit of a tedious and obvious thing to do. That’s not to say there haven’t been excellent Christmas songs – Low’s Christmas album springs to mind. However, I just don’t love the whole – it’s christmas we should write a Christmas song mentality. Makes me think of About a Boy and Hugh Grant who’s father was a one hit wonder. Imagine the shame of trying all your life to be a serious artist and then writing a Christmas song for a laugh and becoming famous for that and that only! It actually scares me.
However, what intrigued me most about what Jon and Mimi were asking for was the possiblity of writing about winter. Winter is undoubtedly my favourite time of year. I love wooly hats and scarves. I love seeing everyone wrapped up in big jackets and jumpers. I love cosying round a fire with a glass of wine or whiskey. I love whenI take my mum’s dog for a walk and she goes for a swim and comes out covered in icicles. I love watching my breath in the cold winter air. I love the feeling of entering a warm pub or flat straight from the cold. I love the crisp bite in the air. Most of all, I love when the skies are bright blue, the light is stunning and the air is freezing. Cold, crips Scottish winter days. Nothing makes me feel more alive. So I decided to write a song for their album based purely on the weather. Based on a cold winters day. It’s really the first time I’ve actually sat down and thought – I need to write a song for a specific reason but I have to say I am proud of the results. Does it sound like The Kays Lavelle? I think so, a little, but it’s a little different too and has a more traditional Scottishness to it – well I hope it does, or I’ve totally failed in what I set out to do! But I’m proud of it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Winter album will be released this year and I’m in a state of limbo as to what to do with the song. It may just sit on the shelf building dust for a year until the project can take off. I hope not though.
But it got me thinking lots about Scotland. When I was young, my parents used to drag me across the country, climbing hills and mountains and searching for standing stones and other old relics. I no doubt spent most of my time dragging my heels and asking if we could go home but ultimately it’s thanks to them that I love this country so much. There is no feeling in the world like being in the middle of nowhere, by some loch, in some forest, on the top of a mountain. Being totally free and alone in the wilds of Scotland. Some of my strongest and fondest memories from youth are associated with hill walking. I recall coming over a ridge of one mountain and looking down into the valley to about 100 red deer grazing below so vividly that it could have happened yesterday. (It didn’t – yesterday I spent a whole day writing a report only for my computer system to crash and for me to lose everything!) And I recall climbing Ben Lawers for the first time, my dad and brother striding off at pace and me and my mum ambling up in our own time. I seem to have retained this pace throughout my life, never really breaking past a canter. So as I approach my 30th birthday, I have a real desire to get back out and to explore this wonderful country that I live in. The majority of Scottish folk live in the Central region so there is a whole lot of wild countryside to explore. And I think it’s about time I got my hiking boots out of the cupboard. Or alternatively went and bought a new pair as the last pair I owned was probably when I was about 15!