The Scots, after gleefully dumping me into the sea in gratitude for securing enough wine for the duration of the gathering, simply turned away, slapped themselves on the back and let me flounder in the gathering surf.
I sputtered and splashed in the very cold of the grayness and hauled myself onto the sand, now twice my weight in soggy clothes. I would find that the Scots rewarded and punished in a way which could be described as "largess."
During my stay at the gathering I was treated with enormous kindness and respect as a guest, and I think this was mainly due to my friendship with Ian but also as the "Securer of Drink," which became my handle for the time I was there. Almost every time I was introduced, after my name came the moniker, "Securer of Drink," and just about everyone nodded or grunted in complete understanding and approval.
The gathering was very well-organized, with well-maintained latrines, aid stations, water stations and communal food sites strategically located throughout the pastures. There were also "helpers" with yellow vests wandering around giving assistance to those in need. A cleaning crew regularly swept through and also made sure that the banks of showers were functioning well. I was (and still am) impressed with the entire affair.
All meals were communal and eaten in large tents. There were events happening all over the site at all times with a sheet showing where and when an event would be. These events included everything from music, poetry readings, fly fishing and fly-tying clinics, first aid demonstrations to lectures on the history of Scotland. These were held on the pasture side of the coastal road and some of the sports were held on the beach.
I was assigned, not surprisingly, to the wine wagon next to the ale wagon. Alcohol was strictly allocated, which, given the number of people and the close quarters, was a good thing. No glass was allowed and everywhere one could find thermoses of every size and shape. The ale wagon had stainless steel kegs with a picnic hand pump attached to the leading keg at the end of the flatbed. These kegs held equivalent to about 13 U.S. gallons each. Our barrels, which I had paid a hefty deposit for, held about 50 gallons and were siphoned from the bung with a clear plastic (very high-tech) hose. Officially, no drinking was "allowed" before four in the afternoon, but, of course, this was impossible to enforce with so many "hidden" flasks and "spirited" thermoses. Open inebriation was given "one pass" then expulsion from the site. Astonishingly, I only witnessed two expulsions as well as only a few groups of kids my age by the pond smoking pot.
Stupidly, it turned out, very stupidly, I had mentioned that I had "played" soccer. Actually, I had played in P.E. in high school and fancied myself "pretty good" at the sport. It's best to remember (in a feeble defense of myself) that soccer was practically unknown in the United States in 1968 so I had really no idea what I was doing on the field of play. This may be the all-time Lorn Razzano knucklehead move, and before long I found myself on a team, on the pasture, with far too many witnesses in attendance. I lasted 3 minutes and 42 seconds, flat. When I awoke on my back, framed against the French blue of the sky was the face of an angel with hair the color of soft rose petals. My God, I had died and had gone to heaven!
Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and still works there part time. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For previous columns on his adventures as a wine intern in France, go to www.dailytidings.com/razzano.