At eight oclock I was wedged on a couch between two girls from Aberdeen High School while Sandy presided over an energetic tag-team Scots folk song session. Every available seat in the cluttered livingroom was filled with an eager participant, mostly not much older than I was, mostly without instruments, and all keen to sing multi-part harmonies with anything they knew.
A red-headed singer named Maggie proved the most immediately friendly, introducing me around to her schoolmates.
"You dont sound American," challenged a slender blonde named Mary.
"And what does an American sound like?" I asked.
"Well, all the Texans coming in for the North Sea oilthey all talk like John Wayne."
When my turn came I gave a passable, un-Texan rendition of "The Boxer," which, happily, everyone in the room knew.
"How long can you stay?" asked Maggie.
I shrugged. "I dont have any real plans. I suppose I should get going soon and stop freeloading off Bert and Di."
"Nonsense! Youve seen her garden. She could feed you for the next five years."
"Yeah, well, I want to see how far south I can get before my money runs out. Milan, Rome, maybe Greece."
"Well, you must stay till Friday night. Its our folk club night."
I couldnt say no. Though I spent most of the evening eying Maggie and the other unattached girls in search of cryptic signs of romantic encouragement, the voice I listened to most attentively was Lindys. She sang sweet and unmannered, and her songs, while common enough to the locals in the club, rang in my head so new and so clear that by the time wed sung each through once, I remembered it all. By the time I hummed my way back down the starlit road around eleven, I felt filled with more companionable cheer than Id felt since Id left home.
The next morning I slept late. By the time I wandered downstairs, Di was already busy in the garden and Bert had gone off to a school meeting. I felt marvelous and squinted into a blue sky scrubbed pale by a refreshing, light northerly breeze.
"Can I walk down to the river from here?" I asked Di.
"If you mind your step," she warned, "but theres nothing down there, really. Wouldnt you rather walk up into town where theres something to see?"
"No," I said. "I want to go somewhere where theres no people and no noise."
I picked my way along the edges of the cornfields for a quarter of a mile and stood on the gently sloped bank above the grey, languid river. Surveying perhaps a mile of riverbank, I scanned left and right for any sign of fishermen or farmers or anyone else like myself, just wandering. Other than the occasional crow flicking to and fro among the corn stalks I was very much alone. I breathed in the cool scent of the River Dee and skipped a rock or two out across its gently billowing surface, basking in rare and treasured solitude.
Descending the bank I strolled slowly upstream away from the farm, along an irregular path that appeared and disappeared among clumps of greenery. A short way along the path a patch of tall grass below the crest of the bank seemed to beckon. I sat down and lounged back into the green cushion, hands clasped behind my head and knees up. Before long, a sweet and lilting song that Lindy had led at the sing-around began running through my head. I started to sing to myself.
Doon yonder den theres a ploughman lad
And some summers day hell be aw my ane
And sing laddie-o and sing laddie-aye
The ploughman laddies are a the go