The McLeans – Mags and Iain – are also generous and amiable hosts, so anytime an invite arrives to join them at their impressive Gullane pile, it’s more than worth making the effort.
At the weekend it was to hook up with a select group of friends for a Burns Night bash, with the McLeans rustling up an impressive spread of leek and tattie soup; haggis, neeps and tatties; and cranachan for seven adults and seven kids. Along with some CD pipe music and impromptu reading.
I was cheerfully chugging beers in the knowledge that someone else was Designated Driver for the evening, while the kids entertained themselves and the adults let their hair down. It would be easy to be seduced by the relaxed way of life in this quaint and quiet place, I thought.
But no! As I inquired about the sedate pace of life Iain was quick to put me right.
The villagers (awright them, townsfolk. It’s not that wee a place) can fairly rip it up of an evening. Indeed, when the Open was last played at nearby Muirfield in 2002, the local nightlife in Gullane was so full on, that one bleary US journalist nicknamed the place, Cirrhosis by the Sea.
Intrigued, I asked what other kind of goings on might pass for, ahem, entertainment in such a hotbed of unbridled debauchery? Surely not – gasp – car keys in the bowl? (yep, fuelled by lager and a dozen dodgy TV dramas I actually did ask. D’oh!)
After gracing me with a look of pity reserved for only the saddest and most pathetically predictable Townie, the McLeans put me straight. Wife-swapping is most definitely off the agenda – the current activity that is de rigeur for the East Lothian set is, er, Scrappy.
From what I can gather this is a derivative of “scrapbooking” – and the womenfolk gather together once a week and rifle through their photo collections with a view to turning them into eyecatching works of art using material, paints and other decorative touches. All very commendable expressive and genteel.
Except that it’s a bit more ruthless than that. For those whose dog-eared photos don’t fit, or whose scrapbooking skills are otherwise suspect , there is the very real risk that their next scrappy invitation won’t arrive. Being cut dead socially in such a fashion is a fate worse than … well, living in North Berwick.
I have to confess I blanched at the very thought of it. Imagine having to walk down Gullane High Street with all your neighbours in a small community knowing that you weren’t good enough for the scrappy club. Mortifying! Could it get any worse?
Well, yes, actually, it could. It seems that scrappy is only just the beginning and an even scarier-sounding US import is on its way to occupy the time of rural East Lothian ladies.
Ostensibly this is a new way to promote the joys of communal knitting. Forgive me for being scared.
Coming soon to a community near you. You have been warned.