HULLAW ma fieres! Jist back frae wir twa-week stravaig tae Florida. Ah howp ye’se enjoyed Derrick McClure’s steppin intil ma shune this past fortnicht!

Ah’d ne’er bin in Florida sae the place wis quite a revelation tae me. The pictur pentit oan oor tellys o America is aye-an-oan ane o yin whaur fowk are rinnin aboot daft wi guns shootin ane anither. The reality wis o coorse the same as maist kintries; the fowk are kind, carin an haurd warkin – an dinnae rin around shootin ilk anither.

As wi maist fowk in the warld they jist want quate lives – an lik us they threip anent the poleetical cless wha upset aathing there as much as they dae here!

Florida is jist ae muckle swamp. Thon’s no me bein derogatory – that’s jist the wey it is. Thair are virtually nae hills. Munro Baggers wid be gey challenged there; the heichest bit in Florida is Sugarloaf Mountain. This rises tae a byrodnar 345 feet! (naw, nae 0 missin there!). Some places in Scotland wull hae stairs mair as 345 feet heich! The laund streetches awa as faur as the ee can see, flat as a pancake, tae the horizon in ilka airt. It seems that ony muckle ceeties or touns hae (lik the Netherlands) bin reclaimed frae watter-logged areas. These ceeties an touns sit lik wee islands in the swamplands, conneckit bi slichtly elevated freeways that rax oot in aa directions, straicht as a die fir miles an miles an miles … America is a michty muckle kintra. We explored a wheen o interestin places there an we hud tae drive fir leeterally hunners o miles, hour upo hour, alang these endless heichweys. Mind, thon’s ane o the best weys tae explore ony kintra.

We drave frae Naples tae spend a couple o days at Key West.

We hud tae pick up oor auld frien Tam Seaton at Fort Lauderdale, sae this entailed a drive athort Route 75 (Alligator Alley) – that we crossed twice or thrice oan oor stey – then a lang whang doun the fawmous Route One (that raxes 2369 miles doun the eastern seaboard o America) the langest north/south road in the States.

Likesay, hours in caurs, but it gien us the chaunce tae crack wi oor hosts, Fred an Cate Newlands – Tam’s dochter – anent aathing Floridian, the history, flora, fauna an geography/topography o the place. Fred hails frae Sanquhar, as dis Tam, wha wis ridin shotgun fir us in the big GMC 4x4 truck we hud fir the drive! These fowk are related tae oor Margaret, sae it wis as much o a family gaither-up as it wis a holiday.

It gangs athoot sayin that Fred, Cate an Tam hae tartan bluid rinnin in their veins – an despite Tam an Fred haein around 80 years in the States atween thaim, they still spak wi the rich Scots twang o Upper Nithsdale.

Ower the miracle o Seven Mile Brig, linkin the mainland tae the islands o the Florida Keys, an oan doun til Key West, which wis fawmously hame tae the great American journalist, writer an novelist Ernest Hemingway. It wis oan ma tae-dae leet tae gang til the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, and this me an Margaret swipperly did! Fred, Cate an Tam meanwhiles hud some serious business tae attend tae involvin Bud Licht, margaritas an vodka an cranberries, at a bar in Duval Street – ye can tak the Scots oot o Scotland ... ! Hemingway Hoose wis braw, in evri respeck. Stan, ane o the custodians, gien a crood o us a guided tour. Aiblins some o Hemingway’s best early wark wis written here: the short story classics The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber; his novel To Have And Have Not; and the non-fiction work Green Hills of Africa. Ah coffed a copy o the complete short stories in the buik shoap – an spent some canty hours in the company o this great man fir the rest o ma holiday.

Hemingway Hoose is fou o knick-knackets that belanged tae or wir conneckit wi Hemingway. Cinema posters o the films made o his buiks an stories; big game fishin rods an tackle; photies o boats an wartime events; his various wives an luvers. Stan, the guide, hud a few crackin anecdotes; thair an auld porcelain urinal that cam frae the midnicht flit event at Sloppy Joe’s bar (Hemingway’s favourite howff!). Habana Joe, the rum runner, hud a castin oot wi the fellah he leased the pub frae, an ettled tae tak a the furniture an fittins oot it ae nicht an muive tae anither biggin.

When Hemingway coost his een oan the urinal he said: “I’ve poured so much money down that thing that I should have it.” Sae Sloppy Joe gien him it, an it bides in the gairden o the hoose til this verra day – fed frae a cistern an nou the watter bowl fir the cats. See urinal an cats here: These cats are a fawmous feature o the hoose. They are polydactyl cats, ie the hae a wheen o extra taes/claws oan their feet. They are direct descendants o Hemingway’s ain cats an rin free an lounge aboot the hoose as cats dae. Oan the day we veesited, twa o the six-taed cats lay majesterially oan Hemingway’s bed. They are aa nemmed fir auld movie stars an writers; the day o oor veesit Humphrey Bogart an Betty Grable wir oan the bed. Uise yer imagination ... !

Hemingway wid feel richt at hame the day oan Duval Street – a Soho/Golden Mile-like Sodom an Gomorrah o a place! Ae bar is a famed haunt fir modren day swingers. In the Garden of Eden bar (oan the ruif o the Bull & Whistle) ah’m telt swingers mill aboot naukit wi nary a stitch oan … ! But thon’s anither story…!