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I have another joint to celebrate but it makes me a little drowsy and it takes a definitely-last-of-the-night micro-lick of speed and another fix of Trompe le Monde to even things up again.


I'm very tempted to call in at the paper and pick up a copy fresh off the presses, which will be rumbling away now, shaking the whole building. The smell of ink and the greasy feel of the print always powerfully reinforce the news-fix buzz, plus I'd like to check my Vanguard story to see what violence the sub-editors have succeeded in inflicting on it; but as I drive down Nicolson Street suddenly the idea of subs cutting a story about a sub seems wildly amusing and I find myself giggling uncontrollably, making me sniff and sneeze and bringing tears to my eyes. I decide that I'm too wasted to be able to put on a sober face for the print-room boys, so I head home instead.

I get back to Cheyne Street about one o'clock and have the usual enforced tour of Stockbridge By Night looking for a parking place before finding one only a minute from the flat. I'm tired but not sleepy so I have a nightcap spliff and a two-fingers of Tesco's single malt. During the next couple of hours I listen to the radio and watch all-night TV out of the corner of my eye and tinker with the whisky story on the PC and then deliberately do not play Despot because I know I'd only go and get involved and be up until dawn and sleep all day and not be up in time for tomorrow's job (I have an appointment with a distillery manager at noon), so instead I go back to Xerium and play that; recreational play in other words, not serious stuff; a game to wind down to, not get wound up by.

Xerium is an old favourite, almost like a pal, and even though there are still a few bits of it I haven't cracked I've never looked for hints or cheats in the magazines because I want to get there myself (which isn't like me) and anyway it's fun just flying around and adding to the map you gradually build up of the island continent the game's set on.

Finally I crash the good ship Speculator trying — as usual — to find a probably non-existent route between the peaks of the Mountains of Zound. I swear I've tried every gap in those damn hills — hell, I've even tried flying straight through the mountains, thinking one of them is supposed to be a hologram or something — but I crash every time; there just doesn't seem to be any way of getting through or of gaining enough height to fly over the damn things. There is supposed to be a way into the rectangular territory the mountains enclose somehow, but I'm fucked if I can work out what it is, not tonight, anyway.

I pass on another attempt and load the slower of my two Asteroids programs and obliterate a few zillion rocks in glorious wire-frame monochrome until my fingers ache and my eyes are smarting again and it's time for some decaff and bed.

I get up bright and fresh and — after a good five-minute cough and a shower — the only wake-me-up I have is some freshly ground Arabica. I munch some muesli and suck on a quartered orange while I look through the whisky story, which is due in today so this is really my final chance to work on it apart from any last-minute thoughts after seeing the distillery at lunch-time. I sneak a look at my current status in Despot, too, but resist firing the program up. I stare accusingly at the Tosh's NiCads, which I forgot to charge up last night, then transfer the tinkered-with whisky article to disk and search out some clean clothes from the pile on one side of the bed where I dumped them after last week's laundry run. Leaving the clothes on the bed can sometimes make you think there's somebody in there with you when there isn't, which can be comforting but is distinctly sad; you haven't had a fuck for well over a week, this pile of clean clothes on the duvet is telling me. Still, I'm seeing Y in a couple of days so even if nothing else turns up there's always that to look forward to.

There's some maiclass="underline" junk and bills, mostly. Ignore for now.

Take the bleeper, mobile, Tosh, NiCads and slot-in radio down to the 205; the car has not been broken into or scratched (helps not to wash the Pug). Set the NiCads charging from the cigarette lighter. Take off into a cool blue-whiter; sunshine and clouds. Stop along the road for papers; scan headlines, make sure that no late-breaking story displaced the Vanguard piece and that it's intact (ninety-five per cent — a satisfyingly high score), check out Doonesbury in the Grauniad, then away.

Over the road-bridge and fast through Fife; once up to cruising speed — needle in that 85-to-90 region the jam-sandwich boys ignore unless they're particularly bored or in a really bad mood — steer with knees while rolling spliff, feeling good in a childish way and laughing at myself and thinking, Don't try doing this at home, kids. Leave number aside to smoke later; turn left at Perth.

The drive to the distillery takes me along part of the route to Strathspeld. I haven't been to see the Goulds for so long and I half wish I'd started out earlier so I could drop in, but I know it isn't really them I want to see, it's the place: Strathspeld itself, our long-lost paradise with all the aching, poison-sweet memories it holds. Though of course maybe it's Andy I really remember and miss; maybe I just want to see my old soul-mate, my surrogate brother, my other me; maybe I'd go straight there if he was at home, but he isn't, he's way far north and being reclusive and I must visit him too, someday.

I pass through Gilmerton, a wee village just outside Crieff, where I'd turn off for Strathspeld if I was heading that way. Used to be there was a collection of three identical little blue Fiat 126s sitting facing the road here outside one of the houses; they were there for years and years and I always meant to stop off here and find the owner and ask him, Why have you had these three little blue Fiat 126s sitting outside your house for the last decade? because I wanted to know and besides it might have made a decent story and over the years there must have been millions of people who've passed this way and wondered the same thing, but I never did get around to it; always in a hurry, rushing past, anxious to get to the tainted paradise that Strathspeld's always been to me… Anyway, the three little blue Fiat 126s disappeared recently so there's no point. Guy seems to be collecting transit vans these days. I felt hurt, almost grieved when I first saw that house without the three little cars outside; it was like a death in the family, like some distant but friendly uncle had copped it.

I play some old stuff from Uncle Warren for the same nostalgic reasons I came this way.

Deep in the glens at Lix Toll there's another automotive roadside attraction standing outside the garage there; a bright yellow Land Rover about ten foot tall facing the road, not on wheels but on four black triangular tracks like the bastard cross of a Landy and a Caterpillar earth-mover. Been there a few years now. Leave it another few and I might go in and ask them, Why have you —?

Sweep past, in a hurry.

The distillery is just outside Dorluinan, hidden in the trees off the Oban road, across the rail line and up a narrow lane through the forest. The manager is a Mr Baine; I go to his office and we do the usual distillery tour, through the damp, half-enticing smells and the kiln heat and past the gleaming stills, past the gushing glass cupboard of the spirit safe until we end up in the chill darkness of one of the warehouses, standing looking out over rows of broad-backed barrels, gloomily lit from above few small, grimy armoured skylights. The roof is low, supported by thick, gnarled wooden struts resting on widely spaced iron columns. The floor is compacted earth, hard as concrete after a centuries of use.