Two years ago I wrote some stories for a well-known hotel on the Ayrshire coast, the one acquired just the other day by an American collector of golf courses, a big, suspiciously blond billionaire – oh, all right then, the now restyled Trump Turnberry.
These short stories were designed to illuminate different aspects of life at the hotel and to appeal to different audiences – golfers, sightseers, families and heritage- seekers. Available on the hotel website they were also printed, four slim booklets bound together in an attractive presentation wrapper.
One of the four stories recounted a real incident from the 1994 Open golf tournament. The other three were made up, although rooted in the reality of events at the hotel over many decades. One, titled Lost and Found, turned on an event from the second world war during which Turnberry was requisitioned and turned into a flying school, the fairways dug up for runways. Photographs and log books survive from that time and are on display in the clubhouse. One log book entry recounts how an airman was forced to ditch his plane and was rescued by a local fisherman. I concocted a tale around this event in which a modern-day guest is reunited with a family possession, thanks to a chance conversation with a quick-witted member of the hotel staff.
Yesterday morning I got a call from Lisa in the Turnberry marketing department, who I had worked with on the project. A guest had read the story and was convinced it was his relative that I had written about. ‘Could it be?’ she asked. ‘Weren’t the stories just that, stories – made up?’ My mind was a blank. I answered that it was possible, since all the stories had some basis in truth, but that I really couldn’t remember and would have to see what I could uncover.
I spent an hour rootling through my research. There was nothing, not a single mention in the typed notes. I sat at my desk trying to coax my memory back to the three or four days I’d spent there, hoping to recapture something that would summon the information, and was eventually rewarded with the image of a row of photographs in the clubhouse gallery. I rushed to check the photos I’d taken, but there was nothing there either. Tantalisingly, the trail was still cold. I was about to write in disappointment to Lisa to say I’d drawn a blank when I remembered at last to look through my handwritten notes and there, on a page in my notebook of its own, I had copied down this excerpt from the station log book:
“Anson sergeant pilot Walters experienced engine trouble near Ailsa Craig, machine had to be ditched. Crew of six took to the dinghy and were picked up by the motor vessel Frugality, owned by Mr J Alexander, fishmonger, Ayr. Crew landed at Ayr harbour. Pilot admitted to Ayr County Hospital, remainder of crew brought back to SSQ at this station.”
That information is now on its way to the guest in question and I’m waiting to see whether there’s a further twist to my tale, whether my made-up truth has concealed within it a real one. That’s the thing about stories, I guess. You never quite know.
To be continued …
You can read the story on the Turnberry website, here. (If you do, please ignore the penultimate paragraph which has mysteriously crept in from one of the other stories.)
And talking of stories, Sarah and I are running the next of our The Stories We Tell workshops on the weekend of 6/7 September. There are still some places left – and further information here. Join us if you can!