We couldn't stop remarking on the friendliness of the people. Everyone that we met in the town of Peebles, from the hotel Hydro staff to the barmen in the pubs (like the guy at the Bridge Inn who couldn't stop thanking us for coming by) to the waitstaff in every restaurant (although I'll remember in particular the bright eyes and "okey-dokey" of that cute young thing at the Crown) to the people that we met walking their dogs on the river path to Neidpath Castle, was as open and kind as could be (oh, wait, there was that little old lady walking her dog who startled us with the rough expletives she muttered at the women on the street ahead of her -- still wondering what that was about).
The cab driver who took us to the airport yesterday morning pointed out the sights as we drove along. After nearly a week in Scotland I could understand most of his brogue, although figuring out what some of the words meant was still a challenge. He exemplified the pride in place that everyone that we met there seemed to have. They believe that they live in a remarkable place, and they were pleased, and not terribly surprised, that we thought so too.
They really did make us feel like visiting dignitaries. The CILIPS folks, Elaine, Rhona and Ann, who made all of the arrangements, were simply astonishing. Alan, the current president, was a delight to talk to, full of marvelous tales of the history of the place, as well as giving us excellent recommendations for pubs and restaurants. (And he certainly was resplendent in his white tux, with ceremonial medallion hanging across his shoulders, the evening of the conference dinner). By the time we were gathering for our goodbyes and last pictures yesterday we were practically in competition to see who could thank who the best and the most.
According to Rhona, by the morning after the Bearded Pigs gig, we were the "talk of the steamy" and the street cred of Ringer Ruthven, our Scottish bass player, had gone up several notches. A couple of hours before the gig, Ringer and I ran through a few of the songs and that was all it took. He was great. "And here's another song that Ringer's never heard before," I'd say, before launching into Little Black Car, or What Were We Playin', and he'd watch my hands for the chord changes and be right there. The librarians drank and danced and laughed and we wailed away for hours.
For my presentation the next day, knowing that I was speaking largely to a crowd of public librarians, I emphasized the importance of medical and public librarians working together in this changed era of empowered patients. That seemed to hit a chord and I had a number of good conversations with conference delegates afterwards. I found the same sorts of things that I see everywhere as I travel around, talking with librarians from other countries -- we all face similar challenges, although our organizational structures and local political settings are different. But the level of intelligence, dedication, and determination is the same everywhere I go. I'm always grateful for the feedback that I get and I know that I learn as much or more from those conversations as they get from whatever I happen to be talking about in my presentations.
In short, a magnificent trip. I come back, as I always do from overseas, changed a little, and for the better.