Isle of Eigg, Day 3: The Only Taxi

“Yer no from around here, are ye!” 

These were the first words out of Charlie’s mouth when I appeared, absolutely drookit (Scots, adj. – drenched or soaked through), in his doorway.

I smiled. Not because what Charlie said was funny (even though it was), but because I knew in that instant that I was no longer alone.

Usually, when I sit down to write a blog post, I open up my iPhoto and scroll through the pictures I took on the day I’m going to write about. These pictures not only serve as helpful reminders of where I was and what I was doing that day, but, often times, determine the framework for the narrative of the blog post itself. When I don’t have enough faith in myself to describe something through words, I use pictures as a crutch, and that’s how I’ve been blogging – contentedly – for going on 4 months now. 

This post is different. After the Guided Nature Walk I covered in Isle of Eigg, Day 3: Part 1, A Guided Nature Walk & The Giant’s Footprint, I set my camera down and didn’t pick it back up again until the following morning. I worried that, without a single photograph to look back on and reflect, I might not be able to remember this evening as well as the others from my trip, but – while on a small island, hidden in the mist, with limited access to Wi-Fi, spotty cell service, and now, no camera to hide behind – I found it impossible not to be pushed into the present moment, and when you’re living in the present, I think you’ll find most things are hard to forget. 

“Sometimes when I see the sunsets here, I’ll sit out in the garden. I’ll have a puff on my pipe, and I’ll have a glass of whiskey, and just watch the sun dropping down there. And I don’t have to go and take a picture with a magic phone, or whatever else, I log it in my head and I remember the day. So it’s all in there, in the human brain, not on a hard drive.”

Charlie Galli, Slow Down – The Only Taxi by Green Renaissance

Charlie Galli is the only taxi driver on the Isle of Eigg. He drives a large van that can easily fit a dozen passengers (or maybe even more). On the passenger door is a large decal of Charlie’s face – wearing his Scotland beanie, and holding his pipe in his mouth – underneath which reads, “Don’t believe a word he says!”

I’ve included photographic evidence of the decal, but I promise there won’t be any more pictures after this.

Charlie has been featured in a few films and television programs including a 60 Minutes special on the island with Steven Kroft. I found a short film entitled Slow Down – The Only Taxi by Green Renaissance while doing some research for this blog post. This film brought me a great deal of solace in these trying times. I will be sprinkling in a few of Charlie’s quotes from this film throughout this post, and I highly recommend taking 7 minutes out of your day to watch Charlie in Slow Down – The Only Taxi, if you’re able.

I hadn’t intended to do anything after the Guided Nature Walk. I was content to go back to the caravan and continue to wait out the rain. However, while on the walk, I’d got to talking to a few of the young women volunteering on the island, and one of them insisted, “You must come to the singing tonight!” The singing? Before I could ask what that meant, another one chimed in, “Yes, you must come to the singing!” Then another, “Yes, the singing!” At that point, they’d said “the singing” so many times, I was afraid to make a fool of myself by asking for clarification, and so, I agreed to meet them for “the singing” at the Community Hall later that afternoon. 

I was excited to make new friends, but at this point, I didn’t have a pair of dry socks, shoes or trousers to my name, and if one thing was for certain, I was not going for one more cycle ride in the rain. Fortunately, Charlie Galli, the only taxi driver on the Isle of Eigg, lived one house away my host’s house, and so, on my way back to the caravan, I stopped and knocked on his door.

One thing that surprised me about the Isle of Eigg, when I first arrived, was how few Scots appeared to live on or visit the island. The couple that ran the Bike Hire, the men I’d chatted with behind the Isle of Eigg Brewing Co., and a handful of the artisans I’d spoken with at the Eigg Makers’ Market were all from England, originally. Of the four young women that invited me to “the singing” one was from England, one was from Spain, and the other two were from the Scottish Borders (meaning they had what you might call a “mild” Scottish accent – but hey, still Scots). My host, Ailidh, was a Scot, through and through – she even sent me messages typed in Scots, as my friends and family do – but even so, her accent was more sing song-y than my friends and family from Glasgow and the surrounding area. Funnily enough, they say the Glaswegian dialect is the hardest to understand, but to me, it sounds like home, and we all know the language of home.

So, when Charlie found me in his doorway and exclaimed, “Yer no from around here, are ye!” I couldn’t care less how out of place I might have looked – or sounded – because for the first time in four days, I heard the sound of home. Charlie was a Glaswegian.

I think landing here is probably the biggest thing I could have ever done in my life to change my situation. You have two or three ups and downs and all of a sudden you wake up one day and you think, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I’ve had it. I’ve got to go elsewhere.

You don’t have to keep pace with life, you make it work for you.”

Charlie Galli, Slow Down – The Only Taxi by Green Renaissance

I was glad that Charlie made no mention of the plastic bags sticking out of my hiking boots, and tied around my ankles, when I returned to his doorway later that evening for a ride to the Community Hall. I had slipped the bags around my feet, before placing my wet socks back over them, followed by my wet hiking boots, in an attempt to keep my feet dry, but, as it turned out, the plastic bags had holes in them, and the water slipped right through. Still, I thought, it was better than nothing.

We had a lovely chat, just the two of us, as he expertly drove me through the heavy mist. We could barely see 10 yards ahead of us on the single track road, and I could tell that under better weather conditions Charlie might be even more talkative, but I felt safe with him behind the wheel, and even if we hadn’t made it to the Community Hall, I could have sat there and listened to his voice for the rest of the evening.

“Sometimes I think there is too much technology involved in life, you know… This area that we’re in just now it doesn’t have a mobile signal. So you tend to have to talk to each other, have a conversation. Which is a good thing. So you kind of get back to your – what I like to call – your human side. Where you actually speak to people and interact with them. We’re losing that power, the art of conversation.”

Charlie Galli, Slow Down – The Only Taxi by Green Renaissance

That’s all for now! Thanks, as always, for following along! Check back next Monday for the third and final part of my Day 3 on the Isle of Eigg! In the meantime, please, I beg of you, watch this short film starring Charlie Galli if you need a bit of peace or comfort.

One comment

  1. […] The Only Taxi Driver on the Isle of Eigg, Charlie Galli, parked his van and followed me inside the Community Hall. Once inside, we found a group of women arranging a few folding chairs in a circle near the center of the room. There were about eight or ten women in total, including the four young women that had invited me out, and, to my surprise, Norah, the Seasonal Ranger for the Scottish Wildlife Trust that led us on the Guided Nature Walk earlier that day.  […]


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