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Of all the events that all the inhabited islands put on for various reasons, Stone skimming is a perfect example of how an event that starts out about a simple contest can go far beyond for those who come along.
For some of my neighbours, and this is understandable, Stone skimming is a nuisance. It is jarring (and worse) to have a lot of people where normally there are few or none. There is the noise and yes, you might end up with some lost drunk people in your garden. It is one of the few times when some of us need to find our house keys to lock up, to keep the honest people honest and the drinkers in the garden.
For many of us though, stone skimming is a chance to welcome fascinating visitors from everywhere.
Working my annual bar shift on Saturday, I met the Swedish National Stone-skimming Team, who went around bedecked in patriotic colours, but had not won an actual Swedish stone skimming competition – because it doesn’t exist, they just made t-shirts.
I overheard more than seven languages spoken and accents that crossed the globe, as well as discussing the over-cast, but gentle weather with locals. Perfect by west coast standards.
I witnessed some local girls make new friends with visitors, exchanging contact details and cheering each other on at the awards ceremony.
Stone skimming gives us the excuse to be just that much more generous and philosophical than we might be otherwise. I happily joined the crowds that clapped for every toss, no matter the distance, heard stories of homes shared and assistance given. I discussed with people whose names I never learned, that with the current state of the world, events like ours can act as a bit of a balm against disconnection and disillusionment.
I sat on the judges wall discussing the physics of the stones, admiring the consistency of past champions such as Dougie Isaacs as he again hit the back wall 64 metres away – his second throw apparently (according to the judges) hit an unlucky fish and plopped down at about the half-way mark.
We sat admiring skims. A perfect skim is a thing of beauty: the way a stone doesn’t go too fast as finesse not brute strength makes the difference, but that – miraculously – a stone can patter on and its distance can often surprise. Eleven people hit the back wall, a record achievement.
The winners were from France, Hungary, Israel and yes, even Easdale. They were familiar and new, young and old and there was hilarity and celebration enough to go around.
Like with many islands, Easdale’s stone skimming event is many things to many people. These stories may sound similar to those from other island communities, but with the unique nature of every different one, this is our home to share.
So that’s another year done, with the stories and anecdotes to be layered on in our collective memory.