Day 4: Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe was one of two B-sides on Swimmer One’s second single, Come On, Let’s Go!. By this time we’d learned not to spend a ridiculous amount of time making B-sides and this one was recorded very quickly. Ironically, it perhaps had a bigger impact on my life than anything else Swimmer One ever recorded. I quite often find myself telling people what has now become known as ‘the Dave and Kay story’.

The song – for want of a better word – consists of a beautiful piece of ambient music by Hamish (here indulging his life-long love of Brian Eno) accompanied by three slightly different recordings of the same monologue, about a couple called Dave and Kay, ‘upwardly mobile professional types’ from an unnamed big city who go on a weekend snowboarding trip and consider never coming back. The recordings were three alternative takes recorded for an advert, and the script was full of the kind of hilariously bland aspirational language you only ever hear in cheesy commercials, but for some reason we became hypnotised by them. The more versions we listened to, the more it seemed as if something genuinely profound had happened to Dave and Kay, and Daniel Warren’s dream-like film – made up of time lapse footage from three different locations – captured that feeling very well.

I liked that the ‘Lake Tahoe’ in Dan’s film was clearly not the real Lake Tahoe, or even in America, or even a lake. Instead, a beach somewhere in Britain – filmed over a whole day as the tide falls, rises and falls again – seemed to represent a fantasy wilderness, awe-inspiring and empty, romanticised by two city dwellers as ‘the kind of place I could spend the rest of my life’. Significantly, I think, the film ends not on that beach but back in the city – a different city, in fact. Did Dave and Kay ever start that new life in Lake Tahoe? Not likely. It was, clearly, just a fantasy. And so I never asked Dan where the beach was. I felt the film would be more poignant if I didn’t know. It was what it represented that was important.

The year Dan made Lake Tahoe, 2004, was also the year I met Laura, who later joined Swimmer One and is now my wife. We must have watched the film quite a few times back then, but saw nothing of ourselves in it (we didn’t have our own parking spots, for a start, or even our own car). It was only years later, after we had children, that we began to plot our own more modest escape from our more modest city existence. We looked at houses and little patches of land in Bute, Skye, Arran and near Aberfoyle, before finally settling on Uig on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis. We’d never been there before but fell in love with it pretty much immediately.

After we bought our croft, Laura and I began telling friends on Facebook how we’d found the kind of place we could spend the rest of our lives. In response, Daniel posted a link to that film from 2004. For a moment I was puzzled. Why was he sending me something I’d watched dozens of times before? And then, for the first time, I realised. Uig beach – two minutes’ walk from the croft we had just bought – was Lake Tahoe.

Did we move to Uig because a film subliminally planted the idea in my mind over the course of 12 years? Was I, on some level, hypnotised into wanting to move there by the constant repetition of the Lake Tahoe story, as I recorded that piece of music and listened back to it? I honestly don’t know. Something had clearly sunk in though. Two years before I visited Lewis for the first time, I wrote and recorded Isle of Lewis, a love song based around a description of an imaginary road trip to the island. Eventually I changed the title to Islands of the North Atlantic but the song is about exactly what my family and I went on to do, driving a camper van to an island in the north of Scotland, laying the foundations of a new life.

That, however, is not the spookiest part. A few months after we properly moved to Lewis we bought a house. We discovered that our neighbours were another couple from the mainland who had moved to Uig looking for a different kind of life. They were, of course, called Dave and Kay.

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