Friday, 30 October 2009

Monday 5 October 2009

This morning after the usual breakfast (toast, sausages, bacon, egg, black pudding and baked beans, with coffee) we checked out of the hotel, waved off by its genial and eccentric host, Robert, and set off for the Scottish Folk Museum, since no one wanted to sign up for a trip to see the dolphins in the Firth of Moray.
I haven’t really mentioned our fellow travellers much. On the whole, they are a friendly bunch. There are two who look like the couple in the painting ‘American Gothic’. I suspect the husband is a retired army man and is always very neatly and properly turned out. He is also very fond of his red wine.
Every day we’ve had breakfast and dinner with a couple called Ted and Jean. Despite their ages, they are both very fit. Until now Ted has done only backpacking holidays, which isn’t something I can imagine pensioners doing on a regular basis. He has let his garden run fallow ‘to encourage wildlife’ he says, although Jean rolls her eyes at this. Ted and Jean are my favourites although I also like John and Margaret. They are couple who fell over independently in the reindeer enclosure. Margaret is quite chubby and jolly while John is taller and thinner with a wry sense of humour. He carries a dated Nikon SLR camera which uses real film and looks on digital photography as ‘point and click’ blasphemy.
I showed him my Olympus E420 but he wasn’t impressed.
There are two couples from Bristol and Yorkshire who have commandeered the back seat of the coach and talk interminably about memory foam mattresses and terminal diseases.
When we arrived at the Folk Museum our tour guide was planning to show us round, but while we were waiting for someone to fix the projector in the introductory video room, we decided to show ourselves around.
It’s basically a large area where bygone buildings have either been recreated or dismantled on site and reassembled here, so one can see original sheep shearer’s cottages, an original village post-office, a sweet shop, a farm etc. etc.
The farm features real animals and the UO was treated to the bizarre spectacle of a cat catching a mouse and eating the whole thing, apart from one piece, which appeared to be a blue-green section of intestine.
We then ended up in Dingwall, a very dour town where the locals seemed to be angry at having been forced to live there. The UO and I went to The Viking Bar where a Scots version of Hurley from Lost was working behind the bar. We comprised of half the pub’s customers, the other two being a nice old lady and a man playing a ‘Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?’ slot machine.
We only went in to use the toilet. Outside we’d seen two signs, more or less pointing at each other saying ‘Toilets’ but we could find none in the area between them. I suspect that angry locals had moved the signs around in order to punish non-locals for having the good sense to live somewhere else.
Then we drove up to the top of a mountain so that people could take photos of the view. There should have been more of that sort of thing.
Finally we were returned to Inverness where the UO and I went back to ‘Pyramid’, a shop we’d seen on our first arrival, but which hadn’t been open. It sells gothic objet d’art and we were keen on a figure of Death holding a sign that says ‘Welcome’. We also bought a figure of a dragon, ‘Luminax’ which holds a T-light in each outstretched clawed hand. I could well imagine Mo, the Blair Athol tour guide, pointing these out and explaining their origins and significance to interested visitors to our home.
We found a Chinese Restaurant, ‘The Mandarin Palace’, boasting itself as ‘The Only Real Chinese Restaurant in Inverness.’ Above the urinals in the gents a sign had been put up which read ‘Please stand closer. Your Big John is not as big as you like to think it is.!’
The food was excellent. I also particularly liked the crazy Chinese waitress who asked us if we were OK with chopsticks.
‘If you make a mess.’ she said, ‘we will have to ask you to do some washing up.’
Finally we tried out a sixteen year old Glen Roth single malt whisky in the Royal Highland Hotel outside the station before collecting our bags and finding our bunks on the allnight train, where I am now. The UO has banished me to the top bunk.
I don’t care. I just want to sleep the sleep of the just can’t be bothered to stay awake.

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