Retro Roamer

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The All Weather Centre now looks like being the ‘All Whether Centre’ or, as I heard it described recently, the All Wet White Elephant Centre. Now roll on the two cinemas to provide a long-lacking town amenity.

Meanwhile, I wonder if someone in the local authority will see fit to provide local residents with a visual or perspective view of what Cameron Square will look like when all its holes are filled in. Then we – the common five eighths – might be able to appreciate what the future holds there. It would be nice if an artist’s impression of the piazza, terrazza, or whatever could be displayed on a panel or hoarding in the Square, thus emulating the days when we knew what was happening locally thanks to the beautifully signwritten notice boards which were always attached to the railings in front of the Kennedy Monument.

Word reaches me from the terminus of the West Highland Line of high jinks with a telly. It appears that when a couple of youngsters knocked the family TV off its stand, their uncle took it into Seagull City to be sorted.

As Mallaig is such a homely place, an arrangement was made whereby the repaired telly could be picked up from the boot of the fixer’s car parked in his driveway. Uncle goes along to where the car is parked, opens the boot – and out falls the TV with a clatter. The TV is duly fixed – again – and, apart from a few dents and scratches on the screen, is working. It is delivered, firmly, into the living room from whence it had come. Repairer has told uncle if it breaks down, or breaks out, again, it will be the subject of the first £1,000 TV revival job.

Tales of the West Highland Line abound and another couple of stories are worth recalling.

One was an incident involving the British Rail (BR) chairman – you may remember his letter to our railway friend in ‘Wallace Road, Glasgow, Fort William’.

It seems the BR boss really took the strain when he opted to travel by sleeper from the Fort to the real Glasgow. During the trip he was awakened three times by a faulty fire alarm. At 5.30am he was flung to the floor of his first-class couchette when a broken brake pipe forced the train into an unscheduled stop at Tamworth, Staffs.

There his sleeper coach was uncoupled and he had to dress and move to a lower-class seat. The train arrived at Euston 90 minutes late and the chairman made straight for his office without having had the chance to change. I would like to have seen the internal memo of this episode which, no doubt, he would have compiled for ‘lower authority’.

Aye, well, that’s the Fort William telephone exchange switchboards silent after almost a century.

The splendid service by our local operators will be greatly missed. I hear one of them was more miffed than missed because she received a retirement certificate instead of a thank you scroll from BT.

So, that’s it all you folks who simply had to pick up the phone and ask to be put through to Marion Weir’s or the Pulp Mill Clu. That was okay up until 11pm last Thursday. Now you have to be somewhat more specific when speaking to the Inverness exchange.

One of the most humorous episodes in the changeover – and there were many – came when a person, not unconnected with switchboard operating in the Gearasdan, phoned through to 192 and asked for the number of ‘Johnny Fish’s Taxis’. After a pause, the response was that there was no-one listed under ‘Fish’ who had a taxi business. ‘Well then,’ pursued the caller, ‘can you get me Leek’s Taxis?’ Sic transit…

Have you tried the new High Street card game? It puts the Irish three card trick, or pontoon, in the shade. You simply insert your cheque card into a bank dispenser and press a few buttons. Then you wait for a couple of minutes. Next you have to go into the bank, which you’ve avoided doing in the first place, to get your card back. We used to play a similar game to that in Viewforth. It was called ‘Face or a Blank.’ Now it’s ‘Pace to the Bank’.

A wee bit of mumping and moaning at the planning committee meeting. And quite a lot of stir, stir and dig, dig.  Ah, but the collective eyes lit up when there was a suggestion of a site visit to find out how the New York freeways operate.

If it takes four council operatives and a metal detector all of one morning in Claggan to locate a stopcock and another squad of four men all day to put up a notice stating ‘No dumping of rubbish’, what do you get by high noon? Answers – water, water everywhere and the notice pulled down and dumped in among the rubbish that’s not supposed to be dumped.

High jinks last week with the re-decanting of tenants from caravans back into their Lochyside houses. It appears the amount of notice given by Lochaber District Council to those moving out and those moving in was anything but sufficient. Consequently some tenants got into a right burach. And they were none too pleased with officialdom. In fact, one occupier, taking the air from his temporary caravan home, found his own house key sticking out of his front door. And not a workman nor bureaucrat in sight.

Meanwhile one of our elected custodians of the public purse railed against the arrival in Mallaig of three district council officials – in three cars. And they didn’t even take any surplus refuse back to the Fort.

Nice one, Jimmy. After the ‘wake’ for the passing of the telephone exchange switchboard, Jimmy dialled 100. ‘Hello,’ said he. ‘Did I leave my jacket in the staff room? I haven’t seen it since last night.’ Inverness 100 apparently reckoned it was a nuisance call and hung up on him. I doubt Jimmy’s jacket is still ‘hung up’ as well.

Caol residents did a double take when they saw not one, but two polis patrolling – on foot – through the streets of their village which is, of course, the largest in Scotland. To many it brought back memories of when the boys in blue were a familiar sight there, or thereabouts.

While the game of Trivial Pursuits was getting big licks upstairs in the Council Chambers, the staircases within Lochaber House were also getting big links – of paint. Obviously some staff weren’t told about this. I was heading upstairs for a meeting and met one workers with a liberal supply of wet paint – from the banister rail – on her hand. Then one of her colleagues appeared with paint marks on his jacket. Claims, in quintuplicate please, to the chairman of the resources and general purposes committee.

This is true. Somewhat inebriated local worthy, wandering along the High Street, sees a sign which  is new to him. ‘Heel Bar’ it reads. Thinks to himself: ‘There’s a town pub I didn’t know existed. Must look in there.’ Does so and was none too pleased to find an array of footwear had got there before him.

Not true, however, was the story of the two lads who had had a few and decided to go for an Indian meal and were none too pleased to find Currys was shut.