Retro Roamer

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* ‘When does the next one go up’? That was the question posed by a foreign ‘towrist’ as she stood below the gondola cable car on the gantry outside Nevisport. She thought she had missed the previous one and was waiting for another gondola to come along. It IS close to the transport centre, right enough.

* You’ll recall I was complimentary about the speedy way the new town toilets were made ready in Station Square. But there was a hiccup because the ‘communal urinal’, in all its stainless steel glory, wasn’t delivered in time. So the standing ovation for the official opening has had to be postponed. But now, you’ll be mightily relieved to learn, progress is being made as the complete contraption has arrived. But, and here’s the rub, it is too large to go through the door of the conveniences. Thus the urinal is being installed once council workmen have removed a large window to allow it through. Clochemerle hadn’t a look-in.

* The Mallaig public conveniences, however, have ‘had it’. Well, that’s according to a memo from the environmental health services department. It reads: ‘It is not possible to convert the existing toilets in Mallaig to provide a satisfactory end product.’

* Up the stairs went Mrs MacDonald who planked herself down on a chair and waited for the shampoo. Much to her consternation she was asked if she had an appointment. ‘Yes, of course I have,’ Mrs MacDonald replied. She was advised, nicely, that her name wasn’t in the book. Which wasn’t too surprising as she was occupying a chair in the dentist’s surgery when she should have been ‘through the wall’ in the hairdressers.

*A lot of people were wondering last week if major changes in the Catholic hierarchy were about to be announced. The reason was the pall of black smoke rising from the St Mary’s Hall lum. However, all is well. It was just the heating being adjusted prior to a ceilidh.

* ‘If I don’t see you through the week, I’ll see you through the window’, or, in the case of the village, through the letter box. Houses in Inverlochy are having new doors fitted. As a result there are letter boxes on the back doors as well as the front. I can just imagine Jim, Neil, Allan and Hector separating the day’s mail so that letters and postcards have front door delivery and the trade circulars and junk mail go through the back. In the meantime, believe it or not, the replacement Dorran houses in Caol don’t have letter boxes at all.

* John Doherty demonstrated his engineering and practical prowess towards the end of this year’s ‘towrist season’ by converting a redundant mangle, which had been left in an outhouse at his Beaufort House B&B down Achintore, into an eye-catching roadside advertising structure. ‘Vacancies’ and ‘No Vacancies’ signs revolve round it as required. Last
time John was involved with technological devices was when he was taking advice on what to do with a bomb discovered under the fifth fairway of Fort William Golf Course. In wartime, that area had formed part of the BA Dummy Factory.

* In the clubhouse last week, a note was pinned to the notice board by Jonathan Benyon from Braunton in Devon. Jonathan advised he had seen a golden eagle circling above the fifth fairway. ‘It was a rare treat,’ he wrote. ‘That and playing round Fort William Golf Course really made our holiday.’

* It’s all the the rage just now. Rubbing bits of coal across your bingo book for luck. Winners galore are reported. But is it actually a clever promotional plan by Shiel Valley? Maybe it would be worth buying a hundredweight and spreading it on my pools coupon during the season to turn it from coal dust to gold dust.

*Philomena Begley was ‘in concert’ at the Pulp Mill Club. Packed out, the place was, especially with the arrival of 30 country and western fans from Arisaig and Mallaig. Mind you, Philomena herself didn’t get off to the brightest start. She came in at the door, along with a crowd of the club’s patrons and, in a show of real Highland hospitality, was charged £1 for the privilege of hearing herself sing!

*You’ll be desolated to hear Fort William is not going to strike up a twinning arrangement with Shoreview, Minnesota. Representatives of Shoreview’s Sister City Association have been in touch with An Gearasdan but Lochaber District Council has declined acceptance as a ‘Transatlantic Sister’. So it’s hands off – across the sea.

* Davie Revie watched Fort William Football Club triumph over Cove Rangers. However, he had arrived late at Claggan Park on his racing bike. ‘Had trouble with eight of my nine gears,’ Davie announced. Then he joined his railway colleagues Davie Davidson and Hendry Hay in the grandstand. Apart from Hendry remarking that Davie Revie, with his black beret and bow tie, looked like an ‘Ingin Johnny’, the conversation which reverberated through the stand was all about railwaymen, past and present. Their ages, when they retired, their clashes with ‘higher authority’ over the years was all so diverting it nearly derailed this week’s match report in the sports pages as I could hardly concentrate on the football.

* Word reaches me from the ‘alternative tourist board’ that the number of foreign visitors calling in at the Belford to book B&B has far exceeded the figures of previous seasons. And all because of a badly sited sign at the Belford Road junction.

* Bob Murray was telling me that, having read last week’s Lochaber News, the last time he was described as ‘indefatigable’ was in 1951 when he organised the Dunlop International Cycle Race at Helenvale Park, Parkhead. The world’s best wheelers were on the programme, including Reg Harris. The subsequent newspaper write-up described Bob as ‘The indefatigable co-ordinator’. Prior to Bob’s more recent mention in despatches, the last time I wrote the word was when Jean Bettridge was playing the piano at a town hall concert and I described her as ‘The indefatigable pianist’.

* ‘Everything goes in cycles,’ says I. And the way things are panning out with the Royal Mail deliveries down Lochaline way the Pony Express will soon return there. A humorous letter, with a first-class sting in the tail, has been sent by Sir Russell Johnston to Kenneth Graham, chairman of the Scottish Postal Board. Sir Russell writes: ‘If someone posts a letter in Lochaline to someone in Strontian, the letter goes first from Lochaline to Mull, then from Mull to Oban, then from Oban to Paisley, then from Paisley to Perth, then from Perth to Fort William, then from Fort William to Acharacle – and finally from Acharacle to Strontian. This operation takes about a week, first class or not.’ No wonder Sir Russell is suggesting the use of a post bus. Me? I still think horse power should have a postal part to play.