Retro Roamer – for Feb 6

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More Roamerisms – from the MID 1990s

* The proposed Great Glen Way walking route to link the Fort with Inverness figures in a consultation document  prepared by SNH, the backers of the project. This tells us that the 60-odd miles walk stretches from the Fort via Gairloch, Laggan, Fort Augustus etc to the Highland capital. Gairloch? That’s right – or, rather, wrong. It should be Gairlochy. SNH didn’t drop the ‘h’, they dropped the ‘y’ in their report.

* Paul Morgan, of Croit Anna and Heron Bay fame, is currently travelling the world. This month he’s in South Island, New Zealand. And already Paul has phoned home with a refreshing tale to tell. ‘I’d hired a car,’ said he. ‘And it was raining – just like Lochaber. Then I saw this bloke on the very wet grass verge. Taking photos. I nearly went off the road.’ The photographer was none other than  Roberto Matassa, ex-Fort William. Aye, auld acquaintance was certainly renewed by the two exiles!

* The clock was turned back 50 years on Monday morning, as 35 young recruits of the Korps Commando Troepen from Roosendaal in Holland undertook a seven miles speed march, in full kit, from Spean Bridge to Achnacarry. And, if you saw a Lochaber local doing his own 200 yards yomp through Spean in full kit – ie, carryíng a very heavy reel-to-reel Uher tape recorder – trying to catch them up for an interview, I confess: it was me!

*The AGM of the Lochaber branch of the Royal College of Nursing will be held in the Belford next month. The derisory (that word is mine, incidentally) one per cent pay rise offer will be on the agenda.

* If you happened to see Mrs Doubtfire and Rab C Nesbitt in town last Saturday night – it wasn’t them! Just a couple of larger than life imitators heading for Big Sam’s Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team party night.

* ‘Is there a pet shop in Fort William?’ a couple of tourists enquired of two local worthies. ‘Aye, there is, at Marshall & Pearson along the street. But it’s shut on Sundays. What’s the problem, anyway?’ the locals asked, their joined-up thinking being to direct the couple to Safeway to buy Chum or Chappie. But then the visitors explained. ‘It’s Toby,’ they said. ‘He has tugged on his dog collar and broken it.’ This, of course, was meat and drink to our dynamic duo. They checked the time and commented: ‘Well, all the church services will be finished in a few minutes, and you’ll see plenty of dog collars then. Maybe you could get hold of a spare one.’

* A lot of people were conjecturing as to why ‘red and green lights on a pole’ were  so much in evidence in the West End car park late on Saturday night, when members of Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team were boarding a Sea King helicopter to be airlifted up the Ben. Top secret equipment? Trial take-off lights? No! The pole was part of the gear utilised by the Fort’s night fishermen, and were placed at a point below what used to be the Achintore Shelter. They were then casting their lines over the railings and into Loch Linnhe.

* Three months into the euphoria of having National Lottery millionaires created overnight, Oban is still not switched on for the sale of lottery tickets! The good people of Oban can be forgiven for wondering why they’re folk forgotten. Despite endless promises, the necessary satellite equipment continues to await installation at the three intended local outlets. So Oban punters continue with the option of making the 90 miles round trip to Fort William to buy tickets. So, if you see a few Obanaichs in the Gearasdan in the next few days you’ll know why they are visiting.

* ‘Progress’ is a great thing. I can just see the Divisional Planning Office staff cringe as they read those words ‘Divisional Planning Office staff’ in this column. And saying to themselves ‘Roamer’s not having a go at us , surely?’ Of course I’m not! However, as I mentioned, ‘Progress is a great thing.’ Here we are in the middle of the 1990s and, at Monday’s meeting we were issued with a 40-page treatise about planning enforcement and related matters. However, the word processor with which the office has been provided doesn’t have a £ sign apparently. With the result that sums like £95,000 have to be prefixed instead with a cross between an asterisk and a square. That’s what’s known in  this computerised age as ‘Making a HASH of it’.

* Continuing with council matters, I was having a wee look back at some of my Fort William Town Council reports of the late 1950s. The council met in the erstwhile Town Hall in those days. And there always were a number of pithy and pawky comments from the members . For example, while tabling a motion for the modernisation of the Inverlochy Place houses, Councillor Campbell advised that ‘the kitchenettes are so small that the housewives don’t have room to change their minds in them’. At one evening meeting Cllr Macpherson arrived with the handle of the door – in his hand. ‘Is there a meeting of the General Purposes Committee tonight,’ asked he, ‘so we can get back out without breaking the door down?’ Then there was the debate about the Town Hall clock. It went too fast. It stopped. It struck 13. It chimed. It didn’t chime. Its hands stuck. Its light went out.

* An illegally parked car in Middle Street carried a note under the wipers. ‘Working in DE Shoes’ it read. A local lady came along, saw the message, took it out and added a few words. ‘I do hope they’re comfortable,’ she wrote.

* Which reminds me. During town holidays on Mondays in the 1950s the High Street was congested for long periods. The cause? The ‘Waiting This Side’ and ‘No Waiting This Side’ signs had not been exchanged in the morning. While local drivers, aware of their town’s regulations, parked religiously on what should have been the right side, visitors followed the sign directions and parked on the ‘wrong side’! However even ‘The Butler’ managed to leave his barrow in the ‘correct’ place.