The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

I was working away with dad in the workshop and criticizing someone, can even remember who or why, but it was not long before my dad said, “I have too many faults to go looking for them in others”. I’m not sure I even understood what he was trying to teach me, but I still, remember that truth.

Now I take people as they come, I may not like their dress, their politics, or their beliefs, I may even tell them I disagree with them, but will always respect their right to hold such idiosyncratic view or beliefs. Actually, when I think about it, that is what I love most about meeting new people, their differences, it’s that endearing quality that attracts me to them in the first place. Life would be very boring and dull if we were all clones.

Gordon was a lad from Inverness, we had met up in my early RAF days. Gordon had been posted to Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, and during his time there he had found time, outside his RAF duties, to court, marry and become a father. It was at this point that we once more bumped into one another, I had been sent to Stornoway on maintenance work. We made a date to meet up that night in a local hotel and have a pint or two, for old times sake.

Gordon had brought along his wife, and in her turn, Marie had brought along her life long girlfriend. When we were kicked out at 10 that evening (closing time in Scotland then) and since I had transport we decided to travel up the coast, to a popular sandy beach called Bail’ Ur Tholastaidh, thankfully not so popular at this time of night. I would be travelling back the following day, but did promise Gordon, I would come back up for the weekend of their child’s christening, the fact that I had promised another certain lady that, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back” was incidental.

Saturday, and the eve of the christening, we again spend time together in the hotel lounge and Gordon’s wife got the wink from her friend and told Gordon, “We have to get back home, we have a lot to do before tomorrow”.

Bail’ Ur Tholastaidh seemed the obvious place to take Peggy, and there we sat together telling stories in the light of the fire we had set on the beach, the waters of Caolas Nan Eilean our living backdrop.

Next, morning when I looked out at the car, it was covered from bumper to bumper with sand. It had been fun, taking it in turn, to roar around on the sands with only the headlights to guide us. Now a complete valet service was required. I filled a bucket with dish washing up liquid and water, found a sponge and was about to disappear out the front door when I was stopped by Marie’s grandmother and asked where I was going with the bucket of water.

“To wash the car” I said as if it was obvious to anyone what I was doing.

It was all too obvious to gran, and why she had stopped me. The church we would attend later that morning was the Wee Free, and no I would not be breaking the Sabbath, by washing a car on Sunday, more so in plain sight of the whole town.

I drove off down to a loch outside Stornoway, there are plenty to choose from, and with water from the loch gave the car a good going over, what the eye doesn’t see.

I needed to be down at Tarbert early next morning to catch the ferry to Uig then from there a long drive down to Kyleakin and catch a ferry over to Kyle of Lochalsh and onto the mainland. Now when a certain young lass and I, had only one thought in mind the night before, and that was rampaging around the sands of Bail’ Ur Tholastaidh, in my car, with little thought given to the petrol gauge, I was not surprised to learn I did not even have enough petrol to get me to Tarbert far less a filling station on the mainland.

There was only one petrol pump in Stornoway, and being Sunday it was of course closed. I went down to the owner home and told my story and that I would need petrol if I was to catch the boat in the morning. He looked up and down the street, then pushed open the big door to his garage, no locks necessary, and asked me to reverse my car in and up to the petrol pump by the wall, he then closed the door behind us.

“How much petrol would you be needing?” He asked in that beautiful west highland lilt.

“I though 5 gallons would be enough” I replied.

“Five gallons, where would you be going with all that petrol?” he asked.

“Kinloss” I said, “But if I can even get enough to take me to the mainland, I’m sure I can find a petrol station open there”.

He cranked away at the pump for a while and put the filler cap back on the car, “That will get you to the mainland” he assured me.

“Thanks” I said, “And how much will that be?”

“Ouch! You can pay me the next time you are in Stornoway” he said, dismissing it out of hand, even although I had just told him I was going back to the other side of Scotland. When I returned to the house I told them what had happened, they seemed not at all surprised at my story. The owner had done a good turn on a Sunday, but would not take any reward for that good deed, being Sunday. I asked Gordon to pay the man the next day and let me know how much it was.

“I have the winning lottery ticket right here”.

I had to steal that brilliant line, delivered by the late great Robin Williams in ‘Good Will Hunting’.

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