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Highland nonsense

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posted by INNES alias PentlandPirate free as a tame penguin can be on Thursday 23rd of September 2021 05:40:09 AM

“Is this the train to Mallaig?” she had shouted over to him, against the howl of the wind and the rain slatting on the tin station roof.. He hadn’t really noticed her before, the cold sleaty rain was driving in under the station canopy and everyone was sheltering as best they could round the corner of the waiting room which had already been taken over by a few inconsiderate smokers. Illegal, but they didn’t care. Not wishing for a confrontation he had found some slim shelter behind one of the brick columns that supported the roof and she was stood behind one of the old phone boxes that stood at the side of the platform not far away. Fort William stood in a bit of a time lock, in the shadow of the looming dark bulk of the Ben Nevis mountain. There was no sign of modernisation whatsoever. Even the noisily idling diesel railcar was old and dirty. But inside it would offer some warmth and shelter from the incessant rain. Unfortunately they couldn’t get on it until nearer its departure time. The taxis and private hire cars were busy round the station and he watched as grateful people jumped in as one approached, inviting a fare, and others dashed from arriving cars that pulled up to get quickly under cover in the station. He loved people watching, wondering who they were, where they were going and why: wondering what their lives were like…. but pleasant as it was to day dream, he was keen to get home to the comforts there. He spotted an untidy railway official in a heavy overcoat wander down the platform pulling the carriage doors open. For the waiting passengers it was a blessing the doors on the platform side were on the sheltered side from the wind, so the rain didn’t soak inside, but many masked folk rushed to get to their seats inside even though the passing squall was at its heaviest at that moment and the train was not due to depart for another ten minutes. There were many tourists, Far Eastern, he guessed dressed in lightweight waterproofs over colourful casual wear, hesitating to advance to the train, unsure if this was ‘the right train’. They caught the attention of the train guard and showed him their tickets. Watching, the man saw heads nod amongst the small group and pointing, indicating it was the train they had tickets for, but, no, it wasn’t the Hogwarts Express, steam Jacobite they thought they had bought tickets for. Oh dear! He looked round to judge how soon his train was going to depart, and once more noticed the woman peering out from behind the telephone boxes, coat hood pulled tight around her face she was also watching the small group of confused travellers, and when she saw him looking at her, a wry smile crossed her face….a little laughter at the expense of the disappointed tourists. But slowly the group gravitated towards the train and the man waited behind them to get onboard. He deliberately headed the opposite way down the aisle to find a peaceful spot down the train, and slumped onto one of the seats. He rummaged in his bag to get his laptop out and wasn’t aware of other passengers filing past and choosing where to sit, so was surprised, having retrieved his laptop to see the woman he had smiled at was now stood by the seat opposite him, removing her dripping coat and stowing it in the rack above. His eyes cast down her profile as she stretched to reach above: slim, almost athletic……not bad. Almost attractive he thought, careful not to get caught looking at her. As she sat down, he looked across the table, seeing a mild smile on her face. “Better in here“ he said, optimistically hoping for a response. But she was pulling a Kindle out of her bag, and settled into reading from it. He turned to his own device, opened up the laptop and switched it on. Presently he started typing, occasionally looking up to stare out of the window for inspiration as the rain streamed down the glass. She must have looked up from her kindle. “Are you going to Mallaig?” she said. Surprised that she should ask the question, he replied, “No, just as far as Lochailort. Are you?” “Yes” she said, “I’m taking the ferry to Skye…and then I’m not sure what!” “Are you on holiday?” “Yes, I’m a walker and I’ll take a few snaps on the way past the honey pots. You know, nice sunsets with a rock or something in the foreground!” He did know, but was just starting to wonder whether she might need any suggestions on where to go, and then decided not. She had a mean confidence about her, a steely determination, and he was sure she didn’t need any help in life. Independent. Hmmmm. If only, he thought….. as he hovered dangerously close to going into daydream mode. He turned back to his laptop, and thought up the next sentence he would write, just as she interrupted his thoughts again: “I’m sorry for disturbing you? Are you working?” she said looking at the laptop. He considered his reply, “Well sort of. I’m writing. A story.” His answer made her straighten up, “Ooooo, what’s it about?” “Well”, he was a bit bashfull. “I like to write stories part based on fact, part fiction. Historical with a bit of passion and romance”. She was on the edge of her seat, “Oooo! What’s the story you are writing?” He was a little uncomfortable to tell all but he started, “It’s about Prince Charles and the Seven Men of Moidart. Have you heard of them?”, guessing she hadn’t. “Well, you know the Glenfinnan viaduct we go over in a bit?” and she nodded, “That’s where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Stuart standard” when he came from France to claim the British Crown. He had some supporters, Scots, English and Irish who later helped him evade capture when the rebellion was crushed at the battle of Culloden in 1746. At the moment I’ve just got to the bit where they have invaded England as far down as Derby and they are starting to feel homesick. One of the rebel army commanders of the Clan Ranald has decided to go off climbing in the nearby Peak District after getting distracted by a local woman who promised him all sorts of local delights” He looked at her for a reaction. “Wow, that sounds fun! Are you going to publish it?” “Yes, if I can just get it finished off. I’m writing another story too, my first novel. About a Welsh slate quarryman. I never realised it was so hard to do” She thought for a moment, “Is there any romance in them?” “Mmmm. There was. But I’ve had to write that out. Too complicated. Charles had lots of affairs. Not with the Seven men of Moidart!!!! No, they went down in history for something else. And not the seven men of Knoydart either. They were from another era”. He looked back at what he had been writing on the laptop screen, and considered where his ramble was going. Confusing and messy. A load of nonsense. After a moment he looked back up. His mouth fell open as he realised she had gone. What did he say???!!!!

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  • Published 11.30.21
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