Tuesday 7th - Flaming June! What a miserable day but the rain eased to let me walk down to the station via the library. I picked up a copy of "The Ghost" by Robert Harris which I have meant to read for a while. A quick trip to the cashpoint then off to the station.
I toyed with the idea of travelling the scenic route via Cumbernauld and Springburn but decided not to take the risk on the connections. The 10.33 to Queen St was busy and I finished up on a fold down seat next to the doors. A quick 30 pages of The Ghost just to be certain that I don't need to hit the charity shops for reading matter. It seems to be ok and is big enough to last 3 days.
It was raining in Glasgow so just a quick trip to the Sainsbury's local for sandwiches, and a pint in Wetherspoons where I failed to get the wifi to work. The 12.21 for Mallaig was packed and for the first time in my experience has 6 coaches - 2 for Oban and 4 for Mallaig.
There is the usual scrum but I got my reserved window seat and was joined by an old boy with his middle aged son and daughter who all travelled up from Bingley over the Settle & Carlisle leaving at 6 a.m. - and they say I'm mad. I am able to reassure them that we are sitting on the superior side of the train as regards scenery.
The view is slightly spoilt by the extra foliage but was still ok as we made our way up the Gareloch and over to Loch Long. My fellow-travellers were fascinated by the Ammunition Compound at Glen Douglas and speculated about what nasties it might contain. We swopped itineraries and they think I'm crazy to be doing Linlithgow-Glasgow-Fort William- Euston sleeper-A full circuit of the London Overground followed by a return on the FW sleeper then the trip back home. They are no slouches themselves as their trip is Bingley-Fort William-Mallaig-Kyle of Lochalsh (boat & car)-Inverness-Leeds-Bingley in 3 days. I tell them about the GCIRC round India trip (I am wearing the T shirt) and we all agreed that we are amateurs in comparison.
By the time we got to Loch Lomondside the weather had really closed in and we had to close the ventilator to stop the rain blowing in. At least we didn't miss much by being on the left hand side of the train for this section. It stayed dreich as far as Bridge of Orchy and then cleared up a bit as we crossed Rannoch Moor. We saw a big bird of prey, grey with a white head apparently fishing a burn. No bird book to check with - maybe an osprey? Loch Treig and the Monessie gorges had the grockles on their feet - if only they knew that you see a lot more in February or November. Then we got to see the shoulders of Ben Nevis complete with snow and cloud on top. Some folk are easy pleased. As we pulled into Fort William it was raining torrentially and Gresley K4 "The Great Marquess" was just heading off after pulling today's Jacobite. No chance of a photo and I had to make do with "Loch Arkaig" the diesel back up.
The main priority was to stay dry and find out how the 2nd test v Sri Lanka was going. I made my soggy way to the Crofter Bar, little changed since I could be blamed, and talked them into putting on the cricket. It wasn't exciting and I expect that they were glad when I left. At this point I realised that my Bookface disciples would be suffering so I skipped into the Ben Nevis Bar and logged on to their wifi in order to update my status. For supper I had in mind a quite nice pub that I ate at 2 years ago. When I got there I discovered that it had been turned into the "Spice of India".
I took a chance. The service was excellent, they let me have a couple of starters with rice and daal rather than a main course, and the place soon started to fill up. Next to me were an extended Indian family having lively discussions in Hinglish and giving the waiters a really hard time about everything. There was a baby who found me fascinating. I hope they get it's eyes tested soon. The food was good and the beer ok (Cobra not Kingfisher). It was just like being in India apart from the bill. All too soon it was time to head back to the station. I arrived just as boarding commenced and we were checked in by a Rio Ferdinand look alike who is definitely not a local. Another Indian reminder was the choice of vegetarian or non-veg cooked breakfast which one orders as part of the boarding process.
The train was only 4 coaches - sitting class to Edinburgh only, lounge car, 2nd class sleeper, 1st class sleeper. A first class cabin is a second class one with only the lower bunk deployed + complimentary wash-kit, cooked breakfast and priority in the lounge if it gets busy. The last one seems to be the clincher for me.
I had hoped to get some good photos out of the train but the weather had really closed in and there was no chance of decent photos. So. Plan B. A beer in the lounge car which was rather like an up market pub. Orders are taken at your table, drinks delivered professionally and you don't have to pay until the end. After that Mr Harris's demolition job on the Blairs got a hammering. To the point where I fell asleep until woken by a text from SWMBO asking if I was sleepy yet. Time to get into jim-jams and switch the lights out.