With a successful conclusion to the 1987 Top Deck training trip Malcolm, Frank, Wayne a.k.a Wags, and I headed out on a road trip of our own design to test our mettle as tour guides.
One stop was Annan; a quaint English country village. The FA Cup was on that day so we headed into the first pub we encountered in order to watch the action. We were oblivious to the fact that we had already crossed from England into Scotland and the Scots had little interest in the English soccer match. Annan turned out to be more of a quaint “Scottish” country village. Tour guides, all of us.
Another stop was the Johnny Walker factory in Kilmarnock. Birth place of the whiskey label; Red, Blue, Black, Double Black, Green, and Gold. Like the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam the whiskey distiller offered tours and we wanted in on that. We arrived on the one day they were closed.
Unperturbed we headed north to Glasgow and found ourselves driving the wrong way down one of the many one way streets. We got honked out of town.
We should have told them we were tour guides.
Aviemore is a resort town located in the foothills of Cairngorms National Park. We arrived in the early hours of the afternoon, which would not have been the case if Johnny Walker had opened its doors to us, and proceeded directly to the resort bar; thirsty work driving into the highlands. Thinner air, dehydration…you know how that works.
Four energetic lads, high on life sitting in a bar. It did not take long before we caught the attention of a couple of girls. They were from Australia so we had ourselves an antipodean reunion of sorts in the off-season mountains of Scotland’s middle earth.
The girls worked at the resort and as part of their employment package they were given housing in a stark looking apartment block. It was 5 stories high; white with absolutely no discerning features at all. Their room was a reflection of the building in that it was sparse and had few amenities. Even Scotland in the 80’s was fully ensconced in the TV culture yet their room lacked even a version that projected in black and white.
Frank, Malcolm, Wayne, and I booked ourselves into a cabin on the resort property and then returned to the main bar at the resort to meet up with our new friends.
Earlier in the day Wayne and Malcolm had garnered the attention of local authorities when they rode the ski chairlift up the snow-less mountain and jumped off into the safety nets. This hadn’t gone over so well and their “rescue” set a target on our collective backs, although we were blissfully unaware of this at the time.
As evening turned to night our small party at the resort bar moved venue and before too long all six of us continued our quest for a quenched thirst at the cabin. As Wayne mentioned when we were piecing this together nearly 30 years after the fact, “Don’t know how we used to get so thirsty”.
At some point Frank and Wayne separated the girls from the boys and it was Malcolm and me that found ourselves alone in the living room while squeals and giggles penetrated the walls and entered our psyche. Eventually all died down and sleep set in, but not for long.
At some point late into the night the girls decided it would be a good idea for them to remove our television and take it back to their own accommodation. We don’t know how they did it but they got it out of the cabin without stirring anyone. It was outside in the cold night air that they must have had a change of plan and decided to hide it in the highland bush instead; presumably to be moved again at a later date.
Then they took off.
Somehow, at some point, we realized something was not quite right in our highland world. All four of us headed outside in the wee hours searching for a bloody TV; flashlights flickering, drunken laughter, and unwanted noise, all of this would of course coincide with a routine patrol by the local constabulary.
On registering the arrival of the cops Malcolm took a dive to the ground and began to camouflage himself under leaves and branches while at the same time advising all others, by way of a battle cry, to act like wombats. What?
It’s the best way NOT to get seen as suspicious.
Scotland’s finest weren’t fooled and the obvious question was first. “Why are you carrying a TV through a garden in the middle of the night” or something to that effect. And so the interrogations began and we were left to explain away our actions.
To be honest I think it may have been Wayne who did all the explaining as I, like Malcolm, was fully convinced the wombat ploy was a winner.
“But Officer, we are returning it !”
Not sure if the police were in a good mood or our story seemed so ridiculous that it had to be true but we were not arrested. We were told however, in no uncertain terms, that our best and only course of action was to leave town. “It would be better for everybody if you lot are not in town tomorrow…and don’t bother coming back”.
We were banished from Aviemore.
Almost 28 years to the day and none of us have ever returned.