I got an offer today, one of those Groupon-type deals of a hotel for a silly cheap price. This was three or four nights, at about £130, which is a pretty good rate, despite it being what the hotel called a ‘self-drive’ price.
I know this hotel. What they mean is you can sail there, or take your submarine there, as people used to do back in the war, when they torpedoed the jetty for fun, training, or take your longship there, which the Vikings did, then when they realised there wasn’t much going on in this little burgh, they portaged the whole thing into Loch Lomond, the next big bit of water, to see if there were better pickings there.
Or you can drive, but there isn’t any other way of getting there. It’s the middle of nowhere in the middle of Scotland.
Like any good hotel, this one is supposed to be haunted. Maybe it is. We’d been on tour, tour-guiding a group of American seniors. This was one of those tours when you just wish you hadn’t accepted the offer to do it, full of people who keep talking about how you Europeans took your life in your hands when you go to the supermarket without a gun.
There were a few who were ok. One tall-is woman with a nice pair of jeans, but mostly an older crowd. It had been a long day. The coach had managed to be in two minor collisions within a half hour that afternoon. Neither of them the coach driver’s fault, but it still happened and he still needed a new wing mirror after a hire van had come round a corner on our side of the road. It shook him. It shook me.
We got to the hotel and after everyone had checked in, after the mass panic when 50 Americans realised there was only one lift and they’d have to – OMIGARD – walk upstairs or wait, I thought I could do with a walk before dinner. There weren’t many places to walk, just up to the end of the sea loch where there was a little park we’d passed on the way in, through the main – the only – street of the tiny loch-head village, past the crumbling wooden pier slowly crumbling into the water. It didn’t matter, it was the only place to go.
After the main street had ended there was a little bit of open country before the park. That’s when I noticed the tallish woman and her nice jeans walking in front of me, about 50 yards ahead but walking more slowly than me.
And I realise the thing I could sense she was realising too – it’s getting towards dusk, we’re the only two people around, I’m gaining on her and this park we’re headed to is a dead end.
What do you say?
I’m not going to hurt you
Somehow it doesn’t sound that reassuring, does it? “You don’t need to scream,” doesn’t help, either. I did what any red-blooded male would do – walk determinedly past her, heading straight for the bottle bank and keep on going, into a damp pasture that lead down to the shore of the loch and stumble on the seaweed back to the hotel that way. Which took about an hour and two falls, which was a total and utter pain but better than having the poor woman think I was stalking her with intent.
The hotel was supposed to be haunted by a Green Lady and a banshee, but only one person had ever seen the Green Lady, a cleaner in about 1971. I asked the manager about it but he asked me not to talk about it. He said he’d never heard about it but things like that scared him, so if I wouldn’t mind, stop.
Dinner passed off without too much of a hitch. I arranged a birthday cake for a girl whose birthday it was at her mother’s prompting, the same mother who reacted as if I’d spat on her plate when I got a cake together from the hotel. So glad I bothered. Early night. Nothing much else to do except sit up drinking with the driver on some tours, and I didn’t want to do that on this one.
I woke from a dream of a woman screaming at about five. At least I thought it was a dream. I got up and opened the door of my room. Nothing. No screams, no running feet, no swinging doors, no sign that it was anything at all except a dream. Back to sleep for a couple of hours, then breakfast, we bid good-bye to the hotel with only one complaint about there being only one towel per guest “So you know what to dry last” and off we go, along the road past the bottle bank in the little park at the head of the loch, past the information plaque I’d had to study for about twenty minutes to allow nice jeans woman to get out of the park without thinking I was following her. Another place they’ll never see again.
We got to a huge cafe in the Lake District some hours later. There was a seat with a group of Philippino women on the tour. They were sat at a table all holding hands with their eyes shut. They looked upset. It turned out they were just saying grace before their coffee and cake but actually, since I asked, yes, they were upset.
The problem was they’d been woken by a woman’s scream at about five am. On the whole I don’t think I’m going to take-up that Groupon offer.