Am Bratach No. 323
September 2018

Posties post
by Mark Gilbert

I remember my first realisation that there was a Beatles connection with the northern Highlands was when I was driving the road from Kinloch Lodge back to the causeway over the Kyle of Tongue via Achuvoldrach. We stopped to look at an information board facing Ben Loyal and I read about John Lennon’s car accident at Golspie on July 1 1969 when he crashed his car while on his way to visit his Aunt Mater in Durness, where he spent his childhood holidays.

Later, while visiting Durness, we came across the memorial garden there to the memory of John Lennon and saw the stones depicting the words to “In My Life”, which Lennon wrote.

I was thinking about the Beatles again when I was sniggering to myself when recalling something someone had said to me on my postie round. The lyrics I thought of were, “Then we will remember, things we said today”. “Things We Said Today” was written by Paul McCartney in 1964 for the film of “A Hard Day’s Night”. Although it was on the album, it didn’t get on to the film in the end. It was the B side of the single, “A Hard Day’s Night”, and the words were directed towards Jane Asher, who McCartney was dating at the time.

As a postie in a rural setting you tend to get to know quite a lot of people’s business either by talking to them, talking to other people, or just by observing. The one golden rule I observe is that “I see all, hear all, but say **** all!” So, anything I hear or see is safe with me unless it is common knowledge or I am asked to pass it on.

Some of my conversations are similar to those you have with long distance friends that you only see once in a while, whereby you seem to almost carry on a previous conversation, even though you haven’t spoken for ages. Most conversations are just either weather, health, water or animal related and are conducted during the few seconds of giving the post to my customers, but some are a bit longer and can be very detailed.

I will give you a flavour of a couple of the more detailed conversations first and then some “asides” that come back to my memory later and cause a smile and sometimes almost disbelief that I actually heard it.

I arrived in the kitchen of Robbie Anderson with his post and also the post for Graham Worrall from Danckwerts House (further down Strathnaver) as his car was in the drive. Robbie’s brother Harold was also there and they were sitting around the kitchen table. After a quick overview of the current weather situation we got on to the subject of preparation for certain scans at hospital as there was somebody having to go for one. We were having a right laugh at memories of taking the crystal mixture, usually orange flavoured, which should come with a bold warning to remain close to the WC in anticipation of the inevitable eruption or evacuation of seemingly everything you have ever eaten! This comes fast and takes no prisoners and you need to remain in the WC area until the end of the process.

The conversation then moved on to gallstones removal as prescribed by Dr Roger Melhuish, who practises complementary medicine in Newburgh, Fife. Graham said that the advice was to drink a mixture of one pint of olive oil with half a pint of lemon juice. The mixture had to be drunk in one go and then you just had to wait for it to work. This could take quite a while and Graham suggested it was a good idea to take a good book with you, a big book which you have always promised yourself you would read. This process removes the need for surgery or hard drugs and also gets a book off your bucket list.

Another conversation, with a customer who wishes to remain anonymous, concerns military planning. We were talking about how deskbound “pen pushers” could sometimes put the damper on one’s seemingly good ideas, but my customer had a completely fantastic example of where the tables were turned and the operational planners’ “plan” would have soon been proven unsound.

The story goes that when the operational planners were first sent to what was to become Camp Bastion in Afghanistan they forecast that to beat the Taliban the airfield would only need to be a certain size and predicted that they would only need the capacity for about three movements a week. To cut quite a long story short, my deskbound contact challenged the prediction and eventually won his side of the argument. The main runway ended up four miles long and two miles wide and could easily cope with the Hercules C130 and the C17 Globemasters which came daily. From the original plan of three movements a week, there were 600 a day, which is 18,000 a month. At one time the “airport” was the fifth busiest in the UK.

So, my conversations can be either very brief or much more detailed, but they are in the main quite interesting and I have quite a few more interesting conversations to share at a later date.

When I first started this route, Cathie Macleod gave me back a letter that I had delivered wrongly the previous day and told me it was for her “next door neighbour”. I drove off towards Bettyhill thinking that I had been tricked, only to realise that Cathie’s “next door neighbour” was three miles away at Achargary.

But, the little aside that first made me think about the “things we said today” came when Dorothy Hall came out with one of those flesh coloured supports on her wrist and I innocently asked if she had had an accident. She said “No, it is fine really, it’s just a knitting-related injury.” 

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