Ferry, please have mercy, ’cause the land’s the place I love – and would pre­fer to stay

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - AGENDA - Iain Maciver

When Mrs X said that some­one we knew from a long time ago wanted her to do the click­ing at his Oc­to­ber wed­ding, I thought, good for her. So I thought to my­self that she could take my van and I would see her when she got back from Har­ris or Uist or wher­ever it was to be. She sighed then slowly ex­plained in sim­ple words which I could un­der­stand that the wed­ding was ac­tu­ally in Lan­cashire, it was her van and I had to go with her to carry her cam­era bags and to drive. That would ease the stress on her – un­like the ef­fect I nor­mally have on her. Un­der­stood, mi­lady. What­ever you say.

And in any case, we need to visit some­one we know in Glouces­ter­shire. Yes, The Daughter. The first born. The only born. I think I can say that con­fi­dently now be­cause I have heard no more from the Child Sup­port Agency. Just kid­ding, hon. You are my first, my last, my ev­ery­thing. So can you put the old lady and I up for a cou­ple of nights? Least you can do to re­pay us for the last 22 years of worry and anx­i­ety. No, I am not talk­ing about your mother wait­ing for me to get back from the pub. Cheeky brat. I’ll see you soon.

That rot­ten old tub, the Isle of Lewis, is cur­rently on the route be­cause the Loch

Seaforth is a ferry on the Mersey, as it is down in Liver­pool for its re­fit. We were only just past the Ar­nish Light when it be­gan to wob­ble. The 24-year-old Isle of Lewis must be one of the least-suited ves­sels to be as­signed to a route in the He­brides – ever.

We were about to or­der break­fast and the rolling be­gan.

The looks on peo­ple’s faces said it all. Many of us could re­mem­ber very well how aw­ful jour­neys were on this smelly old barge be­fore the new Loch Seaforth came into ser­vice. Mrs X was going green round the gills and a quite un­pleas­ant pal­lid hue. Du­lux could market that colour if they called it white with a hint of broc­coli.

Then she said it was all too much for her. She would have to go out­side on deck. To be fair, that did help a lot. She was able to give a bit of coun­ter­weight and the ferry seemed to pitch a bit less. It’s an ill wind but Mrs X is still going to have to start that diet when we get back.

I feel so sorry for the peo­ple of Barra who have to put up with the shoo­gly ship, the Isle of Lewis, as their link with Oban. Ser­vices are reg­u­larly can­celled on that five-hour voy­age. No won­der Bar­rachs de­scribe her as the Olympic flame – she never goes out.

Even some of her hard-work­ing crew were feel­ing un­well. That says it all.

The only ones smil­ing were the school of por­poises that came along­side to snig­ger and chor­tle at Mrs X and I peer­ing over the rail and retch­ing in uni­son. Yes, I know por­poises are known to have what we hu­mans in­ter­pret as smi­ley faces any­way but they did not have to leap clear out of the wa­ter with joy ev­ery­time we boked.

When we fi­nally got off at Ul­lapool, we were sickly and bedrag­gled, as were many other pas­sen­gers too. I felt like get­ting out of the van and kiss­ing the ground in front of the lorry park. I was just so glad to have made it. I would much rather lick up oil and diesel from D R Ma­cleod’s lor­ries than go through that again.

When I have seen the Pope do­ing that at the foot of air­craft steps, it has al­ways crossed my mind that must have been a rough flight.

Other ar­range­ments have been made. CalMac, CMal, Trans­port Scot­land – what­ever you call your­selves this week – please get rid of the ferry Isle of Lewis. She has done her bit and is surely ready to be con­signed to the pages of his­tory.

Please do not make us – and the peo­ple of Barra – suf­fer any more. In the interests of jus­tice and fair play, and to prove you lis­ten to your users, you should not refuse this re­quest with­out all the board mem­bers of your or­gan­i­sa­tions tak­ing a win­ter voy­age on her. That’ll change all your minds pronto.

On the way down, we stopped for a breather and to stretch the legs in Carlisle. It has re­ally changed since we were last here. Big new build­ings, new shop­ping cen­tres and brand new busi­nesses trad­ing ev­ery­where. It is re­ally very confusing. We were in a re­tail park and a guy came up to Mrs X and asked: “Ex­cuse me, miss, can you help me? Do you know where I can find Pets at Home?”

Mrs X looked very puz­zled and said: “Well, cove. I don’t know. Let me think. Have you tried look­ing un­der the bed?”

The Isle of Lewis in Loch Broom as she ar­rives off Ul­lapool – per­haps a scrap yard would be a more ap­pro­pri­ate des­ti­na­tion

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