Hootlander - Part 9

  Bean Goose Moor & Slamannan

At 5.30PM the bus left Callendar Park and headed out of Falkirk towards the M9 Motorway. As the bus approached the motorway junction and slip road, MacMeanie saw two police cars blocking the road ahead. MacMeanie stopped the bus and a policeman approached .


“Bad news, I'm afraid sir,” the policeman said. “There has been a serious accident on the motorway involving a bus and a petrol tanker and it looks like the road may be closed for the rest of the day. If you are trying to get to Glasgow you could try the road over to Bonnybridge and Dennyloanhead or go to Polmont and head for the M8.”

However, MacMeanie grew up in Falkirk and knew this area very well. He remembered that there was a wee road, high up over the Bean Goose Moor to Slamannan and then on to Airdrie and Glasgow. He turned the bus around and headed back to Falkirk, then negotiated the back streets to get onto the narrow road that runs over the high ground to Slamannan.

“Is there a problem?” asked Angus. “We don't want to be late for our flight home.”

“Oh!, dinna fash yersell,” replied MacMeanie. “It's just a wee blockage on the motorway. I ken a guid way tae get tae Glesgae. Dinna fear, we'll get ye tae the airport in plenty o' time.

Taiga Bean Goose of Slamannan

Taiga Bean Goose of Slamannan

As the bus strained up the hill and wallowed over the undulating subsiding narrow road through the peat bog it took up most of the width of the road. Suddenly, without warning, a metallic pearlised purple VW Golf GTI emerged suddenly from a dip in the road. Its two tone horn blared and its lights flashed. MacMeanine was taken by surprise and pulled hard left on the steering to give the VW room to pass, but the nearside wheel of the bus bit into the soft verge and the steering wheel was wrenched from Hamish's grasp. The bus careered into the peat bog and came to an abrupt halt in the soft black quicksand. The airbags exploded and saved MacMeanie from hitting the windscreen.

The Outlanders were thrown about and luggage went flying but because the passengers were all wearing seatbelts no-one was injured. They were all a bit shaken and dazed at how quickly the accident had happened.

“Is anyone hurt?' called out Hamish

“No, I think we are all OK,” replied Skye and Ethel simultaneously.

“Thank God,” squealed Gladys

Then Hamish realised that the bus was still moving, but in a downward direction.

“Quick, everyone, ye have tae git aff the bus, we're sinking intae the bog, open the rear emergency door, Angus! Leave yer luggage the bus is sinkin intae the bog. Jump oot ontae the hard grund as quick as ye can.”

The Outlanders scrambled and struggled and helped each other get off the bus and onto the roadside. They huddled together in a group to watch the bus and their belongings and treasured souvenirs sink slowly out of sight into the black gloopy mire of the bog. The group, all attired in their 18th Century garb stood by the roadside in shock and disbelief.

MacMeanie took out his mobile phone and dialed 999 but the signal up on the moor was poor and the call kept dropping.

“I'll hae tae gae up the road tae that hoose tae call fir help”, Hamish said while pointing to a distant farmhouse about a mile away on the ridge.

“You people jist stay here an' I'll be back as soon as I can.”

However, Hamish MacMeanie had no intention of returning to help his passengers. He had their money and their gratuities and besides, the bus was only hired and he did not have liability insurance for an accident like this caused by his own bad driving. He strode quickly away towards the farmhouse and when he got near he called for a taxi to come and pick him up and take him back to Falkirk. He callously abandoned the Outlanders to their fate on the lonely moor. He laughed to himself when he remembered that the ancient Celts believed that lakes and bogs were the portals between worlds and that they often made sacrifices of valuable items to the gods of the underworld.

An hour or so later the Outlanders were still huddled at the roadside waiting for MacMeanies return. Meanwhile Hamish was boarding a train at Falkirk Station to take him back to Glasgow. The sun was going down and the Outlanders were getting very agitated and worried.

“Where is that driver?' wondered Angus, “He's taking a long time to get help.”

“How are we going to get to the airport in time for our flight?'

“I think we need thoughts and prayers and more prayers at at time like this,” offered Gladys.

“I'm getting cold, complained Ethel.

“I'm getting hungry.” added Skye.“ Wait.!What's that? I just heard something coming up the road. Maybe it's our rescue?”

Typical ‘Chavmobile’

Typical ‘Chavmobile’

Then out of the pale evening light emerged the VW Golf, GTI 230HP with its massive spoiler, blue LED road lighting, Bass Thud stereo and that “schools out – no class whatsoever “ Pearlescent purple sparkle” paint job. The blaring 90's trance music almost drowned out the rasping, deafening roar from the dustbin sized exhaust. It screeched to a halt beside the Outlanders sending gravel and dust flying. The tinted window wound down and a young man stuck his head out. (Chav mobile)

“Hi there, ya wallies. Whit happened tae yees? Why are ye wearin aw that auld teuchter gear? Are yees in a filum?”

The Americans stood dumbfounded, unable to understand one word above the roar of the engine and the pop music.

Skye had a loud voice and was able to shout over the noise. “Our bus crashed and has sunk into the bog. Our driver has gone for help but that was over an hour ago.”

The driver of the 'Chavmobile' switched off the engine and turned down the music.

“Aye, there is nae much traffic on this road an nae tourists come up here. Slamannan isnae that far; aboot a couple o' miles. We'll gang an see if we can find yer driver an get help fir yees. By the way my name is Jamie and this is ma girlfriend Claire.”

Ethel shrieked, “It's a sign from the Lord. We are saved.”

“Our prayers have been answered. Praise the Lord.” yelled Gladys.

Skye's jaw dropped. “Are you a Fraser?”

“Aye, an' Claire is a MacKenzie. We better gang noo.” and the VW Golf GTI roared back into life and the door panels began to vibrate as the Bass Boom Box as big as the boot kicked in. Cool as ice the VW took off like shit off a shovel.

Another hour later and the Outlanders were getting very worried, very cold and very hungry and there was no sign of Hamish MacMeanie... when out of the dusk the purple VW reappeared followed by a van and a pick-up truck. The three vehicles pulled up beside the Outlanders. Jamie rolled down his window.

“Ma mates will tak ye tae Slamannan and get ye somewhere warm tae bide and somethin tae eat an drink. They're a bunch o' Billies but they're guid folks, ye ken.”

“How can we get to Glasgow airport. We have a flight to catch tonight,” asked Angus.

“There's nae buses up here or ony wey o' getting yees tae Glesgae the nicht,” replied Jamie.

“That means we'll miss our flight and lose our money,” wailed Gladys. “And we've already lost all our luggage, souvenirs and street clothes.”

“When we get tae the village ye can phone the airport an see what the score is.” replied Jamie.

'What's a Billie?” asked Skye'

”Ye'll find oot soon eneuch!” yelled Jamie as he gunned the VW and took off amid a cloud of exhaust fumes and burnt rubber..

The Outlander ladies got into the van and the men clambered into the pick-up. Soon they were driving into the small former coal mining village of Slamannan. Named after the legendary “Mannan” tribe who were feared by the Romans, the Normans and everyone else ever since.

The van and pick-up pulled up outside the Masonic Arms Public House; a rather stark, bleak and dreary establishment that smelled of fried food, beer and stale tobacco.

“ Please get out and go intae the pub. It's warm in there an ye can get a pie and a pint or a wee nippy sweetie. We'll leave yees here the noo. Dae yees hae ony dosh?”

“What is dosh?” asked a bewildered Mrs Finklestein. “and what's a nippie sweetie...it sounds good, like a chocolate chip muffin?”

“Aw sorry, ye dinnae speak Scots, dosh is money hen, an a nippie sweetie is a whisky an lemonade.”

“I have a few pounds in my sporran ,” said Skye.

“Weel git yersells a cup o tea or somethin stranger an I'll gang an git ma Da. He's the big man aroond here, ye ken. His moniker is Chairlie.”

“Is he like the Bonnie Prince?” asked Ethel.

“Naw, naw, he's the King aroond here an he's definitely nae Bonnie.”

As the Outlanders entered the public bar the locals could not believe their eyes.

“Whit in Gawds name dae we hae here?” exclaimed Billy the barman. “Why are ye a' wearin that auld clobber?'

“We are Americans, who were on a ten day all inclusive Outlander Tour and our bus crashed into the bog. We have lost our street clothes and luggage. Could we get some tea for the ladies and some whisky for the men.?” explained Angus. “We are tired and cold.”

“Aw nae bother, I'll jist be a meenit.” Said Billy as he disappeared into a rear area.

The TV was playing behind the bar underneath the array of optics. A news flash came on.

“Due to a major volcanic eruption in Iceland all flights are being cancelled to and from UK airports. The ash cloud from the volcano is a hazard to the aircraft engines and for safety reasons all flights are cancelled until further notice.”

“Did you hear that news broadcast, Angus? All flights are cancelled. That means we won't lose our flights home but it could be a day or two before we get home.” observed Skye.

Billy reappeared from the rear area with a big Brown Betty teapot which he placed on the bar, then he went off again to come back with a tray loaded with cups, saucers, sugar, milk and spoons and a big packet of digestive biscuits.

“Help yersells tae the tea an biscuits, ladies and gents. Wha wants a beer or a whisky?”

“Can I have one of those 'Nippy Sweeties'? Asked Gladys.

“Comin richt up.” replied Billy.

“Two Glenlivets, please? “ asked Skye.

“ Och, we dinnae hae that posh whisky here, there's nae demand. Will Grouse dae?”

“I suppose, if that's all you have.”

Soon all the Outlanders were getting warm inside and out with tea or whisky. Then Jamie and Claire came into the bar accompanied with a large, tall bearded rough looking man that looked vaguely familiar to Skye and the others.

“Weel guid evenin folks, my name is Chairlie, Chairlie Martin. I'm the local Cooncillor for this toun. I hear that ye have had a wee bit o trouble wi yer bus and driver and that ye are stuck here. Ye may have heard that there his bin a big volcano eruption in Iceland and aw flights in an oot o Britain are groonded til further notice. There isnae a hotel in Slamannan, so we'll hae tae billet ye wi oor guid tounsfolk.”

“What is a Cooncillor?” whispered Angus to Skye. “I hope it's not something to do with black people.”

“Oor Jamie and Claire want tae tak yer Jamie an Claire tae their wee but an ben, but the rest o ye will cam wi me tae the Community Centre for a sit doon meal an then we'll pair ye up wi yer hosts. Feenish yer drinks and then follow me tae the Joe Corrie Community Centre.”

Ten minutes later the Outlanders followed Chairlie to the nice new Community Centre where already there were several ladies busily setting up tables in rows with tablecloths and chairs. Dishes and cutlery appeared followed soon after by bowls of piping hot Scotch Broth with wholemeal bread. Then a large plateful of mince and tatties accompanied with lashings of tea. Finally there was platefuls of homemade shortbread for the sweet-tooths.

“The best meal on this trip by far!” said Skye. “Absolutely delicious!”

“I'll second that!” chipped in Angus

“You are all so kind. I will pray for you all tonight. We were lost and desperate and you rescued us.” said Ethel. “How can we repay you?'

“It's no problem. Helpin strangers is pairt o' oor tradition an we're used tae pullin thegither in times o need. This is a coal mining community, used to disasters and hardship.” replied Chairlie. “It's nae bother an we wud be insulted if ye offer to pay. When ye hae aw hud yer fill the ladies here will tak ye tae their hames and put ye up fur the nicht. The morra we'll see whit the story is wi the volcano an the airport. Meet back here ra morra at eleeven. Guid nicht and dinna fash!”

One by one the Outlanders paired up with the doughty wives of Slamannan and followed them to their humble Cooncil hooses.