Ralph is an amiable character of mature years who sports a handlebar moustache and wears colourful braces to keep his corduroys up. You may have seen him on your travels. If I happen across him on the road - more often than not weighed down by supermarket shopping - I always give him a lift.
Ralph enjoys gardening, he's a vegetarian and he grows organically. One morning he was tending to his vegetable plot when a dead duck dropped like a stone from the sky followed moments later by the emergence through his hedge of a gun toting character (also sporting a handle bar moustache) inquiring politely whether a dead duck had passed this way. At this point the air turned blue with expletives as Ralph expressed his considerable opinions on the matter of sporting life (moustaches quivered, braces pinged) and the dead duck became the focus of a tug of war between contrasting lifestyles.
Travelling from Inverness to Aberdeen recently we stopped at Morgan McVeigh's restaurant on the A96 for coffee where I over-heard the phrase "I shoot duck not pheasant" boom out across the dining room area from the direction of a man sporting a handle bar moustache. Could this be the same character that had made use of Ralph's vegetable plot as a landing pad for the blasted duck, I wondered, or are there legions of duck blasting folk out there with unusual moustaches? I wanted to inquire further but decided that this was neither the time nor the place to probe the ideological and culinary tastes of a stranger in the midst of a packed restaurant, even though he was clearly unconcerned about keeping his conversation below acceptable decibel levels.
John Cleese once remarked that individually we inhabit our own worlds and are preoccupied by a host of diverse things peculiar to our own situation. In other words most of us are stark raving bonkers and rarely - if ever - become aware of this until conflict arises (like a blasted duck in a vegetarian's vegetable plot) at which point it becomes blindingly obvious that our viewpoint is the right one and any other opinion on the matter is clearly wrong. Reality, of course, is subjective. Try asking opposing football supporters to describe the highs and lows of the same match - the only thing they might agree on is the standard of the pies, little else.
Now as an occasional visitor to the Granite City (hence my acquaintance with Morgan McVeigh's), and as an aside, it is noticeable that the average height of pedestrians in Aberdeen is less than anywhere else in Scotland. Has this something to do with the properties of granite perhaps, or the North Sea breezes? Or is it simply that the scale of everything in Aberdeen (the bus stops, the buildings and the infra-structure) is slightly larger than anywhere else which creates an optical illusion? Bear this in mind next time you visit. See what you think?
Returning from a larger than life Aberdeen to Inverness we sometimes stop at Christies Garden Centre in Fochabers (they have a handy car park to stretch the legs) or grab a coffee in Elgin. But the sight of the Kessock Bridge as we approach Inverness is always the most welcoming of landmarks and heralds our proximity to Ross-shire and home. It's always good to get away for a change of course, but it's also good to return to the everyday, familiar and sometimes peculiar happenings of Ross-shire life.