The castle trail with a difference

Simon and Nev are two Scottish guys.

Simon lives in Inverness, one of Scotland's top spots for travellers and backpackers.

Nev lives in Aberdeen. No travellers ever go there.

Their mission is to persuade travellers in Inverness to go and experience Aberdeen - with one surefire way to tempt them.

Free accommodation with Nev. In a castle.

This is their story...

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Monday, May 12, 2003

Allow me to introduce you to CTs 3 - 5.

I have to confess I was getting a little worried, it being a long time since any previous encounters here in Inverness. Not that there is any shortage of tourists - indeed, the city is crawling with Italian campervans, very tanned looking backpackers, and elderly Canadian couples (you can tell by their bad hair cuts and moustaches... the men, that is). No, the problem is I have simply not been out very much in Inverness - call it what you will, no social skills on my part, a lack of friends, home comforts... I like to put it down to being extremely busy and to being on holiday this last week.

My holiday, camping and hiking in the wind and rain an hour west of Inverness (just one of the many opportunities that makes it Scotland's Medina), was cut short and I had a couple of free days in town. You can imagine my surprise when browsing around a bookshop on Friday (today being Monday) when I bumped into Karen, a friend from university back in Aberdeen. OK, fair enough, I am sure you can't imagine it because you don't know me and you don't know Karen. Well let me fill you in quickly. Karen goes out with Martin, another friend from university, and in fact Niall/Nev went to school with Martin in Dingwall (a town just north of Inverness). Martin works in IT in Aberdeen, and had a job to do in Inverness, so Karen came through for the trip.

It was good to see them after so long, and with them staying at Martin's parents for the weekend barely twenty minutes out of Inverness, I suggested we go out that night. We did, and went to a very cool pub called Harlequins. Not only does it have nice decor, and a nice, cosy feel to it, it is also right next to two of Inverness's most popular hostels and was where I met CT1. Coincidence, n'est pas?

Well, sure enough we found ourselves at a table next to three people with clearly Antipodean accents. I usually pride myself on knowing the difference between Australian and New Zealand accents, but decided not to jump to any immediate conclusions this time. My opportunity came about when one of them leaned over and asked how much television licences cost in Britain.

Well, it beats "you have beautiful eyes", I suppose. Mind you, it also shows the fascination most foreigners have with our quaint custom of buying a licence (around £110 per year if you are interested) for the privilege of watching TV in your home. That and driving on the wrong side of the road, having funny and diverse accents, and queueing - endless hours of amusement for visitors to this land. Oh yes and you get a discount on the licence if you are blind.

I digress. I seized the moment and got talking with the three - all from Melbourne in Australia, one girl who had been working in Dornoch (north of Inverness, where Madonna got married), and had now moved down to Inverness, and a couple, friends of hers, who had come out to join her for a couple of years. They were staying in Inverness and working for BT. I was impressed - not only was I talking to Australians who had plumped for working outside London, Edinburgh and Dublin, not only had one of them already worked in somewhere very off the usual track like Dornoch, but - get this! - she'd even been to Aberdeen! And liked it!

And so the logical thing to do was to pop the question. "How do you fancy going back to Aberdeen to stay in a castle for free?"

There then followed the usual astonishment (from them), explanation (from me), curiousity (from them), encouragement (from me) and agreement (from them). Clearly helped by having two extra friends there to back me up, Martin and Karen.

I was a bit more organised this time - I gave them one of my business cards, with Niall's email and phone number, plus this website, for reassurance. Although given the latest update from Niall, I'm not sure how much reassurance Bo's antics might count for. In any case, it will be a few months before they are able to make it - they have all just started work and are a bit skint. Not sure how soon that means they will be in touch with Niall - soon, hopefully, so we know they believe me!

So that's it - the story of the third, fourth and fifth potential castle trailers. Lovely people, and worthy of much credit for finding a base in Inverness rather than Edinburgh. Let's just hope they complete the trail and make it to the castle.

I really must start getting people's names... very rude of me...

Sunday, May 11, 2003
I thought that, whilst we wait for random travellers to visit the castle, I could do the occasional castle update of news about it and the residents. So here goes Castle Update no. 1:

As usual, it's been an eventful time for the castle and those associated. Mostly centering around our resident wayward Spaniard Bo who has been very busy. He began the week very constructively with him and a friend (whom Bo was allegedly paying, strangely) becoming highly pro-active and utterly clearing and cleaning the loft of the old part of the house, the garage, the shed and the laundry room. Do not underestimate the magnitude of this task. The loft was just full of crap, with only a small amount of useful or interesting items. Since we've moved in it has remained uncharted territory. But Bo, for our grand party in June, wants it as a chill-out zone so has begun work transforming the grim and filthy den into something more pleasant. The garage was rammed full of furniture - mostly mine - which we've now either relocated to somewhere more constructive in the castle (I now have a sofa in my bedroom) or stacked neatly thereby giving much more space. The shed, which is part of the building of the old part of the house, was a dank pit of despair - rotting rubbish and debris. It's now cleared. And the laundry room has been head high with dirty clothes since before Christmas, due to the fact that our washing machine broke in September. Not only is it clear of clothes, but we now have a working washing machine, which I bought off a woman for £90.

So Bo started the week grandly and positively, but alas this couldn't be sustained and his birthday on Wednesday kicked off a 36 hour drinking marathon which culminated in him being arrested on Thursday evening.

Wednesday was both Bo's and a friend of ours - Becky's - birthday, and Wednesday is also £1.50-a-drink-night in Estaminet, our regular bar. This could therefore only call for a large session. The place was rammed with people, the majority between drunk and utterly wasted, and afterwards everyone headed either to Becky's flat or somewhere else. Most of us called it quits by 8am but not Bo, as I was soon to discover.

I wasn't working at the Cafe (I work in the kitchen at a great little place called Cafe 52 in a pleasant area of town) till 6pm but I was there most of the day as the owner, Steve, had called me to help move furniture and kitchen goods from a nearby bar which had closed down. We had first pickings and Steve took heaps for the Cafe and I now have for the castle two industrial microwaves, lots of big plates and a hatstand. Anyway, Bo and an inconceivably wasted friend of his stumbled by just after noon and Bo launched into his whisky and cokes, becoming louder and louder with the progressing hours until Steve got angry and threw him out. I started work and a couple of hours later Steve had to ask me to get Bo to leave again, as he'd returned and was even more trashed. Steve was too angry to do it himself because he thought he'd end up punching Bo.

Anyway, it was after work when I got a text message from Allan (newest castle resident) saying "Bo has just been arrested". I visisted Allan in Estaminet, where he was DJing, and the story emerged that Bo had stumbled in after having being thrown out of about 7 pubs (and, of course, the Cafe twice) and after some cavalier obnoxious behaviour had been asked to leave by the asshole manager. Bo pushed the manager away and it seems like there may have been some chase which ended in the manager catching Bo and beating him up before getting arrested. One reports suggests that Bo bit the manager in the arm.

I haven't seen Bo since, although he was out at 4am the next morning, and I've been in phone contact. He's apparently a bit bruised and is keeping a low profile at the moment, having managed to be barred from his two regular haunts, Estaminet and the Cafe.

I haven't been back to the castle since leaving on Friday morning, it being Sunday evening now, but I'm heading there very soon. I've had a very full-on few days. Up at about 7am since Wednesday, I've had less than four hours sleep every night, and my days have been filled with moving heavy furniture, working in the very busy Cafe kitchen, and hardcore drinking. I've been helping a friend, Emily, finish her dissertation which was rewarded with a lengthy drinking session on Friday. I was out last night too. Tonight I'm being peaceful, sorting out my room and relaxing in the castle. Tomorrow, as is every Monday, is castle night and a number of people have expressed an interest in attending.

Mike's been quiet of recent - he has a friend up visiting. Heta I've seen quite little of but I'm going charity shopping with her tomorrow. And Allan has had quite a weekend which I'm afraid there is no way I could print it on this website, but it did involve the castle, gingerness and an epileptic fit. You'll simply have to use your imagination. Bo definitely takes the lion's share of headlines this week.

That's the castle news. Simon says he's found three more people interested in visiting the castle but I don't have details yet. The girl Sarah that Simon contacted from that website, has been in contact and will visit in July, if all goes to plan. I since put m details on the website too and got an email from an Irish girl, but she hasn't responded since.

That's all for now.