Old Newtonmore

Linda Smith may be an American, but she’s a frequent visitor to the British isles.  In 2004 she had not only a Back to the Past TWIDDER, but a Lost Time spacetime slip.  It was an extended experience that understandably left her very confused.  (See original posting at http://www.theparanomalist.com/2332/parallel-dimension/.)

“In 2004 I had grown absurdly fond of a PBS series, ‘Monarch of the Glen’, which was set in the highlands of Scotland. When I discovered that most of it was filmed in and around the village of Newtonmore and that Newtonmore was a regular stop on the main rail line to the North and Inverness, I simply had to go myself.

After a totally sleepless red-eye flight to London and another one to Glasgow, I finally got on the afternoon train for Inverness. Happily chatting with a group of friendly Scots, I nearly missed the stop. But I did swing off, the only passenger alighting. In spite of advancing age, I’m quite travel-oriented and love to travel solo where I can do and see entirely what I like. I have traveled extensively in England and Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. But I have always encountered a rail station where I could ask directions if necessary.

So, suitcase and carry-on in hand, I disembarked from the train at the Newtonmore station in Scotland.Screen shot 2015-01-29 at 8.43.09 AM I swung onto the platform to meet absolutely nothing except a giant transformer in the center, surrounded by chain link fence with the polite British notice saying, ‘Do not touch equipment. Danger of Death.’ I sidled carefully around that and found myself looking out on open countryside. With the exception of a two-story Victorian style house that I took to the the stationmaster’s — rather like a lighthouse keeper — there was simply nothing except open moorland. As I stood there in shock, a young man rode up on a bicycle.

Of course, I asked, ‘Sir, can you tell me which way the town is?’ He stared silently at me for so long I had just concluded he was either a deaf mute or what the country people call ‘a simple’ and prepared to walk to the station master’s house. Just then he said vaguely, having looked around in every direction, ‘…it’s not THAT way,’ and pointed south in the exact direction I had come from. Rather than pointing this out, though, I asked, ‘Could you tell me where the Glen Hotel is?’ I had booked a room over the Internet, as it was seemingly the town’s most popular. More confidently, he replied, ‘No…no, there’s no place like that around here’ and promptly and swiftly rode away.

Frustrated, I dragged my luggage down the road to the ‘station’. I was thrilled to see that the front door was open. As I approached the front yard, that door was suddenly and violently slammed shut from behind! I didn’t know what to do — there was no other sign of civilization, but on the other hand I was so isolated I had no idea what I might encounter if I tried to pursue my information quest. I decided safety dictated that I should head up the only road there was, in the direction the man on the bike had gone. There were trees on the horizon, so there must be someone. And I couldn’t see any other choice.

Accordingly, I set off. The train had arrived in typical British punctuality, at 6:32 p.m. Everything was unbelievably quiet, but I thought to myself, ‘Lovely peaceful Scotland with its wonderfully kind people!’ (all the more strange about the slamming door — not at all like the Scots I remember). Just then, at the first road to the right, a lorry came to the main road and turned right. I stopped and put on my best forlorn lost-tourist expression. To my shock, he looked right through me with no sign of recognition, let alone the expected query as to whether he could help me find directions!

I was astounded and started to hail him back, but just then I spied a young-looking woman about a block ahead of me. Thinking she would be more approachable, I hurried toward her. She was pushing what looked like an old-fashioned baby carriage (‘pram’ to the Brits) and, even with my wheeled suitcase, I hoped I could overtake her. I was horrified to see her look back, see me, and start hurrying away. I increased my pace the best I could, but the faster I walked the faster she did, and she got away from me, I suppose. I say ‘I suppose’ because that’s the last thing I remember — after wondering why she acted scared of a little old lady dragging two suitcases! — until I found myself at the dead end of Station Road on the Main Street of Newtonmore.

I remember well thinking that the lights of the petrol station just ahead of me and the shops and buildings on down the road were the most welcome sight I had ever laid eyes on! So I followed the hotel’s website direction and directly found myself in the hotel lobby. I had to knock loudly on the kitchen door before locating someone to check me in. Inquiring about dinner in the hotel restaurant, I was told the dining room was closed for the night but that I could probably pick up something at the local grocery just down the street. I did just that, purchasing a packet of lovely farmhouse veg soup, pate, crackers, fruit, and a badly needed wee dram of local Scotch! I say all those details in the hope of convincing you that I do not customarily suffer from memory lapses…

Anyway, after a couple of days in the tiny village I decided to take an unexpected detour to Inverness for a couple of days; a local bus could take me from Main Street in front of the hotel straight into central Inverness. So I did not have to go back to that rail ‘station’.

Now for the Twilight Zone part. I was in France (Rennes le Chateau area!) last year and had decided I didn’t want to return to the US immediately), so I took the overnight sleeper to Scotland for a few days. After a lovely night in my tiny compartment, I woke early for our expected 8:30 Inverness arrival.

With a jolt I suddenly realized we would be going past Newtonmore; it’s not only the main line to the North but the only one. I was thrilled to think of the Danger of Death transformer and the stationmaster’s house again! We pulled up to the station. It was in the middle of a bunch of buildings — residential-looking, for the most part. The station was a long, low building that obviously resembled what it was, an old Victorian rail station. Since no one boarded the train, we set off almost immediately while I sat frozen with shock. No transformer, no stationmaster’s dwelling, and plenty of buildings where I would have certainly stopped for help had they been there!

I was weekending on the coast at Plockton, an atmospheric fishing village, and I wanted desperately to ask someone — anyone, about Newtonmore. Of course, they would have thought I was senile or worse, I assumed. Also, I rationalized that the station I saw was one further along and that we just didn’t stop at Newtonmore since it might be only a Requet stop. But after I got home, I carefully counted the stops betwen Dalwhinnie and Inverness; there’s less than half a dozen. So we had made the Newtonmore stop.

Then I went to Google Earth and looked on all those buildings along Station Road. I then checked the time of sunset in northern Scotland. I was stunned to find that it’s around nine p.m. at the time of year, early May, that I was there. I had gotten off the train at 6:32. The trusty Internet tells me that village shops and pubs are a five- to ten-minute walk away. I found this from the Old Station’s website, among others. That long, one story railway station had been closed awhile back and has been turned into a bed and breakfast, replacing a Victorian structure that burned down when a passing steam engine’s spark sent it up in flames!

Somewhere, over three hours had vanished from my life. But that pales beside the contrast in the behavior of those four people as opposed to the normally hospitable, courteous behavior of the Scots! My next day in the village, in contrast, was absolutely filled with beautifully friendly and charming people. I simply can’t help wondering: Could they have thought I was a ghost? I really think the truck driver, from his behavior, just didn’t see me.”

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About aloholmes

We live in a wondrous universe, and I love learning about it. Spacetime slips are one facet of existence that fascinate me. As a retired teacher I enjoy researching this topic and sharing the information I garner.
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