(Part Four of the 'Tripping Up In Scotland Tales.') All Downhill In The Highlands. Sat on the Saturday train rattling up to Inverness, Passengers packed in chokka-block, cheek by jowl, At Pittodrie onto the train stepped a maid in distress, Coughing and spluttering away with a cough most foul. Towards the last empty aisle seat she wheezed- The window passenger looked most displeased. These days, with Covid blessedly on the wane I'd hoped, nay prayed I could tuck my mask away, But as she shuffled and snuffled down the train I wished I'd retained mine to reduce her fine spray. The train inched slowly up the long incline Accompanied by a nasal and diesel whine. The wheels of the train spun 'round and 'round Trying to gain traction to crest that highland hill, Sparking squealing wheels masking a ghastlier sound, My thoughts turned to my life insurance- and will. In tandem diesel and damsel were working hard Judging by the panicked look of the passing guard. Up the painful grade the twain coughed and hacked, In this carriage of infection a miasma of doom clung, Could (should?) our carrier get quarantined, sidetracked? Would our Highland Princess bring up the other lung? I searched in my coat for a Kurol or Fishermans Friend* But I fear I'll hear her accompaniment till journeys end. I had no lozenges to offer her or me much relief, No sweet something to sooth her irritating throat; Also, loath to proffer her my pristine handkerchief, I turned away, turning up the collar of my overcoat . She sat, openly coughing, never a thought to mask it, Would she, the poor diesel, or just me bust a gasket? To those of us unluckily stuck in the closely confined crowd Keeping clear of her presence proved stickily problematic, I showed her my back as she hacked on, foghornly loud, I couldn't face her expectorations and remain phlegmatic. And so my three day stay at Inverness was plagued with fear, Every morn waking, hoping my covid test and snot ran clear. *Brands of supposedly soothing throat lozenges that smell and taste like a cross between mentholatum, wintergreen, Kimchi and kerosene.
'Breath warmed up.' (Song for this post is- no, not 'the Doobie Brothers 'Long Train Running' but an obscure one, Hammond Gamble, 'Whistling The Blues In The Rain.')