Listening to: The whirring inside my brain
It's been: a bloody long day
Drinking: 12-year-old Highland Park
"Are you waiting for a train?" asked the large Scotsman as he loomed out of the early-morning half-light.
I examined my bags, my shoes which appeared to be attached to my feet and a railway station platform, the ticket in my hand, the locked and barred gents toilet (open from 10am-3.30pm), the two shiny strips of metal held together with large pieces of wood which will one day make a lovely raised beds in someone's garden.
"Yes I am," I replied, quickly sitting on the lid of the overloaded suitcase of sarcastic replies and snapping the clasps tight shut.
"Well it's no comin' and I'm ter tek ye tae Inverness," he said, stepping back to reveal a small red mini-bus. "Only we cannae go straight there, someone wants collecting at Forsinard."
My heart sank. I love trains. Not in a 'stand-on-the-platform with notebook, anorak and thermos' kind of a way. I have no idea what the various different-shaped trains are called (except for the Pendolino and that's only because it's silly), but I do love a train ride.
I've been on some of the best Britain has to offer, but this would have been something special. Leaving Thurso at twenty to nine, the train rattles its way through the barren wilderness of Caithness before meeting the east coast of Scotland at Helmsdale, hugging the shore through the little seaside towns of Brora and Golspie before skirting inside to dodge the Dornoch and Moray Firths.
I'd breakfasted heartily at the B&B, stocked up on chocolate, got binoculars ready. I was all set for the best part of four hours innocent pleasure.
Instead I found myself at the back of the aforementioned mini-bus, trundling and bumping our way along the north coast of Scotland (entirely the wrong way, as far as I could tell). Still, I've always wanted to see the Dounreay nuclear power station - the one which makes Scottish surfers glow in the dark.
After about 20 miles we turned sharp left onto what was billed as an 'A' road, but was, in fact, single track with passing places. It was, in all fairness, a stunning road and would have been all the more stunning had the hiker in the seat in front of me not got his face pressed up against the window, his heavy breathing adding to the condensation on the windows which I theatrically wiped away from time to time.
The morning wasn't a total loss. It was a relatively comfortable trip and we arrived in Inverness 20 minutes before the train would have. . . and they gave me my money back.
An hour later I was zipping down the A9 through the Highlands in a very neat hire car with, best of all, a cracking CD/MP3 player player (if you see what I mean). Going over the summit of Slochd the mountain tops were covered with snow like so many craggy Christmas puddings sprinkled with icing sugar.
Led Zep were on loud, the pig farmer and Robert Plant were doing it proud. . . motoring rarely gets any better.
That was hours ago, maybe days. I got to Shrewsbury about 10pm. Hauled myself out of the car and, after a bit of a palava finding the key, deposited my aching body inside my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's house. They're away so I have the place to myself, but I can't sleep.
Is there such a thing as mini-bus lag?