Back at the office after my annual week-long pilgrimage north of the border to garner features for the following 12 months.
As ever, it was a joy, the scenery and noticeably down-tempo mood a welcome contrast to frenzied England, but there was a lesson to be learnt from my visit to a pub in Crianlarich at the end of Day 1.
Understandably not spoiled for choice at 9pm in a remote Scottish village, I was nevertheless cheered to find two pubs still open for business, particularly when I noted that one of them was called The Rod and Reel.
Human nature, isn’t it? Imagine, you’re hungry and thirsty and find yourself on a road with a sport-themed pub on either side. One of them is called The Trout and Damsel, the other The Ju Jitsu Arms. Assuming you’ve only ever worn pyjamas at bedtime, which one are you going to head for? Exactly; you’re an angler.
So it was that I entered The Rod and Reel and was gratified to find that the staff would at least enquire if a sandwich could be made available for me, even though the hour for serving food had just passed. How nice to see people willing to go the extra mile in pursuit of the tourist dollar, I remember thinking. Cheese and tomato would be fine, I assured them, once one of their number returned from the kitchen.
Not long afterwards, four slices of un-toasted bread arrived, each pair separated by a generous, if rough-and-ready sprinkling of grated cheese and some random fragments of tomato. Credit where it’s due, a napkin came with it. Triple-ply.
“That’ll be £7.90, please,” said a voice that I eventually had to accept came from the same universe as my own.
Fortunately, I’m covered by my employers’ evening meal allowance. I can dine on either filet mignon or hay of an evening, as long as I eat only so many pounds’ worth of either. Tired, famished and with the fight beaten out of my by a long day behind the wheel, I shelled out, ate up and left The Rod and Reel, Crianlarich, for the first and last time.
And the moral of the tale? Ours is an evocative sport, whose charms resonate beyond its boundaries. Walk into a bar with a fishing theme and you can be forgiven for imagining yourself safe in the bosom of kindred spirits. This is not a universal truth, however. Now and again, you will have stepped merely into the clutches of modern commerce, where it’s not rod and reel you find yourself hankering for, so much as shin pads.
Caveat emptor. And never pooh-pooh The Ju Jitsu Arms.