Searching for silver and scallops, with a car smash in-between (Rousse)

With pick-axes and shovels we leapt into the old Land Rover and headed for the hills. Our secret mission was highly illegal: to mine a supposed seam of silver not yet charted by the authorities. It was a huge risk, but if we were successful and not detected, all our money worries would be over.

It was only when we reached Stornoway (masquerading as Hexham) that I realised that I had been oblivious to the whole 37 mile journey from Timsgarry. TPR congratulated me on my driving, but he spoke too soon. I turned right up the hill signposted to Allendale, clipping several parked cars and lamp-posts in my path. I wasn’t too bothered: the red Peugeot 205 only suffered minor damage across the bonnet and was still road-worthy. TPR did not agree.

Not long afterwards I was delighted and amazed to be experiencing VJ’s legendary generosity at first hand. This year I’d made it onto the guest list for her annual party. Other guests included QM graduate KW, who had recently given up his consulting business for a technical role at BT. NR, another former student a couple of years below KW, sat behind me on the bus complaining that he needed so much sleep that he was forced to make a living working afternoons only. The all-day event culminated in a massive feast at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms on George Street. A rumour circulated that there were scallops on the menu, but all we could find was a plate of cold salmon. At the end of the party VJ declared that she was opting for a quieter life. Her plan was to sell most of her belongings and move into one of her smaller properties. She would be giving up most luxuries, including ‘subscription’ make-up. The catalogue of goods for sale was already available. I expressed interest in a bag of half-finished knitting projects and a pirate-themed laundry basket.

The next day I went for a walk along the cycle paths with VJ. Her daughter and three year old grand-daughter, up from Christchurch in Dorset for the weekend, joined us. TJ spoke enthusiastically about her new life as a young mother in the south of England.

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