I spent a delightful weekend up north at Drumnadrochit by Loch Ness. I was there because I was collecting a cheque for the Gurkha Welfare Trust from Nairn Royal British Legion.
Friends invited us for the night before, which culminated in my breaking my " I only drink abroad" rule, because our host, a larger than life character in every sense of the words, produced an exceptional dessert wine at perfect temperature and really choccie profiteroles.
What can a chap do? His wife and I drank most of it as the other side of the table was busy lashing into the rather good red ( I'm told) and we got through the pudding wine before they had much chance to object.
Sunday dawned as only Scotland can in the winter - fantastic light, sun low and glinting off the loch. The frost lay all around and the sheep surrounded us when we went for a walk and watched the dog, who kept his distance.
I collected the cheque and was told the following tale.
The RBL at Nairn was built in the late 20's on land given by the "big hoose" and built by ex-servicemen with donations and their bare hands. It now has two of it's facades listed, one A grade the other B grade.
A few years ago, as with many of these things, the older members were dying off, and no new ones were coming on. There was great discussion about continuing, and one or two members thought it should close - one being particularly vociferous.
Quite by chance, a member who had lived in Nairn all his life, apart from his Naval service and his oil-rig work, but was a virtual non-attender, happened to be in Inverness one day and spotted the vociferous member going into Inverness Council offices. Intrigued, he followed at a distance and saw him going into the planning department.
After the vociferous one left, he sauntered in and said " Oh, Mr. So-and-so was just in here - he asked me to pop back and pick up a copy of the plans"
Which were produced.
And which turned out to be of the RBL,Nairn.
So our Naval Friend attended the next general meeting and brought the matter up, and suddenly found himself voted in as Secretary.
Being a mere stripling of 62, he quickly got to work rounding up lapsed members, and approached the huge airbase at Kinloss. Retiring troops were contacted on their return to the area, and events were welcomed into the building, such as dances, bingo nights, weddings and the like.
The overall result is that three years later RBL Nairn is a vibrant thrusting community which goes its own way to secure its future.
Of course, the members are fiercely loyal to themselves, their country and those still serving.
If only others were as strong in their loyalty.
I forgot to mention that Mrs. Lear insisted on a stop on the way down at House of Bruar