Tales from the salmon netting on the River Spey in the north east of Scotland

3. The Sikoda

March 7th, 2008 by John Bennett
 3. The Sikoda: Play Now

Sandy Geddes, the skipper of the summer crew, was running late for work, and by the time he arrived for the start of the shift the rest of the crew were sheltering in the bothy from the light rain that had been falling for the last hour or so. As Sandy drew up he noticed, parked by the bothy, a car he had not seen before.
“Fa’s car’s that ootside?” asked Sandy, as he settled into the large, battered armchair at the end of the bothy and began to fill his first pipe of the day. Jake, who was reading a copy of Exchange and Mart, looked up and smiled.
“That’s ma new Sikoda,” said Robbie, the first mate, with evident pride.
“Sorry, fit make is it?” asked Sandy, lighting his pipe, looking perplexed.
“A 1.2 litre Sikoda Estelle,” replied Robbie, repeating the addition of the extraneous letter in the car’s name.
“Richt guid cars them Sikodas,” said Jake, winking at Sandy who was about to reply when he was startled by a loud groan emanating from a pile of nets behind him in the corner of the bothy, where, when he turned round to look, he spotted the prostrate form of Gonzo, one of the students working on the summer crew. “Fit’s awrang wi him?” asked Sandy.
“He wis at a perty last night,” explained the Puddock in between bites of a fish paste sandwich his mother had made him for his lunch.
“Wis he bad?”
“Like a coupit yow, but that’s nae the werst o it – he wis wi the AK47.”
“Fit’s the AK 47?” said Sandy looking puzzled.
“She’s a quine fae Portgordon.”
“Fit wy she’s cried the AK47?” asked Robbie.
“Because she’s an automatic,” said the Puddock before starting on a second sandwich.
“So, yer shagged oot. Is that it?” said Robbie, kicking the pile of nets and causing Gonzo to groan once more. “Weel, fit dee ye expect if will hang aroond wi loose wumen.”
“Och, leave the pair loon alane,” said Jake, “you’d gie onything te get thon young quiney in the back of your Sikoda.”
“That’s rubbish, I dinna go chasing efter young quines,” said Robbie, hotly denying the acccusation.
“Aye, Robbie’s happy enough if they’ve got aa their ane teeth and their tattoos are spelt richt,” said the Puddock, wiping a small constellation of crumbs from the front of his t-shirt.
“O.K., O.K., enough of this nonsense boys,” said Sandy, struggling to his feet, “it’s time we got te work.”
“Aw no Sandy, it’s raining,” complained Gonzo, “can we nae have another half hour?” A petition that found considerable support among the other members of the crew.
“Typical student, jist idle, bone idle,” said Robbie with disgust, kicking the nets again, an act which this time caused Gonzo to sit bolt upright.
“Robbie, what would you say if I told you I could double the value of your car in less than two minutes?” said Gonzo.
“Fit de you mean?” said Robbie suspiciously.
“I can double the value of the car in less than two minutes, if you give me the keys.”
“I’m nae gieing onybody the keys to ma new car, especially the likes o you. Fa kaens fit diseases you’ve got.”
“Hey Robbie, he’s g’te double the value o yer car. Ye canna turn that doon,” said Jake, sensing there might be some fun to be had at Robbie’s expense.
“I promise I won’t damage the car in any way,” said Gonzo.
“Jist tell us fit yer g’te dee and then I’ll dee it masel,” said Robbie.
“Sorry,” said Gonzo, shaking his head, “it’s too difficult to explain, I can only do it by showing you.”
Despite his reservations, a mixture of greed and curiosity got the better of Robbie. The rain, which had so recently rendered work an impossibility was forgotten as the summer crew crowded round Robbie’s new car to see exactly what Gonzo would do.
“If onything happens te that car, ye’ll py for it,” said Robbie menacingly as he handed Gonzo the keys.
“Aye, aye dinna worry,” said Gonzo, opening the door before calmly reaching into his pocket, pulling out a fifty pence piece and placing it on the dashboard.
“There you are; now it’s worth a whole pound,” he said, closing the door and handing the keys back to Robbie. When the hilarity had subsided a little, Sandy intervened.
“Noo, noo, come on boys, this is neither mending nets nor catching fush,” he said, tapping out his pipe on the side of the bothy, “let’s hae a wee shotty o the Brig Pool.”
In fact they shot the Bridge Pool and then carried on down to shoot the Lower Bridge Pool as well, catching twelve grilse and a fine, fresh run, nineteen pound cock salmon in the process, then, after the long haul back up the river bank, and having boxed the fish, Robbie’s new car became, once more, the subject of their attention.
“Robbie, that right front wing – it’s a guy roch looking paint job on it,” said Jake.
“Och aye, that,” said Robbie, scratching a nasty looking horsefly bite on his arm, “weel, that’s part of the reason I got the car so chape. The boy fa owned it afore – he’s a brasher in the wid up by Knockando – onyway, he wis gan te work ae morning fan he hit a falla deer. It was back aboot twa weeks ago, kaen, fan it wis guy misty; he didna see it coming.”
“He saw you coming, though,” observed Jake.
“Fit’s that supposed to mean?” asked Robbie sharply.
“Oh nithing, nithing,” said Jake, examining the toes of his waders.
“Weel, ye can think fit ye like, but I kaen I got myself a richt bargain. The boy even threw in a haunch o the deer fur free.”
“So wis it the brasher that did the paint job on the dent?” asked the Puddock, peeling the silver foil off a Tunnock’s tea cake.
“No, that was me,” said Robbie with some pride.
“Fit did ye use, emulsion or something?” continued the Puddock.
“Weel nae quite, I mean I wis g’te buy some o thon car paint, but it wis guy expensive and I realised I hid a wee suppy gloss left fae decorating the skirting in ma mither’s hoose last year; it was a near perfect match.”


Despite the rest of the summer crew’s scepticism, the Skoda was a great boon to Robbie who had never owned a car before, and over the next few evenings it propelled him as far as Deveronside to the east and the banks of the Findhorn to the west, breaking down only once in the course of his travels and, fortunately for Robbie, that was only a few hundred yards from the garage at Alves. However, Robbie’s enjoyment of this new found freedom was marred somewhat by Gonzo who had been tormenting him all week with a seemingly unending stream of Skoda jokes.
“I say, I say, I say, what do you call a Sikoda with a sun roof?” asked Gonzo, after the fashion of music hall comedian. Robbie ignored him.
“I don’t know, Gonzo, what do you call a Sikoda with a sun roof?” replied the Stingman, who had adopted the role of straight man in what was a blossoming comic double act.
“A skip,” came the reply.
By the Thursday of the shift, however, the senior fishers, Jake included, found this brand of humour beginning to grate and at lunch time Sandy amended the unofficial constitution of the summer crew and introduced, with immediate effect, a ban on all Skoda jokes, widening the prohibition half way through the afternoon to include all derogatory or humorous references to any make of Eastern European car.
Despite the ban, Robbie was still smarting from the ill-treatment he had suffered at the hands of the students, and on his divagations around the North East, he wracked his brain for a way to get back at them. As it turned out, Robbie didn’t have to wait long before providence smiled on him once more when, that Saturday on a drive round Ordiequish and the Teindland, he stopped briefly at a jumble sale in the village hall at Inchberry where, next to a jigsaw of the Sydney Opera House (some missing pieces), he discovered the instrument of his revenge.


The next week found the summer crew on the nightshift; from 10 in the evening ‘til 6 the following morning. On the Monday, after the first couple of shots, Gonzo, the Stingman, and the Puddock were sat in the Puddock’s car listening to the radio. Robbie took the opportunity to show Sandy, Jake and Black Alec his Inchberry purchase.
“Fit is that; it’s clear like varnish or something,” said Sandy stirring the stick round the pot of paint that Robbie had produced from the boot of his car.
“O.K, but jist stay faur ye are, while I blow oot the lamps.”
“Fit are ye talking aboot,” said Black Alec, indignantly.
“You’ll see. You’ll see,” replied Robbie leaning over, extinguishing the two hurricane lamps which lit the bothy. However, instead of being plunged into darkness as Sandy, Jake and Black Alec had expected, the bothy remained lit by an ethereal glow radiating from the tin of paint Robbie had bought at Inchberry.
“Oh, my god Robbie fit on earth is that ye’ve got?” asked Sandy.
“Luminescent paint.”
“It’s glow in the dark, kaen, like they use fur the watches.”
“And fit exactly are ye g’tae dee wi that?” asked Jake.
Robbie outlined his plan as he relit the hurricane lamps, concluding that, “all we need is een o thon black bin bags and we’re cooking by gas.”


The Friday of a night shift was disliked by all of the summer crew particularly the younger members who feared that they were missing out on some of the fun enjoyed by friends and compatriots in the local public houses and nightclubs, so it wasn’t unusual for the skipper to compensate and motivate his crew on a Friday night shift with a crate of beer purchased from the local hotel with a silver currency dragged from the river and beaten insensate on the first shot of the night.
And so it was that Friday, when Sandy sent Gonzo and the Stingman over to the hotel for a crate of Export. As soon as they had disappeared over the viaduct, Robbie put his plan into action.
About an hour later, Gonzo and the Stingman reappeared, both in a state of some agitation.
“Fit’s awrang boys?” asked Jake, deadpan, “you look like ye’ve seen auld Nick himsel’.”
“I think we have…I mean, we’ve jist seen something on that bridge, I don’t know what it was, but it was…uncanny,” said Gonzo, sitting down, his hands shaking.
“Fit de ye mean?” asked Jake, “come on, spit it oot.”
“It was glowing up there in the crossbeams of the viaduct, like a ghost. I mean, I don’t believe in all of that, but I mean I don’t know…it was just floating there and moaning…” said the Stingman.
“O.K.,” said Jake, looking sceptical, “but faur’s the beer? Dinna tell me the ghostie’s got it.” The Stingman was about to answer when the door of the bothy flew open causing both students, their nerves in tatters, to jump out of their seats.


“Aye well Robbie,” said Gonzo, when he’d been apprised of Robbie’s scheme with the black bin bag and the luminescent paint, “you wouldn’t be laughing quite so loud if you knew what that paint’s doing to your health.”
“Fit’s at yer saying?” asked Robbie, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes.
“That paint’s radioactive. It’ll gie you cancer. It’ll make your hair fall oot and yer family jewels drop off.”
“Och, just havers min,” said Robbie dismissively.
“Have you never heard of the Radium girls or the phossy jaw?” Robbie had not. Jake, who never really liked to see Robbie riding too high, reminded him that Gonzo had just completed the first year of a Chemistry degree at the University of Aberdeen.
Ten minutes later Robbie had disposed of the tin of luminescent paint in the large council rubbish bin beside the viaduct and though the worry of cancer and emasculation had taken some of the gloss off his revenge, he judged that overall he’d had the better of the exchange with the students, until, that was, the next evening when he was driving the Skoda back from his most ambitious journey yet: a trip with his mother to see his maiden aunt in Inverness. Spurred on by the problem-free journey up the A96, Robbie drove his mother and aunt to see the Hydro Scheme at Foyers before returning to her home in the Culduthel part of town where his aunt cooked them all mince, tatties and peas which he ate on a tray as he watched the Dirty Dozen on her new 21 inch colour television. By the time Robbie and his mother left Inverness it was getting dark, however, it wasn’t until they arrived home in Bogmoor that Robbie realised why people from Nairn onwards had been pointing and shouting at the car. When he discovered that someone had, on both wings of the Sikoda Estelle, written “The Shaggin Wagon” in luminescent paint.

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