I have previously written of my visit with my mother over 40 years ago to the hotel at Rodel at the foot of the Lewis/ Harris archipelago on the Western Isles.

John and I revisited it on our travels earlier this summer. Once again it initially presented a rather unwelcoming appearance, with no doors that looked as if they opened. We pushed one and entered the space which I immediately recognised as having been the men-only drinking den into which my mother and I had inadvertently stumbled all those years ago but which was now a modern and attractive restaurant. The hotel owner/manager was a charming and attractive man whose family had owned the hotel for three generations. The locals called him ‘Dolly’ but I knew that this was simply their nickname for ‘Donald’.

I told him how my mother and I had visited over 40 years ago and described my fascination with the strange Indian furnished room. He looked rather vague and said so far they had only renovated half the hotel and I got a distinct impression that somewhere behind the boarded up windows of the un-restored section of the hotel the Indian furnished sitting room probably still mouldered.

Anyway our room on the second floor (they had telephoned to enquire if I would manage this) was entirely suitable and comfortable but I was not feeling well that day and so I lay on the bed and John went out to get me some medicine. As it turned out he had to drive to Tarbert, so he was gone for quite some time.

When John returned, I took the medicine and felt a bit better so we decided to descend to the dining room and eat our meal. On the first floor we were waylaid by a harpy who emerged from the dark recesses of her quarters and stood, fully blocking our path. She was ugly, elderly and bossy. Were we in the room above? she demanded. John who does not object to being questioned quite as quickly as I do, assented. Well, she declared, there was very little noise insulation between floors, and their afternoon rest had been dreadfully disturbed by the incredible noise we had made, and would we please ensure that we placed our feet more quietly on the floor. We were quite astonished both by her remarks and by their tone.

“Madam,” John now spoke (always an ominous beginning), “I fear you are mistaken. My wife has been unwell and lying on her bed unable to move, and I have been to Harris to get some medicine for her. Whatever noise you allegedly heard was certainly not made by us. Kindly stand aside, you are blocking the way.”

The woman appeared astounded to be so addressed, but she moved. Apart from giving her a disdainful glance, I never acknowledged her at all.

Dolly welcomed us warmly to the dining room. John told him that a guest had waylaid us and complained at length about the poor noise insulation in the hotel, and had requested that we place our feet more quietly on the floor! We were at a loss to understand this as we had been resting; besides we found our room charming and comfortable and the noise insulation entirely acceptable. We later saw the harpy have a long and vehement conversation with Dolly but she cut no ice with him.

It was only as we were almost finished our (delicious) meal that I remembered that owing to my indisposition, my drugs had not worked, and in an effort to bring them in and recover my mobility, I had held on to the foot of the bed and jumped with 2 feet together for 20 times, and I had done this at intervals of 5 minutes. 5 or 6 times.

Rodel is a place where odd things happen.