29th December

My Encounter with the President

Not for the first time there were no cards marking the seats for which passengers had made reservations. I had reserved a seat, from Perth, but when I reached it I found it already occupied by a tall, elegant man with short black hair beginning to go grey in places. He was working on a laptop but looked up at my approach and gave me a broad and beautiful smile. To my astonishment I recognised him as Barack Obama, forty-fourth President of the United States of America.

‘Don’t tell me,’ he said. ‘I’m in your seat?’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but please don’t disturb yourself. Luckily the train isn’t that busy. Would you mind if I sat here?’ I indicated the seat on the other side of the table.

‘Go ahead, please,’ he said. ‘I greatly appreciate your not making a fuss.’

He waited until I had settled myself before returning to his laptop. He tapped away at the keyboard, occasionally pausing to think or reread. I wondered if he was writing one of those speeches for which he is justly famous.

The woman with the refreshments trolley could barely speak, she was so embarrassed to be serving President Obama. He bought a coffee and a Mars Bar, and found her the exact change as she said she was running out.

‘Going far?’ I said, when he closed his laptop.

‘To Inverness,’ he said. ‘I’m giving a speech to the Gaelic Society there.’

So I had been right! ‘Do you speak Gaelic yourself ?’ I asked.

‘Not a word,’ he said. ‘But they’ve promised not to hold that against me.’ He took out some papers from an attaché case and began to read them, initialling each page as he finished it.

He was left-handed, and had an awkward, upside-down way of writing.

‘I’m sorry for the trouble you’re having with Congress,’ I said.

‘So am I,’ President Obama replied. He was still very polite, but I detected a slight note of irritation in his voice. He was a busy man, of course, and no doubt had important state business to attend to before we reached Inverness. So I got out my newspaper, and did not disturb him again.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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