Crinkle-cut chips with a full breakfast: the Castle Snacker, Inverness
So many hangovers were bludgeoned into submission here. And now it has shut forever.
The BBC studios were just up the road. I worked there, and lived in the car park, in a very bad camper van someone had driven from Italy and abandoned. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was the nineties, after all.
On the fateful week in 1996 when Chris Evans insisted on broadcasting his Radio One breakfast show from Inverness, I would be woken daily by his dawn arrival, complete with 'posse', swearing and even more hungover than I was. One on occasion they nearly ran down a veteran Gaelic broadcaster. His swearing was extremely imaginative, but Evans and entourage understood not a word. We invited him to appear on my Radio Scotland breakfast show, but he was "too busy meeting his financial advisor", or so The Herald newspaper had it.
But those were badly-behaved days for myself as well as for Evans and co. I remember one night with the then-editor of the Dandy and the Head of All Comics at DC Thomson which saw me, next morning, semi-broadcasting, horizontally from the studio carpet, a bucket by my head. But hey, we were young. Or younger. Or not so old.
In those days, I put my trust in fried brown food to cure almost all ills, and certainly the effects of over-consumption at the Heathmount, the Phoenix, the Gellions or the Corriegarth. And the prime source of brown, fried food - slightly tinged with pink in places if it was bacon, yellow if there was an egg involved, and always with crinkle-cut chips - was the Castle Restaurant. Or the Castle Snacker as it was universally known.
With its maroon vinyl bench seating squeaking and slithering beneath you, its nylon-overalled waitresses swooping down in an avalanche of static, and the high-cholesterol comfort of its all-day breakfast, pies, sausages and other substances in shades of ochre, it was a haven. A recovery room, a church of restoration through stewed Kona coffee and stand-your-teaspoon-up tea with four sugars.
Heart attacks were for wimps, stents for losers. The Castle Snacker would heal all spiritual, emotional and intestinal ills, readying you for another day of pre-records, crazed kazoo performances by an orchestra of producers, weird interviews with the likes of Ivor Cutler (his use of the word 'cock' on air was a highlight) and Russian circus performers who couldn't speak English. the less said about Britt Ekland the better. The Castle Snacker was not for her. For more on this era I recommend my then boss Jeff Zycinski's memoir The Red Light Zone. Much, thank goodness, is missing from his already-juicy account.
And now it (pronounced in Invernessian 'Costil Snocker') has gone, or will go soon. Its doors are closed, its last wavy-edged chip of potato emptied from freezer into fryer, thence to bring succour to some poor sucker preparing to address the nation using the microphones of Culduthel Road.
I was tempted to make one last mad dash to Castle Street, up past the down and dirty disco which was once Mr Gs, the art gallery and the hunting, shooting and grouse-annihilating shop, the court where I once saw Lord Burton convicted of assaulting a ratcatcher, just to taste one last time that brown bacon, those serrated bits of fatty tattie.
But I didn't. Sober, aged, almost dead too many times, I sipped my pomegranate juice, breakfasted on bran flakes and berries, and toasted the Snacker's demise in mint tea.
With chips, of course.