I glanced at the summit of
Ben Nevis, three hundred feet above. There was,
sadly, no path. I had deviated from the main
track and trekked some distance along the wrong
gully. I was about to retrace my steps when I
came upon an incongruous, glazed, aluminium door
in the cliff. It slid open on my approach. I
Before me lay a vast
cavern, housing row upon row of laden shelves. I
proceeded in amazement along a grocery-lined
aisle, pausing at instant coffee. Briefly
forgetting my bewilderment, I picked up a jar and
glanced at the price - some four times more
expensive than I usually paid?
Hello, said a
voice behind me.
I turned in surprise to see
a middle aged man in a supermarket uniform with
the name George on his lapel badge.
Would you like to buy
some coffee? George enquired.
Its a bit
expensive, I pointed out.
Absurdly so, he
I replaced the jar. What
is this place?
Its a shop,
said George, surprised at having to state the
obvious. Its got the largest range of
stock in the UK everything from coffee to
I imagine you dont
get many customers?
Just the occasional
lost walker, George confirmed. And no
one buys anything at these prices.
Then whats the
point? I gestured around me.
George explained. Before any UK product can
be sold at a discounted price, it must be on sale
for a month at the original, higher price. One
item of each product is put on sale here for that
month. He paused for thought. Would
you like a cup of tea?
How much? I
George led the way past
garden equipment, electrical goods and fashion,
around building materials and through the car
showroom to where some chairs and tables stood
beside a row of kiosks.
I sat down as my guide
poured tea. The sign on the nearest kiosk read
North Korean Government Complaints
George anticipated my
question: The shop serves other functions.
For example, all North Koreans who wish to
complain about their government must do so here,
Do many come? I
Not so far
some problem with exit visas. British Government
departments are represented here too. He
gestured towards another kiosk. People who
wish to appeal against refusal of disability
benefits have to present their cases at that
How do they expect a
disabled person to reach a concealed cave near
the top of Ben Nevis?
continued as he gave me my tea. Thats
the clever bit. Any cases presented here are
proven bogus! He sat down. All asylum
claims must now be lodged here too.
counter for asylum seekers? I said, looking
Im not sure,
George admitted. Ive never been there.
Its somewhere much deeper inside the
mountain. I believe its down a pothole and
beyond several freezing, water filled sumps.
I consulted my watch.
Thanks for the tea, I said, but
I must go or I wont reach the summit and
complete my decent before nightfall.
As I rejoined the main
track, visibility was decreasing. I had already
lost sight of the doorway, and, as I glanced
back, its gully was also vanishing, Shangri-la-like,
into the mist.