Friday, 16 July 2010


We swish up the Msomething, the windscreen wipers scissoring as manically as the legs of a Red Bulled anorectic on a treadmill, barely keeping up with the water from the clouds that sit weeping on the roof like a bad case of depression. 

Oh yes it's July in Scotland.

This is how I spent my childhood, I tell Luke who is counting off the exits, by braille I hope since with the visibility of about 5 yards, sight isn't going to do us much good.  There is so much spray in the air that we could be sitting in a sauna, except that I don't generally get that arthritic pain in my right thumb unless it's below about 45 degrees.  The dashboard tells me it's just this side of freezing.

London, meanwhile, is having the hottest day of the year.

What do you mean?  He asks.

I mean, it's summer, so if you didn't make yourself scarce on the weekend and there was a break in the clouds anywhere on the horizon, my father would announce - 'We're going on a run.'  and out would come the essential components of a Scottish Picnic - the plaid, for wrapping yourself up in; the rolls filled with whatever anodyne ingredients happened to be in the fridge - surely about as unnecessary a kitchen appliance that was ever invented north of York; the primus stove for making tarry tea on the battered camping kettle in the boot; and the golf umbrella for keeping off the torrential  rain while making the said tea  in a lay by on the godforsaken edge of an Asomething beside a field, usually freshly manured 'good country smell, my dad would say as the ammonia threatened to overpower us). It was a stroke of luck when they started manufacturing hatchbacks.  Then you only needed the umbrella for the dash between the boot and the passenger seat where my mother would dispense the egg mayonaisse (with a scent that went particularly well with that of the farmyard ordure) and the back, where I would be huddled in the plaid with a book.

Those books saved my sanity.  Even if the mist didn't cloud your vista, the contant fug of my mother's Embassy Regal and, on occasion, my father's pipe (indeed second hand smoke blotted out most of my childhood) made sure you didn't see much of the passing landscape so reading was the only escape.  Since the passing landscape was most commonly an articulated truck, there wasn't much to miss.  After you'd peeled your thighs off the double sided Sellotape of the leather upholstery, you only ever got five minutes at the destination beauty spot - with public conveniences (one way or another you got ammonia) - and then it was back inside, dad jingling the car keys impatiently, and off again.

Back to Jane Eyre. 

Old Jane et al also came in handy for the hour and a half when I sat by myself in the car park of a local hostelry with a bag of crisps and a bottle of lukewarm orange juice waiting for my parents to come back with a copy of The Watchtower, and the drive home.  I particularly remember The Children of the New Forest in Everyman Classic while abandoned in a car park on Lock Lomond when they were away so long I got two rounds of drinks and a packet of cheesy biscuits.

Happy days.

Luke laughs.  He disnae believe me.  But, now honest (Edwin, back me up) that's how it was...  Well for the plebs anyway.  The plebs with cars.  Otherwise you'd be sitting in a bus with a box lunch and obligatory sing song of Wait 'till the sun shines Nellie (particularly ironic) but still doing, more or less the same thing, and probably on your way, if you came from my area of Scotland, headed to more or less the same place, albeit Burntisland in Fife, rather than Kinross where we're going today, intent on taking the ferry out to the islands and seeing the castle and the monastery.

Luke motions to the exit and we wind our way past people drinking lager at 11 o'clock in the morning, wearing wellies and bin bags (must be English as no Scot can pretend he doesn't have a waterproof) on their way to T in the Park.


Not us though.  We're hugely sane.  Och aye.  We've a castle to see and we won't be drinking any lager until we watch Spain beat Holland in the World Cup in a tartan wallpapered bar with twelve television sets, of which only one has a decent picture without snow (does it get any more nostalgic than this...  my childhood is just self replicating in front of me) in St Andrews 36 hours later.

We drive down a rutted, puddled, pit holed lane to a wee asphalt car park beside a grey wall where the world just stops and goes on to nothingness that turns out to be the loch.  My trainers are wet before I'm even out of the car.  I zip up my festival Mac (in England you don't need them for anything else) and Luke does likewise, except he's brought his wife's (yes - 'his wife's' but don't ask, it's all perfectly legit...) which comes over the bones of his wrists and half way up his back.  He looks, frankly, retarded.  Cute but simple. I am fat, broad beamed as the mac cuts me off at the most unflattering point in my pear shaped physique, in wet shoes that squelch, have my hood tied up to keep off the wind and a tear in the crotch of my jeans after I unwisely tried to turn a walk in the park into an extreme sport by climbing a tree, and am wearing a pair of misted up glasses with only one leg because they're my spares and I forgot the good, sexy librarian ones (in my dreams).  I had thought that I was the one who looked like I had special needs so that people would think that Cute Luke was taking his differently abled aunt out for a jolly ('How old is he?  My sister asked when I paraded him for the family inspection.  He looks awfy young.  Yeah, thanks sis...)  But no, now we're a perfectly matched couple.

We slurp up to the loch side like two people with 'a want' on day release from sheltered housing.

The water is the colour of misery and the air seeps moisture.  It's like being inside a big gray lung with a chest infection.

We walk out on to the little pier where a sign says:


What else would you do?  Swim?

We smile at each other.  Heroically.  And wait like Vladimir and Estragon.  In the fog.  With rain like a child's drawing pencilling down on us.

There doesn't seem much point in going to see the castle when you can't actually see anything, says Luke.

Eventually after a suitable pause.

Maybe the ferry isn't even running?  I ponder...

It would be lovely on a good day, he adds encouragingly.  A nice stroll around the lock...

Loch, I repeat.

Yeah lock, he says making it sound like f*ck with the off implied.

It would be lovely.  I agree, giving up on the Stanley Baxter Parliamo Glasgow lessons.

We try to get excited about the tight lipped water lilies that may or not be pond weed, and then five minutes later we're disrobing and back in the car.

He puts on the Smiths.  (We've already done Belle and too fricking jolly Sebastian - how can they possibly be Scottish.  They must have gone to private schools.)

Heaven knows I'm miserable now....

Aye.  Radiator on.   Just like old times.

Falkland here we come.

The village.

Not the islands.