Two years ago, I had the great good luck to go on a tour of the Highlands and islands, bringing comedy to the glens, hamlets and council-run community centres throughout rural Scotland, whether they wanted it or not.
I promised myself I’d take the family to see Mull, Islay and heck, even Oban. But maybe not Tiree. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely place, but seriously, for a girl who likes a shop or two, it’s the equivalent of a detox centre.
This year we did it. We piled into the trusty Rover and set off, Tobermory-bound. We were a merry bunch, mainly because the kids are now old enough to stop asking, “Are we there yet?”, and also old enough to be dumped at the nearest railway station with a ticket home if they started to nip our heids.
But why would they? The joy of older kids is that they do appreciate the view, and the ferry trip to Mull would have made you weep with joy. When my little country gets a dose of serious summer, the sea sparkles, the sky is so blue it hurts and the hills are green and glorious with just the right hint of silver mist. There is nothing like it in the world.
A few minutes on the deck of the MV Lord of the Isles in the warm breeze with the sun on your face and your worries slide into the wake.
Now, there once was a time when travelling the glens and lochsides was a parlous business, mainly because the American term and concept “good customer service” was exactly that – American.
Travellers’ tales were rampant about the B&B who threw guests out after breakfast into force ten gales, or the hotel where hot water was restricted to floors one, four and six, or the restaurant that closed for lunch. Smiling seemed reserved for people you knew, and not to be unleashed on passing strangers who might get overly friendly and start demanding conversation. People who travelled to the edges of Scotland just to see it were considered mildly worrisome by the folk who lived there.
Things have changed. Almost everywhere we went the service was incredible, including a lodge owner who didn’t have enough accommodation to offer us for a second night, so offered to put up a tent for the kids.
Devil is (not) in the downloads
AS I said, just about everywhere we went we were met with terrific service. Apart from one, a tiny little drovers’ inn on the road to Killin.
As we parked, the owner came bounding up. There had been a catastrophe, he said. The hotel had been struck by lightning. The electricity had blown up.
The three of us stood there under a brilliant blue summer sky. There was one tiny cloud. It was wispy and white and we all glanced up and I swear it disappeared in a puff of vapour as if to say “Who, me?”
The owner sussed we were not entirely convinced, and shovelled on the drama. The telephone, he said, had flames shooting out of it. The lightning strike, you see. The whole glen, he said, is probably out, hit by the terrible freak storm.
This was getting a bit weird, and a voice inside my head said, “look, you’ve seen this film”.
The inn, for whatever reason, is in total darkness, but there are some shadowy figures lurking inside. Had we stumbled upon a cult’s Highland awayday?
The owner spotted the Teen Son. Ah ha! he said, playing his trump card. The broadband has exploded.
End of. The minute the son and the daughter realised the internet was closed it was thanks and good-bye.
We found a hotel further along the glen. They had rooms, a warm welcome and no knowledge of the storm. I still think we’d interrupted a day out for devil-worshippers.
Now We Go Live
Of course, the whole trip was threatened just before we started. On Saturday the rain was truly biblical, causing me to wonder if curling up on the sofa to watch a box set or two might not be a better option, if I got that far. I was outdoors, at the BBC building in Glasgow, at a live version of a CBBC’s show, Dog Ate My Homework. We had torrential rain and we had electricity. Masses of it. I wasn’t too worried until a sound engineer, a breed not given to anxiety, leaned forward and said: “Don’t touch the microphones.”
Games opener took the biscuit (or teacake)
We missed the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. By the sound of things, we were lucky. Social media went into meltdown with stunned, bemused and frankly embarrassed Scots
commenting on some of the more bonkers aspects of the event.
Apparently it involved giant dancing Tunnock’s Teacakes. A solo lightning strike might have come in handy . .