For reasons too complex to explain I wound up driving to Ayr not once but twice this week.
Naturally I was driving in the hottest days of the year so far, hitting rush hours in both cities and the M8 road surfacing team had clearly cashed in a postal order and blew the lot on a tarmac party for huge stretches of the motorway.
A long time ago I only saw Ayrshire once a year, when the family hit the Clyde coast on holiday. Girvan was our destination. Back then we would pile into the old Morris Minor and take off across the Fenwick Moor, through Eaglesham, which my old Aunty Jo constantly referred to as a “conversation village” and down past places with names that sounded exotic, Tarbolton, Maybole, Auchinleck. I’m not kidding. Even Kilmarnock sounded exciting.
Naturally, me and The Pest, AKA the wee brother, were in the back seat, with a tartan travel rug and two cushions off the couch for comfort. It wasn’t as comfortable as you’d think, on account of the fact that extensive pre-drive preparations for this arduous journey involved mum using Lavender furniture wax on the leather seats to make them look nice. They also smelled nice. They were also as slithery as a banker’s conscience.
We had a choice of Summer Specials to read, which sometimes came with free crayons, but colouring in was problematic on account of the combination of furniture polish, the back seat being a bench and complete lack of any mad luxury like a seat belt.
You may consider this a life-threatening situation, but to be honest our lives were more in danger by the prospect of getting crayon on the leather seats. Trust me, you did not want to explain that to my mum in the 60s.
Mum had read somewhere that Oddfellows were good for stopping car sickness. The Pest hadn’t. We usually pulled in somewhere for a spew stop. He could barely leave Glasgow without upchucking. He must be better now, because he’s a globetrotting businessman today. He’s probably got a stash of Odd-fellows about his person.
The big competition was to be the first person to spot the sea, or as it was more correctly identified in the Glaswegian worldview, The Watter .
And all these years later, alone in my own car, I still gave a whoop when I crested a hill and caught the very first glimpse of sparkling blue.
All those years ago this was our Riviera, only with the Ailsa Craig. It was the Cote d’Azur, only with fish suppers.
It was, dare I say, Burntisland, facing the other way.
Klaxon would be great way to keep Farage’s ‘tone’ under control
Dear Mr Farage, I note that you’ve apologised for using a “tone” when talking about foreign people.
It’s an easy mistake to make. That “tone” slips into conversation so easily, doesn’t it? You usually use it with phrases like “those people” and “coming here” and “taking jobs”. So here’s my suggestion. Why not employ some young person to sound a Klaxon loud and clear in your ear whenever you start to slide into that “tone”.
This will have the dual effect of giving you a Tone Warning, and obliterating everything you have to say for the next minute or so, which has just got to be a blessing.
Nimrod stopped us in our tracks
If you were really lucky, you’d pass Prestwick Airport when something was taking off or landing.
In 1969, me, The Pest and Dad became near hysterical with planespotter joy when a Nimrod thundered into the air right above the car. It was quite safe. Dad wasn’t driving. The car was halted at the level crossing that had to come down to let the runway be used.
The fact that we all had to stop whilst a Soviet sub hunter took to the air didn’t bother us in the least. This was the Cold War. Sacrifices had to be made.
Force 9? Get the deckchairs out
When we got to Girvan we didn’t do anything. Well, there was a walk along the prom, of course, a wander around Woolworths and a drift about the harbour to see what had been dragged up in the nets.
You could go to the beach, even if it was raining. Going swimming during monsoon conditions was quite acceptable. Inclement weather was no bar to holiday fun.
In fact, sitting on stripy deck-chairs wearing matching Arran sweaters knitted by my Aunty Jane, duffel coats and wellies in something approaching a force nine was considered de rigueur.
Small children were occasionally swept past by the howling gale, usually clutching a kite string, but this was regarded as character building, as long as you caught them before they went over the harbour wall.
We didn’t take up wind surfing, learn French or do a crash course in watercolours. We just sat about and didn’t do anything. It was great.