It’s March. Leith Links is ablaze with council crocuses. They have a Leither’s cavalier disregard for the weather forecast, bravely waving in the icy breeze to herald spring.
As my old Great-Aunt Suzie used to say, we’re no’ deid a winter yet.
The promise of summer is in the air, and so the family thoughts turn to the annual holiday.
Our holiday choices are fraught with difficulties. I cannot take the Yorkshireman to a beach resort and expect him to sit there with a best-selling novel the size of bungalow in Corstorphine. He gets bored, he fidgets, he sighs, and within 15 minutes, I want to fold up the sunlounger with him inside it.
The boy does not like outside. He lurks in as much shadow as he can and panics if the wifi goes down. It’s like taking a technologically-dependent vampire on holiday. We still have the daughter with us. She’s not the beach type either and doesn’t like the heat.
Adverts come on the telly featuring bronzed women reclining on loungers by blue pools under azure skies. Chisel-jawed husbands with six pack abs play on golden sands with beautiful children of correctly alternating genders. I look and sigh and dream of those pools and that all-inclusive deal with the promise of bottomless gin and tonics and I know it is not going to happen.
Sizzling in the sun we do not do. We have gone to cottages on the North Yorkshire coast. We have admired steam engines on restored railway lines and we have descended on local museums with the crowing enthusiasm of a Birmingham stag party discovering a ‘British’ bar in Benidorm.
On one famous occasion, we took a flat-bottomed cabin cruiser out onto Loch Ness in what we later discovered was gusting Force 8. That wasn’t really a holiday. It was more like a North Atlantic Convoy Re-enactment Society day out.
So, what’s it to be this year? Well, with the boy free from the constraints of the education system, we can go any time we want and we could leave the kids home alone. This means we’d have to talk to each other for an extended time, but I figure we can cope. So, what’s the front runner?
Well, it’s the NC500, Scotland’s much touted answer to the mighty US Route 66, which links Chicago to Santa Monica. NC 500 can boast linking Inverness to errr... Inverness.
Still, if it stops him sighing and fidgeting, I’ll bring my own gin and relax in the peace and quiet.
Can you cash in a grumpy teen?
Who are those families in the holiday adverts? You know, those disturbingly Aryan-looking couples with one boy and one girl? No one in Adland seems to holiday in an all-inclusive sun-drenched resort with two boys or two girls. Maybe there is a place at the airport where you can swap if you are unlucky enough to have a gender unbalanced family. I wonder if you can cash in a grumpy teen for a sunny toddler?
On the very few times I managed to lure my lot away to warmer climes I’ve rarely seen anything that resembles those picture-perfect families.
The last time we got to sit by a Spanish pool it was dominated by a family from Stenhouse who approved of super-strength lager as a breakfast beverage and had varying numbers of children capable of producing noise on a supersonic level. Oh, no, wait, there was one family who looked like they had stepped from the pages of a brochure. Tall, slim, tanned and gender-balanced. And German, of course.
Something is creepy about the child-free
On that matter, who are those weird people having the child-free holidays? You know the ones. The smug bloke playing croquet and cheating while two women sit indoors and realise they can’t hear the patter of tiny feet.
It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea – it has much to commend it. But why have they chosen to spend precious adult-only time in what looks like the Overlook Hotel from The Shining?
They seem to be trapped in a deserted country home just waiting for the body to be found in the library and Morse/Lewis/Endeavour/Fred Thursday rocking up to arrest the lot.
My money’s on the smug croquet player, by the way. Never trust a man that cheats at games involving a mallet.
Twenty’s plenty for a motorhome
Ach, well, I suppose the dream of the Mediterranean sun and a good book by the pool can wait. I guess it’s NC500 round the far north for us. We thought we’d hire a motorhome.
We can drive really slowly around the rural roads of Scotland, building up a tailback of exasperated locals and, more importantly, bemused tourists, who will find out just how it feels to be driven in an Edinburgh taxi around the city at 20 mph.
Why, it’s practically a duty to tourism right there.