Mud On the Road

we're about to go shopping in Salisbury...

Not Going Abroad

Into the North
 7.00 am
The Christmas Tree, Luss, Loch Lomond
Tiny place, big tree, bags of style and Christmas cheer
        Shedley looks relaxed. We’re on target to leave at 8.15am. He’s busy priming the two Global Positioning Systems. We own four but he’s agreed to leave two behind.
        We’re driving to the Isle of Skye for a week. We've rented a cottage in the Bay of Portree where the garden gives directly onto the water and the shoreline and thus everybody else's gardens. This promises to be scenic and also mildly terrifying with the dogs.
      To break the journey of some 650 miles and ensure we see the spectacular scenery of the final 150 miles, we're staying overnight in a place called Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond.  And we're stopping for lunch in Hale, deepest Wagland to drop in on old friends, see their new home and make the most of a rare opportunity to catch up on each other’s lives.
        The plan is to be with them 1pm-ish and be back on the road by 3pm. I feel confident we will make this...
7.19 am
        I’m making coffee and tea for the Thermos flasks so we can drink and drive and not waste time queuing for fresh coffee which gives me a head rush and make me jibber and shake and anyway the milk froth has the texture of expanding foam and the tea always tastes of pond.

7.48 am
        The car is packed. Well, crammed fit to bursting really. We’re away for only eight nights and nine days but the packing list was a long one. Even longer than the pre-departure To Do list. And complicated too. 

        But that's what's so great about holidaying in the UK: no luggage restrictions, no passports needed, no onerous hours locked in the cattle pens of airport security or border control queues.
        I’ve remembered to pack the camera, a spare memory card, the books we’re reading, various maps, a box set of Borgens for the long dark nights in the North. The Apple i-everythings. And the sixty-eight thousand chargers with which to charge them all.  It’s the details that make for a good holiday.
        Still unticked on the To Do list: 

  •         fill three bottles with water - car/dogs/us.
8.05 am
        Shedley is looking a bit frazzled.
        I do agree with him. It is astonishing the paraphernalia involved in taking two Boxer dogs on holiday.
        I relented over their big plastic beds - they clearly are too large for the boot - even so, there’s still their food - canned meat and kibble - food bowls, bedding, leads, collars, toys, treats, Myrtle's medicines, ball chuckers, balls for the ball chucker, whistles, towels, plastic bags for the poop-scooping of. The tiny green plastic tic-removing hook for emergency tic removal.
        Like I said, it’s the little things.
8.17 am
        As I outlined to Shedley at midnight last night when most, okay all of the clothes I own, were strewn over the bed and chairs and across the floor of the little bedroom and spilling out onto the landing, as I explained to him then, in my Ultra Calm Pre-Holiday voice, we may only be going away for eight nights and nine days but we still need: 
all weather coats and shoes
walking shoes
going-out shoes
staying-in shoes
running shoes
clothes to walk about looking at stuff in
clothes to walk the dogs in
casual clothes to wear going out, e.g. to supper, to the pub
clothes to wear staying in when our walking about looking at stuff in clothes are soaking wet
less casual clothes for the Celebration Lunch at Kinloch Lodge
clothes for mild days
clothes for snow
        The good thing, I tell Shedley, is that we don’t have to take bed linen or towels and the cottage has a tumble dryer.
        He says: ‘That is a good thing wife, because we definitely do not have room for the tumble dryer.’
8.27 am
        I’ve almost finished wrapping the sandwiches in clingfilm. I’ve packed two boxes of food.
        Shedley is beginning to pace.
        ‘But we can just go to the local supermarket when we get there and buy a load of stuff.’
        ‘But I’m going on holiday. I don’t want to go to go the local supermarket when we get there and buy a load of stuff.’
        I’m rather pleased with myself. I have successfully organised provisions for the journey - egg sandwiches and fruit; provisions for the overnight stay in Luss, Loch Lochmond - egg sandwiches and fruit; essential provisions for our arrival on the Isle of Skye, something to eat while we are decanting the car into the cottage - tea, coffee, milk, sugar, cereal, bread, butter. Egg sandwiches and fruit.
8.45 am
        I turn to Shedley and I say, proudly: ‘all done. Running only 30 minutes behind. Not bad eh?’
        Then I suddenly remember: ‘Aaaaagh. We can’t leave yet. We haven’t walked the dogs.’ Silly, silly me.
9.20 am
        The dog walk was unusually muddy.
        I say: ‘I’m going to have a quick shower. Just a really quick one I promise.’
        We are underway. 
        I check we've got the paperwork for tonight's stay at the Alderdale B & B. It's situated on the Western shores of Loch Lomond. 

        I’m excited. Loch Lomond. I say it out loud and then I sing the song. That is to say I sing the chorus which is the only bit I know, with nondescript humming in-between for the verses and then I sing the chorus over again. I sing it in my special sing-song-Scottish-lilt accent which I've been practising on and off now for some days in mounting anticipation of our week on the Isle of Skye.
        ‘You take the High Road and I’ll take the Low Road and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye, fer me and mae true love will never meet again on the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond!’
        Thus we set off on our great adventure. Into the north. Me singing and Shedley, my true love, driving and muttering dark murderous things about who will be taking which road if I think he’s going to listen to that for the next 300 miles…

11.25 am

        I say: 'I'm really hoping we might see eagles on Skye and possibly otters and definitely seals.'

11.27 am

         I say: ‘***K! We’ve forgotten the binoculars. We’ll get there and we won’t be able to see a damn thing.’
1.30 pm
        Hours of driving and many egg sandwiches later we are, mysteriously, sinisterly I think, still far from Hale. I want to blame Birmingham but that's such a cliché. 

        I blame Birmingham anyway.


       England seems to be stretching and expanding like the knicker elastic on those nasty navy blue knickers they made us wear for PE at school in the 1970's.  

2 pm

        The traffic on the M6 south of Knutsford and Alderley Edge is bumper to bumper. The M6 makes the M3 look sparse and the South a bit on the empty side.
        We arrive at our friends' fabulous house. Footballers to the left and pro-golfers to the right. We are a horrible hour and half hour late. 

        Our friends are very kind and still seem quite pleased to see us, though our stay is rushed and so demands female speed-talking in order to condense two years of news into 40 minutes.
        On the bright side, a curtailed visit is probably no bad thing as, in the brief time we are there, the boxer dogs race maniacally around and around our friends’ delightful garden, scoring deep scarring tracts into the previously pristine lawn, relieving themselves with canine abandon, barking at the neighbouring pro-golfer’s cat and generally carrying on like hooligan feral dogs who have lived until now in the wild and never been in a back garden before and are determined to leave their mark.

3.10 pm 
        We leave and sit in traffic. 
4 pm
       Spirits flagging. 

4.15 pm 

        It's pretty much dark outside now. 

5 pm

        Spirits low. 
6.30 pm
        In some triumph, spirits revived, we cross the border into Scotland.
        It’s very, very dark in Scotland so we can’t see it, but we know it’s Scotland and that’s what counts.
        We also know it’s Scotland because the A74 is punctuated by large electronic signs which could say ‘Happy Christmas’ or something jolly but instead grimly warn us, like pulpit-thumping puritanical preachers shouting in red pen, that, in seven days’ time, 5th December, ‘SCOTLAND’S DRINK DRIVING LIMIT WILL BE REDUCED’ - from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood. 

        Bah! Humbug.
        On each slip road  I notice there are road signs repeatedly reminding us motorists of the approaching speed limits which in England we are expected to a) know and b) remember.
7.05 pm.
        We’ve both been to Scotland independently but this is a first for us as a couple and my first time travelling beyond the cities.  
7.15 pm
        That’s Glasgow, over there.       
8.40 pm

        We make it to Luss in the nick of time, five minutes before the kitchen closes at the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel. Which is fortuitous because we are sick to death of egg sandwiches.
        Luss has a fabulous jaunty Christmas tree offering a big Christmas welcome to all. The tree is festooned with dashing red baubles and bold statement decorations. 
        I take photographs of the tree and the sweet B& B cabin where we are staying and I remark how the Luss Christmas tree is the polar opposite of the Stockbridge Christmas tree and Stockbridge Christmas lights in general which consist solely of pinpricks of feeble white light strung about the place in apologetic dribbles which amount to little more than an embarrassed nod to the festive season.
10 pm

        After an excellent supper of fishcakes (me) and fish and chips (him) and warming local ale (both) we take the dogs for a stroll through the pretty streets of Luss and feel the happy thrill of arrival, of being somewhere new and entirely different from home.
        We find our way, my true love and I, down to the shores of Loch Lomond and look across the UK’s largest stretch of inland water and admire the starry night sky. 
        Our enjoyment of the scene is topped off with a large cherry of smug contentment because we have travelled to this wonderful new place without having to put the dogs in kennels, buy Euros or experience the grinding hell of standing in long queues at places like Stansted Airport and showing everyone your socks.


Luss, Loch Lomond

The Christmas Tree, Luss, Loch Lomond
Delicious supper, warm welcome and great service - thank you

Loch Lomond Arms
A wintry day in Luss

Because the Woods Are Scary
Surrey Hills
But, I Am Not A Mote
I Love the M3
I Love the M3
Poor, kind Mrs Harris
Working From Home
Eaten Alive!
Rise and Shine!
Rise & Shine!

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