Mum week…

My mum had visited again. This time she brought with her two ex-colleagues from my primary school, basically two of my teachers.

I didn’t let that intimidate me, and Benji and I took them on a trip in a motherfucking beast of a car, Ford Mondeo Titanium X, which turned out to be a piece of shit. Knowing next to bugger all about cars I wonder if this was related partially to the fact that it was a Diesel engine but just the size of the car was an annoyance. All I wanted was a 5-door 5-seater and I was going to get a VW Golf or similar but got upgraded yet again and had the honour of taking this car on its second ever rental (how’s that for pressure?)! It had only done a 100ish miles, it had no scratches and no key!!!

I decided that since the other two visitors hadn’t been anywhere in Scotland I wanted to take mum somewhere she hadn’t been either, for a change, and headed down the M8 straight for Linlithgow palace. This would have been a good move, providing Linlithgow was along the M8 and not the M9. The navigator, who shall not be named but his initials are Benjamin Rosman managed to correct his blunder and took us down a scenic, yet very tiny road across to Linlithgow. At this point I was still pretty freaked out about the car and it wasn’t pretty when we got up the hill to the palace, only to find the entrance blocked by a hearse and having to do a 28-point turn in the narrow sloping street. It also didn’t help that the car has bloody sensors front and back and the motherfuckers start beeping about a meter away from anything. Gah!
We eventually found a pay and display car park next door and spent about an hour and a half in Linlithgow palace, which was a good move as my mum loved it!!! It was a ruin but pretty big and we just wondered around and explored the rooms and towers while drinking coffee.

After Linlithgow we headed for Falkirk wheel, since it was kind of on the way, and found it not working. It was being maintained before the start of the season next week. We had some food though and took a walk up to the Union canal and took a few photos. This was the first wheel visit for Benji. Before we left I made sure I bullied him to yet another slide action. This one was easy as I went first and told him how slooooooooow it was.

After Falkirk we headed straight for St Andrews as we all know how unstable the daylight is at this time of year. I wanted to make it before it gets dark. This is how, finally, after five and a half years of living in Scotland, I finally saw St Andrews. It is a fairly small place and most of it is shopping streets which I’m not terribly interested in. We walked to the castle though, and from there to the ruins of the cathedral and the sun came out to make our photos nice and yellow.

After about an hour and a half I suggested we head off to see a bit of the costal road before it gets dark so we did. We drove to Crail first, and had a look around. We walked to the harbour and found public toilets! This was extremely lucky!

From Crail we drove to Anstruther in search for the best chippie in the country. It was dusky when we got there and we found the restaurant in the harbour. We sat in for dinner and by the time we were done it was completely dark outside. Everyone liked the food though, that was good!

The rest of the trip was marked by darkness, both night-wise and phone-wise. Both of our phones had died and we had to find out way in the tricky road system of the Kingdom of Fife. Somehow we found Kirkcaldy and that was where it all went wrong. Even though we followed the signs for the Forth Road Bridge very carefully they disappeared and we ended up Flying Dutchmaning it around town until eventually we stopped at a petrol station where a kindly BMW driver offered to lead us there. It must have been the first time the guy had a tail (even though I was hooning it as much as my unbalanced car allowed)!
We made it home safe and sound, with no scratches but a barbecued clutch instead (I call it the Linlithgow-Car-Park-Rubbish-Car-Not-Coping-With -Hills-Incident)! Revenge!!! Mwahahahahahaha!

XXXX II: The Return of the Wallaby

So we have returned to XXXX!
After the last hurried wet day trip to Inchconnachan on Loch Lomond, Benji and I were crazy keen to go and have a closer look at the cute marsupials that roam the island. Our planned trip to Ireland fell through and that opened an opportunity for another trip out to the Bonnie Banks. So we hired a car for two days, prepared sandwiches, bought steaks, wine and diposable barbecues, packed up boats, tents, tarpaulin covers (yes, we were smarter this time), Benji’s brother Adam, spare clothes, gumboots and cameras and headed out to the wilderness…

It started well when we were upgraded to a Vauxhall Zafira, instead of the small car we paid for. The boot space turned out to be very handy as it looked like we were going for a week. The start on Saturday was slow and painful since we’d failed to pack the night before but we eventually made it to the island before nightfall. As usual, the rain started in Glasgow, and the Trossachs looked even bleaker. It was raining while we were preparing to launch, raining while we rowed, raining when we got there, raining while we were setting up the camp… in fact, it didn’t stop raining until about midnight. When the tarpaulin and the tents were up and we were cosy in dry, warm clothes with the bbq aflame, Fate struck us in the face with its mighty fist. The steaks! The steaks were left behind, all alone, in the deep dark compartments of the fridge. Yet far was it from us to be discouraged by this cruel twist of fortune. We grilled bread with cheese instead. For dessert, we grilled halloumi. Yum! We drank wine and beer and sang merry songs (ok, we didn’t sing, as far as I remember). As it now gets dark very early, and there wasn’t much to do once the wine was gone, we opted for an early night.

When I woke up at 3 am the moon was so bright it cast shadows and the sky was clear enough to see Orion. For a while. The morning was also dry and mostly clear. The coffee from the thermo-flask was still luke warm for me and Benji, piss warm for Adam.
We were finally ready to head into the depths of the island in search of marsupials. Our first critter sighting was enlightening and disappointing at the same time. When we peered over the ledge, on which we had originally spotted what we thought was an albino wallaby, into the valley where we’d been at the time, we found our situation had turned. Up from the hill, we were peering into the valley at the albino wallaby! Or should I say… the white deer! Maybe it was an albino deer. It was stark white while one of his friends was sand coloured and another wallaby coloured. We took but a blurry picture before they pranced away.

The first real wallaby sighting occurred not long afterwards.Two marsupials hopped up towards us from behind a hill and started feeding. When we didn’t move, they didn’t seem to notice us much. So we watched me wallabies feed, mate, for about an hour and a half. We stalked them sneakily and stole their souls on many occasions, as they were scratching their pouches, heads, arms and munching twigs. We got close enough to one to hear it chew before it got bored and hopped away. They were very cute up close. Like a hybrid of a bunny, a rat and an antelope… i.e. bunny-ratelopes. Here’s one:

When we hit a boggy area we decided to turn back and break our fast. We lit another fire, finished the food and packed up the tents. Because it was a clear and sunny day we decided to casually row around our island before heading back to Luss. The loch was perfectly still with no hint of the wind or waves from last time. When we were to the west of the island, that somehow seemed huge all of a sudden, we stopped taking pictures for reasons that will be clear very shortly. Here is the end of that story:




Needless to say, we had steaks for dinner!

Moral of the story: When rowing gets tough, the tough hitch a ride.

The Lords and Ladies of the Isles…

So we made it to the Isle of Mull and back… with the car in one piece, seaweed for my halloween costume, lots of photos, Benji’s newfound childhood and yet more things on our TO DO list…

We started off badly, but once we’d successfully located the hand break and the reverse gear things picked up a bit. The vibe was good from the start as the foreign visitors (my mum, her sister Mima, her cousin Eva and Eva’s husband Lubo) really liked the Vauxhall Zafira that I booked for the trip. A seven seater but supposedly they felt like they were on a bus. The “ideme” and “nejdeme”of an infamous slovakian advertisement clip were more than common.

The weather that Metoffice threatened us with didn’t take long to make an appearance; when we got to Doune castle (Winterfell) at was already raining unscottish rain and as my shoes are easy to get soaked through, I had my first chance to test out the new gumboots… best buy ever! Stylish, comfortable, swell, they keep out the water and they keep in the smell!!!
We didn’t go inside the castle but the ticket lady was saying how amazing it was to see the great hall all done up for the filming of A Game of Thrones.
In Killin it was pissing down so I went straight into the tourist shop and got myself a poncho. We had lunch at the old inn and then went to the MacNab island, which was pretty but very very wet. Thank fuck for gumboots!

We decided the next stop was going to be our destination in Tralee bay. Fortunately, the day before we managed to book ourselves a six berth caravan unit in a caravan park by Oban.
The rain had stopped by the time we got there and the Slovakians were pretty blown away by the place. Located on a beach, the trailer won them over with a huge living space and smartly arranged rooms. Also, it was probably a lot better than what they imagined when I said we were staying in a caravan, mwahaha! For £25 per head it was by far the cheapest thing we could get and the ratio of price / comfort / privacy (yes, a triple ratio, geek!) was more than favorable and made me an accommodation guru in an instant.

Having a few hours of daylight left we decided to go check out the nearby town of Oban, which neither of us had ever been to. There we discovered a pretty little fishing town with a waterfront promenade, a crazy colosseum-like structure called McCaig’s Tower and rightfully nicknamed McCaig’s Folly, lots of ducks to spit on and lots of old ladies to disapprove of us doing so, and a Tesco supermarket with the most shocking car park in the world.
When we got back to Tralee bay with provisions of beer and whisky, we still had a little while to go and check out the little beach before it got dark. On the way there, we ran into a playground with a foofy slide where Benji finally had the opportunity to discover the joys of childhood other than candy and video games. I have pictorial evidence of this!
We spend the rest of the evening drinking whisky and leffes, chilling and talking in our caravan, yo!

The next day started off easier from the driving point of view, as we headed off early on Sunday morning. It was drizzling and the hills were wrapped in clouds. After we crossed on the Corran ferry, the mist started to lift and reveal beautiful countryside. We took some toursity breaks on the drive to the next ferry crossing which ended up being a huge mistake. When the road changed into a single track with passing places, we realised we might not make it in time for the ferry departure. It was hard to speed up on that road as one could run into oncoming traffic behind any odd hill and if the road happened to be straight, there were weasels promptly crossing the road to make the task more impossible. As we neared the terminal the traffic off the ferry slowed us a little bit more and we arrived to the slipway when the goddamned ferry was about 2 meters off the shore! Next crossing in two hours time!

A friendly lady from the refreshments stall gave us advice on how to spend the time and sent us up the old Drumnin road which supposedly goes all the way to Mull underwater. (Which we considered as an alternative way of getting there, with 0 excess and all, our liability reduction waiver never listed underwater driving not being covered.) We drove along the coast with a pretty view of Mull that had evaded us, but the sky was blue and cloudless by that point and everyone’s mood was improving. We found the wishing stone that the lady had mentioned and we made wishes before climbing through the hole, the way it’s meant to be done!

We finally crossed over to Mull and decided to take the low road, as Benji has not been down there with his parents. The plan was to see what happens and we ran into a sign for Duart castle, so we spontaneously went for it. It was a pretty location for a castle, with an underwater wreck of HMS Swan nearby. In the boggy area under the castle I managed to get my gay shoes wet. The only time I didn’t wear gumboots on an outing and this was what happened, dammit! It was nice and sunny otherwise.

Since we’d missed the “Last eating place for the next 27 miles” sign in Craignure, we pushed ahead and tried to look for a restaurant, to no avail. The hills were beautiful but when we finally got to the loch (about 26 miles from Craignure) we had to turn back to the wish of the majority (or more like people that expressed the wish, as there might have been four of us wanting to push on). That has left the isle of Iona and its famous abbey on our TO DO list.
Craignure Inn had amazing food though. I was hesitating for a long time but eventually decided to go for fish stew which was exceptionally yummy!

After that we pressed on! We took an earlier ferry back and made it just in time for the small Corran one this time. That way, we managed to see Glencoe before it got completely dark. The drive back started to be tiring somewhere along the Bonnie (but windie) Banks of Loch Lomond and after we hit the motorway a few gay signposts and missed turns didn’t help, but we saw some real life police action on Erskine Bridge, where a suicidal fellow on the phone was standing on the edge. Eventually we made it back safe and sound and before the hour of ghosts to the open arms of Claivid and Hellipp.

This and That

Apart from this (and that) being the name of the most awesomest pizza choice at Kasbah (any 4 ingredients, oh yeah!), it is also a fitting name for a random post on a bit of everything.

The buoyancy aids arrived on Monday (bloody typical!) and I have ordered gumboots for further trips. Yay! No more risking our lives just for the heck of it!!! Pictures possibly coming soon!

Big news!!! Aevelynn Frost has submitted her very first entry into a short story competition! Results in about a months time… Hooray!

Unfortunately, the writing has been slow in the last few days due to several trips, preparations for visitors,… a pain in the neck!!!
It will be slower still when the visitors are here but I’m expecting Aevelynn to be back hard at work next weekend to bring you more scary stories.

Also hooray for the visitors… Bringing cheese, booze and their precious selves so we have someone to take out on a road trip in a seven seater, yaaay?