So here we are – as I predicted in Blog 52 – in “Flaming June” and I have to say that it is pretty nice down here, on the South coast today – although storm and tempest is forecast for tomorrow. I ought to be making the best of this, and should be splashing about (illegally) in the outdoor pool at the local hotel, as is my wont. But I have started doing this now and by the time I finish it the tempest will be making its appearance, no doubt.
I was, however, up betimes this morning, and have been relishing today’s beauty since 0800 hours by the 24-hour clock (you can tell I worked for the BBC…). This early start may surprise regular readers who know I rarely shuffle into the kitchen to make my morning tea before 1000. Let me explain.
Those of us who are elderly and infirm, such as your blogger, rely heavily on their Home Entertainment Systems (the telly, to you) for diversion and relaxation, and when such Entertainment Systems start displaying messages like “There is a fault – go to SKY.COM/FIX to correct this” their blood-presssure tends to rise (see Blog No.52).
Apart from the fact that my computer is in my office and my television in my sitting room so any instructions received via the computer would mean my rushing into the sitting room to perform them, my keyboard skills do not extend to correcting a television systems fault, not being a trained engineer with a PHd. in computer sciences. Which is why, last Sunday evening, found me burrowing into the plastic folder of instructions and information relating to my Sky contract, for the Customer Services telephone number. Which I rang, waiting patiently for a robotic voice to answer and request I tell it clearly the reason for my call. “My Sky box is malfunctioning” seemed to cover it. “Your Sky-Box is malfunctioning? Is that correct? Please say Yes or No clearly”. “YES!” “You can correct this problem easily by going to Skydotcomforwardslashfix. Is there anything else I can help you with today?” “YES – I AM INCAPABLE OF MANAGING THIS. I AM BLOODY-WELL EIGHTY-TWO AND….” “Thank you for calling Sky.” CLICK. Further rise in Blood-Pressure.
An alternative Customer Services number eventually produced a human-being who took me through a few manoeuvres using the remote control and then pronounced my Sky Box in need of replacement – an ex-Sky-Box – a Sky-Box that is no more and Gone To See Its Maker (why is this making me think of parrots??). They would be sending out an undertaker to remove the corpse and replace it with a living Sky-Box.
Which they did this morning, and the appointed time was – ? Yes. 8.00.a.m. And as I had noticed that the digital function of my TV system was also telling me it had No Signal the engineer kindly looked into this problem also, found a connection had been broken – and so repaired it. (Search For The Guilty: Who Broke The Connection? I fear the finger of suspicion points at my cleaner, Keef, using the hoover a bit too enthusiastically round the back of the set.)
Where was I? Yes – with a knackered Home Entertainment System which now is back to normal Hooray. “Coronation Street” here I come.
Which brings me to POLYMYALGIA. I promised to reveal the results of my latest blood-test to you in respect of this disorder, and can only say that the phials of the red stuff that I produced for their inspection have been greeted by No Response whatsoever. The tests were done 12 days ago and I suspect No News Is Good News. Apart from that, the pain and discomfort I had been putting up with has eased somewhat, although it is still there. It is probably that odd condition called, by doctors, “Anno Domini”.
SUBTITLE CORNER; “The weather stained ripe for most of us but it is Chile today, with mysterious conditions moving yeast….” In other news it would appear that “Caroline Blue-Tits is stepping down as Leader of the Green Party…”
Now to –
THE ONGOING SAGA OF JUDE ET JIM – GERIATRIC LOVE-BIRDS;
…..since this item is the main focus of this month’s Blog, being “OUR JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN HIGHLANDS AND THE HEBRIDES” in celebration of Jude’s birthday.
Suffice it to say that this holiday nearly turned out to be The Holiday you need A Holiday to get over (have you had one of those then, Missus?). Mainly this was due to the travel involved, although the flight to Edinburgh was uneventful and punctual enough. Sadly things went downhill from there – the walk, wheeling an overloaded luggage-trolley, to the “Car Hire Centre” took them 15 minutes and when they arrived there they found a queue of NINETY people waiting at the Hertz counter – no priority provision for those who had pre-booked cars as Jude et Jim had done. One-hour-and-thirty minutes later they took possession of a nice Vauxhall something-or-other which was fine and dandy, although with rather a small boot for the amount of luggage it had to take (well – they didn’t know what to pack, did they?)
Because Jim (a Scot) wanted Jude to see the wonderful countryside between Edinburgh and their destination of Gairloch, in the Western Highlands, the long drive necessitated a halfway stop – and because the most popular weeks for holidays in the Scottish Highlands are the last two in May (BEFORE THE MIDGES, YOU SEE..) Jim had experienced some difficulties finding accommodation, settling for the HOTEL ONICH on Loch Onich. Which it was. Well, the back part was on Loch Onich – the front was on the Trunk Road from Edinburgh to Inverness, with Iceland, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda all busily hurrying their goods along in huge container lorries past the entrance. And could anybody help them with their large amount of luggage (see previous para)? Er – in a word – no. And when they had wrestled their cases up the (spiral) staircase to their room they were overjoyed to find that it faced the Trunk Road and not the Loch. Quelle surprise!
Jim chose curry for dinner – why on earth go to Scotland for curry? This got sent back in double-quick time and was replaced by salmon – which Jude had also chosen, and which was in fact quite delicious. But the sleepless night which followed as the commerce of the United Kingdom carried on its business past their bedroom windows was far-from delicious. Sleep-deprived and exhausted they continued their journey the next day through beautiful scenery which they were too knackered to notice.
It can only get better from here, don’t you think? And it did. Eventually – but not until they had arrived at their Hotel in Gairloch, where Jim had upgraded their room from “Double” to “Family” – in order to get more space – where they found that they had simply pushed a third bed into an ordinary Double so there was no room to get round. There were six hangers in the (single) wardrobe, a bedside table and a dressing table – each containing three small drawers – and here were two people, staying a week. With a lot of luggage (see previous paras.) Switching on the telly demonstrated that the surrounding mountains were interfering with the signal, and the towel-rail in the bathroom was broken.
Enough already – as they say. The smiling and charming staff at the Gairloch Hotel sorted the drawers (an extra small chest was provided) another two-dozen hangers appeared, someone fixed the telly so that it worked and someone else fixed the towel rail so that it heated up. The view across the loch from the funiture-filled room was to die for, the bed was comfortable, and the food was delicious – featuring quite a lot of haggis – but Jude is fond of haggis. What was not to like?
So they settled in happily enough – and saw sights and scenery which took their breath away – the Western Highlands of Scotland are majestic, stunning and unforgettable. And it is not just the scenery – it is the awesome silence of it all. There is a God. Well, there is when confronted by such natural glories as seen by Jude et Jim.
They visited Blair Castle (nothing to do with Tone) at the foot of the Cairngorms, in the heart of the Atholl Estate of farmland, forestry, rivers, lochs and hills “full of natural beauty – and some of the best views across Highland Perthshire ” – it says here in the Brochure. The Castle was a small mediaeval manor house, which grew into a fine Georgian Mansion and finally became a Victorian Castle in baronial style. And it is a treasure-house, stuffed with beautiful things, fascinating antiques and furniture, paintings, china, embroidery, Jacobite relics – period costumes – all reflecting its fascinating history. The gardens are wonderful but Jude et Jim must confess they were too exhausted by the tour of the house itself to view them – but it was obvious they were worth a visit – had it not been imperative to have a cup of tea and a sit-down before driving back 40 miles to Gairloch.
And they visited Skye (on Jude’s ‘bucket-list’ because of its association with Bonnie Prince Charlie) and concluded the Young Pretender would no longer recognise it for motor-bikes and Visitors’ Centres – and as for “Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing – over the sea to Skye..” there isn’t even a Passenger-Ferry. No. It is a bally road-bridge (stuffed with motor-bikes….) The lunch menu in the Visitors’ Centre offered “Jacket Potatoes Stuffed with Macaroni Cheese” – (at least these were not Deep Fried).
By the way, other gastronomic delights encountered in Highland Scotland were “Haggis-Stuffed Mushrooms” (not tried) and “”Local garlic-fried Wild Mushrooms on Home-Made Granary Toast, Topped With a Poached Duck’s Egg” – absolutely wonderful. “Lobster & Chips” was also on offer somewhere (not tried but probably also wonderful…)
Jude’s birthday was celebrated by a visit to Inverewe Gardens, just north of Gairloch and dinner in a local Inn, where the waiting staff tried to feed them in the Bar – alarm and confusion arising when it was pointed out that the reservation was for dinner in the Dining Room. Jim sent his scallops back and Jude can’t even remember what she ate. But it was a Good Day.
Which cannot be said about the day of their return trip, when cancellations due to electric storms meant they spent six hours in Inverness airport waiting to get airborne – followed by an agonising hour at Gatwick hoping for their extensive luggage (see earlier paras) to arrive on a carousel which seemed to be no longer in service. Jim was dispatched by Jude, after a half-hour wait, during which the belt moved not at all, to find out what was happening. Unfortunately he then became trapped on the wrong side of the plate-glass door into Customs – unable to return because of alarmed doors and heavy Duty Security Men who grappled him to the ground as he attempted to force entry into Baggage Return. Jude was left forlorn, as the carousel lurched into sudden life, unable to rescue aforementioned baggage due to size and weight of bags (qv) – but she was rescued by a kind Asian family who heaved the bags onto her trolley and held her hand on the journey into Customs to be reunited with Jim, who was, by this time, frothing a the mouth and ready to punch the Airport staff.
What can one say? A lovely break – shame about the travel….. But Jude et Jim are definitely going back to those wonderful places and those slightly muddled but warm-hearted people again next year – because Jude et Jim are devils for punishment.
And guess what Jude took away as a memento of her Scottish visit? A Haggis. Yes. Got it squeezed into one of the (many) suitcases.
FOOTNOTE; Jude took her Blood Pressure after all that stress – although she had been on some new medication from her excellent doctor for a month – to find it at 130. RESULT!
TIPS FOR OVER-SEVENTY-YEAR-OLDS; To lower your Blood Pressure squeeze three beds into one small room and eat haggis.