Southerly Travels

Well a week or two on and once more a lot has happened. This weekend, we rented the 7 seater, a nice diesel powered Renault Espace. Very nice car. Keycard with a button to start it, automatic hand brake and the whole dashboard is like the command deck of the Enterprise.

We had arranged to get the car on the Wednesday evening so we could get started early Thursday morning. The car company called up on the Tuesday to say that they needed to pick up another car from somewhere and if I didn’t mind dropping the driver off, I could have the car a day early for no extra cost. I of course jumped at the offer and we drove down to Edinburgh on the Tuesday and popped into an organic grocer (you can do things like that when you have a car, or so I’ve heard).

On the Wednesday, since we had the car all day, we drove north up the western side of Loch Lomond, the largest loch in Scotland (for those that don’t know, a loch is simply a lake). The country side out there was absolutely glorious. We had a wonderful drive and had brought some sandwiches and other picnic lunch things and had lunch at a park on the bank of the lake. We then drove up to the top of the loch and then headed east to Stirling. Although we got to Stirling quite late in the day, and the rain clouds had rolled in, the town was absolutely beautiful. We thought that Edinburgh was the most beautiful city in the UK. It is apparently one of the most complete examples of an historic city (in large part because it was almost untouched during the war, Glasgow was heavily bombed as it had all the industry like munitions and shipping manufacturing, whereas Edinburgh has none really) and is a world heritage site (yep the whole inner city). The inner city has two distinct areas in it called the Old Town and the New Town. The Old Town is a complete example of a medieval city and the New Town is a complete example of a Georgian city (Glasgow, by the way, is one of the best surviving examples of a Victorian city). It is possibly one of the nicest cities in Europe in my opinion, definitely up there with Lucerne and Strasbourg. Well Stirling was as nice as Edinburgh, just a lot smaller. So we had pizza there then popped home.

So Thursday morning arrived and we got off to a slightly late start which was probably not such a bad thing as we missed all the early morning work traffic. We took a scenic route through the country which was quite lovely. Half way there I suddenly thought that the country side reminded me of Bob the Builder, I turned to Annmarie to tell her and she said that it reminded her of Heartbeat, which it did. So we both started singing the Heartbeat theme and Annmarie got this strange idea that maybe we should get the Heartbeat soundtrack for future road trips. So after a lovely drive (including stopping off to listen to windmills) we arrived at Saltcoats to pick up my Mum. After a bit of fussing with her luggage we headed off to London.

The drive down was, though quite long, largely uneventful (possibly due to the skill of the driver, but I’ll leave that to others to decide). After a bit of travel of some smaller roads we largely stuck to the main motorways. We stopped off in several places to give everyone a stretch, especially the kids, and to keep at bay the evils of exhaustion mixed with driving. One of the stopovers was at a services spot on a lake with some ducks. Although it was quite windy, Annmarie got out our lunch supplies and Willow’s birdie bread. I went into the services building with my Mum to get some coffee. While we were looking in the souvenir shop on our way back, Annmarie and the kids turned up. Apparently Willow was scared because there were some big black birds, so we all ate lunch inside.

On the trip down, my Mum told us some stories about my Dad and their times living around the north of England. One of them happened just before they were married. They were engaged and had bought a house in a town somewhere in the middle of England (I can’t remember were exactly) and since they were not married yet, Dad moved into the house and Mum rented a flat which happened to be on the other side of a river and the motorway. Not long before the wedding, my Dad’s workmates decided to have a stag night and took him out drinking. In the wee hours of the morning, my Mum was woken up by the sound of stones on her window. She looked out to see Dad out in front. He was quite obviously drunk and was complaining that he couldn’t find his keys and couldn’t get into the house and needed to get ready for work in the morning. Mum came down to take him back home to discover that he was soaking wet, with twigs and sticks and slime all over him. Mum was, of course, furious and took him back home and let him in, admonishing him for losing his keys and for wandering around drunk at that hour. Later that morning, his work friends turned up at Mum’s house apologising that Dad had disappeared from one of their houses after being put to bed on the sofa and they didn’t know what happened to him. It appeared that he had been put to bed on the sofa and had gotten up to go home, had lost his keys on the way and then had crossed both the river and the motorway to get to Mums house despite the existence of a perfectly good bridge. Also it was a Friday night and he didn’t need to go to work the next day at all.

Another of the stories involved the both of them moving house and driving many miles along motorways, with a washing machine in the front passenger seat, a baby (my brother Peter) in a capsule with my Mum in the back, along with a rolled up carpet. In a mini.

Anyway, it is once more getting very late, so I’ll continue this story another time, and hopefully get back to Tokyo too.



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