Sunday, 5 June 2011

When Scotland Looks Like Malibu And The Mediterranean

'Aye, aye. He disna' pee the bed the noo,' said the landlord of the rented cottage in a similar fashion to Private Fraser, when he used to say 'We're doomed. Doomed. All doomed' in an episode of Dad's Army

That was a childhood memory of my wife's and it was brought vividly back to life thirty something years later by my sudden desire at 3 o'clock in the morning to get up and have a pee. This was a near physical impossibility as I was lying prostrate in a tent on a cliff top, somewhere on the East Lothian coastline.

I was petrified. Having kicked her several times already in the early hours, having scratched all night because of the midge bites and having leapt up because of severe cramp in my calf and by doing so I had kicked the wife again, put a hole in the top of the tent as I stood up and successfully managed to uproot some of the skewers and guide ropes securing the tent.

You will therefore understand my nervousness at having my popularity meter lowered even further into the mire, so I sat and suffered, until I could bear it no more. For a time the midges became a welcome distraction. I finally summonsed the courage and made it out at 4am. It was bright sunshine, warm and so nice that it was far too good than to go back into that rotten old canvas thing.

I went to the nearest clump of fir trees. It was the only option as the route to the only lavatory meant having to go through the main room of the log cabin which was crammed with young people in sleeping bags. They wouldn't thank a clumsy middle aged man with Size 15 feet and a total lack of poise, balance or finesse. It would have ended in disaster as, at best I would have trod on one or two but more likely I would have overbalanced and crushed many.

As it happened I disturbed a rabbit which was lying in the undergrowth. Whether it was the Size 15's or the sound of a fountain of water, it had the effect of terrifying us both. The rabbit shot off between my legs and sought sanctuary under a gorse bush.

Happy days. Camping in half-term at a 21st birthday party. The tent was a small price to pay. Having only had to suffer the discomfort of cold, cramp and backache half a dozen times in my life, I consider I have got off lightly. It was an extraordinary time. The cloudless skies and humid warmth made Scotland look quite unlike Scotland. The azure blue sea was Mediterranean. The beach was Malibu or Bondi. The smells were tropical and like a garden in Kuala Lumpur. Even the jelly fish washed up on the beach exuded colours of the rainbow, such as I have never seen. One even had the shape of a purple Celtic cross within its translucent body.

And the party was good. Young people relaxing and enjoying themselves. Some sunbathing, some talking, some swimming, some playing rounders or a game involving frisbees. Perfection. A temporary moment in time that all is well with the world. Not a grumpy bus driver in sight. Only a grumpy wife. there'll be no room in the tent next time. It will have to be the back seat of the bus.

Oh joy.

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