Holiday 6 - Going Nowhere?

 On the road north of Ullapool.
Scenic Road Sign

It's time to say goodbye to the lovely gardens of Scotland, then a quick hello to London, then goodbye again. But I don't get very far, ending up in Frankfurt Airport to experience my first serious airport jam - a day-long rebooking queue.

Monday 18th June

Today was my last big driving day, before taking the overnight Caledonian sleeper train back to London. I ran out of puff, though, and turned up at Inverness Railway Station ridiculously early. This gave me time to read a whole newspaper, spend over half an hour trying unsuccessfully to do the cryptic crossword, and write oodles of scribble about my time in Scotland.

The Most Romantic Castle?

I also had a coffee in Bertie's Bar and bought a post card of Eilean Donan castle. A bit of a breakthrough in the 'Most Romantic Scottish Castle' category - I'm now almost certain that Eilean Donan is winner. Though when I first saw her by the loch I thought she was some old abandoned factory. Oops! Anyway, my postcard looks magnificently romantic.

 I drove through the archway to the car park.
Leckmelm Arboretum Entrance

My First Arboretum

Today I drove to Ullapool and found the Leckmelm Arboretum, in which I spent a happy couple of hours copying down exactly the full names of the trees. Then I drove further north through the most amazing coastal hilly scenery, before heading east for Inverness.

A little hiccup exiting for the airport, and I got onto onto the B9091 instead - this road went right by Culloden, scene of the infamous battle in Scotland's history. Groups of solemn people were slowly wandering over the paths, while a not-so-solemn bulldozer roared around, a thoroughly rogue and random intruder, making more paths for the solemn.


One more for the 'Something I Got Wrong' file. Driving around the Highlands I've been seeing road signs, brown, with a stylised camera drawn on them. How thoughtful for scenic spots to be so indicated! At first I dutifully stopped in the parking bay to take a photograph, though some places were a disappointment - the view (if it existed at all) seemed blocked with trees. By day five I'd become much more selective, choosing my own scenic camera spots.

Speed Cameras!

Oops. Those helpful brown signs were warnings of traffic police speed cameras. No wonder I couldn't see anything worthy of my camera. Oops.

Goodbye, Scotland. You've been everything that I looked forward to, and more. I love your gardens and your roads. The nuisance value of Scottish midges is much exaggerated, and visitors who bring trendy, brightly-coloured warm weather gear get every chance of wearing it. Nice touch!

 Beautiful scenery.
The North Highlands

Wednesday 20th June

Happy Birthday to my London son, who has made me countless cups of Yorkshire Gold tea, and who is allowing me to take his new science fiction book on the plane to the USA. He has also presented me with an old set of sixteen silver spoons from the Royal Horticultural Society, with gold flowers in the tops. I could sell them in lieu of a gardening pension? Just kidding!

Thursday 21st June - The Life Cycle of an Airport Queue

This will be a polite journal entry. Today we arrived in Frankfurt, where there was great disruption, and many flights were late or cancelled. I experienced my very first airport jam, seven hours waiting in a queue, informationless. Now I will expound on the cyclic social dymamics of seven hour airport queues.

Intially we sulk, ignoring our fellow queue-ers. The sharing starts slowly - we sigh out loud, shyly making eye contact. After temper levels of fellow queue-ers have been subtly checked out, we start to chat. At first there are long silences, then more and more chat, snippets of personal information, and - shock! horror! even some giggling. Could we actually have some fun in this situation?

The final phase beings - we save places for our new friends, and we send out scouts to check the one other queue. We are family, sitting down in huge bonding circles, making jokes, being noisy. Someone looks for cards, someone else shows their photographs. But we get tired of this game, and glazed eyes look at watches, then down at the floor. We stand up to stretch our legs, and start silently sulking all over again.

I made it to a Frankfurt hotel by 10:30 pm, rebooked to fly through Paris the following day. Easy enough, at the end. No photographs, though - queues do not inspire creativity.