Back to the Blog…

Hello again, I must apologise to all my many readers for my absence (I do have a couple of followers – honest I do – even if one of them is my mum!) I have been on an internet free zone holiday. Even so. I’ve been back a few weeks now so what’s my excuse? Maybe a blogging block, a lack of inspiration? Yep, that’s it sort of. But it’s more general, it’s a passive dullness, the return to real life that follows holidays, where you start to wonder what’s the point to all this? Can’t I just jack it all in and move to a tumble-down shack with a few chickens? You have to get up at 6.30 again to go to work. You come back home to a mountain of laundry, a car full of mini-cheddar wrappers and squashed jam sandwiches and you think, shit…I ought to put some of those holiday pictures on facebook, to prove we had all that fun, and oh god, the blog!… I better pick something funny to write about. Quick! Will it be the cross-dressing Olympics or the boat-trip or that smelly dog in the pub? Too much pressure man, I’m burying my head under the pillow thinking up names for my chickens…

Okay *head peeps up above duvet* I’ll do it then. The boat-trip (I know, dear readers you were hoping for the cross-dressing Olympics but that’ll have to be another story)

We’re on holiday in Scotland, we’re heading out north to the islands. We pass a friend’s house on our way, who gives us some leftover crabbing buckets from their own holiday a few years ago,

“Just float the net out into the water with a bit of bacon for bait,”

They also have tips about the best fish and chip van and a warning about the over-priced boat trips.

“Everyone goes on these whale watching trips and comes back after four hours with a photo of some kind of sea bird in the distance….”

We’re with my two sisters and my mum, staying in a cottage in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. Much to the excitement of A, Tobermory is the real life setting of children’s TV show Ballermory. She has been singing the theme tune non-stop since we got here. Full marks to her for dogged positivity through the drizzle…Yes, it’s Scotland, it rains, but as soon as it stops and you get to see it for a minute it’s beautiful.

We’re doing those holiday things. We’ve been to the visitor’s centre and watched a film about salmon fishing, we’ve been to the beach with our crab buckets. Being a vegetarian I didn’t have a lot of bacon to hand so I tried cheese – not a success – and we’ve seen the castle and the stone circle. We’ve eaten the local fish and chips from the van on the harbour front….

Now I’m trying to be organised. I’m hectically reading all the leaflets. I have my friend’s advice about futile wildlife watching boat-trips in my head. This is confusing me. One leaflet has a picture of puffins. One looks like a more professional print job and says that it’s for everyone from grannies to toddlers. Another leaflet has a simple drawing of some rock formations. Whale-watching trips have no actual guarantee of seeing whales, plus they seem to last 4 hours and cost 60 quid per person, so I’m leaning towards the ‘grannies to toddlers’ option.

My mum has the Lonely Planet in her hand,

“Hey here is one with a sailing boat, that sounds a bit more adventurous.”

“Ok, shall I try to book it?” I ask “They have scheduled or non-scheduled bookings…I don’t really know, which are we?”

“Oh it’s from the other side of the island. That’ll take ages to drive down there.”

“Maybe we should just get this one.” I say waving the professional looking flyer “It’s probably a safer bet and they have loads of sailings.”

“I like this one” says P. “I want to see whales”.

“So what are we doing?” Asks my sister walking into the room.

“Oh I just don’t know what to do!” I reply

“Hey why are you getting so stressed out?”

“Well, I… it’s hard to know which one is best, and it’s expensive, what if I book it and it turns out to be crap?”

“Stop worrying about it.” She cuts in “You always think you have to be responsible for everyone.”

We book the ‘grannies to toddlers’ for the next afternoon.

When we wake up it’s a beautiful sunny day. But as they say in Scotland, “if you don’t like the weather just wait half an hour”, by the afternoon the sky is grey and the daily drizzle is imminent. We walk down to the harbour and the kids get kitted with life-jackets. They’re excited and they look cute. We all pull up the hoods of our anoraks and clamber aboard.

The skipper introduces himself. He seems young and so does the woman who’s our wildlife expert. I wonder how much experience they have? The engine starts up and our guide pulls on her woolly hat and starts pointing and saying stuff. Only problem is, she has a very timid, quiet voice and considering the rain and the fact that she’s speaking over the sound of the engine we don’t hear a lot. Still she has a waterproof book full of pictures of wildlife we’re theoretically looking out for – admittedly mostly sea birds, and the chance of a porpoise. We all grab a pair of binoculars and start hunting the water.

The skipper shouts,

“Actually most people want a nice clear day, but we’re lucky with the weather, you can see the water better in the rain!”

The hood on my mum’s anorak billows up in the wind making her look like she has a giant balloon head. That gives us all a good laugh. We keep wiping the raindrops from the binoculars and scanning the water. P takes a picture of us all with our binoculars.

“I can’t see anything” says A

The boat stops and we’re supplied with cups of tea. There are digestive biscuits on a plate. S has his eye on them. Dwarfed by his oversized life-jacket he stumbles very stiffly across the deck to grab a biscuit. He pokes his chin out from under the jacket, he has no neck, he sticks his arm out in front and just manages to wrap around the big puff of jacket to reach his mouth. He keeps eating until all the biscuits are gone.

On the journey back we are taken to a ridge of rocks on the look-out for a seal colony. We see a lot of gannet’s and shags on the way. Yes, I now know the names of at least two sea birds.

As we approach slowly I’m nervous. I’m thinking.. oh no, there looks like there’s nothing there. The trips nearly over. This is our last chance….And there suddenly there’s one seal, just visible on top of the grey rock. She seems to be eyeballing us too.

“Can you see what that is, there?” I say to A

“A seal, a seal” says A hopping about in excitement.

The seal turns her head as the boat passes by and then flops into the water.

The boat chugs on and we stop to haul in a crab-basket. A gets to stroke a crab and a dwarf crayfish. S is offered the chance too, but doesn’t look half as enthusiastic as he did when the digestives appeared.

We clamber off the boat, smile and thank our captain and her skipper.

“I’m sure that was a mechanical seal” whispers my sister as we walk away.

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