Rona Dougall: Keeping my sunny side up – in Scotland
Travel agents say there’s been a massive surge in Scots racing out to book last-minute holidays in the sun, driven by pure desperation at the appalling weather most of us have been experiencing.
Even my Scottish Television colleague, weatherman Sean Batty, who nearly always has a staycation, says he might be heading to the airport this summer and flying off to sunnier climes.
If the most cheerful man in Scotland can’t hack it, what chance do the rest of us have?
Those canny enough to have headed to the Highlands for a summer break, though, tell a different story and have been richly rewarded with sunshine and balmy temperatures.
I’m sick of looking at friends’ pictures on Facebook of their tanned children frolicking in the sea like a Boden catalogue, with the caption “Rain? What rain? Here we are on Islay” or Skye or whatever.
“I’m so pleased for you,” I comment, through gritted teeth, as a little part of me dies at their good fortune (like when some one tells you they’ve paid off their mortgage. Or is that just me?)
We always used to have our holidays up north when we were children. One year, we hit the jackpot with a heatwave in Ardnamurchan. With the white sandy beaches and clear blue waters, we could have been in the South of France. We practically had all of it to ourselves, too, save for a few cows and sheep wandering down from the fields.
How smug we were, as we lay languidly in the baking heat, complaining of being “too hot” – not a phrase you get to use in this country very often.
Next year, we went to Sutherland. And it rained. And rained. And my big sister tried to lead me and the rest of her siblings towards the edge of a cliff top.
I think that might also have been the year that Dad’s car broke down and we had to undertake our long journey in mum’s Mini. I still remember the look of disbelief on an American tourist’s face as we parked and two adults, four children and a dog spilled from the tiny vehicle like a bad circus act.
But going abroad isn’t always a sure bet, either. A friend of mine almost always comes back with some disastrous tale or another. She and her family have been caught up in hurricanes in Mexico and another time her husband became very seriously ill.
Last week, I was house-sitting for my brother in his gorgeous home in Perthshire, while they went sailing in Croatia. But in preparation for going away, my poor sister-in-law had been run ragged trying to get everything ready. Her list of instructions was as long as my arm – it began “I’m at the point of wondering if all this stress is worth it for one week’s holiday,” as she outlined the complicated and myriad needs of the dogs, cat, sheep and hens and the paying guests in their rental property.
I just passed the list on to my children and proceeded to empty the contents of their wine cellar. I had a great time. They, on the other hand, had a journey from hell on a cramped aeroplane with an over-amorous couple in the seat in front of them.
That’s the problem; these exotic holidays abroad never quite live up to our expectations. Many of us spend the long cold, winter months dreaming of our break in the sun. The reality is never quite as good as we had hoped it would be.
The last time we went abroad for a break, we went to Greece in October. My husband had spent hours poring over brochures and websites to find the perfect house.
When we arrived late at night, we realised the house was in the middle of nowhere, up impossibly steep and narrow tracks. The swimming pool was freezing and, oh, did I mention the rain?
We tried to put a brave face on it as we wandered, shivering, around little villages, which I’m sure would have been enchanting in the Mediterranean sunshine but in the lashing rain were deserted and depressing.
Despite the cold, we went to the beach and pathetically reassured each other whenever we saw a tiny patch of blue sky that the weather would soon improve. It didn’t.
So I am quite happy to holiday in Scotland this summer. Does anyone need a reliable house-sitter?
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South