It’s a miserable Wednesday morning in early May on the west coast, where C and I are on holiday. At least that's what we called it before we left home. Now we're after a new name, something more representative. Purgatory, perhaps?
In the back of the camper van, Tiny-but-Deadly and partner J argue about their Angry Birds scores. I tell them I'm too young to have two 35-year-old teenagers, and they titter and eat all the sweets. Up front, C is in the driver's seat with giant hair and a grim, we'll-enjoy-this-holiday-if-it-kills-us expression. Meanwhile, your correspondent is navigating, or rather wrestling with a dangerously large map. Every time I open it, the front window is blocked out, and possibly the sun beyond it. (This is a joke: we haven't seen the sun in a while.) Closing the map requires the kind of origami skills Japanese masters spend a lifetime acquiring.
It's not all bad at first. The road to Mallaig from Fort William is atmospherically wrapped with low-hanging mist. Glenfinnan viaduct looks majestic, hanging in the air like a Victorian oil painting. Now and then, the A830 crosses the old railway line and it's as though the past and the present are nodding a polite hello to one another in passing. Everything, from sheep to flowering gorse, looks wet and determined. Spring may never have truly sprung, but life (outside the van anyway) goes on in its quiet, stoical way.
Our destination is Arisaig. We have some history with this beautiful length of coast. We tried to go once before, for the beaches and sunsets, but the weather was so bad that all we saw was the inside of our tent. And it was wet. In the morning we had to pick slugs off the groundsheet and sit in the car in our underwear until we dried out. I was so traumatised that I strode on to the Skye ferry in my longjohns.
Now we're back and determined to enjoy ourselves, which is always a bad sign. Also, the weather looks iffy. We bag the perfect spot on the beach, overlooking Rum and Eigg, and decide to go for a walk before that famed sunset – which we intend to enjoy with a whisky and a song. As we set out, the rain starts. We get lost looking for Arisaig station, which I'm convinced is like Brigadoon and only appears once every century, and take a boggy sheep track up a stubborn hill. Halfway up, we stand in the diagonal rain and argue about whether to keep going or give up.
This, as all you fellow campers will recognise, is it. We have reached the breaking point, the moment on a holiday when everyone is secretly thinking, “Why didn't I just stay home and watch the Eurozone meltdown, because that would be so much more fun than this.” Naturally, T-but-D and I win the battle. After all, what mere mortal can fight the rage of two soaked sisters screaming out of tiny holes in their hoods? We trudge back down the hill.
Back at the campsite, the wind has picked up. We spend three hours wrestling with an awning, a windbreak and a barbecue, until we're trapped inside a tiny carcinogenic prison made of wet canvas and smoke. The extraordinary view of Rum and Eigg is completely obliterated. Result! Inside our haven, we have the perfect conditions for an extreme spiritual meditation, given the right kind of cactus and some Scientology pamphlets. Finally, at midnight, we call it a night. T-but-D and J trudge off to their sodden tent. C and I bed down in the van.
“What shall we do when we get back to Edinburgh?” I ponder out of a pinhole in my sleeping bag.
“Get dry,” C ventures. We sigh at the happy thought of the holiday ending, and pass out.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West