Early in the month I started writing a horror tale about Alexa, the smart device. I put the first few hundred words down when I got a break from work and have the whole story playing out in my head, so I know exactly where I’m going with it. I think it should be a good one. It’s tentatively titled Not Alexa.
I submitted my flash piece, I Lost My Wife Down the Back of the Sofa, to the monthly contest over at Secret Attic – probably some time in September – and although it didn’t win they have included it in their printed collection of short-listed entries. They didn’t tell me this, of course, but it’s nice to see my name online again.
The rest of the month has been about raising kittens (because I became a father a couple of weeks ago) and looking for a new car (because the MOT this time around just about bankrupted me). Those two things stole a lot of my limited spare time towards the end of the month. Even reading has proven to be a problem because Tess will sleep anywhere…
Some are cat people; some are dog people. I’m a dog guy. I’ve had a lot of them. My parents used to foster them, so we had a lot until such time as they found a more permanent home. Oddly however, I’ve not had any dogs since childhood.
I’ve never owned a cat. I don’t dislike them. I just generally prefer the personality and nature of a dog. It’s just as I said – you’re one or the other, aren’t you?
I’m on the first day of a two-day training course, which makes this my first day of actual work in very nearly six months. I had to get up at 7am for an 8.30am start, but that still feels like mid-morning when I used to be halfway through my shift by then.
Of course, there are teething problems with the training, and the class has now been pushed by an hour or so, so I’m taking the opportunity to post this. It would seem that while a lot of things have changed recently, some things – like delays and red tape – have not.
So, this is the beginning of a new chapter. If I’m honest, I don’t want this one to last very long – I want something different; something better – but in this Covid world, beggars and choosers and all that.
Oddly, I always did more writing when I was working full-time as well, so that’s a bonus I can look forward to. I have a few new ideas that I’ve been mulling over for a while now, so I’ll probably be able to get them fleshed out a little over the weekend.
When I was on my own I was a far more frequent visitor of B&B’s, because my narrow-minded belief is that they are tailored more to the lone soul than the couple looking for a quiet and romantic escape.
Ardtorna, a luxurious B&B just a whistle north of Oban on the west coast of Scotland, has shown me that not only is that opinion wrong, but that maybe I have missed a lot of fantastic overnight opportunities over the years.
I have never stayed in such a well-presented and beautifully decorated establishment. Everything is crisp and clean and intended to make your stay the best it can be, and it’s clear that owner Karen takes immense pride in providing that service for all her guests.
Running a bed and breakfast is difficult, and owners of these places don’t get enough credit for the love they put in to their work every single day. Karen does this all with a smile and some friendly conversation. You may think that’s easy, but I promise you, most of us wouldn’t last a week in such a cutthroat environment.
Of course, Ardtorna is not for everyone. Everything here is immaculate. If you’re the kind of person who treats a hotel room as your personal rubbish bin, and doesn’t think twice about spilling wine or breaking a glass, you should find somewhere else to stay – this place is not for you.
Well I didn’t take a thing from Ardtorna, not even any of the Celebrations that were in the mini fridge… and they were factored into the cost! Why? This care and attention to the comfort of the people she has welcomed into her home deserves to be respected, and I don’t want to take advantage of such dedication and hard work. I can see that she has gone above and beyond, and she will wake up tomorrow and do it all over again.
I didn’t start this post as a love letter to Ardtorna, but now that it’s done it feels like that is just what I’ve written. So thank you Karen, for a wonderful bookend to our extended weekend away from home. I’m sure we will be back.
We left the hotel in Invergarry after a couple of nights there, with the intention of taking a leisurely drive down towards the bed & breakfast I had booked for one night, before our trip back home. We had a lot of time to play with before check-in at 4pm.
But the weather had other ideas.
The rain has never been far away since we left home, which is a shame but this is Scotland. That would be like an Arab complaining he was getting too much sun.
But this was next level annoying. At 9am on a Sunday the road we were taking to drive south – the only possible road south – was blocked. Flooded. We waited for ninety minutes (the length of time it should have taken us to reach our destination) while we watched the police stand about and do very little, only for one of them to eventually come over to tell us we’d better turn around.
Sure. Except where we had to be was down there, not all the way back up that way. So we were forced into making a 130 mile diversion – extremely frustrating at the best of times, but when the sky is making the whole experience miserable… well, we almost decided to pack our bags and just head home a day early. Non-refundable room be damned.
But it was all worth it when we found our way to Ardtorna B&B, probably the most exquisite bed and breakfast I’ve ever stayed at. Granted, we have not yet slept or had breakfast, but if the views over Loch Creran from the floor to ceiling windows, and the sumptuous anti-pasti platter we were served are anything to go by, this will definitely be a stay to remember.
It was a terrible day. Well, at least, the weather was terrible. Most of the time. We did squeeze a few moments of sunshine from the sky, but really, we were mostly trying our best to avoid the rain.
Still, rain doesn’t ruin a holiday – attitudes do. We made the best of the inclement weather and visited Eilean Donan Castle in the morning, on our way to Skye. It’s a beautiful location and having been there now I can see why it is such a popular wedding venue… although I imagine it has an extremely long waiting list.
After that we crossed the bridge and went to see the Fairy Pools on the west of the Isle of Skye. It was a bit of a let down, but mostly because once you’ve parked the car you still have (literally) miles to walk to get the most out of the excursion. Because it had been raining, and the trek involved crossing a couple of rivers, we got as far as we dared, took a few pictures and turned back.
No biggie. We saw Krka last year in Croatia, so we’ve done the amazing waterfall thing.
We then looped over the top of Skye and back down the east coast, by which time the sun (what sun?) was going down and the rain was not letting up.
All things considered, it was a fun day. I’m glad I finally got to see Skye, as it’s a part of Scotland that has always escaped me. The scenery is postcard-worthy almost every step of the way, and even when it’s wet, those mountains are still mightily impressive.
We haven’t been away overnight since February, as I’m sure is the case for many people, and going around feels more than a little strange in this changed world. Now we are taking our masks everywhere we go, only entering small stores if there are no other customers, and using hand sanitiser when we do go inside.
We are in Invergarry, a small town to the south of Loch Ness. It was a three hour drive that we stretched out to seven. Well, the journey is part of the holiday, isn’t it? Besides, Scotland is filled with beautiful scenery, and a fair chunk of it is on the way to where we are now.
We are in an elegant country hotel – traditionally Scottish, except for the fact that the restaurant serves Indian food for dinner. Odd, but actually really good. So now we’re stuffed and sprawled out in the king-sized bed we have.
I mean, I know she’s here somewhere, but she’s so small, and this bed is so big…
I went over to visit my mum today, with the intention of telling her that I had been made redundant… only she already knew.
Turns out, she read it on my blog last week, which wouldn’t really be all that surprising, except she isn’t subscribed to my blog and only happened upon the site because she had Googled my name… and I thought I was the only person who did that.
She used to be on my mailing list, but then she changed her email and I never bothered to set the alerts back up for her. I didn’t see the point. A lot of the stuff I post wouldn’t interest her in the slightest, and some of the other stuff would just make her worry about me more than she already does – which was the entire reason I didn’t tell her about the redundancy in the first instance anyway.
So, now that I know I may be under surveillance, I will have to be a little more vigilant about the gratuitous sex, violence, and bad language that I post here.
My friend Steven called me today from Canada. We send messages back and forth on WhatsApp (all too infrequently, really), and it’s been a long time since we have spoken on the phone.
And we’ve never done it with video enabled.
I’m fairly old school when it comes to phone calls. I want to be able to be naked or to pick my nose or to go to the toilet, if the need or desire arises. I just can’t do those things if the guy on the other end of the line can see me. Well, I certainly can’t do them comfortably.
So I pulled on my pants and answered the call.
It was good to hear his voice, and although he’s had a rough time of it lately, I’m glad to hear that things are beginning to get better for him.
Hopefully the world catches up and we can all begin to see a little happiness in our lives as 2020 begins to wind down.
I am proud of her emotional strength, and of how she has handled this difficult day. I know she will be fine – they both will – but today marks the next chapter for each of them, and I will be here to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.