Another damp day, we set off heading North and West, passing along the A9 at Lochearnhead. After a few hours driving in the rain we got to Fort William where I noticed that the brakes on the van were playing up and only seemed to be effective if you pretty much stamped on them. We managed another 40 miles or so to Invergarry before I decided we had to stop. We found great little campsite, though the steep hill to reach it made me wonder whether we’d make it down the next day to find a garage. We got a pitch on the mountainside on a kind of grassy outcrop.
After pitching the van we dug out the little 5inch black & white TV and watched the news. The second story was about a landslide on the A9 at Lochearnhead at 5pm that day, which caused a section of road to be cut off and 57 people needed airlifting to safety from their vehicles. We’d passed that exact spot just a couple of hours before the landslide!
After hearing that Vic started to get a bit worried about our mountain-side pitch but it wasn’t really a good idea to move.
The weather forecast was for even more downpour, so we battened down the hatches and covered the inside of the leaky skylight with a towel and binliner. We then settled in for the night, with the wind and rain crashing round the van.
We were woken at 4am by having a load of cold rainwater dumped on our feet (and the duvet). The towel and binliner had become so soaked that they had given way, dumping the water that had collected all over our feet. Rapid repairs were performed and we tried to get some more sleep.
The weather wasn’t looking too bad so we decided to carry on with our original plan to go up to the Highlands and Skye. We set out from Edinburgh having filled the van up with the cheapest diesel we saw in our entire time away, 74.9p per litre at Sainsbury (as long as you’d spent more than 50 quid there).
As we set out on the road North the weather took a turn for the worse but we pushed on into the Highlands. Eventually the incessant rain got too much and we found a small campsite by the side of the road. I can’t remember the name of the village, but the site was okay. We had a hard-standing pitch and the ground all around was waterlogged, but we managed to get a reasonable night’s rest.
Monday saw more shopping, and more internetting as I uploaded some pictures and email.
Vic and I had lunch at the Fruitmarket art gallery where there was a Fred Tomaselli exhibition on. We later met up with L&K again for dinner at David Bann’s vegetarian restaurant for an excellent meal.
After dinner we all headed to The Underbelly” for “Stewart Lee’s show. The room was fairly small and very crowded with air-conditioning that can only be described as inadequate. Show was very good though, despite several of the best bits having been included in various newspaper reviews during the festival.
Back to a bar near L&K’s rented flat for a few farewell drinks and then back to the campsite for the last time.
After a bit of a lie-in, we went into town quite late, not having tickets booked for anything. We met up with L&K briefly, and they suggested that we should try to get tickets for Andrew Clover’s Storyteller show at 6pm. While we booking the tickets at the box-office, we managed to get a couple of tickets for Paul Merton’s Improv Chums later that evening.
Entering the venue for the Andrew Clover show, we found only about 15 members of the audience. The show was very odd, very funny and not a little disturbing. Most of the members of the audience participated in some way, and it was certainly an interesting experience (possibly for Andrew Clover as much as the audience!)
There was an hour between the end of that show and the start of the Paul Merton one, so we availed ourselves of the bar and consumed a few drinks in preparation, spotting Johnny Ball (of “Think of a Number” fame) in the courtyard with the bar.
The Paul Merton’s Improv Chums show was in the largest venue we’d been to, The Grand, which held hundreds of people. The show was along the familiar lines of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, and most of the participants had appeared on that show. Jim Sweeney, who was doing a show at the Festival about his life with Multiple Sclerosis, was very good, taking a very dry view of his colleagues efforts.
After that we met up with L&K again and went to one of those “All You Can Eat” chinese buffets (where we proceeded to consume enormous amounts of food, naturally).
Picking up my trusty Apple Powerbook, I set off into Edinburgh again. Vic caught up on her email at the fixed terminal in the Virgin Megastore, while I sat on the sofa by the Xbox demo and connected using the wireless network. Fortunately there was a spare power socket nearby, as after 2 and a half years, the battery on the Powerbook only lasts 30 minutes or so with the wireless network turned on.
I picked up my mail and posted all the blog entries. After a bit more wandering and getting on the wrong bus we finally made it back to the campsite where I read my email and prepared replies etc.
Meeting up with Lisa and Kathryn later that day, we went to a Phil Kaye show, which was very funny. He’d almost completely lost his voice, but did the show anyway, filling in with physical actions to save his voice. When asking for suggestions of physical actions he could perform, Kathryn shouted “Striptease!” and he duly obliged, removing all his clothes until left standing on stage with only a strategically placed sock. He followed this with a headstand (still naked). He performed the rest of the show naked and was well received by an appreciative crowd.
Following on from that we headed to a pub to wait for the late night comedy show at The Stand to start (at 00:40am). We didn’t get particularly good seats at The Stand but the show was good, including performances from Susan Murray, Reginald D. Hunter, Jason Byrne and The Flight Of The Conchords (New Zealand’s 4th best Folk Parody duo).
We set off into town again, to meet Lisa and Kathryn. They had been kind enough to book us some tickets for shows in advance, as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was on, and we hadn’t been able to find out what was going on while we were on the road. On the Friday night we went for a very nice meal followed by a Brendan Burns show which was generally very good. There were a few bits which were a little obviously “acted”, the result of doing a more conceptual show confronting his “inner demons”. Not a bad start though!
Lisa and Kathryn did invite us along to a late night show after that but we were too tired to stay awake and returned to the campsite.
Lisa and Kathryn were due to arrive by plane on Thursday afternoon, so we took advantage of being in a large city and headed for the shops. I was in search of an internet cafe so that I could upload the blog entries I’d been writing for the past 8 weeks and which I was carrying with me on CD and memory drive. Sadly, the only internet cafes I could find did not offer any form of uploading (no reading of CDs, no access to USB ports etc), though I did find that the Virgin Megastore had a WiFi access point as well as a couple of fixed terminals. After several hours of tramping round and purchasing books and other necessities, we realised we were too exhausted to meet up with Lisa and Kathryn, so headed back to the site.
It was still raining the next morning, though thankfully not nearly as hard as it had the previous night. We decided to head over to Edinburgh a day earlier than originally planned, and made it through Glasgow and onto the outskirts of Edinburgh despite continuing rainfall. We had booked into Mortonhall Camping and Caravan site a couple of weeks in advance and were able to book an extra night there. It was a large site, with people from all over Europe staying there. There was a particularly large contingent of Italians there, as well as quite a few German and French visitors. The site was a half-hour bus ride from the centre of Edinburgh and the buses were very regular and reliable. For Â£2 per day you could travel as much as you wanted to.
It was still raining but we decided to pack up and move on anyway. The weather was turning quite nasty and it made driving any significant distance quite a trial. We were feeling pretty miserable with the leaking van, wet awning stashed inside the van, and rain lashing down outside.
Vic was obviously upset with the way the weather was going, so she found us a hotel near Greenock and we booked ourselves in for an evening of relative dryness. As we turned off the motorway toward the hotel, the road was a foot deep in water, and as we climbed the hill further up, several streams had formed across the road. The Gleddoch Country House Hotel was a bit pricey, the restaurant even more so at Â£35 per head for a relatively small menu without drinks, but we needed a break. The “country house” part of the hotel had actually burned down earlier in the year, leaving only the ruins and a relatively recent annex.
At about 1am I ran down to the van to make sure that it wasn’t leaking too badly. The tail end of Hurricane Alec was causing torrential downpours across the country, and the rain here was even heavier than we’d experienced at Maybole.
Not wanting to pack up while the awning was sopping wet, we stayed an extra day at The Walled Garden, taking a trip into Ayr (via a rather circuitous route of 36 miles for a 12 mile round trip, thanks to some creative navigation by Vic). In Ayr it tipped it down with rain once more, so we sought refuge in a Chinese restaurant for dinner. When the rain had stopped we headed back to the van which was parked on the seafront and indulged in an ice cream.