Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I'd always thought of cool-climate Scotland as a pest-free zone. When I leave toast crumbs and a sticky knife on the kitchen bench they are still there when I get home from voracious ants to devour them. And on the occasional balmy night, an open window isn't an open invitation to mozzies and other flying biting things.

Nothing like a camping trip to dispel a few myths.

Despite A's entrenched belief that it simply wasn't possible, never mind sensible, to go camping in Scotland, the new tent had to be tested. A-camping we must go.

Friday night, after work, we packed up the car with assorted essentials - espresso pot (but no stove to put it on) food, wine, tent, the ubiquitous fold-up chairs (less than a fiver at Tesco)...the baby boot of our C2 was fuller than it's ever been.

We headed through Glasgow and up the west side of Loch Lomond to Inverarnan. Our campsite was on a farm on the West Highland Way, surrounded by trees and hills, very pretty. No caravans (unusual in Scotland, where they're almost as ubiquitous as those cheap folding chairs), but lots of people and lots of tents. Ours was up in minutes (it seems to be foolproof, so far), the barbie lit, wine uncorked and stomachs rumbling. Our sausages browned, sunlight faded, the breeze dropped, and just as we were about to tuck in, the midges descended. And tucked into us.

Actually, the biting's not so much of a problem. It's more the density of the swarm - they get in your ears, your nose, your food if you're trying to eat...not very pleasant. Fortunately the Drovers Inn was within walking distance for a wee dram and some local colour.

Later that evening...

There's nothing worse than listening to drunken, unimaginative chat up lines, like "what's your favourite sport, " when you'd rather be sleeping. Delivered in a booming Glasgow accent that sounds like it's in the next sleeping bag instead of the next tent. The joys of camping. We resolved to head further afield in the morning.

Imagine our horror when, on the road, the same booming voice was only four cars behind. It even stopped at the Green Welly Shop when we did. Oh no.

Fortunately we managed to lose it somewhere in Glencoe, which was looking glorious in the sunshine, and somewhat different to our last visit.

We took the Corran ferry over Loch Linnhe towards Resipole Farm on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. Lochside camping, an on-site restaurant and art gallery, peace and quiet. A didn't enjoy the single-track road driving, but I'm sure it keeps the crowds at bay.

Wonderful walks to deserted beaches (just watch out for those clegs - yep, more biting insects), ruined castles, and the weekend was gone too fast. We forgot the camera, so no pics. I discovered the only souvenir on Monday night. Alive, and still attached to my leg. A tick. Lovely.

(Don't worry, it's since been safely disposed of. Not my idea of a pet.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Nice things

Listening to: The Magic Numbers (and grinning, how could you not be?)

I had one of those milestone birthdays that end in zero this weekend. No big bash, but low-key delights aplenty...a welcome situation, since this was my first weekend at home in the last 5.

The day started with the postman's doorbell ringing (bills, and junk mail, of course). Hot on his heels were mum, dad and Fayth (my 3 yr old niece) , with various songs down the phone (including happy birthday and what A has dubbed "the kiwi vowel song"). I opened their presents while talking to them - almost like being there.

Quirkiest present is definitely the baby pink polarfleece beanie embroidered with "Auntie Katie". Fayth chose it herself, and the colouring-in poster card that went with it.

A. finally succumbed to my pestering, and bought me a tent for my birthday. It's super-light (less than 3kg), roomy enough for our airbed (for comfort camping), and even has skylights for looking at the stars. I pitched it in the livingroom yesterday - successfully banishing any thoughts of aging by playing camping!

We had a picnic at Roslyn Glen, making the most of this most unScottish summer, joined the hoardes at Roslin Chapel (wondering if we are the only people in the world yet to read the Da Vinci Code), and a very grown up dinner at the Stockbridge Restaurant (as an indicator of grown-upness, my heels got an outing, for only the 3rd time this year!). We dined magnificently on halibut, asparagus, sorbet, parma ham and other summery colourful treats, washed down with some very tasty kiwi wine (Waipara Hills sav, I think).

Here are some pics of Hydra, in Greece. I was there last weekend, on a work research trip. Seriously.

It's an island 1.5 hrs from Athens, with no cars (donkeys and boats and feet are how you get around), 365 churches, pebbly beaches, turquoise water, tasty food, great sunsets and a quirky host of residents and visitors, all trying to find something, or escape something, or both. We met a French-Canadian poet looking for Leonard Cohen (who used to live here). A globetrotting restaurateur. A lady artist. A storytelling sailor. And lots of others.

We saw dolphins too, which as my first non- themepark encounter with these graceful, playful and intelligent creatures was super-exciting.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Live8 in Scotland

Is is just me, or was James Brown an odd choice to wrap last night's Live8 gig at Murrayfield. Sure, he's the "godfather of soul" and a living legend, but his dancing girls and the over-produced nature of his set was in stark contrast to the low-fuss, lo-fi performances of the rest of the evening that had so electrified the crowd. He played to rather than with the crowd.

I didn't manage to get tickets to the gig, despite furious texting, so just watched on telly. Murrayfield is only a couple of miles down the road, but it didn't rain once here.