Travel broadens the mind and it stretches mine to snapping point to understand why one part of Europe is burnt to a crisp under 30 degrees of heat while our own wee bit goes through a rehearsal for Noah’s Ark…in summer.
It means vast acres of inland Algarve have the look of a post-holocaust wasteland that could be a Garden of Eden with Scottish water while the coastal strip is a psychedelic trip of colourful tourists and equally colourful ways of relieving you of your money.
To this end, the Portuguese long ago identified the climate as their selling point and it makes you wonder if we shouldn’t do the same by taking out a copyright on rain. As far as I know nobody has claimed it and the trick is to be first to the patent office.
Visitors don’t come here expecting ice creams to melt quicker than they can eat them and the ones I see in rural areas have all made a trip to Decathlon for matching neoprene outfits with day-glo cuffs and those expanding walking sticks. They come to Scotland to embrace the weather not to hide from it and who wants to go through Glen Coe in sunshine without low-hanging mist and rain-glistening rock. Rain cools the air – there is nothing like it when you step off the plane – it turns everything green and it gives us whisky. It also gives us screwed-up faces and a fatalistic demeanour, which is great for taking on the English and losing.
Scotland needs to sell itself on what it can guarantee to deliver and our cast-iron promise has to be rain. It never lets you down. Our promise to you – real Scottish rain of your money back. If you don’t get soaked at least once, we’ll refund the cost of your holiday. Scottish Rain should be a trademark that can be stamped on all waterproof garments like Gore-tex with a proportion of sales earmarked for tourism. That way we would all have the pleasure of knowing that a rainy day was earning us cash – we wouldn’t save for a rainy day, we’d make money on a rainy day. Instead of those dreary-faced weather folk on telly gloomily pointing to nimbus-heavy graphics, we could celebrate rain forecasts. The Weather Ministry estimates tomorrow’s day-long severe rain forecast across the South and West will net £250,000 in royalties for the Exchequer…
Can you imagine if the SNP’s Moonie supporters were told Nicola loved the rain? They’d be out dancing in it like hippies at Glastonbury and taking selfies with captions on Twitter saying Proud to be Soaked for Scotland – Carluke SNP Branch.
One thing the rain and mist does well is disguise the sad light industrial estate we call Prestwick Airport, aptly marketed as Pure Dead…and so it is. So silent was it on our return – no elevator music, no public address announcements, no babble of voices – that we wondered if the Queen was dead. This surely is another marketing opportunity if Prestwick is rebranded as principal departure airport for Dignitas. Direct flights to Switzerland in a respectful atmosphere with your own super-extended two-minute silence. Prestwick – Pure Dead…Not so many return flights though.
Sorry to have caught out some of you more trusting souls with the previous post about joining the Daily Mail. It’s a funny business how irony can catch you out – me included. I was on the beach under a coconut thatch when I decided to check something on my phone. On Twitter there was a headline: Ex BBC Man Joins Daily Mail. I thought which idiot is showing up his right-wing credentials and giving the Beeb a bad name? And it was ME! Roy Greenslade had it in the Guardian media section, re-printing the post. And there was me thinking it was obviously a spoof from about the second paragraph. The idea of me and the Daily Mail together is like a member of the House of Lords entertaining prostitutes and sniffing cocaine. Preposterous.
The laugh I got on the beach was nothing compared to the schadenfreude that gripped me during a visit to the Forteleza da Sagres when I was tweeted that Brian Wilson had been sacked by the West Highland Free Press. It seemed so improbable and yet so bitter-sweet that the great bombast himself should get the boot up the arse from the very paper he founded. The old fort was where the great navigators learned the sailing techniques that led to the Age of Discovery. It was taken by Drake in 1587 and there hasn’t been such rejoicing on the battlements since then as I roared my approval for Wilson’s dismissal. (This is what Professor Gerry Hassan calls small-minded).
At this point, knowing me as a literary sort, you’re probably wondering what my reading list consisted of – you know the way the Sunday supplements tell you what Kirsty Wark was reading on holiday – or pretending to, when she was probably out of her skull on sangria at a foam rave.
Here it is. Lords of the Sea: How Triremes Changed the World by John R Hale. This is an epic historical examination of Ancient Greece and how it’s glory was based not on fabricating the national bank accounts but on naval prowess and especially on the three-tiered rowing warships, the triremes, that defeated Xerxes and the Persians as well as the Spartans, Phoenicians and Carthaginians. It tells too how love of Athens, collective will and ambition drove the genius of the people who gave us democracy – it’s what I call nationalism – and Pericles was a Cybernat.
Tsunami – Scotland’s Democratic Revolution by Iain Macwhirter. I downloaded this and paid even though Iain was kind enough to send it to me free. I did so to boost his sales by one. As Nicola said, every vote counts. I’m beginning to think that Macwhirter should be sainted for his work in documenting Scotland’s evolution. It isn’t just that he understands it and gives insight, it’s that he identifies with it and sounds part of it rather than a disinterested onlooker. It isn’t his greatest work and has the occasional feel of deadline fever – inevitable when writing against the clock but it catches the air of disbelief and optimism. I started it at breakfast and finished after lunch.
Close to the Bone by Stuart McBride. An Aberdeen-based thriller, if that isn’t an oxymoron.
Once Upon a Time in Russia by Ben Mezrich. Wow! The Russian oligarch phenomenon explained in the form of a thriller. True facts written as in fiction giving pace and narrative from page one and filled with illuminating detail. How Abramovich got that super yacht…
Holy Island – A DCI Ryan Mystery by L J Ross. Entertaining murder hokum at a venue I know well but where I will view the locals with suspicion from now on.
The Bow by Bill Sharrock is another History as Fiction production on the life of an English archer at Agincourt.
D Day through German Eyes by Holger Eckhertz is a moving and very human account of what it was like to be a German defender as the Allied invasion struck. It is entirely composed of long-form interviews conducted with German troops 10 years after D Day when memories were still razor sharp. I tire of the ersatz history churned out by the Max Hasting’s Brit propaganda types and this is the perfect antidote, giving voice to the unknown enemy and his motivations. They were ‘defending a united Europe’ rather than a German reich. I had to stop reading at times as the harrowing images hit home, told in a soldier’s matter-of-fact language, and remind us of the terror that war exacts. As one of them puts it – we must never let this happen again. And in their testament you hear the early echoes of the EU and how it’s formation wasn’t, as the Tories have it, as a trading bloc or, as the modern Germans say, a currency exchange. It was the greatest humanitarian act in history – to embrace the peoples of Europe in a self-supporting alliance to guarantee peace and dignity. How has that impulse been recently traduced and how sad would those now deceased German soldiers be that the lessons they learned on the cliffs above the Normandy coast were now being ignored.
So, politics to follow – once I’ve caught up. And just time for a Newsnet heads up…I’m speaking to Kezia this week. Watch out for it at Newsnet. Now I’m away for a walk in the rain.by