In an effort to slow things down a little this week, Dora the Explorer ventured north to Scotland. Lured by the promise of an early start, proper shortbread and a road trip in FM’s (Favourite Man’s) BMW, she was prepared to risk even those extreme weather warnings that insisted on raining on our parade (literally).
In fact, it was important that I did slow things down considerably – that’s what they told me on the Speed Awareness Course that formed the prelude to my mini break. Instead of spending a day packing midge repellent and travel sweets, I find myself holed up with an eclectic mix of fellow speedsters all paying penance for our tendency to rush things. There is no racing through this course – some four hours later I emerge chastened and slow. Next day, as we aqua-plane up the motorway, I make a concerted effort to ensure I don’t truncate my chevron intervals, become a lane clogger or ignore the speed dial.
As we clock up the miles, I realise that my desire to relax and slow down is being hampered by the many, many coffee stops we are taking. Truth be told, I think I may have even invented a Costa Coffee dance at one point, so excited am I so see their logo after a particularly long desert stretch of motorway. Looking across the car at the incredulity of my driving companion, it is clear that I also need to slow down my caffeine consumption if we are to make it across the border as a couple.
So it is a revelation – and a relief – to reach our first ferry port and to cross our first loch. The slow down has finally started taking place. There is no race to hot wheel it onto the boat, just a gentle preamble to the dockside, a reassuringly numbered parking place in the queue and plenty of time to powder my nose after all that coffee (yes, a lot of powder is needed).
It occurrs to me that a daily commute like this would certainly lower blood pressure. Once on board, all our fellow commuters leave their cars to walk the deck; they take in the scenery; inhale the fresh air and even chat to each other. Revelation. Tiredness may kill, but if you get a blast of positive ions and a chance to stretch your legs, you leave the ferry more than ready for the next leg of your journey.
I notice on the ferry, that so chilled are the locals, that they seldom actually leave their vehicles. They use the opportunity to lie across their car seats and knock out some z’s as they wait for the smiling ticket collector to do their round. I find myself loving the idea of a power nap in transit – an opportunity to sleep behind the wheel, without endangering life. After a couple of ferry rides we start to do the same – our mistake is leaving the car windows open; we discover that commuting is also invigorated by a bucket full of cold water deposited through the car window. Is that the sound of the locals laughing I can hear?
Over the course of the week, the soporific tendency of Scottish waters starts to calm my racing head. Whether it be the bracing face slap of a windswept beach or the calming lapping of a loch, it feels rude not to slow down a little. It feels rude not to slow down a lot. If it wasn’t for my snoring and dribbling, I feel FM would be checking my pulse as I embrace the habit of post lunch snoozing on various shorelines. I also embrace the idea of pre-supper napping and somnolence. I find my early morning runs increasingly slow…and then they fade out altogether; it just feels wrong to be rushing anywhere.
We start island hopping just for the slowness of the ferry ride. We rarely leave the car now and we always keep the windows closed (FM insists this is because he fears the locals will hear my rendition of ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’ if we wind the windows down).
We wonder if we will ever be able to muster up enough energy to return South, but thankfully, on our last day, discover a loch side infested with midges. I curse that Speed Awareness Course for preventing me from packing my insect repellent and soon feel a host of fine toothed mandibles cutting through my scalp. I’m off the picnic mat, I’m moving quickly, I’m running for shelter. We race for the ferry and curse the slowness of its arrival. FM vainly scans the horizon for a Costa Coffee in the hope he’ll see my excited dance again – at the very least, it will shake these wee midges off:
Let the wind blow high, let the wind blow low,
through the ports with my drink I’ll go
let the locals say hello,
Dora find your troosers.