Holidays in Scotland and France

From a Scottish Review special on memorable Scottish holidays. Perhaps the most memorable Scottish holiday I know of was not mine but someone else's. Once, I took a taxi in Coatbridge driven by a man with a fund of stories. A couple have stuck in my mind. Once he was booked to take an elderly resident to Asda. He waited for her in the car park on a sunny day and when she emerged, hot and laden with bags, she said to him: 'Take me to Largs, son, take me to Largs'.

The normally thrifty OAP’s extravagent afternoon at the beach reminded me of a friend’s fantasy of getting into a taxi late at night in Glasgow and saying: ‘Monte Carlo please, driver’. But the taxi driver’s best story was of the time he was booked to collect at the airport a glamorous lady of a certain age who had left her native shore for LA more than 20 years before. On their journey homewards she asked him – in an American accent – to pull over please driver. She got out and stood for a few moments by the side of the road in the grey drizzle.

Then, climbing back in, she remarked: ‘Isn’t it great to feel the rain on your face?’.
I have been thinking of this as I attempt to readjust to daily life in Scotland after a most marvellous week in France. There, on a trip for regional journalists as a guest of the French tourist board of the Midi-Pyrenees, an area around Toulouse, I had a wonderful time. Each morning we cycled along the sunlit canal in the shade of the plane trees and each afternoon we toured the sights. At dinner and lunch we were entertained by the proprietors of local restaurants and hotels anxious to promote their excellent fare.
I knew I was back in Scotland when I spotted a wonderfully ripe melon in Scotmid. Delighted, I took it to the counter. The cashier shook her head. ‘I can’t sell you this,’ she said. ‘It’s expired’. She binned it. When I protested she and the floor manager agreed that they could lose their jobs if they sold it to me.  It made me want to weep. Or emigrate – if it wasn’t for the sheer joy of being able to feel the rain on my face.

Jackie Kemp