That’s me back from my summer holidays in Canada then.
Well, it would have been if we actually made the trip. But wee things like a pandemic, cancelled flights and Canada’s closed borders got in the way.
But every Covid cloud has a silver lining. We’ve spent the past two weeks exploring one of the most vibrant, historic and beautiful countries on the planet.
That would be Scotland, then.
OK, Oban isn’t Ottawa, but then the Canadian capital doesn’t have one of the finest seafood restaurants going, sitting right next to the boats that go out to catch the fine delights that are on your plate.
And Mull isn’t quite Vermont (our planned trip would have included a drop in to New England), but there is a charm to the painted houses of Tobermory – even in the lashing rain and cold.
In Inverness, we were able to sit out in warm sunshine and enjoy cold beers and hot barbecued food. How North American of us.
Let’s face it, you’d be hard put to find anywhere in the New World that can stand up against the happening atmosphere of Glasgow and the elegant press of history that is Edinburgh.
It must be said, though, that while we loved the trip, it wasn’t one made in normal times. I can report that everywhere we went had coronavirus safety measures in place – to varying degrees.
Most places took the common sense approach of socially distancing tables, providing hand sanitiser at every turn and made sure to track our details in case we needed to be traced.
Some places though were, frankly, daft. In one hotel, they didn’t put soap in the room. You had to pick it up from reception – not that they told you that on arrival. Ahem, norovirus is still a thing guys, Covid or not.
In one pub, they only measure we could see were plastic pull up boards between tables. Eh, try harder.
But then, it was down to us to use common sense. If we thought somewhere was too risky, we didn’t go in.
After all, we do have to take individual responsibility. Good to see all those face masks out there. Wide berth for the selfish numpties who weren’t bothering.
So, this was not the holiday we expected to be having in 2020. Nor was it the sort of trip that had any semblance of normality about it.
I now know what Edinburgh looks like without tourists. Empty.
But it still gave us a chance to see places we had never seen, discover new favourite spots and support as many local businesses as we could.
Canada will still be there next year.
It’s time to embrace outdoor cafe culture
I know the powers-that-be are trying their best to protect us all just now – but I have my doubts about what the cooncil has done in Stonehaven.
For the sake of social distancing, barriers have been put into the roadway through the heart of the town outside nearly every shop.
So, no parking spaces which businesses depend on to bring in customers, but plenty of room to dodge each other – for that few feet of pavement, anyway.
OK, so the logic is to stop people crowding together. So why is parking still allowed at the harbour? You know, the place people flock to every time there’s a glimmer of sun. There they are, families milling around, dodging cars every two minutes. Folk sitting nicely distanced on the harbour wall with a drink have to move to let motorists park, with the almost inevitable bunching required.
Would it not make more sense to suspend parking in the one place people go to ensure they can enjoy it safely? Mibbe even let local hostelries put out tables and chairs to foster the outdoor cafe culture we need? Or is that too obvious?
Carlaw’s ‘credits’ on crisis missed already
So long Jackson Carlaw, you’ll be missed as the Scottish Tory leader. Let’s face it, no one is going to be as entertaining as watching you trying so desperately hard not to say a good word about how Scotland is faring in the coronavirus crisis compared with elsewhere. Not even when impartial commentators point to it as a success story.
Hopefully your successor will at least be willing to give praise – and support – where it’s due. My breath is not being held.