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Storm warnings

Once again we are putting ourselves through the torment of a seemingly endless car journey the length of Britain, our legs going stiff from sitting in the car for so long, our eyes straining to see through the spray picked up from the motorway surface and atomised in front of us, our arms aching from hanging onto the steering wheel shuffling it from side to side. M74 outside GlasgowCan there be anyone left in this country who derives any pleasure from driving long distances on our roads… apart from Jeremy Clarkson, that is?

The day before we set off the ‘Rest-and-be-Thankful’ pass on the A83 between Inverary and Tarbet was blocked by a landslip, as it frequently is in winter, this time the steep slope beside the road being made unstable by the vast quantities of rain we have been experiencing of late. Minutes before we arrived there the road was again pelted by hail but despite this we did get through safely and by the time we were on the motorway heading south on the outskirts of Glasgow we thought we were through the worst. Then one of the black-edged clouds hovering up in the sky, stuffed to bursting with snow, caught us by surprise, determined as it was to empty its load on the M74 before we could get away. The sky darkens, an icy wind whips up and our wheels are soon making dark tracks through a white blanket covering the road surface. We can tell though that this is more sleet than proper snow as the flakes are splattering wetly on our windscreen (proper snowflakes are lighter so they don’t actually touch the windscreen, they are buffeted away on the wedge of compressed air which rides just ahead, skimming over the roof of the car) but still the lower portion of each car and lorry disappears into spray and our wipers sweep great blobs of sticky white stuff aside. We push on into the maelstrom for fifteen minutes or so until we see light in the sky ahead and we know we have survived the worst the cloud can do. The air warms a little now and we emerge into a dryer world, one just beyond the reach of the cloudburst.

But we still have many miles to travel, we are just starting out, and there are plenty of other clouds up there with our names etched on them so we plod on hour after hour, stopping now and again for coffee, switching places in the car, then back on the road again.

We stop for one night in Coventry then journey onwards to Worthing in Sussex the next day. It is here that our mission takes place, helping to install Tony, our eldest, into a new apartment. Our little yellow car is being used to transport more than just us. Somehow we have managed to squeeze a table and four chairs in through the rear door together with inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags for us to use until we are able to fit out the apartment properly. On arrival there is much to be done to ensure Tony can live there worry-free. We get to meet his neighbours, learn to navigate ourselves to the nearest shops, install his personal effects then take a break to visit son Mike in Yeovil, part of a round tour of our scattered family.


Out of interest, when we are away we like to check on what the weather is doing back home on Kintyre, just to see what we are missing out on. When the south coast of England does receive severe weather the locals make a big fuss over it, going on about how unusual it is, how many years since this temperature or that rainfall. For those of us living on the west coast of Scotland, severe weather is more the norm and what we class as exceptional is more extreme than most people have the stomach for. Kate and I reserve the term ‘exciting’ for these events and when we check with the Met Office we see immediately that just such an exciting event is winding itself up over our area of Scotland. Their colour-coded severe weather warnings overlaid on the map of Britain tell us that the central belt of Scotland, which stretches from Campbeltown to Edinburgh, is being blasted by a storm of truly magnificent proportions. Since moving to Carradale we have already experienced several of these storms and we have great confidence in our ‘wee hoosy’ in its ability to stand up to storms of this severity. Being so far away when this one hits means that things are completely outside our control anyway but nevertheless it still leaves us with a feeling of disquiet. There will almost certainly be a path of destruction carved across Scotland in fallen trees and damaged roofs and this time all we can do is take comfort in the thought that if we were at home then there would be little we’d be able to do either, apart from lose sleep listening to the wind howling past outside.

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