In the 1970s my family used to holiday on the Isle of Arran every year. I don’t know exactly when the last time we came here was, but it was almost 50 years ago. I don’t remember loads about those holidays: it rained a lot and I had a chart with stickers on it which I loved (but in hindsight was just a way to get me to do chores/keep occupied) we climbed Goat Fell, I threw a stone in a little river and lost my footing and went spinning down the stream (probably only a few feet but I still recall the confusion of the world turning upside down), I played with plastic soldiers on the beach, there was a real fire in our cottage and I liked to watch the flames and make up stories, my brother made up tales of Brave Richard to tell me at bedtime, I sat on my dad’s knee as he drove the car and he let me have a go at driving, which I thought meant turning the steering wheel back and forth and nearly drove us over a cliff, my dad hired a row boat and took us out to sea, but the waves were rough and my mum screamed and we were terrified so we came straight back again, a man dived off a tall ship and belly-flopped and died…. Mainly memories of horror, near death and death. So I thought it might be fun to bring my own family here.
Now it’s crazy that half a century has passed (at least since the earlier of those memories) though driving round the island this afternoon, I wasn’t sure that that much had changed in that time.
We’d stopped by a little roadside cafe (the Little Coffee Caravan) on the drive across mainland Scotland as the kids were feeling sick. So I bought a coffee. The two ladies behind the counter looked a bit shocked when I ordered and explained that I looked exactly like a regular customer, except I had longer hair. They hadn’t seen him for a little while though. Maybe he’s the one who gives me a bad rep by swearing in Indian restaurants and convincing my fans that he is me. He’s a pilot, so don’t be scared if you ever get on a plane and I am flying. It will probably be him. If it is me though then you are about to die. I think you drive a car by moving the steering wheel around regardless of the road.
I told them I was going to Arran and one of them laughed, saying it was the worst place for a holiday because it always rained, but her friend liked it. So all hope was not lost.
We were much too early, so we had lunch at Asda (we know how to holiday) and then waited at the ferry port for about 80 minutes for our boat. The smell of the ferry made me feel a bit sick, perhaps because it reminded me of childhood holidays to Arran and to France where the journey across the sea would occasionally lead to vomit.
It was raining of course. But that’s quite welcome after the heatwave of the last fortnight.
We’re staying in the south of the island and it was a drive of half an hour or so. We’re near the sea and the Air B n B seems nice. We had dinner in a nearby restaurant and then walked down to the beach and looked at the seaweed and limpets and saw a dead crab. It was everything I dreamed of. Ernie lifted a rock and loads of tiny insects leapt up at him. He loved it and called them jumping beetles.
It felt strange not to be doing a show, but the Edinburgh Fringe seemed like a million years ago. Like my childhood.