Holiday! Part One – in which a Break is Needed from the Old Routine

So I’ve been a bit burned out recently, although heaven knows why and I’ve not been doing anything that far outside the norm. Job 1 has been quite stressful, it’s true, since the amount of work I’ve been assigned has doubled and then some, but I’ve knocked job 3 on the head for now because after 11.5 hours of work plus commute, a three hour shift of audio on the back of that turns out to mean guaranteed migraine the next day. Oh frailty, thy name is Anya, etc.

(So far the hardest part of job 2 is trying to get work done while people are waving cakes at me and want to hear all about my life/ tell me interesting things about theirs. I love job 2).

I then had to spend all the money I’d painfully earned working three jobs on new clothes for the new job (during which I will be keeping on the other three, in some form or another, if my luck holds). There is something deeply unsatisfying about that, but my lanyard has bobbled the heck out of all the old office clothes and needs must.

Anyway, with the new raised beds all made, the lovely trio of boundlessly energetic dogs away home again and me getting to the stage of genuinely not being able to work out what day it is, let alone which town I should be getting off the bus in if it was that day, it was time for A Break.

Just kidding, we booked this months in advance. I always sod off for my birthday, because of that One Time (at band camp) that only one person turned up (everyone’s had a birthday like this, right? Right?) So, once was enough, I’ve had seven months without a proper week off, I’m doing nothing but vegetating of an evening and I want to go explore some history. I looked longingly at Rome, where all my colleagues seem to have gone for a short break this year and said it was brilliant. I looked longingly at the castle trail in Germany. Then I looked at the budget.

Thus it was the G Monster booked us a week in a wee cottage on Orkney.

I would love to say I’d been looking forward to it. It’s one of the places I’ve always wanted to go (see under: all the places, everywhere, ever), but this one’s chock full of prehistoric ruins, wildlife, Views, etc, and I was convinced it would look just like Skyrim.

Unfortunately I’m paranoid about looking forward to things, because the things I’ve looked forward to most have always turned out the most horrible of fiascos, so I now approach them with the sort of superstitious trepidation anyone with any sense would show when the gods descend to give them closed boxes of Surprise! for no discernible reason. The theory is, the trepidation will negate any bad luck resulting from, say, cartwheeling about the place, shouting “this is going to be awesome!” as if daring the gods themselves to do Something About it. (Although they know that now, of course, and are probably not chuffed). Besides, if you don’t expect anything, everything you get is a bonus, right?

It was my fault, however, that we took the bikes. The G Monster’s been looking longingly at a replacement for Dogface since we had the trio of dogs over, so I mentioned if he wanted to have space in the car for bikes, now was the time. Granted it’s been something like four years since I was on a bike but they say you never forget.

More on that later.

First, we had to get there. The G Monster had a cunning plan where we would get up early of a morning, having packed the night before, roll into the car, roll the car up the road to a McDonalds, and eat pancakes before carrying on up to the highlands. Unfortunately, this plan did not account for the Urgent Admin Phonecall (there is always one, every time we go away. I’ve sorted out everything from insurance claims to new jobs from various motorway service-station car-parks). This time the Urgent Admin Phonecall involved HR urgently requiring info for my new job (this is at least the third time this has happened while we tried to get away from it all), which of course they only realised they didn’t have four weeks after the interview, on the very day we went away (third time, ditto). Of course I didn’t have it with me (it had to go Really wrong sometime, right?), so since that would hold everything up and I would be persona non grata with the new boss from day one, in a fit of novelty we had to turn round and drive back home to get it.

In a further fit of novelty, the G Monster is actually still talking to me after that.

We still managed to make the Highland Wildlife Park for lunch, however, and had enough time to meander round the polar bears and snow leopards and see a goose getting hoofed by a reindeer (the G Monster got a cracking picture, feathers flying everywhere. And fair enough, the goose did start it).

Then we arrived at the hotel in Inverness and I realised I had packed exactly zero socks. Coincidentally, Packing No Socks is my biggest packing nightmare.

Fortunately there was a Tescos round the corner. Even more fortunately, the G Monster was still talking to me after that, too. In fact, he got the beers in and we shivered in the beer garden for two pints apiece until we admitted it really was far too cold for that sort of thing, and got inside just before it chucked it down. Sadly, we had left it far too late to bag a table, let alone food, so we had to stand at the bar to finish off, then go back out in the rain and find somewhere else. Which we did, round the corner. So far so good. We met a friendly guy who drove lorries up to Wick, and a friendly lady whose husband is in Antarctica, building a wharf for whatever they called Boaty McBoatface in the end. What time do we have to be up for the drive to the ferry tomorrow? I said.

Five a.m., apparently. And I’d apparently said I’d drive it, too.

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