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I can’t drink it, but I can blog it…

[Image credit: The Prospect] Note from Barb—This is a slightly revised post from a few years back. Only because I’m feeling the need to see more Scottish islands!

“Another trip?” My friend handed me the teacup. “Are you sure?”

“Why does everyone assume my vacations never work? We may be Americans, but we’re in the UK now. We know what we’re doing.”

My tea, awash with milk and sugar, mocked me.

Okay, so maybe my trips don’t exactly go according to plan.

In celebration of Child#4 completing her last University exam ever, I had (for me) outdone myself on planning our upcoming Isle of Mull trip—booked a cottage and a boat trip to view Scotland’s Fingal’s Cave, stockpiled trip essentials (dog treats and Starbucks Instant Via coffee), and reserved the car ferry. Best of all, weather reports predicted sunshine for the only time in weeks. [NOTE: Readers who know Scotland can just stop smirking. It’s so not attractive…]

What could possibly go wrong? Nothing except stopping for coffee, road repairs, traffic around Loch Lomond, gas, more coffee, and the need to …er… get rid of the coffee. As the arrival time on the GPS edged toward the departure time of the ferry, the Hub sped up until we were taking curves like Nascar champions, while I made helpful remarks regarding the amount of money spent on boat trips we would probably be missing.

“Don’t worry, though,” I assured them. “I can always blog about it.” The Hub went faster, and Child#4 turned an interesting shade of green. She was leaning out the window and threatening to revisit breakfast as the ferry terminal came into sight.

“I’ll take pictures,” I warned her. “For my blog.” (Her response wasn’t pretty.)

Two guys in yellow jackets considered the loaded ferry and conferred. They waved the two cars ahead of us onto the ramp. Guy One pointed at our car while Guy Two shook his head, probably worried about the added coffee and dog treat tonnage. Finally Guy One waved us on. Guy Two told us to pull in at an angle against the closing door, and—clearly absolving himself of any dire consequences caused by our addition—leaped off the boat. Coward.

It’s a short trip from Oban to the Isle of Mull, but on a blustery day it can be full of dramatic views like 13th century Duart Castle, home of Clan Maclean. The boat rolled and some cheering passengers claimed to see dolphins. Others experienced their breakfast. Again.

It should have been a quick drive across to the other side of the island where the boat trip to Fingal’s Cave would depart. Except… the Isle of Mull espouses thrifty Scots virtues, and sees no need to waste precious land (that sheep could be using for bathrooms) on making roads wide enough for more than one vehicle at a time.

Everyone we met smiled and did the British-Wave as their cars did a little ballet…one backing or pulling off until the other could pass.

DIGRESSION: Americans know if you let other drivers cut in front of you, they will own your manhood and, probably, your car and wife as well. So expecting American drivers to not only back-the-f-up when facing another driver, but actually smile and wave? That’s like expecting the Queen to put on a bikini and serve ice-cream to paparazzi. It’s both physically possible and virtually inconceivable.

We’ve lived the UK long enough to wave, back up, smile, lift a hand or at least a finger (no, not that one) and inch our way across the island.

When the car started making cheerful chirping noises, we turned up the radio. Luckily, we made it in time for the tour boat—mainly because it was an hour late. Perhaps at this point I should mention my clothes. I only bring it up because I actually believed the weather reports (Warm! Sunny!) and online guides for our destination (Paved paths!), so I was wearing sandals and lightweight trousers. (Remember the sandals.)

Finally we got to Staffa for a stunning view of the columns and starkly graphic sheared-off rocks of Fingal’s Cave. Legend says Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) and Scottish giant Benandonner threw boulders at each other, creating Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway and the basalt columns of Fingal’s Cave—probably because there wasn’t a giant kindergarten teacher telling them to use their words.

Supposedly, the cave is equally amazing inside. I wouldn’t know. As I was negotiating one of the ‘paved’ paths the rain had converted into bogs, I sank in above my knees.

That bog sucked hard beyond the telling.

For a moment I wondered if I’d keep sinking, but I knew I had to live long enough to blog this. I managed to stagger out, realizing my feet were free. Really free. As in free of my sandals. I bent over, poking around in the bog while a family of Japanese tourists took selfies with my mud-encrusted derriere as the background. (I imagine those photos are on Facebook somewhere, along with comments speculating on the muddy barefoot American waving her tush at them…) I was about to give up when one shoe surfaced. But no amount of prodding could produce the other one.

And that’s when it started to sleet. On the trip back from Staffa to Mull the only things keeping me from hypothermia were the dog sitting on my feet and the hope I could blog about this before pneumonia set in.

Mull itself was absolutely gorgeous. We stopped at a local weaver shop before checking into our wonderful cottage. Even in a downpour, it’s easy to be philosophical from inside a beautiful hillside cottage filled with warmth, every possible convenience, coffee, AND wifi. And if your window looks out on sheep grazing by blooming gorse…well, you’re either in heaven or Scotland.

Friends had told us we absolutely had to eat at Cafe Fish (“The only things frozen are our fishermen”) so we stopped in Tobermory, a seaside village almost too charmingly picturesque to be believed.

But we couldn’t linger to explore because as we headed out, the car’s cheerful chirping stopped. So did the power steering. The Hub wrestled it back to the ferry terminal, but as we pulled into line, our old friend Guy One came over and helpfully pointed out, “Yer bonnet’s steamin’.”

We took our steamin’ bonnet out of the ferry line and uphill to the Bayview Garage, where blue-haired mechanic Billie told us the water pump was a goner. I wanted to tell her it was okay because I could blog it, but I wasn’t sure I’d survive the reactions of the Hub and Child#4.

When Billie couldn’t source a new pump until Monday, we checked into Mull’s very last hotel room, booking the ferry back to Oban as foot passengers for the next day. (I’m not saying Child#4 was bitter about sharing the room with us, but she did compare the parental snorage to “call and response” of wild moose. Even I wasn’t sure I could blog that.)

Alas for Child#4’s hopes of catching up on her sleep on the train from Oban to Glasgow. While I took the dog for a final constitutional, she went ahead to grab seats for us.

Text from Child#4: Got us seats together. Next to baby. Screaming. As they do.

“That’s okay,” I shouted over shrieks of pure infant fury. “That means he’s tired and he’ll probably go to sleep.” I was right. That baby dropped right off to sleep—three and a half hours from hell later as his father carried him off the train. The rest of the time he screamed nonstop, ignored by his (deaf and/or stoned) parents.

I mentioned the blogability of this experience, and Child#4 informed me that not only would she never have children, but she was seriously considering moving someplace where neither children nor blogging are allowed, like prison or the set of Inside Amy Schumer.

Oddly enough, my friend still refuses come on holiday with me. Was it something I blogged?