We’d been dating for a few months and things were still in that heady, romantic stage when my boyfriend Luke told me that he had arranged a ‘surprise’ three-night trip away. It was so exciting. I imagined sipping cocktails around a chic swimming pool, somewhere like the Colombe D’Or in the south of France. I pestered him for clues but he refused to tell me anything until finally, the day before, he suggested packing ‘some warm clothes’. This remark did not bode well. I hoped he was throwing me off-scent with a clever double-bluff.
On the day of departure, we set off at dawn, running slightly late. He dropped me at the airport arrivals hall to go and park and gave me the tickets. It was at that moment that I discovered to my utter horror that we were going to Glasgow. What was he thinking?
I attempted to check in on his behalf, but was not allowed to. I waited for another 20 minutes. Had he dumped me? Admittedly, in quite an elaborate way. Perhaps it was for the best.
Finally, he approached the check-in desk muttering like a madman, but the garishly made-up airline woman seemed strangely pleased to announce that the flight had closed. Luke threatened to sue the airport, the airline, and the car park (because all the Terminal 1 car parks were out of use), but frankly she wouldn’t have cared if one of us had dropped down dead on the way to the check-in desk. She was implacable.
I went ahead on my own. Luke had to buy another ticket for a flight that left later. I confided tearfully to the air steward that our romantic trip had got off to a particularly bad start. He said he was very sorry and shimmied up the aisle. I fantasised that he was communicating with someone superior and we would be offered a full refund and a round-trip to Venice. He returned with 12 miniature bottles of Scotch — and even the smell of whisky makes me gag.
At Glasgow airport, on a chair upholstered in grimy tartan, I reread the same newspaper three times. Luke arrived three hours later, having planned a ‘scenic’ route to Port Appin, more than 100 miles away. We drove through the pounding rain on tiny twisting roads. I felt ferociously car-sick, so we stopped at a dour Victorian chapel, hoping that I would recover.
Finally we arrived at a ‘gourmet’ pub-with-rooms highly recommended by a friend.
‘We’ve been promised a king-size bed,’ Luke assured me as we climbed out of the car. ‘A super-king or just a king?’ ‘A king.’ Except it wasn’t. It was more like a large single. And our room was right above the bar, so we could hear the thump of music and the rattle of conversation interspersed with laughter. We frantically rang around and found a hotel on a loch not too far away, with a king-size bed.
We arrived to find a small hotel with a postcard view of Castle Stalker. From the outside it was idyllic, but once inside I nearly wept. The decor was reminiscent of a retirement home with a sitting room like a dentist’s waiting room. We had literally just got into our room and flopped on to the huge bed when the man who had checked us in knocked and, with a sense of urgency, asked us what we wanted for dinner. ‘But its only 4.30,’ I protested as he handed us a menu. He apologised and explained that they had a small kitchen and the chef needed to know what food to prepare well in advance.
We dressed for dinner and made our way to our reserved table. We were the only people dining apart from one elderly couple. The room was scented with the lingering waft of breakfast kippers. I tucked into my cold asparagus soup feeling slightly queasy.
I woke the next morning with full-blown flu. For the next two days Luke became a frequent visitor to the village post office, where he bought an array of medications. When he wasn’t buying drugs he was walking along the loch shore in torrential rain. I was sent up bowls of asparagus soup, alternating with haggis broth. On the last day I got up and hobbled slowly around the loch like an aged aunt.
Surprisingly, Luke and I remained together after that disastrous holiday. We got married three years later — and honeymooned at the Colombe D’Or.