Champagne and Rainbows

Scotland – DAY 4
After a day in and around Glasgow doing press interviews and photo shoots – sounds glam, but basically me perched on castle ramparts in a gale trying to look wistful, while my hair sticks to my lip-gloss and rain dribbles down my neck – the next, my birthday, dawns with a menacing sky. The gale has grown worse (in meteorological terms it’s blowing a hooley). This is the day we had booked a 6 hour trip down the Firth of Clyde to Dumbarton Rock and the Isle of Bute – by speedboat. Lee (who’s a bit of a landlubber) is already green as we struggle our way across a deserted carpark at Glasgow docks, leaves, plastic bags and small birds whipping past our faces. Inside a Portakabin that feels like it might launch itself into the sky, are three burly Glaswegians (probably the only things anchoring it down). Alas, they’ve been watching the weather and it’s not looking good. In the skipper’s words, The boat can take it, but the human body cannae.

After being informed of a good scenic drive that will let us see some of what we would’ve seen by water, we drive to Dumbarton, where soaring twin peaks of rock hold the ruins of an ancient castle, which Robert took possession of in 1309. The sun streams out from behind the racing clouds as we climb the many steps to the summit where we’re rewarded with a spectacular view. The steep sides plunge to the wide mudflats and rough waters of the Clyde estuary, where along all its great length not a boat can be spied chancing the storm. To the north the humped back of Ben Lomond rears over the famous loch, invisible in the valley below. Closer, a rainbow arches itself gracefully over a hill. Ah, Scotland – land that launched a thousand calendars.

My military scheduling in disarray, we opt for a cruise on Loch Lomond. I discover from the tour guide the position of an old hunting lodge of Robert’s on the west shore and the ruins of an island castle belonging to the Earls of Lennox. After the catastrophic Battle of Methven in 1306, Robert and his ragged band of men were forced to cross the loch using one boat. It’s said that whilst they were conveyed across in small groups, Robert kept them entertained by reciting epic French poems of heroes and battles.

Back at our Glasgow hotel I enter the room to see a bottle of champagne on ice, a bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries and a card. I turn to Lee, Oh, and I really believed you when you said you weren’t planning anything for my birthday! Before he can speak, I’ve bounded across the room and ripped open the card.

It’s from my publishers.

I’m going to kill them, mutters Lee.