I NEED somewhere to go. Anywhere. No, that’s over-egging it. Somewhere in Britain. No, Scotland. A staycation. I used to prefer these, even pre-lockdown, though I haven’t been on one for years. In my tiresome life, I’ve been abroad six times: thrice for work, once for a wedding, once for supposed pleasure and once to visit a friend.

On all six occasions, I wanted to come home after a day. If you count Ireland, I’ve been abroad seven times, but I almost enjoyed it there, because it was little different from home.

The other places were bewildering, with their odd mannerisms, peculiar walking styles and stuffy climates. At times, there were no clouds in the sky, which led me to have meterological panic attacks and fear the world was coming to an end.

So, home it is for me if I’m to have a holiday or, at least, a change of scene. But, with stories of even fellow Scots not being welcome in other parts of Scotland, I’m losing my nerve.

The “Welcome” signs of tourism have been replaced by the “Not welcome” signs of backwoods Deliverance.

A couple of weeks ago, desperately needing to get away for peace and quiet, I did actually book a long weekend in a small, grey, remote town.

But the confirmation of booking came with a warning about a noisy pub across the road. Though this was possibly dated, I cancelled anyway. Ironically enough, despite craving quietude, my choice of town rather than sticks was dictated by my desire to be in a pub, assuming they’d be reopened by then.

The plan was to use the county town as a base from which to explore quiet places and then get sloshed in public afterwards. Best of both worlds, d’you see? Having my drink and drinking it.

Generally speaking, anyway, towns and cities are quieter than country villages, with their blaring radios and horticultural hullabaloo. Urban people are usually more considerate. But I didn’t want a possibly noisy pub – even with less racket under the new rules – across the way.

As the opportunity to stay in a guest house draws closer (middle of next week, as I understand it, but don’t quote me; I’m utterly lost about the various regulations), I’m still dithering.

Will the locals form a lynch mob or run me out of town? Another reason for my choice of town was the ferry to an island I used to visit frequently when younger and less fearful.

I planned to nip over for the day but, by all accounts, the new parochial paranoia is more pronounced on islands: “This is a local island for local people.”

I pictured the natives eying me sceptically as I sat on the ferry, whistling in a terrified attempt at nonchalance. Already, I’d researched places I could pretend I lived if asked by a suspicious local.

“Where be ye going on this here ferry, stranger?”

“To my home, where I live and pay domestic rates.”

“And where be that?”

“In Grimbottom.”

“Grimbottom? But that be where I be living. And mine be the only house there. Ain’t never seen you round our boglands before.”

“Sorry, not Grimbottom. Primbottom. Always getting these two mixed up. Ha-ha!”

“Ain’t be no place called Primbottom by my reckonin’.”

My interlocutor signals to fellow locals, who gather menacingly around me. I gulp. I sweat. I make a break for it and throw myself overboard, where banjo-playing killer whales toss me back and forth until I’m rescued by a Coastguard helicopter, and wake up in hospital two days later, deliriously shouting: “I want to go home!”

Perhaps my imagination is running away with me. Damn it. Soon as I’ve finished composing this homily, I’m booking somewhere. Just keep my head down. It’ll be an ordeal. But not as bad as going abroad.

Licence to bill

I’M really beginning to wonder about this TV licence business. In the past two months, I’ve watched the BBC for 20 minutes.

It’s not on my radar any more. My 20 minutes came when I switched on for Match of the Day. But, despite disingenuously claiming recently that I wouldn’t miss the bovine crowds with their tedious chanting, I found the experience sterile and dystopian. I switched off.

I switch on Radio 4 once or twice a day, usually while shaving my ear-hair or creosoting my beard, but immediately switch it off again as, inevitably, it’s more metropolitan woke drivel. It’s relentless.

Mostly now, I watch YouTube or DVDs. I got Netflix but ended up just watching the original Star Trek – which I already have on DVD.

It’s only fear of the knock on the door in the middle of the night that stops me cancelling my BBC licence. Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t so scared of everything.


THE Simpsons have been voted best TV family. A Freeview survey put the dysfunctional Americans ahead of the UK’s entrepreneurial Trotters from Only Fools and Horses, with the Royle, Addams and Flintstone families close behind. Doughnuts and Duff beers all round.

MAD social media dictators Facebook banned an owl chicks nature webcam for alleged “adult nudity and sexual activity”. The webcam livestream, in a South Yorkshire garden, was only reinstated when the owner went to Her Majesty’s Press. What a hoot.

THE House of Commons spends £4,000 a month on biscuits and sugary snacks. While the controversial parliament has a policy of encouraging healthy eating, Kit Kats and Twixes came out top, with Ryvita not at the races. Ain’t they sweet?

AFTER Covid, a case of bubonic plague has emerged. Surprisingly, the victim hailed from liberal paradise China. The case is reportedly “under control”. In medieval times, the plague led to social distancing, and bear-baiting had to take place without crowds.

A FRENCH accent guarantees better service when buying a house. Sheffield University researchers found “unconscious bias” meant eastern European, Middle Eastern and African accents fared worse. The revelation fuelled fears that statues of estate agents could be pulled down.

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