A road trip up North, our first romantic getaway together. I book a couple of bed & breakfasts online, and arrange a few days off work. First stop is my grandmother’s on the outskirts of Manchester. There are no words to prepare anyone for my grandmother, an individual in every sense of the word. She lives in a little retirement-village-come-trailer park. Despite knowing we’re just there for an overnight, she has bought half a grocery store of food, and relentlessly suggests we cancel the B&Bs and stay with her for the week. The “tell me again why you can’t stay?” conversation plays out at almost hourly intervals, as she hopes the guilt will wear me down, and we will eventually concede to spend our five-days in her little shoebox surrounded by her nosey, cranky neighbours instead. I hold fast, and keep reminding her we are leaving in the morning. She lets us share a room, but makes him a bed on the floor as a statement. We’ve been sleeping together for months, so we share my bed instead (sorry Nana!)
The next morning, we convince my grandmother we will visit again soon, escape the Trailer Park for the Elderly and Overly Observant, and head for Lake Windermere. We find the cottage on the road above the lake, surrounded by trees. It is beautiful, and the Bed and Breakfast rooms are up a separate staircase in a side wing of the massive cottage. The room is delightful, with a lovely view. We settle in, and enjoy a couple of pleasant days relaxing, walking down to the lakefront for dinner and walking back in the dark, with a bottle of wine to share in the room.
Two days later, we say our goodbyes, and head further north for Scotland, bound for the rugged and barren Solway Firth coast. The bed and breakfast is very difficult to find, the last bit of the road is a long, narrow dirt driveway. We finally arrive at a small, secluded stone bungalow, and knock on the door. A woman in her fifties answers, she’s friendly and very pleased to see us. The couple explain they have only recently “opened” their home as a bed and breakfast and we are their first ever guests. They show us around the cottage, a two minute walk down to the sea, the views are breath-taking.
We get our bearings in the bungalow – which doesn’t take long. The couple seem overly attentive, so quaint – they obviously want to get it ‘right’ given we are their maiden voyage into the world of hospitality and catering. They suggest places to go for dinner and we eat out at a restaurant in the nearest village, fifteen minutes away by car, before heading back down the dirt lane in the pitch black to the bungalow just after sundown.
The couple are in the living room when we arrive back, and they invite us to join them. Politely, we do so, making small talk for a while before excusing ourselves and heading to our bedroom, which is next to theirs, I might add. We giggle behind our hands like school children, amused by the awkward atmosphere in the bungalow, given we are the only guests (and the first ones at that.) As it is too early for bed, we agree it might be easier to go for a walk – the seafront is beautiful and it will give us some time to ourselves. We get our jackets and pop back up the short hallway to the living room to let the couple know we are going for a walk.
They laugh. “You won’t manage, you can’t see your hand in front of your face out there. Besides, it’s a narrow, rocky path, too hard to follow in the dark, you could fall into the sea at the end!” We gently insist we will be careful before quickly heading out the door just as our ability to stifle our laughter gives way completely.
Outside in the yard, we suddenly stop laughing. We stop walking, too. We really cannot see our hands in front of our faces, as we had been warned. City kids, this is darkness like we’ve never experienced. We try to use the little flashlight they lent us, but it is as good as a chocolate teapot, and clearly no match for the black Scottish sea sky at night time. We can hear the waves, but we cannot see a single thing and realise we are absolutely completely at risk of falling in the sea, and a walk is a total impossibility.
Now we have the humiliation of going back inside and admitting the couple were right, a walk was a ridiculous suggestion. Tired by now, and having run out of ideas of what to do beyond trying to watch TV with the couple, we decide to turn in for the night. The room is decorated in daffodil yellow, curtains, walls, everything, and the bedding feels fresh out of its packaging, like just a few hours ago. We get ready for bed laughing at the newness of it all. We hear the couple retire to their own room shortly after.
Young, in love and on vacation, we climb into bed with “plans”, although I bring things to an abrupt standstill when the bed makes a sound. He reassures me we can be quiet, and that they won’t hear, but I feel like someone’s parents are in the next room and there is no way I can enjoy any intimate contact on that bed and risk it making a single creak as a giveaway. We de-camp to the floor, occupying a gap about 18” wide next to the bed. Yes, if you are picturing that space, it is much narrower than the bathroom on an average aeroplane. We manage somehow, though decidedly, it was not the best sex ever.
The next morning, we venture to the dining room for breakfast. There is a crocheted doily with beads on it draped over the milk jug. We really struggle not to lose it in fits of hysterics at this point, feeling like we’ve woken up in 1923. Breakfast is nerve-wracking at best, and we feel under-pressure to compliment everything we are served and clean our plates. It is exhausting. After breakfast, the couple, who we are now thinking have very little contact with the outside world, want to spend time with us. Separately. The husband takes my boyfriend to his green house to talk plants and the wife starts telling me her life story. I am slowly coming to the realisation that we have another two days of this … unless we can make our escape. We manage to disentangle ourselves after an hour or two and go for a walk on the shore to hatch a plan.
I call the nice man at the B&B on Lake Windermere, who serendipitously has just had a cancellation, to book us in there for two more nights. We then come up with an excuse that one of us needs to get back for work and we “sadly” have to head back early. We pack the car, take a handful of brochures with the promise to recommend the B&B to all our friends, and scarper back along the coast and south to the Lakes.
It was not the most relaxing 24hrs of our lives, but was a hilarious adventure which was well worth the trek. And as I’m writing this, many years later, I’m now wondering if they perhaps wrote a blog about us, too?