Dickhead Tours and the Hebrides


Sometimes it’s not easy to discern the extent of the problems ahead

As many will know, organising a holiday is stressful for me. Dickhead Tours, a phrase coined by my father to cover my organisational incompetence around holidays (read this if you doubt his wisdom) has sadly been proved an apt aphorism over many years. For this year’s trip to the Outer Hebrides and to avoid another débacle, I even involved the Textiliste this time: she did accommodation and ferries; I undertook the flights and car hire.


He’s always looking for an excuse…

To begin with the problem looked like it was going to fall on her side of the line. I mean, can I be blamed for a ferry strike the day we were due to cross from Skye to Harris? Can I be blamed for the operator, Caledonian MacBrayne (I’m really not sure where the ‘Brayne’ bit features in their corporate consciousness) texting us the day before we travelled to tell us that, due to the strike they had rebooked us on the ferry a day earlier. We like to think we can move quickly, the Textiliste and me, but getting from South London to Uig on Skye from a standing start in under seven hours was going to be a stretch.


He is good at excuses, this one…

They offered us a new slot but rather than the Friday as planned it was the Sunday which would severely curtail our time on Harris and Lewis; and especially since our visit to the Harris Tweed weavers was a major component of our holiday that was never going to work.


He’s such an arse ‘Leapt into action’. Ha!

So, I leapt into action. After all, even if it wasn’t exactly her fault, it was on her watch. I was magnanimous. ‘I’ll sort it out.’ I know, I should have left it to the Textiliste. But soon enough I found us flights from Inverness to Stornoway and back on the days we wanted. I was on a roll. It meant a different car hire but that was easy: I cancelled the first, for collection on the Thursday in Inveness and replaced it with a different one for the Friday when we landed in Stornoway. I checked, doubled checked and triple checked. It was flawless and, well, it was inevitable I’d done something wrong.

The glitch, the fly in the ointment, the splinter as I slid down life’s bannister dawned on me on the flight to Stornoway. The car hire. You see, in the last couple of months the European rules have changed. Now you need a code from the DVLA confirming your licence is valid before you can hire a car. I didn’t know either but Avis warned me a week before we set off. You obtain it on line. All you need to do is fill in some details and out pops a code. It’s valid for 72 hours. I’d obtained mine for a car hire on the Thursday.

Which, of course, was 24 hours earlier than the new booking. By my calculations the 72 hours would expire precisely 17 minutes before we landed in Stornaway.


When will you accept it is going to be your fault…?


I could go on line and get a new code; it might delay us maybe 30 minutes in the airport. Only to get the f£$%^&*+g code you need not only your address and driver’s licence number but also your national insurance number.

Who caries this around? You do? Well, bully for you. I don’t.


I know my national insurance number. You can see it, over there!

The Textiliste sat next to me, reading a Quilting magazine, oblivious to the upcoming disaster. I wondered if you can find your NI number on line. How much using taxis to tour the islands might cost. Could I persuade her to cycle? I tried and failed not to sweat. Should I tell her?

I did as we landed. She just smiled, sure it would be ok. Why does that make it seem worse, this trust? But she was right. In the event the nice lady from Hebridean Car Hire never asked about it. They take these sort of new rules with a pinch of salt. It turned out there is a grace period when a waiver can be signed by the driver. That’ll end by August. I’ll not forget again.

I did note that the Textiliste’s smile was a touch steely. I said, ‘You know, this happens every time, doesn’t it? I really ought to stop…’

She smiled a little more.

‘Don’t you think?’ But I know the answer. Every disaster  is just another lesson to my wife.


And suddenly there was some light….

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in Hebrides, holidays, miscellany, Scotland and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Dickhead Tours and the Hebrides

  1. Yvonne says:

    I’ve never heard of that new rule, so thanks for the info! We almost hired a car this month, but decided against it at the last minute, which was probably as well. Having said that, I’ll probably go and ask my husband if he’s heard of the new rule, and he’ll say, “Of course.” And give me a 10 minute lecture on it. (He’s annoying like that.) On the other hand, I’m probably very annoying because I since I was 18 I’ve been able to remember my National Insurance number off by heart.
    Judging by your photos, the weather in the Hebrides looks similar to what we had in Shetland. (And now back home too.) I’m thinking of emigrating, once I’ve worked out where the sun always shines…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jan says:

    Oh my! The best laid plans and all that. We had quite the experience renting a car in London and attempting to drive to Stratford! Blown tire, GPS speaking to us in Italian, lost in the Cotswolds…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dylan Hearn says:

    I think your issue is not that you’re organisationally challenged, you just have the wrong mind-set. You keep believing you’re booking a holiday when in reality you’re starting an adventure. Everybody knows that adventures come with risk, danger and uncertainty but that’s why they’re so exciting. So next time you arrange a trip away, tell you’re family you’re taking them on an adventure and they can’t complain if things start going tits up!
    PS I know my NI number off by heart too.

    Liked by 3 people

    • TanGental says:

      I think my rep is too well established. I think they enjoy my discomfort if truth be told.


    • roweeee says:

      Dylan, you insights are very astute. I must remember this although I don’t know whether driving one’s children home from school really should count as an adventure!
      I also think that running a holiday according to some really strict schedule sort zaps the life out of it. That there needs to be enough space to wander off the beaten track and appreciate that life is just as much about the journey as the destination.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ali Isaac says:

    I’d love to go there… They have some amazing archeological sites. Did you visit any?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dickhead Tours, I like it! Still you managed to get out of this scrape pretty well really Geoff! Don’t want to rub it in, but I also know my NI number too!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Laura Bloomsbury says:

    Loved this confession from start to finish- how dull life would be for your wife were you not to be a dickhead (can we say that online before 9 p.m.) – there would be no story, no nail biting, funny asides and wonderful photos to illustrate the point

    Liked by 1 person

  7. trifflepudling says:

    Don’t worry, I have no idea at all what my number is and anyway, if you’d known yours, your article would’ve just been a travel commentary!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Norah says:

    Telling you the day before your scheduled departure that you are leaving a day earlier all sounds a bit mad to me. Both you and the Textiliste both sound very calm about the changes. Are you taking bookings yet? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dickhead Tours sounds like it should be in a Carry On film. When it comes to organisation – I mainly do most of it as The Bloke gets a bit flustered… Bloody hilarious post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I’m bloody certain the Textiliste lets me do it just to see how I;ll react when it goes tits up. She knows I’ll some how get us out of the self created mess. As Dylan commented, it does turn a relaxing holiday into some sort of Bear Grylls adventure.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Rachel M says:

    haha, funny. We hired a car on Orkney and I don’t remember anything about a code. I certainly never got a code and I never had a code with me when we picked up the car.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Good on Orkney for taking a relaxed view. I understand the DVLA have now allowed for a 21 day window for the code to remain valid so you may need it next time.


  11. willowdot21 says:

    The world loves a truer! and God love you! 🙂 😉 🙂 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I understand that the DVLA are relaxing their rules, Geoff (www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-33475879), so that should be one less thing to worry about next time. As for the NI number, as part of my day job I have to ask people for theirs on a regular basis, and never fail to be amazed when they reel them off without thinking. Amazed that they haven’t got something more interesting to store in their memory banks, to be honest…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. restlessjo says:

    I like a happy ending, Geoff! 🙂
    As it happens I can remember my NI number, but only because it represents my vital statistics upside down. (or it did, once! 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Autism Mom says:

    I first read this on Sat. on the sly on my phone while I was attending a pinot noir soiree (try saying that 10 times fast). It was hard to chuckle quietly.

    More importantly, however, is that reviewing it on my phone means that I didn’t see the photos, and I am so glad that I did not miss the gingerbread man on the binoculars in particular, which is at the same time perplexing and makes all the sense in the world…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jools says:

    I like the sound of Dickhead Tours. Do you have a website, perchance? It’s been a few months since my last chaotic travel experience and I’m about ready for the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hilarious, Geoff. Beautifully written and well illustrated with humorous captions

    Liked by 1 person

  17. roweeee says:

    I’d book a holiday with Dick Head Tours, especially if those very cute talking cows were included. I always end up being navigator on our trips and I can’t read maps and so we end up having a few detours too and this also seems to be a recurring theme on our holidays.
    By the way, have you been to Islay? My ancestors on my Dad’s side come from there: the Johnstons. They founded Lefroig Whisky a fact I found on my family history travels. I am busting to go there!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Yes, I know my NI Number off by heart, but ask me for my bank account number and I have absolutely no idea.

    Remind me not to book a holiday with you, Geoff. Not that you would ever want me to!!

    Looking forward to the next ‘Dickhead Tours’.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. roweeee says:

    Hi Geoff,
    I read this post and thought you would appreciate the link. https://globetrottingteen.wordpress.com/2015/12/27/idiots-abroad-the-travel-companion-series-part-1/
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

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