Two things occurred recently that brought this post to mind. One I’m off on holiday next week and will be the named driver for one of the two cars involved. This is an annual ski trip that doesn’t involve the Textiliste (she is to skiing what the Irish border question is to Brexit: the theory sounds easy enough but try putting it into practice and it’s an unholy mess). The other was another blogger mentioned the Scottish Ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne which is a name that brings me out in hives, as you will understand as you read on. This was written following a holiday in the Hebrides in 2015…
Sometimes it’s not easy to discern the extent of the problems aheadAs 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.
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.
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.
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 (editor’s note: now, of course, this isn’t a problem. They sorted it out. They just didn’t tell me. Fuckers.) . 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.
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 carries this around? You do? Well, bully for you. I don’t.
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.