The Skanks arrived at noon! They came from far and wide. Tracksuited blokes and babes with orange tans and skunk-striped hair tumbled out of Vauxhall Novas in a flurry of exhaust and thumping bass. They were armed with cigarettes, crisps and bottles of Buckfast. There were disposable BBQs blazing and selection of techno on the stereo. This was looking like a major Skank Gathering. At four o'clock when the carpark was completely full and they started playing the Crazy Frog song without a trace of irony, we knew it was time to evacuate. Our getaway car was an aging Alfa Romeo that a friend has loaned us for a few months. "It has character," he said. Have you ever driven an Alfa? It is quite an experience. I say this purely from a passenger point of view as I am too afraid to get behind the wheel. I just let myself be shuttled around the countryside like a princess. Actually I do serve one purpose – I am Chief Door Unlocker. The Alfa has central locking but it only works from the passenger side, and only occassionally opens all four doors. And then you can only lock it back up again if the vehicle is in the right mood. If not, you have stand there in the supermarket carpark opening and shutting each door in a complex sequence until it decides to work, bang clash bang crash like a kindergarten percussion band. Also, the fuel gauge veers wildly from E to F depending on hills, it gulps down oil and the right-hand indicator only works if you hit a speed hump. But it whisked us away from the Skank Party so we weren't complaining. One the greatest things about a small country like Scotland is that you don't need to go far for a complete change of scenery. In parts of Australia you could drive for a week screaming, "Are we there yet?" and you still wouldn't be. But over here if you don't like a particular village, then just drive ten minutes and you'll be in another. Sure, it may look a lot like the last one – each stocked with a fish and chip shop, small supermarket and Chinese takeaway – but at least it's different. Unless you go way up north you're rarely so far away from civilisation that you need to crouch between open car doors at the side of the road if you're needing the loo. We wound up in Aberfeldy around 8pm and looked for a room. There's some brilliant B&Bs in Scotland, run by sweet old ladies who bake scones and turn down the sheets. But the real gems are those staffed by the indifferent and unwelcoming. Everything is too much trouble, and it is made clear that your very presence is horribly inconvenient. When we were in the States earlier this year we lapped up the dazzling customer service, but it was somehow cosy and reassurring to return to Scottish small town surliness. "We were wondering if you had any rooms available for tonight?" The hotel lady pursed her lips. "Well! I don't know. I suppose I could go and look. But I think you'll find we're quite busy tonight." She stalked away and returned ten minutes later, "There's one room left if you want it. Don't turn the shower on, because it doesn't work. Breakfast is between 9 and 9.30 and that's it. If you're going to stay out late you'll have to leave me your key." I wasn't quite sure how you could stay out late in Aberfeldy. We went out to find some dinner and of course the only thing open was the chippie. This is another aspect of travelling round the Scottish countryside that I love. All you ever eat is fish suppers. Every time we go away for a weekend I declare, "This time we are NOT going to eat another stinking fish supper for dinner!". But sure enough we end up stabbing away at a pile of shrivelled chips and limp, greasy fish with those tiny wooden forks, loving it and regretting it all at the same time. The next day we ate our breakfast in the allotted timeslot then drove around the countryside til we ended up back home, avoiding right turns as the Alfa was acting up again.
Big news in the wee town of Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire
Queen's View near Pitlochry, Perthshire
The news never stops in Tillicoultry.