Rider in the Storm

There’s only one thought in my head now, “Keep pedalling!”  I know they are after me.  My legs screaming and my backside feels as though I’ve parked it on a razor blade but I just have to keep the bike moving or they’ll catch me.

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I don’t really know where I am.  I’m on a coast road just north of Gairloch on the west coast of Scotland.  I’m sure of that but to know any more than that I’d have to stop and look at the map and there’s no way I’m doing that.  I know what happens now if I stop.  If I so much as pause for breath the cloud of biting insects, that I’m managing to keep a few yards ahead of, will get me.

What a fool I was, half an hour ago I got off the bike to look at the map.  I was okay for a moment and then they arrived, the bovver boys of the West coast.  The midges, the clegs, the horse flies, the deer flies, in their thousands like the Mongol hordes. Even gentle creatures like moths decided that my puny legs, dangling out of cycle shorts, were the signal to make the evolutionary leap from vegetarian to flesh eater and sank their jaws into my skin.

I waved the map about to try and shoo them away. They thought I was surrendering and staged a second charge.  They got in my ears, up my nose.  In seconds I was jumping about so violently, as they started to strip my skin, that my glasses flew off and I abandoned all thoughts of looking at the map, leapt on the bike and streaked away.

Gingers sacrificing themselves

I’ve decided that I am a creature of the cold.  I’m happiest in some remote bothy with the temperature well below zero and every insect for miles frozen solid.  I don’t care that I can’t feel my feet and I’m shivering uncontrollably, that is a joy compared to what torture these ravenous beasts can inflict.  I’m pining for the snows of winter, the howling winds, anything has to be better than enduring the beasts that are chasing me now.

I’m here because something odd has been happening over the last couple of weeks on the west coast of the Highlands, the sun has been coming out.  Not only that there has been a pleasant breeze so all enemy insect squadrons have been temporarily grounded. This is a rare occurrence, a bit like a solar eclipse. When this happens thousands of ginger people from Glasgow head for the sun like moths to a candle.  Then, in what I can only imagine must be some sort of human sacrifice ritual, they expose their pale skin to the yellow orb and allow it to toast them until they glow bright red.  Thus appeased by the suffering of Neds the god of the sun retreats behind the clouds and Scotland returns beneath its blanket of dull drizzle and we all go back to moaning about the weather as we have done since time was invented.

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I spend the night in my tiny tent.  The insects following me find me there and spend all night trying to break in and get me.  Thousands fail but there are enough safe breakers amongst them to get into any tent and their constant need for midnight snacks keeps me awake all night.  I keep reminding myself that this is a holiday, I’m doing this for fun, this is the summer I should be happy.  The following day I leap into the car and in less than a couple of hours I’m home in Inverness and in my lovely midge free flat.

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Gingers sacrificing themselves

You need not worry about the sizzling gingers, their sacrifice was well received by the Gods and within two days of my visit they were rewarded by a downpour of biblical proportions.  So pleased was the rain god that he decided to be extra generous and set enough precious drops of rain to wash away the road to Gairloch and maroon residents and visitors alike.  Now we are happy, there’s plenty to moan about.

NHS Highland have issued a warning about clegs http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-23506661  This could be the end.

They are watching!  The fearsome Highland Horse Fly

They are watching! The fearsome Highland Horse Fly

Gingers sacrificing themselves

 

Note:  Three days after I wrote this there was so much rain it caused a landslide and the road to Gairloch was blocked for almost a week.  No midges though.