Steve and I got married in 1993 in the chapel of Jesus College, Oxford. Despite being March, the weather was as warm and sunny as if it were the middle of June. When we planned where to go for our honeymoon, we talked about going to Paris, but in the end I chose Scotland because I’d never been there and I wanted somewhere that would feel real and solid. I didn’t want a fairy-tale honeymoon on a desert island. I wanted the start of our marriage to be somewhere more meaningful.
We spent the wedding night in Oxford and then the next day drove up to Durham. I’d booked us bed and breakfast in University College, in Durham Castle, opposite the Cathedral. Durham Cathedral is, by the way, my favourite cathedral ever! We had a room in the Castle gate house, overlooking Palace Green. Our black Rover Metro was parked on the other side of Palace Green, in front of the cathedral. We could see it from our window.
The next morning the car wasn’t there.
This was 1993 and at that time car crime in the UK was rife. It wasn’t the first time this car had been stolen. It had been stolen once in Oxford by joyriders who had taken it for a spin and then dumped it. That time the car was found by the police.
We told the college porter in Durham that our car was missing, and he called the police. A very nice policeman came and took our details whilst we had breakfast in the magnificent surroundings of Durham Castle’s dining hall. He was sympathetic to our plight, but not overly confident that the car would be found. We told him that we were on honeymoon and on our way up to Scotland. We were still keen to carry on with our trip. We were so happy to be married that even losing our car couldn’t dampen our spirits. The policeman advised us that, if we wanted to carry on with our trip, we should take a taxi to Newcastle and hire a car. So we did just that, renting the cheapest car available – a white Fiat Uno. Then we carried on up to Edinburgh.
Scotland was everything I could have hoped for, and more. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I fell in love with it. The weather, by the way, was freezing and it soon started to snow! But that only made the ghost walks around the town even more haunting.
We left Edinburgh and headed off to the Trossachs and Loch Lomond. The hilly roads were a huge challenge for our little hire car which huffed and puffed its way up every hill and then free-wheeled down the other side. But it didn’t matter because the scenery made my heart sing! We finished up in Fort William, keeping warm around log fires and enjoying some Scottish dancing.
In the end Scotland’s roads proved too much for the Fiat Uno, so we went back to Newcastle, swapped the Fiat for a Ford Escort that would better handle the motorways, and returned to Oxford. The police never found the Rover Metro.
This Thursday Scotland will vote on whether to become an independent nation or whether to remain part of the United Kingdom.
This is a hugely significant vote which will have an impact not just on Scotland but on the whole of the rest of the UK. There are very strong arguments on both sides of the debate and I don’t want to get into any of that here. I would just like to say that if it is a “yes” vote then I wish Scotland and her people the very best for the future. If it is a “no” then Scotland will still retain its very unique identity within the UK. Either way, it will always have a very special place in my heart.