Trains and boats and lorry drivers trunks. Memories of a summer holiday.

QE2 - not

I found this on my desktop. Laugh? It made me glad I’m not going abroad this year. In fact I’m so glad I have written about it in  The Evening News this Wednesday. I will post the link.


I’m not a boat person. So what on earth possessed me to think I would enjoy a romantic crossing from Barcelona to Italy in the first place? It must have been the rigours of the Scottish winter or the drink that did it.
Not such a good idea now we are wandering along the dock of Barcelona harbour eyeing up gigantic ships – like high-rise blocks looming over us. We scrutinise each one and are disappointed none of them say the name of the ferry we are looking for.
As we near the end of the harbour, I notice a sort of Captain Pugwash boat – yes, you guessed right, our boat. My bowel goes as I watch them guide endless articulated lorries on to the back of it – dear God. It’s like a small west-coast ferry that would do a short trip to Arran from Ardrossan, not a journey of 21 hours.
Dave sees my face and marches ahead before I change my mind. I catch up with him and suggest we hire a car. He says: “Drive 600 miles? I don’t think so.
You booked it, Alison – we’re going.” So on we get.

The inside is fine and our wee cabin is nice but it is in the bowels of the ship so we are completely relying on the air conditioning which looks 160 years old, meaning suffocation is now a worry as well as sinking.
As my eyes bulge in horror, Dave says: “If you want to sit up all night on deck, I’ll sit up with you.” I feel a little better – at least if I am to perish, I will not be alone.


Cut to 2am – the ship is rocking and rolling and I am sitting upright in bed. Louis is asleep as I imagine the headline ‘Three Scots drown in Italian ferry disaster’.
It’s my fault – I shouldn’t have booked it. Dave opens his eyes. “It’s rough,” I whisper. “I’ve had a rougher time fishing on a loch,” he says. I stare ahead, shaking. Dave says: “For God’s sake, will you put the light out?” This from the man who said he would sit with me all night.
As he goes back to sleep, I get up and do what any woman would do in the circumstances – I put my bra on. Feeling more in control, I open the wee curtain to see out – pitch blackness, aaargh!

Called a shock absorber - aptly

I lie rigid in bed until daylight when I climb on deck to stare at the horizon and pray. As I sit, they start filling what they call the pool. It is a bijou 5ft x 10ft, soon filled with Italian truck drivers in tiny Speedos, a huge woman and a boy of eight who jumped in with his lifebelt on.

There is no room to move on this tiny deck when a group of young Italian girls strip down to their bikinis and lie down on the edge of it.

I come to the conclusion Italian men are born with more testosterone. The posturing and posing is hysterical. One guy does a backward flip into the water, narrowly missing the wee boy in the lifejacket.

His mother – a Russian who seems to be married to a crew member – comes over and gives him hell and everyone else joins in.

By now, I am joined by the only other British-looking people on the boat, so I say:

“Just like the Caledonian MacBrayne to Arran.”

They laugh and it turns out they are from Edinburgh. My new pals Alex and Becky and I sit hooting with laughter at the Carry On film playing out in front of us. They spent the night imagining similar things, so I change my headline to ‘Five Scots drown in Italian ferry disaster’ as they tell me of their night lying on the floor of the ferry sandwiched between a selection of snoring, farting truck drivers.

The cabin suddenly seems wonderful. We share a beer to celebrate being alive.


We land in Umbria and set off for Lake Trasimeno. Italy is hot. I drive the hire car as Dave has mislaid his licence.
All cliches about Italian drivers are true. They drive too fast, two inches from your boot, peeping and flashing.
We arrive at our friend’s house in a wee mountain village and collapse. The tall trees, green lush valleys and brick-coloured villas are the stuff of dreams.
But the 43-degree heat is not. My clothes are soaking wet. I am not a sweaty person
but even the pores in my knees are working overtime. I keep sticking my head under a cold tap as I feel I may combust.

I have a swim in the lake. You can walk 300 metres out and it is only about four feet deep. I sit in it and cool down. Having sworn my days as a seafarer are over, I go mad and hire a pedalo.

I taste the best ice cream I have had in my life – and I’ve had a lot! If I lived here I’d be 23 stone but happy.

Fly back to Newcastle tomorrow so indulge in a last pizza, a bottle of wine and it’s farewell. Ciao bella or, in my case, ciao sweaty!


Writer & broadcaster.

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