BY Russell Wardrop

DATE: 22 SEP 2011


Holidays are interesting. They can be terrifically life-affirming as well as great for getting closer to your significant others, for thinking or for just being. I like them a lot, but don’t like the heat that comes with most summertime locations. I like British weather. Sharon likes holidays too, and is keener on the heat that goes with them. We always compromise and go to a hot place where I stay in the shade, or inside with my best friend the air conditioning.

We both love cities, Paris last spring was joyful, but can’t always do that as a do-nothing break is what we need and is not an option in Paris or Florence or Rome. Well, not if you have a soul. Saving the trip to Rome for spring or autumn we are in Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava for a week. It’s last minute, the middle of the three weeks we struck out to do our house move. (A move which, of course, never happened.) It’s perfect. We’ve been to Tossa before. Three hours after leaving Prestwick Airport our room with a view at the Golden Bahia is belting cool air out of a grill in the ceiling. Lovely.

On holiday Sharon and I take a leisurely breakfast at 9.30am, folding our napkins between ten and half past, depending on whether they are doing crepes at the hot-plate. Crepes splashed with lemon and sprinkled with sugar, accompanied by strong coffee, are one of life’s simplest pleasures. By ten I have had a morning run, done half an hour of aerobic exercise and been first in the pool for a pre-breakfast swim, leaving a towel and my wet trunks on two well-located sun-loungers. One in the sun; one in the shade. It has worked for us for a decade now, in a number of sunny locations.

For years I’ve been saying to Sharon that the morning hours between seven and nine in the med are magical; at half past six it is dark and you are out with the other morning runners. At seven it is light.  The temperature is in the low 20s rather than high 30s; all is quiet; and you can see the sun coming up if you get to the prom early enough. You also get your pick of the sun-loungers. And by the way, I do not believe anyone from our part of the world actually likes being fried in almost forty degrees. We went out one evening for a walk around town and rivers of water were running into our socks by the time we reached the nearest air conditioned coffee shop. Or at least mine. Sharon was better attired than me in a dress, but still sweating more than an elegant, beautiful lady needs to. Maybe my socks were a poor choice.

This holiday Sharon decided to come out with me at dawn on day three. I got up at half-six and woke her at quarter to seven, then went to the front door of the hotel to wait and do fifteen minutes of aerobic stuff. We then jog to the prom, where I go off and run and she exercises or takes photographs while the sun comes up over the horizon. She said I was right about it being the best two hours of the day.

All good to be sure, but there’s more. As we sit on the rocks about eight o’clock, right on the beach where in a short time there will be hundreds of people, a pair of cormorants start fishing for breakfast. They chase sand eels right to the shore and snaffle them as they beach, or circle shoals of bigger fish, some of them jumping clear out of the water in their panic. It’s like looking in on a David Attenborough programme. I am sure I heard his low whisper; “... this pair, of course, learned to fish like this over the course of many generations and are oblivious to the swimmers only a few metres away...”. They were oblivious to the half-dozen elderly locals out for their morning dip and chat. Now Sharon doesn’t really do swimming, certainly not in the sea, and I normally go to the pool for half an hour when I get back to the hotel.  But I went for it, despite not having a towel, and it was magical.

The best thing about all of this was that Sharon not only decided to come out early for the last two days of the holiday, but came in swimming too. Not something I would have predicted.  I think the sunrise did it, and the cormorants sealed it. Had we not got up that morning we’d never have seen them and no-one likes to miss out on a good thing, do they? I am sure we will both be up and about at dawn next time we take a week of R and R on the med, probably in Tossa De Mar, and who knows what we might see?    

Soon coming back to a colder and darker Scotland. Autumn had descended while we were away and thunder storms accompanied our car journey from the airport to central Glasgow. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when you come back, but I think we all have to know that living permanently with the fishing cormorants is not real life: I for one would crash with boredom, and definitely burn.  The first day back at work, though, is painful. Especially when you have the sure knowledge that for the next three months your life will not be your own: this week is Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Inchinnan and Perth. And the diary between now and Christmas? It’s crazy.

I am desperate to get back into it, though, since I simply love what I do.  But despite that, it is tempting to have a bit of a moan about being back on the old routine. I am fighting this as I stand on the banks of the River Clyde at the back of nine o’clock- swimming-time on Tossa beach- waiting to go into the shiny envelope of steel and glass that will be my first gig in a while. The sun is shining. The air is warmish. The squinty bridge and neatly trimmed trees are terrific. Glasgow’s tourists doubtless love all this as they walk, or take the open top bus, to the new slinky-zincy Zaha Hadid Museum of Transport just along the road.

And there it is: a cormorant on the Clyde. Bigger and blacker than the two in Tossa, but unmistakably present, fishing for breakfast. A reminder that it’s not just in Tossa De Mar we can marvel at what’s in front of us if we look around, and maybe get up a bit earlier than we otherwise might.

It’s a wonderful world.


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Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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