I’m sorry that last week’s blog didn’t happen, especially as my last blog was about all the work that writers do and here I was slipping away for another holiday barely days after the last one. However, I do have an excuse and, as writers are always being told that they should open up about their own lives, I’ll tell you all what it was.

For the last couple of years our son has been on a postgraduate course for a professional qualification and a couple of weeks ago he finally completed it. There was a ceremony and presentations and exhibitions of work and proud parents were invited to attend, which meant a couple of days near Warwick. Somewhere during those two years he decided that one of the young women on the course was the love of his life and the two of them left Warwick for a holiday in a house her family owns much, much too close to the north of Scotland. My son had decided that he was going to take the opportunity to propose on her favourite beach near the house, so when we were invited to join the houseparty after his big day, we didn’t have a whole lot of choice. We decided to fill the gap between Warwick and the end of civilisation as we know it by spending a few days on Skye, an island we have long planned to visit but have never got to because, up until a few weeks ago, we had thought it was quite a long way away.

Skye is beautiful – just as beautiful as everybody tells you it is. Photographs are HERE. Before you all rush to see it, I would warn you that the number of tourists on the island has become completely unsustainable and their impact is literally destroying the places that they come to see. We had thought that by visiting at the very beginning of April we would avoid the crowds, but it seems that much of the population of England have made exactly the same calculation. So many people turned up at the petrol station at Dunvegan (where we stayed) that it ran out of fuel and only our landlord’s chainsaw supply saved us from an extended stay because the nearest other garage was at the other end of the island and we didn’t have enough fuel to make it that far. Skye faces the problem of tourist resorts everywhere. The influx of visitors seems to have worn out the already threadbare roads, trampled paths until they lie inches below the local landscape, and tilted the economy from agriculture to tourism. Even the famous Talisker whiskey distillery now employs twice as many people to deal with visitors as are actually needed to make whisky (though it does continue to be very fine whisky indeed). On the other hand, tourism has brought a degree of wealth to a society that was struggling to survive and may be the only way to keep young people on the island as the harsh life offered by crofting becomes increasingly unacceptable to the new generation.

From Skye, we headed on North, through increasingly majestic scenery, until, at the top of one of the scariest roads I have ever driven on, we found our son and his ex-girlfriend, now fiancée, Gilly. Much sparkling wine was drunk.

Any thoughts I might have had of blogging from the North of Scotland died in the absence of mobile signal or broadband. So there we were, forced to sit around the house eating, in between long walks over incredible countryside and boat trips on the local sea loch to admire the seals. Really, I would have kept working if I could. (Actually, I did spend some time reading about the Congress of Vienna, which, in the circumstances, I think showed a commendable commitment to my Napoleonic studies.)

All good things must come to an end and yesterday I made the 600 mile return trip to London. (For American readers – and I know I have a few – I should point out that in the UK 600 miles is regarded as a ridiculously long journey. Seriously, there are very few journeys you can make that are more than 600 miles, unless they involve a ship.)

Anyway, that’s my excuse for no blog (and no writing) for a while. There was a blog by me about the inspiration behind the Burke books, but it was at https://maryanneyarde.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/authors-inspiration-tom-williams_2.html. And an earlier piece of mine found it into the pages of the Southwark Weekender, which was exciting but I hardly had a chance to mention it to anyone. (You can read it online at https://issuu.com/southwark.news/docs/sw266_-_complete.)

Anyway, I’m back now and will soon be busy encouraging you to buy my books – or even borrow them from your local library. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many libraries now stock at least some of my work, often as e-books. My Public Lending Rights cheque isn’t going to pay for Mike’s wedding, but it may let me toast him with a slightly better bottle of bubbly. I suppose I have to worry about that sort of thing now.

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