Posted in Personal life, Travel, Writing

The Power of the Summer Holiday

In my column for the September issue of the Tetbury Advertiser, I’m reflecting on the restorative powers of the summer holiday – mine was just drawing to an end when I wrote the copy

Scenic view overlooking bay with islands
The restorative power of a great view: early morning photo taken from the window of our camper van in Oban, the busiest departure point from mainland Scotland for the Inner and Outer Hebrides

On holiday in our camper van this summer, we had the usual struggle to recharge all the family’s electronic gadgets from a single cigarette lighter socket. Not that we’re hooked on our gadgets – in fact, we were trying to have an internet-free break. (Not difficult in Scotland, because the mountains block the signals.) But we still wanted to use our phones to take photographs and to text home, and I wanted to keep my Fitbit topped up.

In case you’ve not come across the Fitbit, I should explain: it’s a fancy electronic pedometer that you wear like a wristwatch. It monitors your steps, heart rate, hours slept, stairs climbed, etc, and it keeps running totals against targets from day to day. With plenty of walking, swimming and cycling on our holiday itinerary, I didn’t want to miss the chance to boost my usually paltry average.

The Beauty of Blips

Debbie paddling a coracle
Paddle power: learning to drive that most ancient of boats, the coracle, at the Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore

It took a lot of electronic juggling to keep all our devices displaying the reassuring five blips of power. Although we have an adapter which allows us to plug in four devices simultaneously, the satnav and the reversing camera take up two slots permanently, so we still had to take turns with the other two.

If we stopped at campsites, the nightly electrical mains hook-up would solve the problem, but we’re too nomadic (and disorganised) for that. We just park wherever the fancy takes us, provided it’s legal and doesn’t spoil anyone’s view or privacy. This means our only chance of accessing mains power is if we strategically choose a table by an electrical socket when eating out.

Powering Up in Pubs

We’re not the only ones who shamelessly plug in at pubs. In Inverness I witnessed the manager of a fast-food outlet patiently explaining restaurant economics to two teenage girls. They’d plugged in their chargers and were using the free wifi service without buying anything to eat or drink. Eventually, the manager scored a moral victory, if not a very profitable one. Having bought one drink with two straws, the girls plugged their phones back in.

Travelling in a signal-free zone might make you appreciate free wifi spots, but if you want to come back truly refreshed and revitalised, I think it’s better to turn off your phone’s wifi detector and ignore it. If you’re finding it hard to resist, just think of wifi providers as the drug-pushers of the internet, encouraging you to indulge your habit for free while surreptitiously nurturing your addiction.

Train on multi-arched viaduct with scenic highland mountains behind
Steam power: the Harry Potter steam train chugs across the Glenfinnan viaduct, the day after delivering us to Mallaig (had to photograph into evening sun, so not the clearest pic!)

The Most Important Battery

However, the most important battery was never connected to electricity at all. Instead it drew a steady charge from the stunning scenery, culture and heritage that was all around us as we toured the Highlands and Islands. Which battery was that? My own, of course. Scotland never fails to fill me with wonder or to renew my zest for life. I’m on five blips, me. Now that’s the true signal of a good holiday.

Photo of Debbie holding up sign to Hawkesbury Upton at John O'Groats
We took the van as far as we could on the British mainland this summer
Cover of Young By Name book
Available in paperback and ebook

If you’d like to read more of my Tetbury Advertiser columns, generously described by the editor as
the magazine’s “jewel in the crown”,
you can now catch my first six years’ worth
in paperback or as an ebook,
Young By Name
(paperback ISBN 9781911223030). 


English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

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