Forever Amber online diary

Dear Diary, I went to Loch Ness and almost burned down the hotel*

*not really

This week’s post comes to you live from the beautiful banks of Loch Ness, from which I am disappointed — and yet unsurprised — to be able to confirm that there are no monsters, unless we’re counting the horrific throat infection / head cold which came to snatch my voice away during our Good Friday Easter egg hunt, and left me sounding a bit like Bob Dylan for the duration of our trip.

outdoor mirror selfie - Fort William

I don’t think I LOOKD too much like Bob Dylan, but you decide…

Anyway, I was planning to write all about our stay at The Highland Club (which, lest we forget, I was visiting in my capacity as important travel reviewer), and how Urquhart Castle is still the coldest place I’ve ever been in my life, but that would’ve been very boring and PR-y, so it’s lucky for you that we almost burned down the 18th century former monastery we were staying in, huh?

Anything for da clicks, folks! You can’t say I don’t go out of my way to entertain you all.

Here’s the sign on the door between the living room and kitchen in our apartment, which I show you now in a clear act of foreshadowing:

warning sign on hotel door

Swear to God, I read this and it was like I’d been shown a vision of my future. A flash-forward, if you will. An ‘if only they’d heeded the sign’ moment. The LITERAL sign. That was RIGHT THERE on the door.

<weary sigh>

So! Max and I were up first on the morning in question, and we headed upstairs to the kitchen (our apartment here is upside down, with the bedroom on the ground floor and the kitchen and living room above…), where we were joined by my mum, my parents having accompanied us on our Easter break.

“I’ll make some toast,” said my mum.

“I’ll go back down and get some laundry to put in the washing machine,” I croaked, sounding like I might follow this statement up with a quick chorus of ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’.

HEED THE SIGNS! screamed the notice on the door. HEED THE SIGNS! WILL NO ONE HEED THE SIGNS?!

But we did not heed the signs.

Which is how it came to pass that I came back upstairs with an armful of dirty clothes to find the smoke detector shrieking, Max crying, and the toast well and truly burnt:

burnt toast

I flapped around for a bit with the smoke detector, randomly pressing buttons in a bid to switch the thing off, but nothing worked — which wasn’t surprising, really, because I realised later it was actually a carbon monoxide detector, and not a smoke detector at all. This is why I’m not the person to call in an emergency, folks.

“Go and get Terry,” I instructed my mum, grabbing a chair and climbing onto it to attempt to wave the smoke away from one of the real smoke detectors and straight into the path of another. As I did this, I heard doors opening and closing, accompanied by the sound of voices and footsteps in the stairwell outside the apartment.

“Shit,” I thought, wrapping a tea towel around the smoke detector, which was still emitting a truly ear-splitting shriek. “I hope the smoke alarms aren’t going off in every apartment, and now the building’s having to be evacuated. Because that would be terrible.”

But the smoke alarms were going off in every apartment.

The building was being evacuated.

And it WAS terrible.

But it got worse.

Max watching the fire brigade arrive

It got fire-brigade-being-unnecesarily-summoned worse.

It got ‘entire-squad-of-fire-fighters-swarming-into-the-apartment’ worse.

It got ‘Max-freaking-out-and-repeatedly-asking-if-we-were-going-to-get-in-trouble’ bad.

“Er, no, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” I told him, even though I wasn’t sure of this at all. What ARE the consequences of calling out the fire brigade for burnt toast, after all? Are there any? Because although we didn’t technically ‘call them out’, we did, indisputably, burn the toast, and what if there was a real fire happening somewhere right at that second, which the fire brigade would be unable to attend because we decided to have toast for breakfast that morning?

No, but WHAT IF, though?

Is burning toast a criminal offense in the Scottish Highlands? Because, for a while there, it felt like it might be, and as I sat in the bedroom trying to calm down a now hysterical Max, while the blue lights from the fire engine outside illuminated the room, it felt a bit like that scene at the end of a horror movie where the heroine’s sitting in the back of a ambulance, and someone comes and puts one of those foil blankets around her shoulders, while she stares pensively into the middle distance thinking, “All this over TOAST? SERIOUSLY?”

Anyway, Terry went out to meet the fire fighters and explain the situation, but, of course, they had to come in to check for themselves, and then they had to come back and check AGAIN because no one had told them there were two different entrances to the apartment. On their second visit, Max at least got to meet a fire fighter, which helped reassure him that nothing bad was going to happen (to HIM, at least), so at least that was something. I, however, was downstairs by this point, hoping we weren’t about to be thrown out of the property, and feeling smug about the fact that I still wear PJs-that-could-be-real-clothes, because here was a situation where I could have had to go outside in them, and who would’ve thought THAT post would’ve turned out to be so timely?

(“But were they hot fire-fighters?” I asked Terry later. “Because I AM a romance novelist, you know. I might need to use this at some point…”)

So that was the main headline from our four nights in the Highlands. Honestly, mortified isn’t the word. Making Max’s breakfast the next morning was one of the most stressful events of my life. And even though the man from the hotel was very nice about it all, and assured us that it happens all the time, we continued to be mortified for the rest of our stay, because imagine inviting an “influencer” to your hotel, only for them to almost burn it down? Will my career be over? Will I ever be invited anywhere again? Will I get a bill for the fire brigade’s time? Sign up below to find out next week…


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books by Amber Eve