No holiday report from Scotland would be complete without mentioning the weather and the ubiquitous Scottish midge (Culicoides Impuctus). Australia has the white shark. Africa has rampaging elephants. Scotland has the midge.
The effect of a midge bite is out of all proportion to its actual size. The midge is one of the perils of Scottish life. The Scottish midge shares the instinctive socialist tendency that is inbred into the Scottish character. Much like the average Scottish person, the midge may drink alone but by preference it prefers to be hanging about with others. And just like Scottish working man it has a tendency to get a bit loud, boisterous and argumentative when it has had a few. For the cyclist roaming the hills and glens of this beautiful country it can mean your face, neck and torso being attacked with stealth-like precision. Like a Old Etonian wondering into a back-street Glasgow pub, the advise is - keep your mouth shut. The cyclist will discover to their cost that any attempt to expunge throat-lodged insects is neigh on impossible as the said insect clings to your tonsills like a Aberdonian holding on to his wallet. The necessary physical attributes and coordination required involved in the ejection process inevitably results in following cyclist thinking that its starting to rain (again) and why is this rain thick and stringy. It is the cause of massive cycle pile-ups of Tour-de-France proportions. There is some debate in the scientific community, see for example McSporran and McCracken, 1997, 'Wee Midges Up Yer Kilt'. about the best way to defend oneself these horrendous little creatures. My current armoury consisted of: FACE-NETTING – This physical barrier is the one that works the best - that is until you tried eating and drinking with one on them on your head? Powerful DEET repellent – this comes with a warning that it dissolves lycra – now that makes it really useful stuff for the touring cyclist. Our last weapon is Avon Soft and Nice. Now who are we kidding here, this stuff is an Ad-Man’s dream – nowhere on the label is there any mention of its anti-midge properties, it is based solely on rumour and desperation. It does however, up to a point, appear to work. Although having plastered yourself with this feminine product the drawback is having to walk around like a redneck cowboy and speak about trucks and guns and other manly things like bottom gear ratios. If you listened to all the advice folk give, you would set out smelling like a chemical dump, have red skin from rubbing petrol all over, wear chain-mail underwear, two pairs of socks, woollen jumpers, thick gloves, a scarf, a bullet-proof vest, waist-high fishermen’s waders, a Macintosh raincoat, a balaclava, a hat, a bee-keepers net, Wellington boots, an umbrella, earmuffs, goggles, a gas mask and a NASA spacesuit, all covered by a double ply midge net. Carrying a clove of garlic and a spray-can of DDT I hear, also helps.