George Dunford in Scotland travel blog

Paivi tries haggis - and almost finishes it

Ride that seadog!

A moody set for Macbeth

Racing for the Finnish line


I'm exhausted by the time I get to Inverness. But if there's one thing that will put the spring back in your weary, blistered step, it's having a new travel companion. At Inverness I meet up with my Finnish friend Paivi, whose company is as refreshing as a shot of vodka at breakfast. We originally met when she rescued me in Rome on my first trip overseas when some Italian teenagers mistook me for someone from Take That - a fair leap even in a second language. We've been firm friends ever since.

Paivi's never been to Scotland so for her, everything is a novelty. When I go to pay yet another parking fine at the post office, she exclaims "So this is a real Scottish post office!" and enjoys every moment of it. While I'm well and truly over the Nessie phenomenon, Paivi finds it fascinating (she actually stays awake during the informative film) and gets me posing with the fibreglass monster out the front of the cinema.

But for me the best thing about travelling with people is fighting about money. Some people will say it's the companionship or having someone to share the highs and the lows with, but I come from a long line of cash kvetchers. My mum and my aunt have been known to have cash register tug-o-wars that could only end in bloodshed, so I figured I was ready to represent my nation in this mighty showdown - Australia v. Finland in 'Who Will Pay the Restaurant Bill'.

"I'm definitely paying for this one. No way," I tell Paivi when the bill comes.

"No way, this is a country near Finland, so I'm paying," she counters. I've got no comeback to this wily Nordic nous.

Another realisation that a travelling companion highlights is that many things you do on your own can be a little odd. I've developed a habit of registering under the names of Australian bushrangers. There's a few libraries in the around Edinburgh who now have Ben Hall as a member and a youth hostel has been visited by Captain Starlight. It feels like colonial payback as I wander around Britain. So when I sign a restaurant guestbook with Paivi, I barely think before writing Edward Kelly. Paivi looks confused, but that doesn't stop me from leaving the comment "Food was bang-on after a hard day's riding and robbing."



Best English Word Mix-up: "My brother was playing hockey and he got the puke in his eye."

Tight-arse Tip for Travellers: Grab yourself a salad spoon at Marks and Spencers - they're moulded plastic that's so good you'll want to pass them on to your children.

Favourite Nessie Sighting: David Bellamy's faking a series of footprints on April Fool's Day to flog Dinosaur brand biscuits.



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