In my mind’s eye I pictured Wick to be a picturesque Scottish fishing village with enough activities to keep me occupied for a week. The B&B I’d booked faced the harbour, so I would be regaled with mesmerising views of the Northern Lights every evening. In short, it would be a magical time. After two days I had run out of things to do, it was freezing cold, the Northern Lights hadn’t appeared and I had bed bug bites. And there was still five days to go. Wick was turning out to be more nightmare than dream destination.
I’d had bed bug bites before in Scotland, at a flat in Edinburgh. They swelled up so dramatically I’d had to go to the A&E to get treatment. Then I got bitten again in Florence at a hostel. But I didn’t realise they can come in all guises, so when I noticed a rash on my forehead I didn’t immediately connect it with bed bugs.
My sister happened to be on What’s App? at the time so she wanted a photo which I dutifully sent through. “Oooh that looks nasty”, she commented with sisterly concern. I figured it must be a product I was using that I was allergic to, but I couldn’t think what.
On further discovery I found lumps on the back of my neck, and hip area, “oh no”, I messaged her “bed bugs!”. “You have to leave the hotel, you have to fumigate your clothes, you have to throw away your suitcase!” she messaged back frantically. Not the advice I really wanted to hear. I thought it could be managed so I stayed an extra night. Big mistake. Bed bug bites appeared on my forehead in a Southern Cross pattern (were they trying to tell me to go home?). I had to get out of there.
I found another hotel that looked more upmarket and rang them to book a room. To be fair the B&B felt a bit grubby and I couldn’t face another night with crawling critters. I confronted the owner with my bites, which were now big red lumps. He couldn’t really deny I had issues.
“We’ve never had this problem before, have you been out hiking perhaps it’s midges?” he countered weakly before agreeing to give me my money back.
I packed up and moved out, a knitted hat covering the evidence and trying not to scratch madly I checked in at the Queen’s Hotel. Since I didn’t want them to think I’d infest their hotel I didn’t mention why I’d left the B&B, and luckily they didn’t ask. By now the bites were red, swollen and painful. I’d bought some antihistimine tablets and cream in Boots but it didn’t seem to be working. Perhaps I should go to A&E since there was a hospital practically next door?
This turned out to be a fat waste of time. While curious, the NHS emergency staff pleaded ignorance as to they actually being bed bug bites and I waited some ungodly amount of time in a small room for a consultant to finish consulting on a ‘real emergency’ and come and see me. They never showed. So I left. Went back to the hotel consulted Dr Google who advised I buy 1% hydrocortisone cream. I tootled off to Boots again with my hat on.
The next day the pain had lessened though I was still sufficiently covered in lumps not to be able to take advantage of the free breakfast. It just felt wrong to sit at breakfast with my hat on. I couldn’t do it. Luckily there was a bakery across the road. And a takeaway pizza shop down the road that I could visit in the cover of darkness.
Eating greasy food I realised was really the only thing you could really do for fun in Wick. Apart from visit the Old Putney Whiskey distillery which had free drams to take the edge off the misery.
In a way I’m glad I got bed bugs in Wick because trying to heal myself gave me something to do for a couple of days. I’m mystified as to what I would’ve got up to otherwise.