In the wild West Highlands of Scotland, spring arrives reluctantly – if indeed it can be said to arrive at all. Although the winter is rarely very cold, spring is hardly distinguishable from winter except in the rapidly lengthening hours of daylight. Temperatures creep up exceedingly slowly, and it’s often the case that March and April are scarcely warmer than January. So Algy was not exactly surprised when the mist, wind and rain returned after a few days of bright but cool sunshine. As he sat shivering on the damp rocks with the cold wind streaming through his hair, he dreamed idly of islands in the sun and palm-fringed beaches, and wondered whether a fluffy bird would be happy in a tropical paradise. Perhaps even a sub-tropical paradise would do…

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