When I was 20 I moved to Switzerland. When I was 21 I moved to Barcelona. When I was 30 I moved to Aberdeen. When you’ve found a flat in French, a job in Spanish and written a dissertation based on Catalan books, shifting 150 miles north is really no big deal. The big difference this time was the little travel companion.
We’re staying in a fabulous flat – the polar opposite of the sterile youth hostel where we camped out for a fortnight in Switzerland. It’s enormous, with loads of floor space for the wee man – and the first thing he did, the first night we arrived, was WALK! Like every parent in the land we have been anxiously awaiting this step and I properly screamed when he took it. I scooped him up, covered him in kisses and the two of us peed our pants laughing. A very good omen for the move, I’d say. (The walking, not the peeing.)
Rod was delighted to have us with him – not least because he would now be getting proper meals at night. He went off to work the next day with a big grin on his face and I went off to meet a woman I’d found through Gumtree who was selling a second-hand high chair. Getting it up 55 stairs to our flat with a baby under the other arm was a hell of a work-out. You’d better step up this walking trick, kid, and that agency better get our house ready sharpish.
That afternoon I naively headed out in the three-day old snow with the buggy to explore our temporary neighbourhood. I openly nosied at the houses we passed – nice bungalows, well-tended gardens… Smaller bungalows… Those are strange houses. They’re like semi-detached but with a weird concrete flight of stairs up the middle…. Oh they’re flats…They’re quite old flats. Those gardens are a mess… YIKES! I quickly turned away – a crowd of five men with their hoods up and fag-ends glowing was glowering at me from a stairway. There was a main road up ahead – with a fish and chip shop on it. Where was I? Turns out I’d stumbled into Hilton. I decided I’d only take that road in the car from now on.
On Friday morning I hit a jackpot. After extensive Netmums research, I chose a playgroup and headed along for a couple of hours. The wee man was overjoyed to find the trampoline, slide, book corner, kitchen corner and a car in which he would only go backwards. I ran around preventing him crashing into people, but everyone was very laid back. I chatted to a few mums who were full of suggestions for pools, gyms, clubs and shops, I was really pleasantly surprised how friendly everyone was. At snack-time the wee man sat beautifully with three new friends and I had a coffee with another mum who had done a similar commute to me for a while. Our last fifteen minutes were spent singing songs and playing instruments – and all for £2.50. That’s Friday mornings sorted.
That afternoon I followed one of the mum’s advice and set the sat nav for Aberdeen Sports Village. WOW. I could hardly believe the size or scope of the place – there was even pole-vaulting equipment! I am so trying that out. There is also a creche and a Starbucks. Best. Gym. Ever. I booked the wee man in for two 90 minute creche sessions the following week and myself into BLT Blast (which I hope stands for Bums, Legs, Tums and isn’t actually aimed at burning the exact number of calories in a BLT).
Saturday didn’t feel like Saturday – it felt like another day in holiday-land. I had coffee planned with a Twitter friend for the afternoon, so decided I’d spend the morning checking out the shops. I didn’t feel guilty about this cos the wee man needed his feet measured. First shock of the day was parking charges. £3 an hour for on-street parking? It would be a quick shopping trip. Second shock of the day was the wee man’s feet had grown a whole size to 5.5 and they didn’t really make cruisers for kids with feet that big. “But he’s taken his first steps!” I assured the assistant, maybe a little bit desperately. She produced a kind of hybrid shoe – very cute in blue with a little rocket on the strap – that cost £30. He’ll fit them for approximately two months. Yikes again. Then I accidentally found myself in New Look and spotted a pair of high waist skinny black jeans for a bargainous £22. I’ve lost a bit of weight and my low-rise DVB jeans are just not working for me any more – I spent the whole time at playgroup hoiking them up. If I replaced designer jeans with cheap, yet practical, New Look jeans that was me being responsible, right?
The morning shopping trip had taught me quite how close our flat is to central Aberdeen, so after lunch I tucked the wee man into the pram with a hot water bottle (the snow was lightly falling) and walked back into town. It took half an hour and I passed four tattoo parlours en route. I asked my Twitter friend, who is now a friend IRL (as we say), about George Street and she said perhaps not to walk along it in the dark. She did reassure me that our new neighbourhood – Westhill – is lovely and very family friendly. Phew. I seem to be doing the tour of the underbelly.
Sunday was exciting because Rod was off! I let him have a long lie (til 9 – such luxury!) then proudly showed him the city. We attempted a walk along the beach but honestly, the wind was coming right off the North Pole, so we went for a coffee instead to The Sand Dollar - a tip from my IRL friend. We spotted a nearby TGI Fridays and looked at each other like excited children – yes, we’d come back here for an early dinner before I hit the road home. It worked out perfectly and, full of nachos and ribs, with a sleeping child in the back, I happily drove back down a quiet, not-at-all-snowy, A90. I couldn’t wait to go back!