Category Archives: travel

The 21 hour date

It’s a bit like Stockholm syndrome. You wish for five minutes peace and yet you miss them as soon as they’ve gone.

It took a bit longer this time because I fell asleep three and a half minutes after we’d dropped the boys off at their Auntie’s. I napped all the way from Ayrshire to Perthshire, despite Rod’s questionable music choices, and woke up just as we parked at Gleneagles.

My pang for my children was almost immediately smothered by my raging thirst.

Mummykimmy boozing

It was the beginning of an eight hour session – the pace slightly slower than days of old – but the price considerably higher given our choice of venue.

Mummykimmy cocktail

mummykimmy eating steak

There were cocktails and steaks and a fine bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. There was even a trip to the bar, a place we normally bypass in our sprint to get back for the babysitter. It’s been recently redecorated and we liked everything about the turquoise walls and art deco style, except the bar stools. We did not like the bar stools. They were far too slippy. An attentive bartender came to try to assist us (the bases were very heavy) but seemed puzzled by our assertion that surely they had had many complaints about the bar stools. Neither of us could sit for long without sliding off.

“They’re perhaps designed so that you lean forward and chat to the bartenders,” he helpfully – and diplomatically – suggested.

The next morning, having fallen asleep on each other on the couch and stumbled up to bed around 3, we had a lie in. Nobody yelled “milk!” or elbowed us in sensitive parts or demanded Coco Pops, which made a nice change. Instead we went out for breakfast, read the papers and ate poached eggs, like grown ups.

The highlight of our prolonged date came at 10.45am when we walked into the Best Spa In The World.

Mummykimmy spa

We didn’t come out for three and a half hours. My aromatherapy massage was with a Hungarian called Sonny and I can confidently say it’s the best spa treatment I’ve ever had. The foot massage alone was worth the money. The whole experience was perfect from his soothing low voice to the classical music, heated bed and wonderful aromas from the oils. I felt like he kneaded out all the grumpy and left me feeling renewed. I realise this sounds ridiculous. Rod laughed out loud when I said pretty much those exact words outside in the hot tub as the rain fell on our heads.

Mummykimmy spa ready

We drove back to the kids in stages, stopping off to visit friends and their new baby and then my mum. Of course when we did eventually get to them, they ran straight past me and into their daddy’s arms and the wall of noise smacked us square in the forehead.

They’re in bed now and I’m about to make the lunches, pack the bags and prepare everything for the week ahead – but I’m doing it with a spring in my step.

Leave a comment

Filed under holidays, Kid free, sleep, travel

On the move again

I’ll need to change the blog tag to: Mummykimmy – a Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh blog.

On Monday we get the keys to our temporary new home in the capital and I am very nearly excited.

See, I thought we were doing it the right way this time, with Rod taking some time off between jobs and our Little Orange Book of Lists keeping us right. But life is what happens when you’re making other plans.

We haven’t sold the house yet, we only sorted the lease on the rented house today and my youngest child swallowed a glass pebble yesterday so we had an unscheduled overnight at the children’s hospital in Glasgow. We’ve also spent rather more time planning our social engagements than our packing schedule – do you think I could ask the babysitter to empty a few cupboards once the boys are asleep?

IMG_4792

Bright as a button after the glass pebble was removed under general anaesthetic

Basically it’s all on Rod. In a dramatic role reversal, I will be in the office tomorrow while he stays at home organising. He loves a trip to the dump so I’m prepared for some of our stuff to disappear forever. He also thinks packing just means chucking everything in boxes so I’m prepared for some of our stuff to get crushed and destroyed. Other than that, I’m delighted he’s doing all the heavy lifting while I have a farewell office lunch and get my nails done.

I feel I deserve this day – I did all the groundwork after all. I found the rental, the nursery and the gym, our top three priorities and only descending slightly in difficulty. The rental had to be in the catchment for the right school, be on the right side of the city, have three bedrooms, not cost the earth and be available this month on a 6 month lease. Tick – we’ve got a lovely, tiny, semi-detached in Colinton. The nursery had to be excellent, nearby and with availability for two children before Christmas. Tick  – we’ve enrolled the boys in a super friendly nursery a fifteen minute walk away. And the gym, well, it has to be David Lloyd, which has a creche.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 20.27.54

I’ll have this one please – it’s only £2m

Driving around Colinton last time I was down made me so happy. I still can’t really believe it’s going to be our home. Our plan is to buy a place in the area (if we ever sell up here) and I got quite carried away driving along Spylaw spending Monopoly money on a mansion overlooking the river. Just being in the capital, with its ridiculously located castle, its impenetrable traffic system and its boutique businesses in abundance, made me convinced the hassle is worth it.

Five days to go.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Aberdeen, Edinburgh, home, travel, Uncategorized

Another kid-friendly day out in Aberdeenshire discovered

“WOW!” the wee man shouted.

I don’t know why we hadn’t thought to bring him here before. For a little boisterous boy who just wants to zoom around pushing or riding on anything with wheels, it should have been an obvious choice. Today we went to a Transport Museum.

We left Glasgow around the time the fabulous new Museum of Transport opened by the Clyde – and to be honest, I hadn’t even known a Grampian Transport Museum existed. But there it is, only half an hour away from our Aberdeen abode in Alford and today it was surrounded by car enthusiasts and their toys.

One of Rod’s customers had told him about it and he casually suggested this morning that we pop by. I hadn’t expected to enjoy it so much. (The old Glasgow one had bored me as a child). I guess now my own happiness is defined by how well-entertained (and therefore least-troublesome) the wee man is.

He loved it.

He and his daddy admired all the Porsches, MGs, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Corvettes, Morgans and TVRs – he even got a shot in one of those

IMG_1642

while I was quite taken with the violet velvet interior and the fact the button to open the door was located under the wing mirror.

The highlight of this trip past hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of car and social history however, was a bus.

A double decker, cream and green, Grampian transport bus.

The wee man spent twenty minutes in here before we eventually had to bribe him with yoghurt raisins to get off.

IMG_1647

IMG_1651

IMG_1663

IMG_1658

 

He was not happy to leave – he had another impressive tantrum as we tried to manoeuvre him out past the carriages, turn-of-the-century motor cars and Romani caravan – but the little play park at the entrance proved a small consolation.

We’ve been here over a year now and we’d never been to Alford. I reckon the museum (on those days the motor clubs gather) plus the lovely wee bistro across the road for lunch, makes for a really fun, kid-friendly day out.

Grammy, I just had the best day, wait til you hear...

Grammy, I just had the best day, wait til you hear…

Leave a comment

Filed under Aberdeen, hello World, travel

They’re not judging, they’re sympathising

He grabbed my sunglasses along with a handful of hair, while screaming in my ear and kicking at my stomach.

“We’ll go back out, mummy just needs her jacket, we’ll go back out,” I repeated, aware I was pleading with him, but saying it over and over allowed me to keep my tenuous grasp on my temper.

The wee man had two almighty tantrums at lunchtime today, both times because we took him away from the play park before he was ready.

The first time was to go into the cafe for lunch; the second was because I forgot my jacket. The place was mobbed –  it was Easter Sunday. My humiliation was nearly overwhelming and Rod’s barely-concealed rage was almost as bad as our sons’. I had to lock the wee man and I in the baby change cubicle for ten minutes to let us all calm down.

Then a surprising thing happened. Alone at last and paying for some goodies from the farm shop, the assistant asked sympathetically if my wee boy was “OK now?”

“Oh, yes, he’s absolutely fine, just upset we took him away from the swings,” I said quickly, in an apologetic tone.

“I felt so sorry for you, I remember those days so well, they do pick their moments don’t they? Biggest audience possible to embarrass mum and dad,” she said, smiling.

I looked up from my embarrassed purse-rummaging in surprise.

“Oh yes, we’ve all been there, I’m sure every parent here was feeling your pain and wishing they could help,” she added.

So they weren’t all tutting at us and wondering what was wrong with that child? They weren’t all shaking their heads as I carried him, squirming violently, under one arm into the disabled toilet or sighing at the ensuing echoing yells?

Of course they weren’t. I should have known this because only the day before the boot had been on the other foot. I’d enjoyed a peaceful lunch with my mum and on the way out we passed a woman drinking wine while her baby gnawed a cookie in a highchair.

“The things you have to do to keep them quiet!” she said quickly.

We stopped, smiling indulgently at the wee girl and then sympathetically at the woman.

“I totally sympathise, I have a three year old,” I told her.

“I’d never usually give her a cookie, but her dad’s been on the golf course every day and the waitress suggested it and I just really needed this one glass,” she stumbled over her words in her completely unnecessary attempt to justify her actions to us. I could have hugged her, I really could.

“I’m going to be 46 soon, it’s so hard when you’re older, but we went through so much to have her, 15 years of treatment would you believe?” she added, to our surprise. Clearly this poor woman had been on her own with her baby for too long and was desperate for adult conversation. But you know what, I totally got that too. I wish now that I’d just sat down with her and ordered another couple of glasses. We could have swapped war stories and moaned about how much easier it is for the men and how no one understands how hard it is and generally wallowed while getting pleasantly tipsy.

Everyone has these moments where they wonder how the hell they got to this and how on earth they’ll ever cope. And then it passes. For every “Oh my God this is hell” moment, there is an “Oh my God I’m going to burst with happiness” moment. Next time there’s a hell moment I’ll try to remember that the people around me are sympathising, not judging.

DSC08462

This was definitely a “burst with happiness” moment

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under hello World, other people's kids, travel

ME time

Full moon over London, as seen from Radio at ME Hotel

Full moon over London, as seen from Radio at ME Hotel

I sipped on my third mojito and tried not to topple over the balcony as I gazed at the London lights, from Tower Bridge to Big Ben and beyond. It would be very uncouth to pose for a selfie, I reasoned, everyone around us was ordering Champagne and lounging like extras from Made In Chelsea.

Abi had warned us Radio, in the newly opened ME Hotel on The Strand, was “very wanky” so I was looking forward to it immensely. Gratifyingly, a haughty supermodel-type tried to prevent our entry, claiming they were ‘over-capacity’ and that Darcy wasn’t available. Abi, however, is a barrister. It was highly entertaining watching her calmly argue our case before producing her iPhone and displaying several emails from the owner confirming our reservation. “Wow, really, for all those people?” the Kate-wannabe cried, completely breaking character, and ushered us into the lift, inserting the source of her power (a keycard) to allow us up to the roof.

Just before the doors closed, a breathless blonde barged in. A doorman called to her to ‘please come out so I can assist you’ but she stood her ground, exclaiming loudly that she had just spent two grand in the restaurant, the least they could do was let her up to the bar. I stifled a giggle, tried not to catch the girls’ eyes and thought to myself “ah but the emperor is mostly likely naked.”

We emerged to the tip of a glass pyramid. Peering through it we could see the hotel reception 10 floors below. Radio was dark and most certainly not full to capacity, with unobtrusive music and an eclectic crowd of suits, ladies and two men in football shirts eating onion rings (no really).

Two of us headed straight to the ladies, where there was a queue (naturally) until two young girls tumbled giggling out of a cubicle before posing for pictures in the mirror. “I’ll let you go in by yourself,” my friend said pointedly, with a look that clearly stated she too saw what the emperor was wearing. I was tempted to dust down the toilet seat.

We sat out on the terrace in an enormous wicker seat while my London friends identified all the landmarks for me.

“That’s Somerset House, they hold art exhibitions and things in the courtyard, and that’s The Shard, it’s very expensive to go up there, but I really want to… There’s St Paul’s cathedral and the Tate Modern….” It really was impressive.

I wandered through the bar, people watching and smiling sympathetically at a bearded barman who dropped his flair bottle, and stepped through the sliding glass door onto the south-facing terrace. This one was less crowded, two men and a woman lay back on cream sofas with curtains on three sides sipping Champagne and a couple of men in suits smoked as they lounged by the railings. I noticed a glass box at the apex of the two balconies which was curtained from the inside and roped off. When I rejoined the girls, they told me it was a bedroom and I marveled at the excess. I’ve since Googled it and found it is in fact the glass cupola of the duplex ME suite and would cost me £3180 per night (room only).

We left at two and tottered outside to hail a cab. I knew I’d be feeling a bit delicate the next morning but I also knew it would be worth it. If you’re going to go out, you might as well go all out, and tonight had given a whole new meaning to ME time.

Leave a comment

Filed under holidays, travel

Aberdeen with a baby – part 1

Spreading himself out

Spreading himself out

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.

beach

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!

TGIs is very family-friendly

TGIs is very family-friendly!

1 Comment

Filed under Aberdeen, travel

Mum & Dad time

“I should have brought my big camera,” I said, as the sun came out and lit up the hills.

“Nah, it would probably get wet,” Rod said.

I froze. Where the hell were we going? The camping jokes had gotten old really fast and the casual mentions of the Arran ferry were transparent but this comment threw me.

“AH! My wellies are in the other car!” I gasped.

“Oh…. Well, they’ll probably provide everything we need,” he said, then pointed and made to turn into a field filled with trailers and what looked like a circus tent.

“JUST KIDDING!” he cackled. I wanted to cry. I didn’t like this magical mystery tour and I was beginning to get seriously worried about where we’d end up. Then suddenly I saw a sign that made me cry out in relief.

Stobo Castle – Scotland’s only destination spa

I should have trusted him and I should have remembered what a wind-up merchant he can be. Luckily the wee spud had excelled himself – the receptionist said some truly magic words:

“Your suite will be ready in half an hour so you can go in and get ready before your spa treatments.”

Even spending thirty minutes waiting in the bright atrium with a freshly squeezed juice and nothing to do but sit was a treat. We couldn’t stop smiling at each other.

Our suite was stunning – I felt like I was on the set of Downton Abbey. Two sets of patio doors led out onto a terrace with stone steps curving down to the lawn. Two enormous plumfy beds were against the wall opposite, the views in the morning would be stunning.

Room with a view

I noted the large bathtub (I love a deep soak) and a huge TV (Jessica Ennis, Tom Daley and Ussain Bolt were on Jonathon Ross that night) as well as a sofa buried under cushions and a beautiful fireplace. But there’d be time to enjoy it later, we had to slip on our robes and pad through to the spa.

The treatment rooms were minimal in their design and a lovely cool temperature. I lay for an hour in that suspended state of consciousness while the therapist eased away all the knots and tension spots. Afterwards I clutched my glass of water and sleepwalked out to meet Rod, who also had that dazed look. We rounded the corner and flinched as the sunlight poured through the glass wall that was the entire side of the swimming pool. With its infinity edge it felt a bit like floating at the edge of a waterfall at the top of a green wooded valley. Eventually I couldn’t stand it any longer and suggested we go back and enjoy our terrace. Rod agreed.

Living the high life

We lay with magazines, beers and sweeties for two hours uninterrupted. I’m just going to say that again, uninterrupted.

After a long bath and a lovely dinner we took a walk as the sun set. There was no traffic noise and very few other people -just fresh clean air and the reflection of the pinks and greys in the loch.

 

 

We woke up early (old habits) and breakfasted on smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and fresh fruit in the dining room. A breeze came through the half-open window and Rod spotted a hot air balloon on the horizon. We wandered back to the room, tidied up a bit and dressed but it wasn’t even ten o’clock, so we went out to explore. The Japanese garden was a wonderful surprise – as was the warmth of the day. We followed a path and came across a waterfall, a little wooden bridge and stepping stones, all beautifully designed and maintained. I loved it.

We wandered through the rest of the grounds, sat with a capuccino for a while and then had a light lunch back in the dining room before tearing ourselves away. We had a little boy waiting for his mum and dad to come home and we couldn’t wait to see him. What a brilliant 30th birthday present.

Leave a comment

Filed under hello World, travel