Category Archives: travel

Mogabout on Arran

I took a deep breath, stilled my mind and rubbed my right thumb and forefinger together as I stepped forward. I paced slowly and deliberately to the end of the cairn, then turned and walked back. Were my fingers sticking? Was there a force emanating from the rock?

No.

Sadly I felt not a thing, despite standing on a ‘ley line’ on a 6000 year old burial ground.

“I didn’t think you would, it’s too rainy,” the guide, Alex, told me.

I smirked, thinking about how else we might ‘feel the energy’.

“I’m not getting naked,” I stated.

The rest of the group laughed. We were standing on the Giants’ Graveyard at the south end of Arran, observing the remaining stones and trying to imagine what the structure used to look like before the land owner commanded the peasants to remove them to construct a wall 200 years previously.

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“They almost made it to present day,” Alex said, forlornly. His tales of the Highland Clearances had been sobering – 86 locals forcibly removed and shipped to Canada so that sheep could move in, only for the duke to die and his hard-up wife to sell the land to the Forestry Commission.

Interestingly my kids hadn’t hung around. They hadn’t been the slightest bit interested in climbing the stones – had they felt something? Or did they just want to get back to play in the Unimog?

We were spending the afternoon on a forest safari, exploring the island on a 4×4 adapted truck called “Mogabout”, which meant we could go off-road and handle inclines of up to 45 degrees.

Despite holidaying on the island for nearly 30 years, I’d never seen it from this perspective, nor learned the nuggets of information imparted by our horticulturalist/fireman/entrepreneur/ranger guide. Two of the group were from New Jersey and I enjoyed seeing Arran through their eyes. “It’s so wild and beautiful – maybe we should move here and escape Trump,” they said.

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Just when we thought the boys were getting too restless to carry on, we stopped at the top of a forest track with an uninterrupted view across to Holy Isle and the Ayrshire coast. Alex produced two enormous thermos flasks, one with coffee and one with tea, a carton of milk, a box of biscuits and an huge tub of Swizzles sweets. When we’d finished he even let the boys ride up front.

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On the way back down the hills, he shared some local folklore, about the boy with an illicit whisky still who went “away with the fairies” and didn’t return for a year and a day, and the locals who’d carry food if they were ever out at night and found themselves near water, so they could make an offering and keep the fairies from causing them harm.

The beautiful and fitting ending to the eye-opening tour was the rain melting away and a perfect rainbow forming over the burial site.

Now that made me feel something.

 

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Mindfulness on Arran

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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This was definitely a “burst with happiness” moment

 

 

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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.

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Protected: Aberdeen with a baby – part 1

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