Quick Visit Back To Our Old Stomping Ground: Day 2

Saturday 9 April, Day 8 of the Easter Holidays

I didn’t enjoy my sea-induced sleep for long: Maxi woke me at 2am, crying because she needed to go to the toilet ages ago and couldn’t hold it in much longer.

You know, once you’re actually out your warm sleeping bag, stumbled into wellies and struggled into your big down jacket, it’s not so bad being up at Silly O’Clock. There’s something about a silent campsite that makes me feel a bit like a kid sneaking around on Christmas Eve. Maxi felt it, too. We strolled / waddled / giggled over to the toilet block, torch-light making the rabbits dance around us. They were as big as cats! We gawped at the bright Milky Way above us as we plodded on, and promised to stop and look for meteors on the way back. However, in a short few minutes the clouds lapped over the stars and, just as we reached the tent, the first raindrops fell. How lucky were we?! The pattering of rain on the taut roof, hissing waves and Mini’s piglet-snores in my ear sent me back to sleep. Normally I fight sleep, only closing my eyes when I can’t keep them open any longer, frustrated at the ‘waste’ of time. But the comforting sounds, wrapped around my most-loved 4 people, in my favourite place, relaxed me for the first time in months. Years!

Jammies TailThe Boss earned yet another ironed shirt from me by getting the coffee ready for us as soon as we woke up, then poured hot porridge into the kids. I promise I told him about his jammies tail before too many people saw him…

breakfastWe unleashed the kids on the brilliant onsite playground to burn off some energy while The Boss packed everything away (he doesn’t trust my packing: he takes the gentle origami approach, whilst I favour the stuff-and-hammer-it-down method). Midi taught Mini how to hurtle down a zip-slide without rapid death ensuing. All sorted and car shifted by 10am, The Boss announced that it time to hit the beach.

Oh, I love that beach! I got immediate flashbacks to a walk The Boss and I had taken along it almost exactly 6 years earlier with a baby Mini on my chest and still high on painkillers. It was probably all the lemon primroses and the cave with the ever-present discarded Buckfast bottles in it that prized that memory out…

The minxes and I settled into our usual beach routine – climb anything not moving / draw lovehearts with ‘Mummy’ in it to earn an extra massive hug / build a big beach collage / turn over every rock to find a starfish – while The Boss had a clamber around sites of near-epic bike crashes in his past life.

By the time the tide came in and shepherded us back to the main bay, it was about time to sort out a treat lunch: Scribbles Pizza Restaurant, scene of many a minx disaster and wonder and our favourite place to eat in Elgin. Although the inside has been completely renovated since we last visited 3 years ago, they still make my favourite beef chilli melts (I craved them throughout my last trimesters when I was expecting Midi and Mini) and the coffee and walnut cake was just as delicious as I’d remembered.

Cummingston gorse - if only that scent could be bottled!

Cummingston gorse – if only that scent could be bottled!

With sunshine fighting back against the drizzle and our little bubble of nostalgia unburst, we drove back again to one of our favourite beaches: Cummingston. At this time of year, the gorse is incredible: a coconut sunscreen scent hangs over the whole area when it’s hit by sunlight. All 3 girls love the looooong slide at the playpark because it feels scary. As does dodging the nesting seagulls dive-bombing people who get too close to the cliffs, but today we wanted to look for cowrie shells and sea-glass so headed for the beach on the far right initially.

Although we could have happily stayed for many more hours, eventually we realised that at 6pm it really was time to reluctantly head for home. We only winkled the minxes back into the car by promising to come back to the area the very next weekend that we could. It was an easy promise to make, and personally I can’t wait!

 

Sunny Sands

Today was the second of 2 School In-Service days and the troops were getting restless…  Although my stitches are only sore to the touch and otherwise I’m pretty much back to normal, I’m still a bit leery of carrying Mini Minx on my back in the sling, or hoiking about rucksacks with changes of clothes or picnic food. So ok, long walks were out, but there’s no way we were being confined to barracks!

Well, except that we hung around a bit for a phonecall that never came and I washed the downstairs windows and hung out 3 mountains of clean washing in defiance of the circling seagulls (I had 2 secret weapons: Killer and Foster Cats. Who had a fight last week and really hate each other, except when ganging up on seagulls, when suddenly they look like a loving partnership). I thought I’d hear whether the mole I had cut out was a melanoma or not within a week. Today was Day 8. I did phone the number I’d been given if I ever needed to talk to someone, and the dermatology staff nurse I spoke to was wonderfully understanding, but really didn’t know how long it would take to hear, just that it was normally 6 weeks for standard biopsies. I guess I must have misheard the surgeon, then, and it’ll be sometime next week. Damn: I’d hoped to have the weekend off from my surreptitious fretting. And on that topic, The Boss changed the waterproof dressing for me earlier in the week. The scar is a lovely neat 2″ line on a very jaunty angle, with 4 stitches and 4 steristrips. It’ll be a very interesting scar, so I think I’ll like it a lot.

Back to the mutinous monsters… They wanted to sit around watching DVDs and CITV. I wanted them out, out, out in the fresh air, getting physically tired enough to sleep properly. But with me lacking stamina and enough moral fibre to cart around everything we’d need, we compromised and went to the beach.

Big WIDE open space!

Big WIDE open space!

For the hour we were there at low tide, it was gloriously sunny and virtually empty. I let the minxes wear whatever the hell they wanted, so long as their wee scalps were covered with hats, and Little Miss Fiery RedHead especially had her face and neck in the shade. Well, the sight of them gallumping around in wellies, fluffy ballet tutus and paper-flower-bedecked bonnets stopped 2 ladies in their tracks, who exclaimed how pretty they all looked. I guess ‘pretty’ translates as ‘downright weird’, sometimes. The minxes shyly stumbled along forlornly for a bit, till I started skipping about on a pretend horse. Oh aye: full reins, whinnying, clopping noises, horse-dung-dropping, the lot. That’s all it took for them to join in. Mini insisted on being a Princess in need of rescuing from the top of a 3″ rock, and roughly pushed Midi away, even though Midi was doing fantastic impressions of dragons and dragon-slaying. Maxi found a stick and half-heartedly waggled it about as a sword for a few minutes, then, token-effort made, happily set about her normal beach business of drawing things in the sand.

Inspired, me and the youngest 2 started shuffling names in the sand, with letters 10 feet tall. I did all 3 of their names and a huge love-heart. Midi shuffled a seriously neat ‘Mumma’ and a circle for a hug. It was exactly what we’d done in the snow on the way to school in March. But bigger. And even more fun. We were like a mother duck with 2 ducklings following along, as we shuffled and jumped between letters.

I’d picked up some bits and bobs for half-lunch in the Post Office on our way down and hidden them in Midi and Mini’s little rucksacks. Maxi decided when we could stop and eat them. Only then did they discover what I’d bought. So after troughing 3 little cocktail sausage rolls each and half a bag of sherbet lemons (a nutritious, wholesome lunch that any stay-at-home mother could be proud of (!)), we started the serious beach work of splashing through puddles and turning over rocks. Until my welly sprung a leak. I guess I’d hidden one piece of broken glass deep in the sand too many. I don’t mind having soggy feet, but can’t bear one wet and one dry, so we slowly ambled off towards home.

That was probably the best part of the day, just bimbling along, hand in hand with various minxes, blethering about nonsense, no rush to be anywhere, no-one else around, nothing to be super-alert about, enjoying them racing over in turn for a hand-squeeze then zooming off freely for a wee explore before coming back to show me more of their found treasures.

We were almost back at the car when 2 young black labradors came excitedly bounding down the ramp towards the kids. It wasn’t a lollop; it was a proper I’m-Making-A-Beeline-Right-For-You. Mini hid behind me and clung on, and Midi screamed as they both came up to her, jumped and then dashed off. I called over to Midi just before they reached her that it was ok, they were just being a bit too boisterous, she’d be just fine, to keep on walking, not to worry. The owner gave it the usual “Oh, ha-ha, they’re really friendly, they’re great with kids, honestly, they’ll do no harm, they’re around kids all the time”. What kind of special kind of stupid do you have to be to see that making a child scream in terror isn’t being harmless? I mean, call me old-fashioned and reactionary, but either those dogs were out of control and she couldn’t stop them as they ran to Midi OR she thought that them doing that was entirely ok. I had a Bad Mother 10 minutes: I blanked the stupid woman, who was swinging her enormous bag of dog-shit about like a trophy, comforted Midi, distracted her with a sweetie and got her back to the car. What I *should* have done was ask the woman which was true: she couldn’t control her dogs or she thought it was ok to let them frighten my daughter? Then ranted appropriately. But d’you, I was just too bloody *tired*. It’s such a shame, too, because the vast majority of dog-walkers on that beach are stellar – they either keep their dogs well away from playing kids, or put them briefly on a leash as they pass, or keep them obviously under a tight voice command (jeepers, some of them are so good that I’d love to ask them to teach me how to do that with my own daughters). I need to make sure that the girls don’t see the (lack of) actions of one fool as being indicative of how all dog-owners act. Sometimes I think they do, even though I try to downplay when it happens, and keep my thoughts to myself (or till The Boss comes home and the kids are in bed).

Silent Slice of Skye Heaven

Scenery on the main road to Portree

11 August 2012

Another threatening-to-be-grim day, so we cracked on with boiled eggs and double espresso (adults) or a big mug of UHT milk (only minxes can face this) for breakfast. It took us ages to get going because all 3 minxes needed showers, one at a time, waiting in queues before and afterwards. We were all grouchy from accumulated lack of sleep so snarled and grumped a lot.

Black Cuillins over Camas Malag

After the previous day’s sights zooming down the south-east side of Skye, we wanted to see a little more, so set off again via the Road Bridge. And again, we used the drawn-with-a-Mars-bar rubbish tourist map. This time, we decided to follow our noses and just go where the scenery looked most interesting. However, very rapidly we found ourselves on a tiny little track road with no passing places. In a car with verylow profile tyres. Doh. Looking for somewhere to turn, we came across a big, ugly old quarry. Rounding the next corner, we discovered

Red and Black Cuillins over Camas Malag

Camas Malag: the track opened out into a kind of wild camping field. Instead of turning, I got out and had a snoop around just in case the promised sandy beach was just out of sight (it wasn’t – the map lied again).

The world’s most scenic picnic spot. Maybe.

The first thing that hit me was the utter, deep, profound SILENCE. The faint baahing of the sheep carried across in the wind, but that was it. I felt apologetic unleashing the minxes, but what else could I do? They paused long enough for me to jam sunhats on little blonde, fluffy heads, and off they zoomed to the shoreline, as if the sea was one big minx-magnet. Mini Minx showed a natural aptitude for bouldering (oh no – shields up…) while her sisters wanted to play at Rescue the Beautiful Princess with me. It’s been a looooong time since I flexed my

My bouldering baby

imagination muscles, but I had no choice – listening to Midi role-play 7 or 8 parts in a progression of sillier voices was high entertainment.

After tiring of playing on pebbles and all 3 minxes doing their synchronised poo (why can’t they all want to go in the morning when we’re within walking distance of a flushing toilet, soap and water…?!) we had a picnic in probably the most scenic picnic spot on Earth. We went for a little walk further along the track uphill. The minxes happily clambered over every boulder in sight until I spotted one at the side of the track with bits of balled-up toilet tissue at its base. It didn’t take much investigation to realise that my first suspicion was right – someone had pooed right at the base, wiped their lazy bum, and just left their detritus there. Disgusting! I know that sometimes you’ve just got to go (I’ve got 3 kids… I know! I know!) but it only takes a few seconds to go a bit further off-track. I realise that not everyone carries around nappy sacks or poly bags like I do, but would it have been so difficult to at least have attempted to bury it? I’m not expecting latrine depths, here, just a bit of an attempt to get rid of toilet tissue? Obviously not. Obviously that person believes that their personal comfort and convenience is of supreme importance; certainly enough to litter and poison a beautiful landscape and put my kids at risk of illness!

What a sight for sleep-deprived eyes! Thank goodness for burners and French coffee pots

We decided to move on and see a little more of Skye. We drove to Portree and had an ice-cream (aye – yet another ice-cream!) and picked up more provisions. The minxes saw the pastel-painted houses on the seafront. I suggested that they might be a bit like those in Balamory? They scoffed at silly mummy – that was a few islands over the way!

Tired and fractious, we went back to the campsite to cook up a classic dinner of Pasta ‘n’ Sauce, engage in the ritual fight of getting the kids to bed, and sit and read the last of the The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets

Mission Accomplished

Nest (I very rarely read fiction: no time and no motivation, but I made an exception for the Millenium trilogy). I think that night, though, it was a struggle because the minxes had passed out in the car on the drive home. Absolutely nothing would wake them when we got to the campsite. We knew we were trading peace and quiet to make dinner for peace and quiet at bed-time. And they looked so angelic! To be fair, they were snoring before the sun had completely set.

Grand Tour

10 August 2012

We woke to another dull day, but at least it was a little milder. The cunning plan was to get up and dressed and try one of the cafes en-route to Kyle of Lochalsh for breakfast. None of them were open. Eh? It wasn’t that early! It was after 9! IN tourist season! Instead of eating out in Kyle yet again, we decided to go over the road bridge to Skye and eat there.

Good plan! We ate at Saucy Mary’s, Kyleakin. Well, the cafe attached to it. The food was good, the staff were great with the minxes, the minxes were hungry. How more perfect do you need? Suitably refuelled, we looked at our large-scale map of the island. ‘Map’? It was a tourist picture pull-out from a magazine. Like someone had drawn it with a Mars Bar rather than a fine-nibbed pen. So we figured that we weren’t seeing much detail… Meh, where are the good topos when you need them?! The Boss and I agreed to just amble along and make decisions as and when. Although Plockton had been interesting to walk around the day before, we also agreed that the minxes really needed a day to run around properly, preferably on a nice beach.

“Um… Mummy, we’re about to run out of road!”

We drove down the east of the island and discovered that our tourist map’s idea of a sandy beach was in reality a muddy, tidal inlet. Picturesque and interesting, but not what we were looking for. So we stuck with our original loose plan and kept driving south to Armadale. We pitched up at the ferry terminal immediately into the arms of a man with a clipboard.

“You’ve not booked?” Em, nooooo…. “Ah. Well, you never know, we might be able to squeeze you on: one of the buses hasn’t shown up yet. But I’m not promising, mind!”

Salty sailors sailing to Scotland from Skye

Ten minutes later, he waved us on to the ferry, the last ones to board. Hooray! And as luck would have it, as we boarded, the sun came out!

The minxes were beside themselves in glee as they raced out of the car to climb the steps so they could see the sea. It was only a year ago that we went on the ferry to Orkney so they were quite blase about being on a boat. I’m glad I spent 10 minutes wrestling with the car’s manual before we boarded: as soon as the ferry left the harbour and hit a tiny little wave, most of the cars let out their alarms’ howls of indignation. But not ours 🙂

Skye from the little Mallaig ferry

It was only a short wee trip to Mallaig, just over half an hour. Enough time to get cold in the wind on deck and buy some fudge from the little shop. We were one of the first off the ferry so could look around in bewilderment as we got off and went for the main road east. A lot of it paralleled the rail track. Unfortunately Boss the Bozo had had a mad 5 minutes and tidied up the car before we left. And binned my copies of where off the beaten track would be nice to visit. And how to get there. And all my painstakingly copied notes of when the steam trains arrived and departed Mallaig and Glenfinnan. So we couldn’t even decide whether to loiter in hope of catching a big rush of steam.

As we drove, we spotted some white sandy beaches. The car decided to indicate and manoeuvre right, onto the coastal path towards Arisaig. We stopped pretty quickly, at a beach on the way. I can’t say which one it was, except that it was probably the largest, and closest, to the road. Now, I’m saying “white

It’ll take more than a beach of magic silver glitter to turn this one into an angel!

sandy beach”. I lie – it was silver glitter. Proper silver sparkles! And more seashells than I have ever seen on one beach before. The minxes were so exited that all 3 had to poo within the first 20 minutes of getting there. The Boss got busy with spades and nappy sacks and generally went in a total grump about it. I made some smart-arse remarks about him enjoying a little sliver of my day-to-day life. He really appreciated that, I can tell you.

Nappy flasher. She disnae get it fae me!

I can see why the Arisaig campsites were fully booked – what a sight! Deeply turquoise, perfectly clear water, backed by plum- and slate-coloured hills over a sky so blue that it looked fake. Dot some purple heather and yellow flowers along the edge of the silver-white sand and the blue-green pines and you can maybe see why my eyes loved it! Maxi Minx immediately set to work building a sandcastle, so I went off in search of a few hundredweight of pink, white and blue shells to decorate it. Mini, meanwhile, enjoyed splashing in the sea, while Midi muttered about sand-angels. We spent maybe 2 hours playing on the beach and enjoying the warm sunshine before deciding that we really should go and get some lunch.

We thought we’d be ok grabbing something in Arisaig just after 2pm. Nope: everywhere had finished serving food or had shut. Fair enough, I suppose, so we did a provisions run at the local Co-op. I get even grumpier when I’m hungry, so piled in all kinds of party food to the basket: sausage rolls, pork pies, crisps… Midi developed a sudden love for chicken satay on a skewer after trying some 2 days previously in a quick Co-op late lunch stop in Inverness, so she had to have that. Maxi had to have Ribena. Mini had to have chocolate mini-rolls. The Boss gamely tried to feed us some healthy wholemeal bread he’d joined together with slices of ham, but the minxes are definitely my daughters; we mutinously munched our way through pastry and chicken.

Glenfinnan Viaduct Harry Potter

It’s just a viaduct!

Refuelled, we decided that as we wanted to stop off in Glenfinnan and it was already 4pm, we’d better start back on the long road to the campsite. The weather held, and the clear sky let us grown-ups get some fantastic views of the lochs and mountains. Maxi was too busy reading Anne of Green Gables to notice much, and her sisters wanted to nap their lunches down.

Glenfinnan Monument Jacobite Uprising

Glenfinnan Monument

When we got to Glenfinnan, all the girls were sleeping. I cursed The Boss again for discarding my sheets with the notes of where to walk to get the nicest views. Instead, I nipped up some steps at the back of the tourist centre to see where they led to, anyway. The signs warned that the path was tricky and recommended strong walking boots; I made do with my old, bash, plastic purple crocs. The path zigzagged up to a little viewpoint, and reminded me a lot of the path up Gibraltar Rock, on which I spent many a scary weekend afternoon in 1995 (I get vertigo, and in those days I spent most weekends with a hangover. Well, the G&Ts at Happy Hour were 20p. And I was young and carefree…). The view over the viaduct was nice enough, but I much preferred the view over the monument to the last Jacobite Uprising. I waved to a newly-awoken Maxi and The Boss in the car park, could see that he’d got the coffee pot and gas burner out, so zoomed back down in time for an espresso. Maxi was impressed by the viaduct’s links to Harry Potter, so The Boss took her and Mini to see it a different way, while I spent a happy half-hour minding snoring Midi in the car, contentedly poring over some maps.

Ben Nevis Summit

So it’s a mountain…big deal, Mummy!

We soon set off again, and The Boss laughed at me not recognising the summit of Ben Nevis, out in front of us. “But it’s so distinctive!” he crowed. Aye, well, in 41 years I’ve never seen it; it’s always been shrouded in thick cloud any time I’ve swung past Fort William. As it was now pushing 6pm and an awake Midi needed to stretch her legs, we pulled off to go for a walk up Neptune’s Staircase. I’d tried to explain what it was and how canal locks worked, but the minxes looked at me like I was telling them that magic is real. Even seeing the

Me on a wooden horse? No. Must be Photoshopped. No one saw me, I wasn’t there and I have an alibi, Your Honour

real thing didn’t help. They weren’t impressed at seeing the highest mountain in the UK, either, so I decided it was time to pull out the joker card and let them run loose in the playground. We all had a brilliant half hour until the midge levels picked up from zilch to getting-on-my-wick levels. To wails of “Noooooo! I want more swings!” we drove on to Spean Bridge for fish and chips and another leg stretch.

Loch Garry. I think.

After eating, the minxes passed out, leaving the grown-ups to admire the sunset in the mountains.

We arrived back at the campsite long after the midges had gone to their beds – result!

Lossiemouth East Beach Reconnaissance

19 July

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It was only 3 weeks into the school summer holidays and we were really fed up hanging around waiting for the rain to stop. There are only so many indoor picnics and home-made bubble mix you can do with minxes! So on the first day that it didn’t pour with torrential rain, we ventured out to Lossiemouth in search of the East Beach!

Midweek, on a rainy day, we were spoiled for parking spots. So I chose the prime spot – right between 2 ice-cream shops! In case the weather turned, I decided to hit the ice-cream first before venturing on the beach. I have to recommend Miele of Lossiemouth, though. Not only did they have delicious flavours, but the server was lovely when Midi Minx changed her mind about the flavour for the 7th time, right after her ‘final’ decision had been scooped and placed on the cone. I didn’t mind (yes, I think I’ll just have to have an ice cream now, after all!), but the man insisted on giving us the ‘wrong’ one free, and gave Midi her 8th choice.

Four happy minxes toddled out the shop, along the shore to Seatown, and over to the loooooooong wooden bridge to the sand-dunes. Maxi wasn’t too happy looking through the slats, and Mini insisted on being carried (all the better to rub her cherry ice cream in my hair and her jacket). Midi was too engrossed in her ice-cream to care much.

When we got to the empty, golden sand, it was like uncaging wild animals: they zoomed off and rolled in it. We trotted along a little to watch the surfers and ‘walked the plank’ of a washed up tree-trunk. Four tornado fast-jets treated us to some synchronised take-offs and landings at RAF Lossiemouth. Looking over, the sky was as dark as their skins: a deep seal-slate-grey. Ominous! Still, there were dunes to climb and bum-slide down. Midi and Maxi cackled as they created ‘dinosaur tracks’.

Suddenly the surfers came out the water and left for the car park. Hmmmm… what was the biggest, blackest cloud doing? Would it fall here or skirt past us? We didn’t have long to find out – the heavens opened as a sudden squall blew us off the beach. Normally I’d have taken the girls to a more sheltered bit of the beach and taught them how to stand with their backs to it and wait the shower out. But as I bent to fasten up 3 little hoods, I noticed that baby Mini was shivering violently and her little hands and lips had gone blue. Deeply alarmed, I hauled out my trusty Didymos Carmin Fish sling (thank God I brought it after all!) and strapped Mini to my back. It left her head exposed, but gave more body heat. I got hold of the other 2 minxes by the fist and yanked them along the shore, across the bridge, and quick march down to the car.

I stripped Mini of her wet clothes and wrapped her in 2 fleece layers, tucked her in her car seat, towelled her ginger curls with the sling, enveloped her in my spare fleece jacket, and gave her the picnic sandwiches I’d made her. Then did something similar to the other 2. Midi had been moaning about having sand in her wellies. I took one off. As it released her foot with a ‘pop’, I got a sand shower. Her welly is a TARDIS, obviously, because there’s no way the laws of physics can explain how that much sand got into that little space. As for the folds of her trousers… well, I’m still finding sand trickles, a month later!

With Mini finally pinking up again, we finished our picnic in the car, then drove home to give her a warm bath and a lovely snoozy nap What to do with the bigger girls? Well, dress them up in shower-hats and wipe-cleanable clothes to finish painting stones, of course!

How Many Beaches in One Day?

I felt pretty yuck yesterday (11 July) – my Mum would have been 64, and it suddenly really upset me. I guess that’s the thing with grief: you think you’ve learned to live with it, and it suddenly kicks you up the arse. Anyway, I could either have mooched around feeling sorry for myself all that grey day, or I could gather up the minxes and get out to the beach in the bracing wind. What do you think I did..?

I asked the minxes what they fancied doing that day: CBeebies or how about the beach? They each bounced up and down in glee and asked if they could have boiled eggs in their picnic (Note: normal kids would have asked about buckets and spades, sandcastles, etc.) So: eggs hard-boiled, cartons of juice packed, sandwiches made, little pots of raspberries, cherries and baby tomatoes compiled, a ton of tissues (Midi’s sporting green bogeys) and nappies packed, and we were off.

Yeah, it’s tricky with 3 little minxes and just me to keep them out of mischief. I’m often asked how I cope. I reply that I don’t. The reality is that I employ strict discipline and very low expectations. And take a car if we have to go further than a mile. Well, the weather threatened to turn to ‘downpour’; a car offers an impromptu picnic and nappy-change spot; it can also cart the Sherpa-load of food and clothes changes you generally need.

We hit the middle of Cummingston beaches, the one that’s normally really interesting for beach-combing. Last time we were there we found enough good green sea glass to make 2 necklaces, and even a bit of red sea glass and a little cowrie shell. Yesterday? Nothing. Unless you count the red plastic diesel container. And the hundredweight of limpet shells that Maxi attempted to collect, probably for her latest beach sculpture. Hmph. Even she agreed it wasn’t a great day for beach-combing, so we ate half the picnic and wandered to the next beach (oooo, all of a few metres) and checked out the rock-pools. Nope, no sea anemones or starfish today. So we toddled a few more metres along to the next beach, a clean, sheltered, sandy cove. Maxi built some castles that looked suspiciously like the mountain sculptures from ‘Close Encounters fo the 3rd Kind’, Midi scampered around the sandstone slabs checking out the relative traction of her bare feet versus her wellies (that’s my girl!) and Mini licked the baby barnacles that made the rock face look like Moon rock. I got the hint that she wanted the rest of her lunch…

We watched a huge group of people from an Outdoor Centre set up 2 top-ropes over on Cummingston stacks. Bless, with all their orange helmets they looked like baked beans on toast! Watching the nesting seagulls catch food for their hatchlings reminded us not to go near the natural arches or caves. After an hour or so, we moved camp all of 2 minutes walk to the swing-park, where the minxes really enjoyed themselves. Midi especially clambered up and down the mini climbing wall, and tried to teach Mini how to place her feet and do it. Obviously I had to stay spotting for Mini, so Midi took some pictures because Maxi was busy dangling upside down on a rope somewhere. With Midi’s sudden speech development, and new climbing and photography skills, she’s becoming quite the accomplished little 4 year old!

Alas, we had to get home to take Foster-Cat to the vet. I was aware that his Real Owners had let his vaccinations slip for lots of reasons, but I wanted the vet to check him over anyway. He’s about 13 years old, seems to be quite active, still, and is hungry all the time. He’s a big cat, but is it fat? Am I feeding him too much or too little? I also have a firm belief that he understands English: he’ll sit on the doorstep mat and look disdainfully at me when I open the door to let him in, not moving until I say, “No, no, after you, Your Majesty”. Also, ever since I mentioned the word v-e-t, he’s suddenly started peeing against the minxes’ tent, my tent, the sofa, the kitchen cabinets… Maybe he’s getting his own back on me, because when I talk to him I affect a fake old man voice, like Grandad Tumble on CBeebies. Oh man, you don’t think he can read, do you?!

Anyway, he miaowed pitifully in his cat basket, but was good as gold at the vet, relishing all the strokes and attention. The vaccination was trouble-free, I got good advice, he’s a fit, healthy cat, and… he needs his broken tooth out. Ouch. And ouch in my wallet, too, but I can’t have him in constant toothache, can I? Poor old boy – it’s been broken off for a while. But the vet assures me he’ll be fine under anaesthetic. Hope so.

Whilst at the vet’s, the minxes were super-hyped up. Mini had only had 10 minutes nap, so her eyes were spinning and whirling, and she was on a different planetary system to the rest of us mortals. Maxi was very interested in everything going on around her, with lots of new, exciting posters to read and comprehend, so was totally oblivious to her family and cat. Midi was a little star: I’d warned them all beforehand that I’d have my hands full with a heavy cat and 3 tired little girls, so Maxi was in charge of Midi, Midi was in charge of Mini, and Mini was in charge of Foster Cat. Midi decided that she’d actually be in charge of everyone because they just weren’t up to it, so tried to responsibly hold her sisters’ hands in the carpark, whilst holding on to me, the cat basket, and open all the doors for us. She just didn’t get that she couldn’t do everything at once (awwwwww) so caused many a snarl-up. She tried so hard! It left me wondering where my Naughtiest Little Minx had gone. Not too far below the surface I think. I hope… 😉

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Wet Weekend…

…even though the sun split the heavens for our 48hr summer the entire weekend? Eh? Ah, it was all Midi’s fault.

On Saturday we planned to do a quick Elgin divide-and-conquer before letting the girls run riot in Cooper Park with their bikes. So we did: we got out early then divided into 2 groups to get specific shopping done, meet then re-split into a different group-pair, and again, and again. Incidentally, Mini’s eyesight is astounding; she spotted The Boss and her sisters from the other end of the the High Street. Yet they were wearing different clothes from when she saw them last. And my ex-aircrew hawk-eye-sight could barely distinguish them. So either she has fantastic eyesight or I’m an auld fart who needs glasses. Um…

Anyway, anyway, we got to the park. And hit the first tantrum. Mini absolutely refused to go on her little bike. Then she refused to walk in a vaguely similar direction to her sisters (Maxi speeds off on 2 wheels now, and Midi couldn’t care less how many wheels – she’ll make it go fast). She threw a strop at the prospect of going in a sling. She rolled on her back rather than hold anyone’s hand. I could guess it was going to be a long afternoon…

We caught up eventually with The Boss and the elder 2 minxes, who’d abandoned the bikes in favour of the slide. I suggested we get Mini back for a nap somehow. Just as Midi went screeching through a deep puddle. The only puddle. Now, a bit of wet isn’t going to harm anyone, even at sub 10degC temperatures, but when it’s your feet… I didn’t fancy Midi spending the next week with blisters on her feet. So we curtailed their fun and coralled them back to the car. Sheesh, that’s a long Walk of Shame from the swings to the carpark, all 3 minxes howling loudly!

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Sunday we decided to hit the beach. Yes, we are indeed all wearing fleece-lined waterproofs despite the blazing sun, and it being the end of April. It was *cold*!! I guess that’s why the beach was so empty. We had fun investigating a lobster creel and turning over boulders, but didn’t find any starfish this time. Midi soon tired of this and quickly discovered that her Spotty Otter trousers were bomb-proof when it came to bucket and spade mishaps. Actually, it was like they extended a field force round her – she shook out her sandcastle and it bounced! It didn’t fall apart at all until she really smashed it down from height. I guess around then she finally got a bit wet, and obviously thought, “I a Wetty Girl! Again!” and headed straight in to the nearest pool.

We left her happily thrashing up and down, using her fleecy trousers like a wetsuit. When Mini’s hands went past purple into blue, and I could barely move from the cold, we called it quits and hauled her out. Cue a huge meltdown. And realisation of just how cold it was. I ordered The Boss to wrap her in his shell jacket (I guess the cold had stopped his brain working, or something…), crammed a struggling Mini into a sling, grabbed a ton of beach toys and picked our way back to the car. At one point I found myself carrying a 13kg Mini on one hip, a 3kg rucksack on that arm, a 23kg Midi on the other hip and kept… on… walking… like… a… Terminator. Must… stay… moving… or I’ll freeze. I guess 30 mile-long journeys a week with a 6 stone double-buggy, a steep camber, and a long hill quietly does wonders for your upper body strength.

Och, they all complained about having to go home, but quickly calmed down – the world always seems better when you have a cup of hot chocolate in your hands and your feet are finally dry!

Grim Sandcastle Determination

I don’t care how cold it is, you *will* build sandcastles, minxes!

So, today is Sunday 1 April and it’s Day 2 of the school Easter holidays. Yesterday me and Mini went shopping for Maxi Minx’s birthday, while the elder 2 girls went slacklining with their Daddy, then burnt off the last of their energy at the swings. We’re planning on going camping from Tuesday, but the forecast is getting worse and worse – right now the heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures have turned into a severe weather warning. So I suspect camping just might be cancelled… Today we’d planned on going to the beach, but it’s cold, windy and rainy. Sod it – we’ve got waterproofs, fleece and down. And we’re all grumpy trouts who hate being dictated to by anything or anybody, even the weather. So off we went.

starfish winkles anemone seaweed

Can you spot the starfish? Winkles? Barnacles? Red sea anemone? Strange tiny yellow shellfish (?) Anything else?

I could happily spend all day turning over rocks to see what’s underneath, me. “Oh look, a winkle! Oh look, seaweed!” The Boss found a starfish on this beach a few weeks ago. Determined not to be beaten, I had to find one, too. In fact, I found 2. As well as some strange yellowy things. They reminded my friend of clusters of butterfly eggs. I’ve no idea what they are, but as there are huge mussel beds a few miles to the east, I assumed they were shellfish. Baby winkles, maybe? I didn’t poke at them to find out, because (a) I didn’t want to disturb them any further, and (b) my fingers were too cold to discern texture. Anyone have any idea?

Antique Ginger Beer Bottle Hay Sons

I wonder how many people actually went to prison for refilling these bottles, then? And how long this was lying in the sea?

Well, we built our sandcastles in the snow er, I mean, cold, wet sand. To be fair, apart from cold fingers, it was lots of fun. Midi taught Mini to stop adding sand once the bucket was full (sheesh – and there was me thinking Mini was a clever girl…) And the beauty of cold, yucky weather is that most people stay at home, so you have tons of space – in an already empty and spacious beach! – to race around and enjoy yourself.

We found spiral shells bigger than my hand, a mussel shell that was even longer, an antique Hay & Sons stone ginger beer bottle and a dead seagull. The seagull looked like it had stoofed into the sand beak-first. I wonder if it ate the monster mussel first, and that’s why…? We also played among the petrified forest of tree stumps to the west of Burghead, then called it quits and headed back for lunch before the rain really bucketed down.

They’re pretty enterprising minxes, but no way was that driftwood shifting!

In other news: Midi has taken to calling eggs ‘slimeys’. Mini can now say “I want more!” very clearly. I discovered that if you buy a £1.65 bag of shiny ‘gems’ from Tesco and give them to 2 minxes, along with sellotape, paper, cotton wool and scissors, you get peace for 2 hours, plus sparkly crowns for the whole family and all the stuffed toys. Nice! I bet Bagpuss was delighted…

Hopeman on a Hot Weekend

Sunday March 25

Argh, unlike the rest of the country wittering on about the lovely unseasonally hot weather last weekend, I was too busy enjoying it to write! So, where did Family Trout go?

Mini, you're NOT going to swim out to the seal - it'll eat you!

Well, local of course: we decided to drive down to Hopeman beach. The minxes clambered out the car and went tearing over to the beach huts, past the fossilised dinosaur footprints. They’d all been painted, and most were sporting dolphins. Because we’ve spent most of 2012 ill (chicken pox then that horrible virus that lingered for a month), we’ve not really been out much. So I insisted that we walk up the trail in the direction of Lossiemouth so I could walk past all the gorse. I’ve told you about my gorse addiction before, lots of times. It was still morning, so I had to shove my nose into the spikes to fill my lungs with its coconutty suntan smell – the air didn’t get heavy with its scent until afternoon.

The kids soon got bored with walking when there was an entire empty beach to play on, so we tumbled down the dunes onto the sand. Maxi got straight to work, building a collage of a mermaid (shells for necklace and earrings, fancy fish-tail, seaweed hair), while Midi hoarded seaweed for herself, muttering about making a stew that would turn Maxi and Mini into toads. Mini filled my pockets with her Treasure (so that was a dead bee, some seaweed, broken seashells and most of the beach’s stones). The Boss headed off to clamber over some sandy rocks in his wellies, while his mum spotted a seal. I contented myself with turning over rocks to find starfish and winkles. It made me unbearably hungry, so we headed back for lunch. In the garden. With bubbles for afters.

Everyone loves bubbles, right? Every kid that ever was loves to chase after and pop bubbles. Every adult loves to blow them. What’s not to love about bubbles? I even raised a smile out of stropping, over-tired Midi just blowing a few big ones her way. I guess that’s my other top tip about being a parent: always keep a bottle of bubble mix nearby. It makes for a brilliant reward, a cheer-er-upper, a distracter, a brilliant burn-the-energy-out-of-the-little-blighters, and just a fun past time. I bought Tesco out of its (2) biggest bottles of bubble mix to keep us going for another week…

Angry Old Trout

The Boss (ha!) has been in Coventry for 6 hours now.  Only a penitent phonecall a few minutes ago got him out the dog-house.

Today was yet another gorgeously sunny day, so we decided to pack yet another picnic, and hit yet another beach.  Roseisle beach, this time, and walk as far west as Midi’s little legs would take her, towards the direction I last saw dolphins.  We had loads of sausages at their Use By date and The Boss had found an old disposable barbeque in the garage, from back in pre-kids days when we spent every single weekend out camping, climbing, walking and biking.  We’d buy them el-cheapo in their 10s from France on climbing trips.  Anyway, our last family picnic till next weekend promised to be a good ‘un.

Everyone bar Maxi Minx was tired from pants sleep – Midi woke me at 6.30am climbing into my bed.  I’m glad I caught her because she’d wet herself.  We just got up rather than slept on.  Mistake!

The picnic was lovely, with all of us scoffing sausage sandwiches in a pretty secluded part of the beach, away from the crowds (my God, there must have been about 50 people on the entire beach on a sunny bank holiday – it was rammed!) and their rubbish and dog poo.  Mini Minx dunked her breadsticks in the sand and sucked it off thoughtfully.  She’s cutting those 2 enormous top teeth, so I guess rubbing it into those inflamed gums helped ease the pain.  Either that, or she’s bonkers.

Maxi Minx, ever the artist, quickly gave up making sand angels and started making a collage of a mermaid.  It was over 6ft long, and she drew the outline with her hands, then ‘coloured in’ the tail with hundreds of pebbles and seaweed, with a discarded bit of rope to form the fish tail end; seashells made up a kind of bikini; a string of barnacles and baby shellfish strung out in a crusty kind of rope formed the necklace; she found 2 matching mussel shells with attached barnacles for earrings, and some plain mussel shells made up the pendant parts of the necklace; different types of seaweed made up the hair, but it was carefully arranged symmetrically and draped purposefully.  I describe it in so much detail because (a) I was agog and amazed at my little 5 year old’s precision, ever-present drive to create art, and sheer prettiness of it, and (b) the beautiful photos and the video I took of it with Maxi explaining all the different bits are gone forever.

The Boss dropped the camera in the sea and lost it.

I was nearly sick when I found out.  Losing the video cut me most, followed by the photos of the mermaid.  Then I remembered all the lovely portrait shots we’d taken of the kids all day.  And yesterday, I caught the most amazing lenticular clouds, in a beautiful 4 hooped wave.  And all the shots from the Theme Day.  Baby Mini changes so much so quickly that I worry being without a camera for a few days means that I’ll lose special memories (well, photos serve as my memory these days).  And she’s about to take her first steps…

I know he didn’t actually set out to drop the camera in the sea.  But he tried to blame the camera loss on me, till I reminded him that I’d passed the camera back so he could take some ‘wet’ shots of an arty piece of stone arranging he’d done at the water’s edge.  We both searched the edge of the water for around an hour, trying to calculate where the receding tide might have dragged it, in vain.

I glowered for hours.  I’m the kind of person who’d rescue photographs and diaries from a burning building, but abandon purses, wallets and phones. (Do I really need to say I’d rescue the kids first?  No.  Thought not.  Kind of obvious, eh?).  I really grieved for the lost pictures.  I know it’s silly, but I did.

Tonight he went off for a cycle ride after the kids went to bed.  I wasn’t all that surprised to find that he’d gone back to Roseisle beach, and had actually *found* the camera!  It was out at almost the low-tide bit.  He phoned to tell me the good news and apologise.  (‘Good’ in that I could stop tormenting myself with the possibility that it was lying on sand, ready to pick up and use but still lost.  Now at least I know that it did fall in the sea and get trashed and we’ll need to buy a replacement bloody pronto).  I stopped sulking and accepted that accidents happen.  I suspect that the camera will never be resurrected, but I have a ridiculously optimistic dream that rinsing the photo card in clean water and leaving it to dry for a few days might, just might, let me read off some photos?  We’ll see.

So.  Now to replace it.  If I could just buy the same one, I would, but I can’t find anywhere that still sells the 6 year old FinePix F10.  Many friends are recommending the Panasonic TZ range.  I’ve started comparing and am getting a bit lost.  I don’t want something all-singing and dancing.  I just want to be able to do great, sharp extreme close-ups of knitting, flowers and children, clear photos of clouds and children action-shots, and be able to take the odd video (not necessarily in HD).  But I’m being seduced by the possibility of better and better images as you up the price range… Argh!  Och, I have a realistic short-list of 3.  I think I’ll make The Boss feel useful and task him with deciding on a replacement tonight.  If he picks one on my short-list, we’ll just get that.  If he doesn’t… well, I’m sure I’ll make him see sense.