Seals, Mermaids and Ice Cream

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9 August 2012

The first day camping dawned misty, cold and wet. Oh no! But at our last check of the area met forecast, we were heading for 5 days of sun, sun, sun! That was the morning when I first suspected that the Met Office forecasting had been left in the sole charge of Colin, the Janitor’s Dog, while the actual forecasters were off on their jollies.

So, stopping for a quick photo of Eilean Donan castle again, we headed back to Kyle of Lochalsh, back to Hector’s Bothy, for a Billy Big Boy Fill My Belly With Yumminess fried breakfast. Lovely! It hit the spot. Even though Mini Minx nicked everyone’s black pudding. The mug that fit nearly a pint of coffee definitely set me up for the day. By the time we’d finished, the cloud had lifted a little, so we decided to act like tourists and go on the second cruise of the day on the Atlantis Sea Probe Glass Bottom Boat.

While we waited on the tour, we went for a little explore. I don’t know about you, but I can’t resist steps, especially if they lead out of sight. I have to climb to the top, to see what I can see, I suppose; to see what they’ve been put there for. So plodding uphill we found some steps. And broke through to a viewpoint, over to Skye. It was very scenic and quite special.

Speaking of which, I wasn’t expecting much of the glass-bottom boat trip. Especially when I saw the faces of the Dawn of the Dead passengers from the first cruise. But oh my word, it was fascinating! One of the crew members just chatted away, telling anyone who wanted to listen all about the area: the landscape, the sealife, some history, fascinating facts. The trip was far too short, and we all really enjoyed it. The minxes loved seeing the seals, I liked the big starfish underwater, and Mini dropped her obsession with baked beans and transferred it to seaweed.

We stopped at a little shack on the sea-front for the most tasty seafood rolls I’ve ever tasted, then drove over the twisty roads to Plockton. Boy, did The Boss ever get some practice manoeuvring the car about! Descending into the wee village, the sun came out. Mini need a nap, but the elder minxes and me were in desperate need of burning off some energy. So she went in a sling, the others got their buckets, I rolled up my jeans and blinded the village with my blue-white pins, and off we plodded around the harbour.

Remember what I was saying about steps? Well, we saw some narrow ones heading out of sight. So we climbed all 65 of them, wondering what was at the top. Oh. Just a farm track. That led back to the village! Still, we saw a man scything his field. And the path did lead to the ice-cream shop. By this stage, the minxes thought we were going on an ice cream tour of the Highlands.

We were going to stay for a while, but there’s always one minx has to spoil it all, and have us legging it away quickly… ;o)

On the long drive back, we realised that Midi hadn’t burned off enough steam, as she treated us to her ‘opera singing’. Sounded like a pod of dolphins screaming along to a Bjork song, to me. My poor ears!!

It was still a nice night so The Boss cooked up some Pasta ‘n’ Sauce with extra broccoli and peas stirred in. The minxes loved it, but Maxi got very upset at us not being as bothered about who ate what from which colour of bowl as she was (“No, no, Mummy, yours is the red one!” But I want a big portion – I’m hungry. And I need more food than you. And the red has the littlest portion. “But yours is red! And mine is blue! Don’t you see?” No. Gimme.) We discovered that kids will eat *anything* if you cook it on an open flame (and give them the bowl of their chosen colour…).

That night they didn’t sleep till late. Hey-ho. At least the campers next to us last night had moved on (oops).

Hopeman Gala

21 July 2012

Out of the blue, we finally had a lovely sunny day, so we took the minxes to Hopeman Gala.

tiger face paint

Pink Tiger

They had lots of fun eating ice-cream, donuts, squash and cakes, getting their faces painted, and playing on the bouncy assault course and spinning tea-cups. You’d think little spin-ny seats big enough for 2 kids would be quite a gentle ride. Well, it is if you’re 3 ft tall. If you’re 5ft 6 and a fully-grown adult, it’s a bit intense. Or maybe I’m just being charitable – the only adult on the ride went very green and held her hand tightly to her mouth from about the 3rd rotation. Minxes, you’re on your own, if she let’s loose – me and your Daddy are stepping slowly away…

No really, Mummy doesn’t like donuts… Oh go on, then.

After the gala (Highland dancing, belly dancing, Tae Kwon Do displays to the inevitable soundtrack of “Everybody Was Kung-Foo Fighting”, Pipes Band and raffle) and sudden downpour that we managed to duck under the face-painting gazebo, the minxes set off to play on the swings.

No greater love has a Daddy for his minxes than to wreck his trousers and dignity so they can play

The Boss kindly slid down first to dry and clean the chute suitably for his little princesses.

We finished the day with a Chinese Takeaway: egg fried rice and sweet & sour chicken balls. Badly wrong, but so, so tasty!

 

fire rainbow

Who knew Elton John liked being worn?

Olympic Torch Relay

9 June 2012

I know, I know, the Olympic Torch relay is a load of old hooey, right? Right? Actually: no.

I’d been toying with the idea of taking the minxes to see the relay for ages. It would be an excuse to go somewhere different for a change. It would be a fun thing to show Maxi, as we’d been talking a lot recently about Ancient Greece*. Who knows, as adults they might feel that they missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime event just because lazy Mummy & Daddy hadn’t bothered taking them to see it. Whilst that’s unlikely, you never know! So I checked out the published route. Now, I know I don’t live in a heaving metropolis, but I kind of expected it to get a little closer than an hour’s drive away. On a school day. Or just before Minx Bed-time on a Saturday. Hmmmmm…

*Ancient Greece: Maxi was troubled that the original Olympians hadn’t allowed girls to compete. So I told her about Sparta, and how the women there were so cool, tough and able that all the Greek men were terrified of them. This perked her up and brought more Maxi-balance to her young perspective. Just wait till I tell her about the Amazons…

The Saturday dawned cold and drizzly. We spent the morning at the local school fete being taken very good care of at the tea & cake tables, buying books (18 – well, I only bought so few because I only had £1.80 left in cash!), being facepainted, bouncy-castling, and munching hot dogs. So by mid afternoon we had 3 tired girls on our hands, probably too tired to walk back into town to watch a member of the Royal Family open one of the shops. So what did we do instead? Pack them all up in the car with a picnic lunch and get in to Inverness.

We decided to stop here, in Bank Street, in front of the dramatically swaying suspension bridge. If you’ve never been on it, beware! It swings like a ship at sea. That’s fine during calm weather, but you can feel distinctly seasick when it’s blowing a gale and the rain’s coming at you horizontally. Anyway, we thought we might be the only muppets sad enough to go wave at a person holding a brandy snap cornet with a gas flame out the top. Indeed, when we arrived with half an hour to go, there was only one other family loitering around.

From maybe 15 minutes to go, the police started to arrive. Midi had never seen so many flashing blue lights and her little eyes turned into saucers. The police motorcyclists were a happy, jolly bunch who were all riding slowly along the edges of the rapidly-swelling crowd, giving everyone high 5’s at waist level (“slip me some skin!”) One of the last cars to go past before the road shut slowed to let out 2 men with waist money pouches and an armful of little plastic flags each. Yep, they nipped down each side of the road, selling flags. As a proper Spoilsport Mother, I refused to shell out for flags that would be waved for 10 seconds then discarded#

#At 2 minutes to go, some outrider runners raced past, handing out free flags to the crowds. Obviously to make sure there was enough atmosphere! And funnily enough, the same kind of flags the wide boys at 15 mins to go were selling. Hmmmmm… recycling discarded flags from one town to the next for cash, I wonder…?

Maxi was just too tired to get excited. Whilst her sister Midi whooped, hollered and waved at anything that moved, Maxi just looked sullenly on. She’s gotten into a habit of emulating Marvin the Paranoid Android, or Dobby from Harry Potter: silly stuff like, “Ooh, I’ll just go to sleep in the most freezing cold cupboard I can find then. Oooo, I’m so miserable. Ooooooh, I deserve to have no dinner tonight. In fact, I deserve to eat slugs for dinner. Actually, I’ll eat slugs that have eaten sharp, spiny thorns. Ooooooh woe!” So we got a right earful of that while we waited. Cheerful stuff.

We could see over both road bridges left and right of us, so watched the little convoy of sponsor buses get closer. It was hard not to inwardly snigger at the young, hip things in the sponsor buses trying hard to look cool. In shades. With fake, orange tans. And big hair. On a blowy, wet, freezing cold evening. In Inverness. Ach well, they were probably wondering who the old crone with the purple hair and rainbow wrap was, and whether I weaved my own yogurt out of flax.

A troupe of bendy and acrobatic people sped past: hopping on bikes, flick-flacking down the road, generally adding a bit of “Oooooooooo!!” to the procession. All 3 minxes perked up and started cheering, clapping and waving. From studying my Dad’s excellent photos from the Liverpool relay leg, I knew the runner would be between the yellow and white horsebox and the BMW. Sure enough, we could just make out a little runner in white. I abandoned all pretence at nonchalance and waved and ‘hooray!’d like a loon. For a brief few minutes, no-one cared what they looked like to anyone else; no-one wondered whether the cost of the Olympics would or could ever be justified; no-one considered why we were cheering a woman in white, flanked by serious-looking runners in grey – we just joined in the communal happiness at being part of something a little bit different and out of the ordinary of normal life.

As soon as the runner was out of sight, the crowd bomb-burst: half across the suspension bridge to catch another glimpse, half to McDonalds. Guess where we went…?

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Five Go Playing in Aberdeenshire

Wednesday 4 April, Day 5 of the Easter Holidays

Maxi Minx woke me up with a typical 5 year old conundrum:

“Mummy, which is more effective: a gun, a cannon, a cutlass or a coconut on fire?”

Gun, because you’ll do more damage and are less likely to miss. Good morning, Daughter. Thanks for keeping me awake most of the night, then swapping your Wake Mummy shift with your younger sister. Pass the coffee. And park me on the laptop, on the Met Office site…

Well, what do you know? The weather forecast changed, and so did our plans. A quick shifty of where it was raining or sleeting, where the best visibility was, when it would clear and warm up (oh ok, become a bit less cold) and which day it would bucket down left us deciding to get out in the fresh air today. So… Aden Country Park near Mintlaw it was!

I gave up loading the car with bags and just put everything in 2 big laundry crates. Well, have you seen how much space 5 pairs of wellies take up? The Boss has very big feet. And then there’s 5 sets of waterproofs and fleeces, 5 complete changes of clothes, 5 snacks, 5 drinks, etc.

We stopped in Banff for lunch. No fancy treat lunch today – The Boss did a brilliant run and grab at The Co-op and we ate our quick, healthy, cheap-ish picnic lunch in a little car park on the East side of the bridge over the river. The Macduff side of the bridge, still on the A98. Right here. And watched the mental waves. Don’t watch them drunk – they come at the shore from literally all directions! I uploaded a 17 second video clip, because still photography doesn’t do it justice.

Eventually we came to the country park, got changed into (freezing) cold weather gear in the car park and discovered our visit would be free as the machine was on the blink. It would have hardly broken the bank though – 70p for 4 hrs parking, £1.50 for all day. So, ready for the cold, we went to explore!

The kids’ playground was really good. Only a couple of swings, but plenty seesaws, a slide, clambering tube, zip line, whirly roundabout and a great wee ‘outdoor gym’ trail – things like stepping poles, balance poles, wobbly bridge, tyre chains. The minxes loved it! We had to prize them away to go and find coffee / milkshakes. Me and The Boss loaded up on heat and caffeine while the girls guzzled ice-cream, milk, squirty cream and marshmallows. After a snack like that, you have to let them run around. So we went off exploring the arboretum.

Over the next 3 hours we played Pooh Sticks (except for Mini, who prefers Pooh Stones. And is eternally exasperated at never winning…), swapped round which daughter was in the wrap, wiggled through the beautiful Sensory Garden, wandered round the all-abilities buggy-run, up the tracks and over the dog exercise area (clean! It was clean! Some really, really responsible dog owners! Thank you!), around the duck pond, past the mineral well, up the tree house and then the best bit for Maxi and Midi: clambering all over the enormous fallen tree that they honed their bouldering skills on.

We were really sorry to leave, especially when the spring sunshine finally blasted through the chilly air. But dinner called. And The Boss was feeling flush. So a quick stop and clean up at the absolutely spotless toilets and off we went, past the fields of wobbly new lambs (I’d seen one sheep in the middle of giving birth as we drove past that morning). We stopped at the Gold ‘n’ Crispy in New Pitsligo. It was busy at 1730hrs on a Wednesday, so that bode well. We all ate in and shared 3 big fish suppers. Yum! Crispy and delicious. I guess we could have zoomed home afterwards, but it was far nicer to bimble along the coastal trail, even though it was straight into the sun.

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The funniest bit of the day was little Mini desperately trying to stay awake to eat her treat of a chocolate chip cookie. She fell asleep clinging to it. When she was wakened 15 minutes later, she started biting at it before she’d even opened her eyes.

Before I go, I have to give a quick mention for Deeside Holiday Park – I phoned to cancel our camping booking with them, explaining that although me and The Boss were happy camping on snow, our little girls weren’t yet accustomed to extreme weather. I cheekily asked if I could shift my booking a few months to the summer, when The Boss would next have time off work, and not lose my deposit. The witty and funny Shona did exactly that, even though the Ts&Cs say that you can’t. What a lovely lady – I can’t wait to go!