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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Lucky, Lucky, Lucky!

Monday 3 April and Day 3 of the Easter Holidays…

My original plans of heading out on a woodland trail fell apart when we woke to a freezing cold gale. The snow forecast possibility was now a certainty. Flexibility being the key to both Air Power and staying sane as a parent, I quickly replanned: trip into the heaving metropolis of Inverness to spend some birthday vouchers, Tiso for new approach shoes for both me and The Boss (I’d found photographic proof that mine had been worn many days each week for the past 6 years, so were justifiably in need of an upgrade), treat lunch, cinema, quick shop, put the tent up in the back garden, camp in the back garden instead of a snowed-in campsite near Aberdeen.

I loaded the car boot with 100 bags*, got everyone’s jackets and wellies on, lined the minxes up on the stairs ready to ferry them into their car seats, nipped out to the garage to grab a buggy, then spun round when I heard The Boss yell.

We had a puncture. A bad one. The tyre was totally flat and coming off the rim.

I could have cried. Instead, I shepherded the kids into the car while The Boss did the necessary, then insisted on watching him carefully and doing bits myself. Mostly bouncing up and down on the nut lever thing. That was fun. Besides, I never want to be stuck by the side of the road, flapping ineffectually at a flat tyre. So now I know I can change a tyre on a Grand Scenic with 3 screaming kids in the back seat, because I did! Also looking on the bright side, we had to put the winter tyres back on the car because Scenics don’t have a spare tyre. With snow looming and temperatures back below 10degC for the foreseeable future, this was no bad thing at all.

*100 bags might be slight hyperbole. But I need a nappy change bag, a complete change of clothes for Mini and Midi Minx, a bag of bags to pack shopping into, a bag of snacks and drinks for the kids if we’re going to be out all day, a bag containing phone, keys, purse, lip-balm. I could go on, but I’m losing the will to live…

This was just the start of our luck. We’d run out of time to do anything in Inverness before lunch, especially because we got caught behind a tractor and 2 very slow lorries, so went straight to the carpark. And straight into the perfect car park space. Cha-ching! Screeching past HMV en-route to lunch, The Boss decided he’d nip in and have a quick look. And immediately spotted Toy Story and Toy Story 2 on a 2-for-1 and costing the same as his birthday voucher was for. Cha-cha-ching! That’ll be 2 quiet afternoons next week sorted! We went straight to Pizza Express (serious treat lunch!) because I had a few vouchers to use there. We had our choice of tables. But in the time it took us to get coats off and Mini Minx strapped down, every single table had filled up. Wow, if we’d been only 5 minutes later… Seriously, seriously lucky or what?

Lunch was lovely: we all love garlic butter, with or without dough balls. Mini ate hers with a spoon like yogurt. The pizzas were good, desserts pretty fabby, and the girls thought drinking Bambinocchinos was impossibly glamorous. The service was fantastic and we left an hour later, full-up, happy and relaxed.

Walking back to the car, our luck was still in: H&M had a sale on. I love their simple, super-cheap summer dresses. At £2.99 you don’t expect them to last more than a year (though they usually do), but they’re brilliant on their own or layered with long sleeved teeshirts and leggings. I swooped in, grabbed a huge armful in 6-7 years for both Midi and Maxi, more leggings and out. Smug, smug, smug.

The cinema was another lucky time: it was 10 minutes to the showing, but The Boss, Maxi and Midi went straight in, barely had to wait in the queue, got tickets at 25% off because it was a quiet time (?! really? It looked like loads of Inverness folk had the same idea as us on what to do on a cold, wet day!). Still, we spent the money left over from our budget on the most enormous bucket of popcorn: I think Midi could have hidden in it! They saw The Pirates, and it was Midi’s first ever trip to the cinema. Maxi’s been once before with nursery, so she was An Old Hand, and talked Midi through it, especially when she got scared when it went dark (awwww, bless!). They had a brilliant time, and even The Boss enjoyed the film.

Meanwhile, me and Mini went for a jaunt through all the shops in the retail park. I can’t stand shopping, but this time I enjoyed aimlessly wandering about with my mind switched off, just relishing the time to smile at my baby daughter drifting off languorously to sleep. An hour later, when she woke, she ‘helped’ me carry some daft wee purchases from Homebase, then we went to look at the fish in the pet shop. As she’s only just turned 2, I suspect she enjoyed that more than she would have enjoyed the film.

More luck followed us home: a few petrol stations were sold out of diesel all the way to Nairn. But the cheapest, Sainsbury’s, was still open! Brilliant! Around then, it started to snow. And snow. And snow…