The day that finally signalled a change in the weather. Goodbye dark clouds and heavy rain, and hello fluffy clouds, warm sunshine and a happier mother-in-law. The weather forecast for the next few days was also good.
Her brother, Uncle L, and his wife, Auntie J, made the short journey from their home to join us for the day, first for lunch at the golf course – accompanied by several wasps (or wasp impersonators, I’m never quite sure until they try to sting me and then it’s impossible to tell from the squashed remains) – then for golf, swimming and dancing, something at which they are rather good.
After swimming with his new best friend from the morning play-groups, son#1 did some putting on the green for the first time since we were here some three years ago and, once he started concentrating and taking his time, did rather well. I think he has perhaps left it too late to get into the Ryder Cup team, but maybe next time…
The dancing went on until nearly midnight to so L and J stayed over on the far-better-than-it-needed-to-be sofa-bed. By this time, however, the weather forecast had changed back to “rain every day”…
Cue unhappy mother-in-law again.
Today was Son#1’s 7th birthday, though you never would have guessed from his sullen early-morning behaviour: a tooth had suddenly become very wobbly and the end of the world was nigh. However, once he was told of the Tooth-Fairy doubling the money for teeth lost on a birthday, his mood lightened and he vigorously started working the troublesome tooth with his tongue. Before the morning was out, so was the tooth and subject to a 50p bonus for coming out pre-lunch (I’m not sure where that rule came from…) – I hope the fairy has an understanding bank manager.
The order of activities was chosen by the birthday boy and first up was a game of badminton. He managed to avoid any further injuries during play but inflicted one on me when an overly-enthusiastic swing of the racquet came to an abrupt halt when it collided with my hand. The match was quickly followed by birthday cake, just to ensure no net loss in calories.
Next was swimming, with Son#1 spending the entire hour holding his nose and diving to the bottom of the shallow end to rescue Sammy the Sea lion, his poolside pal (some overpriced toy guaranteed to sink!) In a strange move, the hotel had decided to install air-conditioning in the changing rooms, just in case leaving a pool soaking wet wasn’t quite cold enough. All the cubicles were rife with a mixture of shivering and mild swearing, but none of us were brave enough to mention our collective disappointment to the management.
Last on the itinerary was a spell in the soft-play area. Son#1 took a run-up to dive in the ball pit so Son#2 tried, unsuccessfully, to follow suit. Not to be deterred, he took a longer run-up, but still failed to get over the padded wall of the pit. Longer and longer run-ups were then employed, with some so long that he had to stop mid-way to negotiate furniture or doorways. With every near-miss he uttered “Nope, that’s not it” before running away again with a huge smile on his face. At about the fifteenth attempt he succeeded, but being a little perfectionist he still wasn’t happy with the way he landed, so he cheated and climbed on to the wall and then jumped in. A lesson for us all, there.
There were two schools of thought regarding breakfast this morning following yesterday’s enormous dinner. The first, shared by Mrs M, Signora Gillie and me, was that food would be unnecessary for another couple of days. The second, that adhered to the grandparents, was the theory that the hotel restaurant were doing enormous full Scottish breakfasts and that a Monday, just after dropping the kids at the activity centre, might be the quietest and thus best time to eat.
The Signora spent the morning burning off a couple of the previous night’s calories at the gym and Mrs M, after several changes of mind a not inconsiderable amount of pressure, decided to join her. Grampa and I went to the pitch and putt and, despite my having not picked up a golf club in nearly 10 years, I was almost mediocre. So surprised at this was my opponent that near the end of the round he ‘accidentally’ stole my 7 iron, leaving me with just a putter to negotiate the rough. He would still have beaten me, but his cheating was an encouraging sign. Way before we reached the nineteenth hole the heavens had opened once more and trench foot started to set in or the second summer holiday in succession.
Dinner was accompanied by the odd glass of wine with an odder serving suggestion: not for them the mundane “goes well with fish or white meat,” but the bizarrely specific “tastes its best when enjoyed alongside a tuna and cheese melt.” This was no Lidl own-brand plonk either, but a proper label, from a proper vineyard. I have no idea whether the buyer for Oddbins had a say in how it was to be presented, but maybe this is a whole new angle for drinks. A bottle of chianti would recommend it be best served with kidney and some fava beans, Sunny Delight would go nicely with jelly and ice-cream and a can of Special Brew would no doubt be most appreciated when accompanied by a greasy kebab, twenty Benson & Hedges and another can of Special Brew.
Son#1 took his minor injury count to well into the 30s, including crushing a finger in the hinge of the utility room door. First Aid was administered in the form of a double choc-chip cookie and a marsh mallow and all was quickly forgotten.
The rest of the evening was spent doing random and incomprehensible Scottish country dances and the Hokey Cokey in the hotel’s packed dance floor, before returning to the lodge for a supper of Haribo Fizz Bombs, as suggested by some hot chocolate.
“There’s a space!”
“What, that one there? Bit small, isn’t it?”
“Aye, you’ll get in there!”
“You sure… this isn’t the Punto, remember?”
“Well, give it a go, there’s nowhere else!”
“Right… there! Am I in, do you think? Aarrgghh, the front wheel’s just clipping the double-yellows! Ah well, I’m not moving now. You hurry for the curry, I’ll stay here just in case the traffic wardens are nearby. They love Sundays ‘cos drivers think they take the day off. If I’m not here when you get back I’ll be driving round the block… or in a cell with the car being impounded.”
Such is my paranoia that, despite seeing awful parking escape without punishment just about everywhere, I am convinced that the one time I flout the rules even slightly I will be caught and fined a month’s job-seekers’ allowance. No-one else seemed worried though, as within minutes two cars had parked fully on the yellows in front of me, one of them even going so far as to partly block the only road back to the hotel and then, as if to show a complete lack of concern for the possible presence of law-enforcement officers, immediately started smoking a joint.
There were of course no Yellow Perils – it was a Sunday after all – but it meant that poor Mrs. M. had no help to carry out enough ‘cairry-oot’ to feed if not an army, then at least a moderately-sized regiment. There’s a fine line between not wanting people to still be hungry after their repast and having enough food left over to last the rest of the week. We always err on the side of extreme caution and no-one has an appetite ever again.
Earlier in the day, Son#2 refused to do anything, Son#1 suffered about 25 very minor bumps and bangs on the death slide (or zip wire as it is now called to avoid scaring the Grandparents), Signora Gillie went to the gym, Granny showed why she has never played football for Scotland, Grampa did the Guardian quick crossword in a little less than three hours, Mrs. M went swimming and I spent ages checking email, Twitter and other social networks on my phone while studying and failing to be sociable with my family as they played ball.
It was all ever thus.
There are three givens when travelling on Britain’s motorways with small children; one of the the wee darlings will keep asking me to drive faster in very heavy traffic on the M6, the other one will need the toilet 10 minutes after having been at the last service station, and someone, at some point, will start singing ‘10 Green Bottles’.
The traffic on the M6 was particularly heinous, with it taking 15 minutes just to get out of the Lancaster services. According to the radio’s sporadic traffic reports, on a stretch of road already buckling under the strain of being reduced to two lanes, someone, or rather someone’s car, had chosen a very inopportune place to burst into flames.
After an hour of stop-start driving in the rental tour bus, a few more toilet breaks, some driver swaps and a visit to a supermarket (ostensibly to pick up bread and milk etc, but effectively to get some alcohol) we made it to our hotel in Creiff just two minutes before the final member of the party, Signora Gillie, sauntered in. The lift she had been given from nearby Stirling had managed to knock over one of the concrete bollards in the car park right outside the expensively refurbished foyer and so they beat a hasty and discreet exit. Unfortunately they took the sunny weather with them and it rained. Actually, it absolutely bucketed down, like it can only in Scotland during a summer holiday.
“When in Scotland,” we thought, so after a fish and haggis supper in our luxurious, hill-side, three-floor, self-contained houselet, we headed to the hotel and its dance floor. The rain had made the already steep path resemble a burn, with the running water splashing up over one’s feet.
The dance floor itself was not much drier with its roof struggling to keep out the torrential precipitation. The altogether-too-complicated eightsome reels, led by a man who was drumming whilst holding a microphone in one hand, were given an added frisson by having to avoid first the growing pool of drip-water, then the large, yellow “Caution – Wet” sign partially covering it. Still, at least the band weren’t playing ‘10 Green Bottles’.
Random you-had-to-be-there quote of the day:
Joe, upon seeing a Winnebago towing a Smart Car, “I wish our camper van could tow a wee car”
Charlie: “We don’t have a camper van”
Joe, “Oh yeah, silly me, heh heh heh!”
By this time tomorrow we shall, hopefully, be ensconced in our cottage/lodge/chalet (no-one, it seems, is entirely sure what kind of accommodation we have booked) and when everyone else is sleeping off a huge haggis supper and dreaming of their haggis breakfast, I will be trying to publish the latest thrilling instalment of my blog…
When I started looking into the broadband on offer at the hotel I was reminded of a joke I heard recently:
Q. How many Scotsmen does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Och, it’s not that dark!
Although this plays to the typical, and generally inaccurate, stereotype of the Scots being careful with their money (in the same way that a politician is careful with the truth), the hotel’s policy does nothing to allay this impression. Read more…
Our plans for a nice relaxing day in Shrewsbury with the in-laws on Friday, before tackling the journey to The One True North, were thrown into (mild) disarray when one of their friends popped his mortal-coil-shuffling clogs last weekend. The funeral, being in Southampton, is only just along the south coast from us, but as I only ever met the deceased at my wedding I don’t think my non-attendance will be noted.
It does, however, mean that Granny and Grampa will have to do the 400 mile, eight-hour round trip, funeral and wake in one day, so that we can be away promptly at silly o’clock on Saturday. My plans for study now hinge on Mrs. M’s willingness to entertain the kids for a few hours rather than put her feet up with a large capuccino and an old, borrowed, trashy magazine. Which is more important: a potential degree or finding out which C-list celebrity was going out with which unknown indie ‘star’ back in May, before splitting up because neither of them are famous enough to help the other’s career? It’s going to be a close call…
The Grim Reaper is most definitely an inconsiderate git.
RIP Bill Laidlaw