Hurrah – school is out and we are packing for a week’s holiday on the Isle of Skye. We are going to stay in a house where my family enjoyed an annual holiday from when I was nine until I turned fifteen. I have very happy memories of hot summer days spent there, swimming at the little beach, finding our own cave, painting watercolour pictures of the sea and the mountains and watching the sunset behind the Cuillins. Not much else happened on those holidays and by the time I was fifteen I think I needed more company and more activity. Memories of the perfections and imperfections of family holidays make me very determined to work hard this week at enjoying time together. I regularly wrote a holiday diary as a child and recently found one from when I was thirteen and staying in this same house. The entry above is typical and makes me smile and laugh a little at my thirteen year old self. I have bought notebooks for D and K and hope I can inspire them to create their own journals for this week.
Funny to think of all we were going through nine years ago today: the preparations, the service, the gathering of wonderful, wonderful people, the celebrations. Our wedding day was really special in so many ways but it also had some stresses running in the background. I am so full of gratitude for the last nine years and looking back I can see so much more of the promise and fulfilment that the day signified. If I had known how these years would unfold, I would have been even happier to be marrying the man who took my hand that day.
Its only in Britain that we would have a primetime TV slot dedicated to sheep farming. I’m glad we do: there was certainly something wonderful about our own visit to a live lambing shed this morning. The little lambs are very pretty, clean and sweet. The mothers are not pretty but their care for their new offspring is beautiful and fierce. D was delighted to tell us he saw two being born. The smell of sheep and straw in the shed was rich and warm. The talk is of births and mothering and care. What a great place to be.
Yesterday it felt and looked like spring and we spent the afternoon tidying up the garden a little with the help of my sister. I love the yellowness of spring flowers and the way it is so often paired with bright pink or purple in combinations I would never enjoy anywhere else. Look at the colours of this flowering currant! And this forsythia. (I must pick some and bring it inside – the bush is need of pruning anyway.)We have daffodils and primroses coming up, and the hundred tulips I planted in November (very late) have beautifully healthy looking leaves about 8cm tall. I can’t wait to see the flowers. Little E was out in our tent, exploring the leaves and grass and sticks – and anything else she could reach and get into her mouth. D and E were running around in bare feet.Today is grey, again, and cold and wet. Still, we have our promises of spring. We can wait a little longer.
I spent Saturday with one of my oldest, best and finest friends. Here she is, a full five years ago but not a bit different from this weekend. With only one child between us (instead of our usual seven), and that child being the baby we had a day together to do exactly what we liked. So we wandered, stopped for coffee and cake, ate lunch, shopped a little, had a mini-makeover, stopped for more cake and carried on talking. I’ve known Sarah since university and our conversation always flows and eddies, drifts around all sorts of topics, celebrates our similarities and explores our differences. We spoke a lot about our children (how to discipline them, how to make them feel loved, what to read them at bedtime); we discussed fashion and money and schools and our childhoods. We compared notes on turning forty and how that makes us feel (our next birthday for both of us.) At convenient points the baby slept. The sun was shining. What a lovely way to spend a day off.
So we are back into the school routine after five lovely long half-term days. This is one thing that has changed now D is at school: holidays are looked forward to and specially enjoyed by us all. I like having everyone at home; I like planning activities (without the panicked – what on earth are we going to entertain ourselves with feeling that I got only a year ago); K loves having D around to play with; D loves being at home to play with his toys; a trip to the shops or out for coffee has a fun, holiday feeling. And, lest I forget, we have cheerios for breakfast.
We were home for Thursday, Saturday and Monday. Daniel was at a friend’s birthday on Thursday afternoon and K had a friend to play (two three year old girls, two hours – eight different activities! I counted: hide and seek; biscuit making; blowing bubbles in the garden; biscuit icing; snack time; dancing to music; face-painting… I’ve forgotten one). We did a treasure hunt for coloured objects … which led to an unprecedented piece of creative scribbling in the hall. Days out on Friday and Sunday (lunch with friends) and friends here for lunch on Monday meant the days felt full without being overwhelming. A little lesson learned for me: forward planning of holidays is essential. Note to self: start thinking about Easter now.
Spending time with people you love, in a place you love, doing things you love: thats a good enough way for me to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This time last year we were in CapeTown and I cooked a Valentine’s lunch for eleven, including both great-grannies. Here’s the table before we sat down to eat. (I made the big hearts with paper and a stapler. The little heart baskets are woven from two pieces of paper – I remember making them at primary school).
The display of orchids in the RBG glass houses were stunning. I love flowers and it is lovely to be given some. Last year there were giant protea’s on the table. This year, I am still enjoying a bunch of tulips R brought me. Cards? Of course there were cards. I think I like them best of all: little messages saying the things we so often forget, reminders for this year, 2014, of the things that we have committed to, the things that really matter to us and to our family. Valentine’s Day: a simple reminder to keep loving one another every single day.
Birthdays in our family all come in pairs (at least – we have four in one week in August). So this weekend was Mr Mc’s birthday. We celebrated with a bit of this and a bit of that.
A bit of this – a walk on my favourite beach on Sunday afternoon. The camera batteries were flat, so this photo was actually from a visit four years ago. That little chap is D: how fast time is passing. The beach was the same but, oh, how we all have changed.
I decided the best birthday present I could give R this year was time off: so he spent Saturday skiing with his brother in a blizzard at Glenshee. There’s nothing like battling with the elements on the side of a Scottish mountain to make you feel really alive. Happy Birthday, my love!
As a family we seem to have rather more than usual to celebrate right now – mainly small things but worth celebrating.
And birthdays – my sister this week: a nice excuse for us all to enjoy cake and ice-cream sundaes. Happy Birthday, lovely lady.
Here are some photos from a weekend we enjoyed in Edinburgh at the end of November. We worked out the importance of camouflage for little fish at the National Museum of Scotland;
Walked through the Christmas festivities on Princes Street; stayed with my sister; met up with a brother and cousins; gate-crashed the National LIbrary of Scotland which was open to the public for Book Week Scotland; read and choose a children’s book to take away for free; Ate a winter picnic at Yellowcraigs beach; walked over the headland where Robert Louis Stevenson set the start of Treasure Island; drank hot chocolate in Gullane at the amazing Konditorei and Kaffeehaus Falko’s (well worth a visit for amazing cakes).We came home refreshed and exhausted by the pleasures of a weekend in the city.
Ah, Edinburgh, Edinburgh: never mine and mine forever. Its good to have a few more memories to place on my own personal map of the city.
“Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth…”
― Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland