One of our favourite things to do, rain or shine (yes, I mean it) is to go charging down the sand dunes at Lunan Bay. We spent today there in the glorious east coast sunshine. As well as charging down sand dunes, we dug for treasure, paddled in the sea, flew a kite and ate sandy sandwiches. Exhausted by the pleasures of the beach, we finished with coffee, cake and ice-creams at the glorious little cafe, the Lunan Bay Diner. Walking back to the car park, we spotted this. I wonder if this is Banksy’s most northerly work? (Is it genuine?) This weekend is Angus Open Studios and after passing a few of the signs on our way, we pulled up at Red Castle Pottery on our way home. It was a lovely surprise to find that K could get her hands dirty. With R’s help, she made a little tortoise out of a lump of clay which Maralyn Reed-Wood will fire and post. Thank you, Maralyn.
“The Railway Children” by E. Nesbitt is one of those books that out lasts my childhood and still captures my heart and imagination. Its a children’s book whose depth of feeling and emotion only adults can truly appreciate (Laura Ingalls Wilder books fall into this category too.) I’m sure the book is one of the reasons I do love the opportunity to take a steam train trip, (although I’d always say we’re doing it for the children.) We took a steam train from Cape Town to Simon’s Town last February and we took a short trip on a train from Aviemore two years ago. And last weekend we took a trip on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. It was a great day out. One of the best bits was playing hide and seek in the engine shed when we arrived at the station, scrambling up onto the foot plates of the great, greasy iron locomotives or squeezing in behind a wheel taller than a five year old boy. It was magical too, standing on the footbridge as the locomotive got up steam and slowly whooshed underneath us, swallowing us up in a cloud of steam and smoke.
Readers must think we have done nothing but enjoy lovely days away with friends in the last few weeks. After a few years where holidays have been few and far between, I don’t take these precious days for granted. As I’ve already said, I think I am also getting better at understanding and planning for family holidays and so enjoying them more. Last weekend we had three days in a converted barn just outside of Kendal, catching up with Cath (literally my oldest friend – I can remember playing with her before we went to school), her husband Phil and their beautiful one-year old, Sammy who we were meeting for the first time.
Ah, good friends: more precious than silver, worth more than gold. The weekend was full of simple pleasures like an adventure playground (essential for our kids); coffee (essential for me); a boat trip; walks; milkshakes; and throwing stones into a river.
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
We enjoyed a rare evening out on Saturday – by ‘we’ I mean Ross and me without D and K (but with E!). What a pleasurable escape from the everyday: watching a performance of ‘As you like it’ in the grounds of a castle on a summer’s evening while eating a picnic of all my favourite food. And the best bit about it – a mere six miles away. The play was put on by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men at Glamis Castle. According to the websites, that’s Shakespeare’s finest comedy, performed at Scotland’s most beautiful castle.
Glamis Castle deserves a post all to itself (coming up): it is one of my family’s favourite places to escape to and definitely one of the best tourist attractions in Scotland. Our picnic included smoked salmon, oat cakes, carrot and cucumber sticks, crisps and sour cheese dip, rolls and pate, grapes and chocolate eclairs. According to the BBC, this is: “Open air theatre as it should be and at its very, very best.” Yes, I’d say it was just as we like it.
One of the things we did on holiday was take a little ride on a steam train. I read D a ‘Thomas’ story every night at bedtime so we are familiar with words like fender, funnel, tunnel, buffers and trucks. I love the romance of steam and this trip had some particularly beautiful little details on the old train.
My favourite ‘Thomas’ story is about an old Welsh engine called Skarloey. I love reading this at bedtime:
“The coaches ran nicely, but he soon began to feel tired again. His springs were weak, and the rail joints jarred his wheels.
Then with a crack, a front spring broke, and he stopped.
“I feel all crooked,” he complained.
“That’s torn it,” said his Driver, “we’ll need a bus now for our passengers.”
“No!” pleaded Skarloey, “I’d be ashamed to have a bus take my passengers. I’ll get home or burst,” he promised bravely.
The Thin Controller looked at his watch, and paced the platform. James and his train waited impatiently too.
They heard a hoarse “Peep Peep”, then groaning, clanging and clanking, Skarloey crept into sight. He was tilted to one side, and making fearful noises, but he plodded bravely on.
“I’ll do it, I’ll do it,” he gasped between the cranks and groans, “I’ll… I’ve done it!”
(Four little engines, The Rev. W. Awdry)