Mostly this is about a holiday we took at the start of the month, other things happened but they don’t loom as large.
Two weeks off
July was notable mostly because we took two weeks off for a parental tour. It was the first time R had seen her grandparents (other than as heads and shoulders on a video call) since December 2019 / January 2020. It wasn’t exactly relaxing, but it was what we all needed. R loved being spoiled by her grandparents, the grandparents loved seeing the raw chaos that R brings, we loved going out and about to new places and showing R some of the places we hung out when we were small.
We did plenty of things;
- Stonehaven beach & playground - it was raining and R didn’t particularly enjoy this, but we felt it captured a certain truth about Scottish summers and beaches
- Inverbervie beach - a much nicer day and we taught her about the reflective pleasures of just hurling stones into the sea.
- Storybook Glen (or as it’s now known “The Den & The Glen”) - a somewhat faded glamour fairytale statue strewn gardens1 with an attached soft play. R loved posing with the statues, we loved spotting the ones that had clearly lost some of their bits over the years, and ones where the sculptors artistic reach had outstripped their grasp.
- Stirling Castle it’s full of unicorns so that kept R happy. I got pointlessly mad about a QR code promising the destructive power of a medieval catapult that actually links to a video of a trebuchet2. Is it so much to ask that a historical site is exact with its nomenclature?
- Briarlands Farm - a field near Stirling on a working farm filled with baby animals and pedal carts and bouncy bags and climbing frames. We figured we’d spend a couple of hours at most, but we lasted the whole day. A great recommendation from our AirBnb host.
- The Highland Wildlife Park - R became obsessed with the wolves. She really likes Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood so she has some affinity for wolves, but we thought she’d be scared, particularly when they got all angry wolf-face at each other, but she was mesmerised.
Also, we found out that R loves a zipline. She can be tentative about climbing frames and tall slides, but cannot get enough of a zipline. They were seemingly ubiquitous in playgrounds in Scotland, but we can only think of one park in London that has one, and it’s a relatively recent installation.
We took the sleeper to travel up to Scotland for the parental tour. It’s a fairly optimistic name for the service. They’ve refreshed the rolling stock, so everything is nicer, but it’s still a far from refreshing night. Lots of stop-and-starting as the train is shunted out of the way for faster freight trains. Lots of rattling across the roof of the train due to low hanging trains. Still, it’s much nicer than flying.
On the way back we got on at the same time as a bunch of cycling dads who despite clearly being monied had chosen to take the seating option. It looked like the return journey from a cycling + wild camping holiday in the highlands, and yet, they were roughing it once more by taking the seats. I can’t imagine anything worse.
That freshly baked bread smell
As a gift to T’s parents I baked a loaf to take up with us. I got my timings right so it came out of the oven a few hours before we had to leave for the station.
The unexpected delight of doing this is that our sleeper rooms smelled delicious when we woke up in the morning. I might try to travel everywhere with a freshly baked loaf.
Muck from tins in the mearns
At school we were tasked with reading “Sunset Song” by local author Lewis Grassic Gibbon. It’s set in a farming community in a fictionalised version of the Mearns which is where T’s parents live. The Lewis Grassic Gibbon centre celebrating the author’s work is even a few km along the road from their house. I didn’t particularly take to the novel as a child, I don’t think I was ready to understand it, and unlike the Shakespeare we were also forced to read it didn’t immediately strike a chord with me.
But, one thing stuck in my head; a phrase from a harvest feasting scene:
there was honey and jam, and there was syrup, for them that like muck from tins3
It’s clear that the characters, (maybe the author?) have some disdain for people who like processed food. It seems churlish to me, admittedly a townie, because syrup is delicious, and it’s existence doesn’t mean honey or homemade jam (also delicious - people can like both!) can’t also exist. To spite the author, and the secondary school english teacher who made me read this book, whenever I’m in the mearns I will take the opportunity to have toast with syrup on it, and whisper to myself:
I like muck from tins
In-between visiting our parents we stopped off in Stirling because it’s kinda halfway between by train. We had a couple of days here and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Stirling seems nice!
One benefit of coming here was that I got to meet up with an old school/university friend. It’s nice meeting those friends you’ve had for ages where you just easily fall into familiar ways even though you’ve not seen each other for several years. I can’t wait to do more of this in London as things ease up and people (including me, I’m a bit of a shut in right now) are happier mingling.
Ever since we’ve had R we’ve noticed her name crop up all over the place:
- The name above of the AirBnB we stayed at in Stirling
- The product range for the carpet we replaced our old bedroom one with
- A brand of wool that my mum used to knit some baby clothes
We didn’t really encounter it before, so it seems like her name is everywhere. Obviously, this is just us not noticing it before because well… why would we? It didn’t mean anything. I know this, but I can see why you might read more into it and assume the universe was trying to tell you something. Brains are weird.
During our holiday my earphones4 gave out. One ear stopped producing sound. I’ve had this pair for maybe 5 years, which is a good innings for earphones as far as I’m concerned. I suspect that them being bluetooth and not having lots of wires is part of how they lasted so long. The part that failed was clearly the wire into one of the earphones. After some research and a couple of recommendations from work colleagues I replaced them with a pair of Aftershokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones5. So far I’m impressed with them.
- I wear bone conduction headphones
- I wear toe shoes
- I’m trying low heart rate training
… am I going full run weirdo?
Should I lean into this more?
Run topless with a complicated hydration pack?
5 times! I wish I could say this was because I worked in regular runs to my normal schedule, but it was being on holiday that meant I was able to fit more runs in during the week. I felt excited to run in different places too, so made an effort to get out and see new routes. The runs in the mearns and Grantown I’d done before, but Stirling was entirely new. I got to run through a park, through a forest and have views of a castle.
I did make a poor choice running through Kings Park though and attempted to scramble down a cliff to the lower path. About halfway down as I reached for a fallen tree branch to steady myself as I slid over a rock to ease down the cliff further I realised there was no path to speak of. I was very likely to slip and fall to my doom if I continued, so I scrambled back up and retraced my steps to the more obvious signposted and tarmac path down to the lower path. Wasted about 15mins and received plenty of scratches on my legs for my mistake. Still, it was pretty fun.
Only 3. I optimistically thought I’d get a bunch of reading done on our holiday, but of course, when you’re on holiday with a tiny human, you don’t have loads of free time to just lounge with a book. 🤷
One book I read though, “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, was particularly good. While the plot was fairly standard mythological fantasy stuff, it felt super fresh to me because instead of being based on European mythology that I’m more familiar with it was steeped in Mayan lore. I appreciate this says more about how widely read I am and the cultures I’ve exposed myself to than it does about the quality of the book, but I enjoyed it none-the-less.