I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

Hebridean Hideaway

I am back in my happy place (i.e. away from my ironing pile). We are on our annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Tiree for a whole week of spending lots of time together in close quarters. So far so almost relaxing.

The journey to get here borders on the off-putting as it involves a 3.30am wake-up, a two hour twisty drive and a four hour ferry trip. Our hopes that the kids will sleep in the car on the way are always dashed and the little darlings manage to summon vast amounts of energy from hell-knows-where as soon as they are trapped on the ferry with limited entertainment.  I caught myself staring enviously at the parents of two pre-teen girls nearby whose sullen daughters totally ignored their mum and dad for the whole four hour sail.

Having not taken a long-haul flight since the Blair Administration, when we finally arrived I experienced the closest thing to jet lag in nearly ten years and crashed out halfway through a Good Housekeeping* article (How To Look Good in Selfies. Noted.).  The kids continued to bounce around like lunatics as they explored our (different from the previous three years) holiday house, culminating in a monstrous meltdown from the youngest who declared, “THIS HOUSE IS NOT TIREEEEEEEE”. Quite.

Appeased by giant Jenga, Nutella on white bread and 10pm bedtimes, they have settled in admirably. It also helps that my parents are also holidaying here in what must be their 33rd consecutive year (bar one**). We are on the other side of the island (5 miles away) this year but still see them everyday as mum needs her WiFi and Wimbledon fix (their cottage has remained largely untouched by modern technology in the 33 years)  while poor dad gets cajoled into playing My Little Ponies with the girls.

It’s very hard to put into words what I love about this place (because I am on holiday and cracking open the Strongbow™ at lunchtime) so here are some of the photos I have been posting on Facebook, just to piss off everyone on the mainland who are experiencing much shitter weather:

Tiree machair

Glorious machair

Ballevullin Beach, Isle of Tiree

Beachy mornings

Crochet blanket

Rainy afternoons

A swing park with a view

Play parking

Stunning Ballevullin beach, Tiree

Despite living very close to the sea, I can’t get enough of the sea.

I love that the Tiree 2015 album is almost identical  to the Tiree 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 albums but with slightly bigger and curlier-haired children in the photos. Old friends I’ve known from childhood are also holidaying here with their kids so it’s lovely to see the next generation relentlessly digging holes on the beach and frolicking in the waves.

We are nearly mid-way through the week, and already I am dreading leaving.  We have been blessed with better-than-predicted weather so have enjoyed happy mornings at the beach before retiring to the cottage for leisurely lunches followed by afternoons of blissful inactivity. Niall watches Wimbledon and deals with near-catastrophic bio-mass boiler issues back home, I crack on with my latest epic crochet project and the girls amuse themselves, twatting about pretending to be dogs or ponies or spies. It’s heavenly. Thoughts of epic laundry piles and monstrous baskets of ironing have been quelled by copious amounts of Strongbow™ and the obligatory Prossecco.  There is also still so much to do: the seals (we never make it), the north end (ditto), the pottery, the gallery, the weird shop that sells everything, run by a family that seemingly hasn’t aged for forty years (Niall thinks they are vampires), boogie boarding,  pony trekking and the annual lawn boule tournament which my mum takes Very Seriously Indeed.  I think we’ll need at least a month next year.

 

 

 

*For years I’ve been persevering with Glamour and occasionally Cosmopolitan, though they leave me feeling utterly inadequate in every way. Recently, however, I had an epiphany in the doctors waiting room whilst leafing through a Good Housekeeping. I loved reading about  Clare Balding’s style secrets,  how to detox my finances (should I ever accumulate any) and coping with empty nest syndrome (one can dream) and I have now fully accepted that I am well within their demographic. Also, I can steal my mum’s copies.

**dad took us to  Australia for six months, on sabbatical.  After much discussion, Tiree was declared too far for a holiday

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You Can’t Hurry Love

Today is polling day and in the early hours of tomorrow we will know Scotland’s fate. My turmoil continued long after posting my ‘no’ vote two weeks ago but now I feel at peace and ready to accept either outcome. My biggest fear is that nothing changes if it’s a ‘No’ and everything changes if it’s a ‘Yes’. That and the prospect of back to back re-runs of Take the High Road*.

IMG_3768.JPG

The worlds biggest Wendy house.

Luckily there has been a big distraction to take my mind of the ‘Neverendum’ which involved another kind of union. We hosted a family wedding at the weekend which was a fabulous culmination of two years of planning, preparation and silent prayers for September sunshine. Having met 47 years ago, and been romantically involved for a fair few decades of that, the bride and groom had waited a long time for their perfect day, and by all accounts it was.

It was the kids’ first wedding since they missed their uncle’s big day due to vomiting and diarrhoea. There was no such luck this time as over-excitement predictably turned to extreme boredom three minutes into the church service, after I’d ran out of wine gums. They passed the next 57 minutes with a competitive game of ‘pew hurdles’ in a race to see who could get to Granny, two rows in front then back to uncle Kenny, three rows behind. The whispered apologies were a useful ice-breaker for the hundreds of relatives I was meeting for the first time.

It was very moving to witness this lovely couple exchange their vows and felt very poignant considering the length of their partnership. The mood was lightened considerably though during the singing of the register. The groom’s sense of humour tickled everyone as the dulcet tones of Elvis Presley sang out the lyrics, “Wise men say, only fools rush in…”. Laughter rippled around the little church and truly set the tone for the rest of the day – love and joy and celebration.

The sun shone all day and the marquee looked fabulous with its castle backdrop. It took a bit of getting used to as it was erected a week before the big day and was considerably larger than we anticipated, however it quickly became a giant play pen for puppy and children and I quite miss it now it’s gone. Things are slowing returning to normal although our house does resemble Elton John’s mansion due to the volume of leftover flowers we are happily fostering.

It was a such a privilege to make this amazing day possible (although admittedly Niall did most of the hard work while I de-thorned some roses and shovelled up some dog poo from the lawn) and there is a decidedly Boxing Day feel about the place now. The bride and groom departed today and the remaining guests leave tomorrow. There are no more distractions from the referendum results which are now just hours away so I’m going to neck the remaining wedding Chablis, cuddle the sleeping puppy and pray that we will all still be friends in the morning. See you on the other side.

*think Acorn Antiques meets Eldorado set in Auchtermuchty

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Iron Lady

Happy feet

Happy feet

As usual our Tiree holiday was over before we knew it and suddenly we were doing tearful farewells at the pier and battling the post-holiday blues on the ferry home.

It was wonderful week, with all the obligatory Tiree activities and (more importantly) inactivities, ticked off. Beach walks, evening swims, crab hunting, sunset boules matches (VERY competitive. Girls v boys. We lost. Mum is still not speaking to me.), rainy day (just one) pottery painting (the worlds most expensive egg cups), trashy crime fiction on the beach, three crochet projects on the go, Nutella with EVERYTHING, ridiculous clothing combination (shorts, fleece, gillet/jeans, walking sandals, vest top). I could easily spend a fortnight there and am insanely jealous of my parents who stay for three weeks.

I really can’t imagine going anywhere else on holiday although Niall has tentatively suggested we perhaps go somewhere different next year. I’m hoping he’ll forget this nonsensical idea but I feigned enthusiasm to buy myself some time. (SHETLAND was even mentioned! We may as well go to New Zealand…).

Luckily the sun is still shining and we still have a beach within spitting distance so I’m warding off the PHBs and throwing myself back into my role as subordinate housekeeper. I have taken on even more responsibility lately so I need to stay focused. As well as my usual change-over tasks and laundry activities, it has now fallen upon me to iron all the bed linen. Through a sad chain of events (dear Margot’s sudden passing and poor Barbara’s deteriorating arthritis) this heinous task is now part of my increasing workload. Never one to play the martyr*, I have thrown myself into this extra duty and have weirdly found myself almost enjoying it. This is no doubt helped by the ancient press we have acquired to speed things up. It is in stiff competition with the Aga for giving me third-degree burns but I’m gradually getting the hang of it and can get half a load done during a podcast of Desert Island Discs.

I draw the line.

I draw the line.

It’s weirdly therapeutic and although I’ve only got a few finger prints left on one hand and some scars for life on the other, it is immensely satisfying seeing the finished stack of pressed linen. I’m careful not to outwardly express too much enthusiasm though as it’s a slippery slope to family laundry and before I know it I’ll be grudgingly ironing my husband’s shirts and trousers. I’m afraid I’m just not that kind of girl.

*shut up Louboo and Sazza**
**My sisters. They know too much

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Summer Loving

LIterally TENS of people on the beach

LIterally TENS of people on the beach

Hello summer! It’s been hot, hot, hot (Low twenties. It’s all relative.) for what feels like ages so we’ve been making good use of our beautiful local beaches. Playgroup has twice abandoned the village hall in favour of the beach which has been fabulous and so much more relaxing for us wrung-out mothers. The kids seem to get along so much better outside and although  there are odd moments of violence and aggression, generally they are all the best of friends which is so vital, being such a wee community.

We recently lost a lovely pal who moved back to civilisation and this had a huge impact on our little group. She was a brilliant person to know and inspired us all to be better parents and also, miraculously, take up exercise! I found the latter easier than the former but I’m really trying to do things differently, be more patient and generally not lose my shit so often. Like right now, for example.  I am trying to steal a few moments to write my blog but my despot two-and-half year old is going bat-shit crazy because giant Paddington Bear is quite clearly too big for Action Man’s tank and she is demanding I rectify this futile situation immediately. The old me (yesterday) might have matched her glass-shattering decibels with a few expletives and thrown said toys dramatically out of the room but I managed to rise above it, create a distraction and restore calm. No shrieking, no swearing. Go me. Hopefully I’ve changed in time to save me a fortune in therapy fees later on. (Theirs, not mine – I want ALL the therapy).

Swims in the sea are also helping my mental health and we have fallen into a lovely routine of popping down to our little beach at around 4pm for a dip and a paddle. It is blissful and wonderful to watch the children gaining confidence in the water. Being non-swimmers just isn’t an option for them, living where we do. They should get plenty practice this week as we are off on our annual holiday to Tiree for more of the same. I can’t wait to be there again, my remote home from (my remote) home. The gruelling journey began at 3.30am this morning but we are now safely aboard the Clansman, happily stuffed with the mandatory CalMac breakfast and succeeding at ignoring the children as they pester random strangers and torment unassuming doggies. I am also ignoring the fact that it is currently pissing down and visibility is pretty much zero. It will be fine once we get there – the sun ALWAYS shines on Tiree.

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