I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

Castle life, Aga strife, slummy mummy, average wife

Taking the Plunge

wild-swimming-bubble

2017 is going well, despite the shakey start. My year began with some impressive stealth puking as I tried to hide my hideous hogmanay hangover from the family. I nearly got away with it but was overheard on FaceTime to my sister gloating about the skill involved in silent vomiting.

Fortunately the day wasn’t wasted as I was forced to get my shit together for a New Year’s Day loony dook in the sea with some pals. Knowing it would be kill or cure, I hugged the dog extra tightly and scribbled a brief “I love you there’s bread in the freezer the freezer is down stairs tell the girls not to ever waste their time watching Lost, Love Actually or the second Sex and the City movie.” note, as a precautionary, posthumous measure.

Fortunately, diving head first into the sea when the air temperature is barely above freezing, did actually cure me and I immediately felt human again and ready for anything. But mostly steak pie and mash.

I should fess up that this wasn’t an isolated incident (as in the loony dooking, it should come as no surprise that I’m renowned for spewing after 3 or 4 proseccos) and I’ve actually been regularly swimming in the sea since early December. Lunacy being the only required qualification, I got involved in this bonkers activity after offering to join a pal who was wild swimming for charity.

I looked forward to the first time less than my Caesarean sections but was pleasantly surprised when I came out alive and positively high on life. (Not dissimilar to my c-sects although I suspect that was the tramadol).”I’VE BEEN IN THE SEA”, I manically shrieked at random pensioners in Tesco. “YOU MUST TRY THIS”, I yelled millimetres from the terrified faces of my poor friends. “I STILL CAN’T FEEL MY FEET”, I confessed to my husband later that day. But I was desperate to do it again and even managed to persuade a few others to take the plunge.

Like-minded loonies

Like-minded loonies

We are now a proper group who meet at least twice a week to strip off and splash about with the seals at sunrise. I have become one of those people who wax lyrical about the health benefits of cold-water swimming and wear Birkenstocks (not yet, but it’s a slippery slope). There is just something utterly fabulous about gliding along the bay, watching the sun come up and the seals coming closer. According to research, it’s a great stress-buster, boosts your immune system, improves longevity and burns lots of calories. There’s also a lot to be said for screaming “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK”, in harmony, whilst submerging oneself in the sea in Scotland in January. Best of all it’s free, gets me away from the squabbling kids for half and hour and puts me in such a good mood I am nice to everyone for at least an hour afterwards.

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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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Life’s a Beach

so THIS is what happy children look like

so THIS is what happy children look like

We had our first taste of summer 2015 last week. It was glorious – expansive blue skies, temperatures in the late teens and daylight til 8pm (which causes it’s own bedtime problems but that’s another blog post entirely). Me and the girls, and the dog, have been spending a lot of time at the beach which is so much more enjoyable now they’re a bit older and can be trusted not to toddle into the sea and drown or eat seaweed, stones and/or dead things.  I even managed a solitary stroll along the beach whilst they played happily together* on the rocks. Lost in my favourite pastime of searching for sea glass and pottery, it was only when I reached the end of the beach that I became aware of the panicked shrieks from base camp. “I NEED A POO MUMMY” echoed accross the Kilbrannan sound, alarming several seals and an elderly couple from Skipton** who’d pulled up to enjoy the view.  Turning swiftly on my heel I legged it back to the rocks, stopping only very briefly to pick up the odd gem of pottery (I really can’t help myself) and desperately hoping that I had baby wipes and a plastic bag to hand. Who was I kidding – I stopped all that ‘being prepared’ shit months ago, becoming arrogantly complacent when the youngest mastered toilet-training. Luckily I am as resourceful as I am unprepared and achieved a successful clean-up job with a used tissue and an empty crisp packet. Mummy 1, poo nil.

Another blissful afternoon was spent on a different local beach with nursery friends, whilst the eldest languished in school. It was bordering on perfect – picnic food,  crab nets, paddling, no poos, no “SANDY HANDS!!” hysteria and pockets full of beach treasure. Knee deep in the water, gazing out at the best view in the world, lunacy took hold and I decided the only thing that could make the moment more perfect would be a swim. Stripped to vest and pants (luckily only my poor friend bore witness to this sight), I waded back in and shrieked like a stuck piglet as I got deeper and deeper. There was no going back and with an audible scream of “FUCKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT” ringing out across the bay, (I can only hope the kids thought I was saying “bucket”), I submerged my shoulders and took some strokes. The shock of this not killing me nearly killed me but I was under and swimming and loving it. I assumed it would be a quick in-and-out job but it really was delightful and I even managed to get my head under. The first swim of 2015 – done!  It wasn’t even a one off – after a very, very moving funeral last week, I decided the only thing thing for it was to Carpe the very warm diem and have a swim in the sea.  It was incredibly life-affirming and therapeutic, marred only by the three year old falling off a rock and landing on her head. She was fine, although it might be quite hard to tell for a while….

Hailstones in May in Scotland

Summer in Scotland. #funnynotfunny

After digging out my summer wardrobe (2 pairs of shorts and a scabby vest top), predictably the weather turned and for nearly four days it was the bleak midwinter again. Sleet, hail, wind and rain battered our ancient windows and we were back to lying in bed listening to the cacophony of drips landing in buckets in the attic.  I even had to turn back from a shopping trip into town as three cars were stuck on our hill because of the ball-bearing-esque hail stones. Conversation at the school gate simply consisted of all the mums huddling in the tiny covered entrance shrieking “WHATTHEACTUALFUCK??” as we reminisced fondly about the previous weeks beach activities.

That’s Scotland for you, which I light-heartedly said to our paying guests from Germany, half-way through their unseasonably cold and miserable week. The lady smiled sympathetically as if to say, at least we are leaving this Godforsaken land in a few days. The man just glared, silently. Fortunately the sun did reappear for their last two days and they left, all smiles and vowing to return.

I’ve packed away my shorts again and we’re all back in winter woollies with the fires on. The sea looks about as inviting as a bath of cold baked beans but I’m clinging to the memories of those two wonderful swims and wishing hard for the warm weather to return. I may even shave my legs next time.

 

 

*clearly hell was freezing over at this moment in time

**yes I do talk to everyone, yes I am turning into my mother

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No Thanks

I am a HUGE fan of autumn and have been loving the changing colours and light of the past few weeks. Who knew that taking a dog out for a poo at 5.30am could be such a treat. We might not get the spectacular sunsets that the smug west coasters get, but our sunrises can be pretty special if you have the misfortune of being up at that heinous hour.

This is what 6am looks like. You're welcome.

This is what 6am looks like. You’re welcome.

The sea is still inviting although the temperatures have dropped significantly. I thought I’d had my last swim weeks ago but seized the moment this week with a visiting southern friend who fancied a dip. His expletives could be heard for miles around as his testicles retreated faster than a Better Together campaigner in an egg factory when he submerged himself in the water and flailed around for all of a minute. Admittedly it was a little cooler than previous times but still utterly devine and the perfect remedy for a shattered insomniac.

Niall went for the subliminal approach to try and influence my decision.

Niall went for the subliminal approach to try and influence my decision.

I am still waking (or being woken) in the small hours and no amount of sheep counting or light referendum reading can lull me back to sleep. The Yes/No question continued to plague me until I finally cracked one morning after a pathetic four hour sleep. I tore the ballot paper from the envelope and defiantly etched my black cross in the ‘No’ box and sealed it all up before I had time to find the tippex. I don’t think I was impulsive. From the beginning I was firmly in the ‘No’ camp but was tempted by the passion and commitment of the ‘Yes’ folk and was very much buoyed along by promises of a fairer society, protection of our amazing NHS and improved child care options for working parents. News of Ukip gaining support and power also started to tip the scales to a ‘Yes’ from me but while my head was saying this could work, we can do this, my heart was screaming, please don’t go.

I am VERY proud to be Scottish but I can’t imagine not being part of the United Kingdom. A friend just summed it up perfectly for me on Facebook: “To me it comes down to being a fish and choosing whether you want your own pond or are happy to share the ocean.” I just think it’s better to share.

Who knows what will happen on the 18th, or indeed forever after, but it’s looking like there is only a baw hair* in it. I just hope the smugness will be kept to a minimum whatever the outcome and that the energy and debate will continue until the promises that were made by either side are kept.

* this is an official political term. Obvs.

3am Reading List

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