Category Archives: Family

Afternoon stroll at Hopetoun Monument

We couldn’t venture too far from home this Sunday as #RubyBloomT has come into heat for the first time and she is a little quiet at the moment. She will also have to stay on her lead for the next 3 weeks and she is not allowed to attend her obedience classes either.

We see the Hopetoun Monument almost every day and have fancied taking the short trip to investigate. Once at the car park it is only about 400m, uphill.

The way to the tower

The countryside is beautiful this time of year as all the flowers are coming into bloom, blossom on the trees, fields are a fibrant yellow colour with Rapeseed not to mention all the yellow Gorse scattered all over the hills.

The final patch of yellow Gorse

The hill up to Hopetoun Monument was steeper than I thought, easy enough on a dry day but I can see it being a tough climb on a wet Scottish day in winter. After leaving the wood the last section is through the beautiful yellow Gorse and there it is, rising high above you… Hopetoun Monument.

Built for the memory of John Hope in 1824

The monument was built in memory of John Hope who was the 4th Earl of Hopetoun. It is interesting that the monument is here given Hopetoun House is located 27 miles away in South Queensferry.

John commissioned into the 10th Light Dragoon’s in 1784 and was an MP from 1790 to 1800, which is not possible today. The military have to remain neutral therefore a serving member is not permitted to officially represent a political party until after they have retired. John rose through the ranks, succeeding Sir John Moore on his death in Spain and eventually commanded the 1st Division under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsula Wars where he was captured by the French in 1814. He must have been extremely important because King George IV visited John at Hopetoun House when the King came to Scotland on a State visit in 1822. The significance of this was that the Kings visit was the first time a reigning British sovereign had visited Scotland in 170 years.

For some reason #DeaconT didn’t want to climb the 132 step spiral staircase to the top. It was steep, narrow and at times quite dark so I had to put my iPhone torch on. For some crazy reason I started running up two steps at a time, that foolishness stopped about two thirds up as my thighs began to burn. If you slipped on these stairs you would almost certainly tumble all the way down to the bottom!!!

The view from the top was amazing. To the west you could see one of my favourite places to go running, thePentland Hills, then there was Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat. To the east you could see the North Berwick Law and in the south was the Lammermuir Hills. Even in May it was certainly breezy up here which meant the cold cut right into you. No time to contemplate the workings of the universe, take a few photos and then head back down before my fingers froze.

Panoramic view West > North > East

If I thought it was fun going up the spiral staircase it was more interesting going down. I didn’t realise how narrow these steps were, especially as I have size 10 feet. The few narrow windows give some light but near the bottom it gets very dark and it would be easy to lose your footing if you didn’t concentrate.

The narrow spiral staircase

Once at the bottom we headed off for a little walk which ultimately brought us back to the car park again. If you wanted to carry on exploring historical sites, Athelstaneford is just a few miles away, which claims to be the first place the Scottish Saltire was first flown in 832AD; there is some debate about this. As we had already been there we headed over to a cafe in Dirleton so #DeaconT could have some ice cream, and cake for the parents! There is a stunning castle in Dirleton but as we had #RubyBloomT that would wait for another day.

Not Quite Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 30 years on

Ok it wasn’t quite bunking off school like Ferris did in 1986 but then we are 29 years later on, and how things have changed.  Rather than bunking off school it was an impromptu day off work.  The day started at 5am when little Deacon decided he was going to wake up, mainly due his chesty cough and snotty nose.  Listening to Bing and Hey Duggee in the early hours will stay with me for years to come, the sound of the Hey Duggee banjo theme tune will send shivers down my spine far more than than the banjo from Deliverance would ever do.

After breakfast, which consisted of weetabix being spattered around the table.  Deacon probably ended with more on his face than actually in his mouth.  The surprising thing about weetabix is that you could lay bricks with it, because when that stuff dries you need a chisel to prise it off your face.

Cookham High Street

The rain had stopped and we headed to the village of Cookham.  Thankfully it wasn’t too muddy, unlike the weekend when we attempted to push the pram to the Magna Carta Memorial in Runnymede.  That resulted in me spending 45mins outside in the drizzle with a bucket and brush trying to clean the chunks of mud and straw that had embedded itself into the wheels. I am sure this combination of mud and straw is called Cob.

After sitting in the carpark for 30mins because someone in the back seat decided he wanted to have a late morning snooze, we were on our 1.5km walk along the Thames and through the village.  The village was rather quaint but everything was closed, unusual for a Wednesday.

Old Swan Uppers

Lunch was beckoning and we didn’t fancy anything in the village itself so we head to the Old Swan Uppers for a hearty pub lunch.  This is when the little disaster happened.  The spilt yoghurt on Deacon’s trousers on closer inspection, turned out not to be yoghurt.  The pungent smell slowly filling the nostrils also gave away what had happened.  An explosion in your underpants doesn’t quite describe it.  Thankfully we had eaten by this point, so it was time to quickly pay and depart the premises before upsetting the stomachs of our fellow diners.  We had to line his carseat so that the liquidly sludge didn’t leak out onto his seat.  The visit to Cookham was cut short as we made a dash for home.

To this day I am still at a loss how it managed to get so far up his back!  Surely gravity would push it in the opposite direction.  Only one thing could help in this situation and that was to place Deacon in the bath whilst we attempted to get his clothes off.  Then it was a quick spray with the shower.

The long walk through Swinley Forest

After that delightful episode we headed out again, this time to Swinley Forest to see what the trail walk was like.  We all really enjoy the 2km walk and didn’t see another person the entire time.  The first part of the walk seemed to be continuously uphill, not that I minded as it wasn’t too muddy and what goes up must come back down again.  However the downhill part proved to be steep and very muddy.  I am not sure my chelsea boots were the best thing to wear!

After all that we were all worn out.  Little Deacon was over tired and it took some time to get him to sleep.  As for us two, we made it until 9.30pm before giving up and going to bed.  Lets face it, he will probably be awake again at 5am!

Swinley Forest

Mini Break to North Wales

One of my New Year Resolutions was to get away for three mini breaks in 2015.  We are getting off to a great start as here we are in January and we are spending three nights at the Quay Hotel and Spa in Deganwy, Conwy, North Wales.

View from hotel room

We had a pretty good drive, stopping off at an Ikea near Birmingham to break the journey up and so we could feed the little one.  We arrived in Deganwy around 3.30pm and checked in with no problems. It didn’t surprise us to see that our room was at the far end of the hotel, this seems to be a trend with us which we can only put down to the fact that we have a baby.  It doesn’t bother us and in this case we were shocked to see how big room 257 was, although we discovered an extra bathroom designed for disabled people.

There was no time to go out and explore as the weather was closing in and darkness was falling quickly.  In fact the weather was getting really bad and it was blowing a gale outside, which sort of reminded me of 1987 when I listened to that howling gale (!) in a little place called Touchen End in Berkshire.  Thankfully the little man didn’t notice the wind and he went to sleep as normal. Or so we thought as he was up at 2.30am and wouldn’t go back to sleep again until nearly 5am!

After a very restless night we were up, had a very light breakfast before going to the pool.  Even though the little man was a little tired, he still enjoyed his 30mins in the pool.  Afterwards we needed to get out into the fresh air before the weather turned.  It was a gentle 10min stroll into the centre of Deganwy, which doesn’t have much to offer apart from Antique shops and cafes.  After only a couple of minutes we had seen the entire village so we parked ourselves in a quaint little delicatessen called The Olive Grove Deli & Cafe.  It was a small establishment, but the staff were extremely friendly and the Bakewell Tarts were a delight.

Street Art near the Long Stay Car Park, Conwy

Our next stop was the short drive to Conwy as we wanted to visit Conwy Castle. The long term car park just around the corner was a bargain at £2 for 8 hours, and at £6.75 per person the Castle wasn’t too bad either.  Castles are not renowned for being pram friendly but Conwy was ok. A slope leads up to the main entrance and then you have about 6 steps and then you are in.  As long as your pram can deal with cobbles then you are fine once you get in. The odd step here and there but nothing too bad.  You are never going to be able to get up any turrets but you know this before going in.  We always take it in turns to go stairs to investigate the narrow passageways to see where they lead.

It was interesting to be in Edward I bedchamber (or what was left of it) and for some bizarre reason I was intrigued with his secret room used to watch the chapel service with its en suite.  I had a surreal moment as I sat on his private toilet and thought to myself that just over 800 years ago Edward I was sat on this very spot!

The little man was almost ready for a feed, so we had a quick walk around Conwy seeing the smallest house in Wales, possibly the UK, and it was pretty small and looked like it needed some extra TLC as it is looking somewhat dishevelled now, nothing like the red building that appears on google searches.  I am 6ft and I could just about see through the upstairs window.  Not sure I could lay down in that house!

Feed time and we stopped at the Time Cafe Bar for some late lunch.  This family run cafe is a real gem, with artistic clocks mounted on the walls that give a real sense of London chic.  There is a wide selection of homemade food on the menu, but ensure you check out the specials board as the fishcakes, salad and new potatoes and chicken & leek pie with chips and mushy peas that we both had was delicious.  Just a shame we couldn’t eat together, as the little one decided just as our food came out that he didn’t want to sit anymore and wanted to be held. Would certainly recommend a visit.

So concluded day one.

The wind was out again last night but the little guy slept through most of it and was wide awake by 5.30am.  The weather today was miserable so our sight seeing was going to mainly confined to the car.

Our first stop was at Betws-y-Coed to see the Swallow Falls.  According to Trip Advisor it was best to stop in the lay-by next to the Swallow Falls Hotel because then you do not have to pay for parking.  After getting dressed in my arctic gear, armed with camera and umbrella I made my way to the steps leading down to the falls.  Only to discover you had to pay to get through the turnstile! It would have been nice to see the falls but I am not paying to walk down some steps in the rain to see them.  We had just driven through Gwydyr Forest Park and with all this rain there are plenty of falls to see for free!

We needed to feed the little guy so a nice little cafe was required.  Looking at the map the small village of Llanberis looked as good as any.  After driving through the spectacular countryside with the rain blowing horizontal we discovered there really wasn’t very much in Llanberis when the weather is like this.  Thankfully the little guy had fallen asleep so we decided to push on to Caernarfon.

Parking next to the impressive castle I struggled up the hill because the wind was getting really fierce.  We found a little place call Y Gegin Fach or The Little Kitchen. The place was pretty empty but that was due to the weather.  The staff were extremely friendly the food was very tasty and piping hot.  Even the little guy made an impression on the staff.  Would highly recommend anyone to visit, although I hear this place is very popular so you would have to time you visit just right to get a table.

View from Penmaenmawr with the wind whipping up the sea

After a walk around the town, time was starting to be against us so it was time to head back, stopping of briefly at Penmaenmawr as we thought there was a spectacular long beach.  `Turns out there wasn’t, but there was some good views of the sea being whipped up by the strong winds.  So strong in fact that I was having difficulty standing at times.

Back in Conwy there was just enough time to have gelato at Parisella’s on the high street.  Couldn’t quite bring myself to try the ‘Blue Banana’, but judging by how empty the container was, this was obviously a local favourite.

So concluded day two.

When you thought it couldn’t get even windier, last night proved us wrong.  Unfortunately the little man had a restless night and we were up eight times.  On my fourth time of getting up we decided to put him in the bed with us and he then slept through until morning.

We had a great stay at the Quay Hotel and Spa, the rooms were spacious, the staff really helpful and between the two of us we used the spa, gym and swimming pool.  It was just a shame the weather wasn’t on our side.

Random Castle we passed

On our way home we travelled through the vast Snowdonia park, along the A55, A5 and A470 all the way down to Dolgellau.  We were going to stop for lunch here but as the little man was asleep we thought we would push on to Welshpool.  That wasn’t such a good idea and he woke up wanting to be fed and we were still some 30 mins away from Welshpool.  In the end we saw a place called Cann Office Hotel that was in a place called Llangadfan.  Just the right place at the right time and the little man had his lunch.

After 6 hours driving we finally arrived home. All in all this was a great three nights away.  We managed to see plenty of North Wales and if the weather had been kinder we would have seen plenty more.  Definitely worth a trip back again someday.

Where to next?

Babies Separation Anxiety: celebrate or commiserate?

If I was to say the words ‘Separation Anxiety‘ I would probably here the collective shudder of new parents everywhere. The only reason older parents are dismissive is that they have actively suppressed all memories of it.

Our little one is about to be 10 months old and his brain has  reached that stage of development whereby he now understands the concept of being separated. There were no warning signs, no gradual build up not even a courtesy email or tweet. One day out of the blue it just suddenly happened and it was made all the more worse because he had a really bad winter cold at this point as well.

Crying-baby-cartoonOnce the concept of being alone has been realised, babies naturally don’t like this, panic, get scared and want to be held all the time. When we say all the time, we mean all the time, even to the point that he will not go to sleep unless you are holding him. When you do put him down, the mercury switch in his brain triggers, he wakes up realises he is alone again and cries hysterically until you pick him up again.

After 3 hours of this in the middle of the night, the poor little fellow is so exhausted he can hardly keep his head up. But, as soon as you put him down the cycle begins again.

Googling about causes as we take it in turns to comfort and rock him back to sleep doesn’t offer us, the parents, much salvation.  All I read is this is a phase of emotional development and it will ease at some point between 12-24 months!!! We feel the bags under our eyes sag that little bit further.

The only thing you can do is pick them up and reassure the little one that everything is going to be ok. Letting them ‘cry it out’ is just not an option for us. It is too distressing for them and also for us, as we cant bear to hear him cry that hysterically.

The bond to their mum is the strongest, which can upset mum because they never seem to get a break, but, it also upsets dad because he tries to help but can’t because the little one only wants to be consoled by mum! This is tough, but dads need to persevere and eventually he will be so tired that he will lay on your chest and fall asleep.  He will of course wake up every 30mins or so to double check dad hasn’t left him on his own.

The good news and to be positive about it, this is just a natural stage of development and the little guy is becoming self aware! Cogito Ergo Sum you could say. And that is a moment we should celebrate and be proud of, albeit at 3am when your patience is running a little thin and you may be on the receiving end of a one way diatribe from your better half if you tried to explain that point.

In the end you may both feel fed up with the seemingly endless walks around the bedroom throughout the night trying to cradle him back to sleep, but you should be proud.  Our little boy is growing up.