One of the Krypton Factor-style challenges of my parenthood is how to fit a toddler (square peg full of beans) into a wet winter Sunday in the Highlands (round hole - a deep, dark one at that) without spending a fortune.
Despite Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed already owning a toy mountain that looks like one of those cargo ships from Taiwan has beached in our dining room, you cannot underestimate cabin fever. At some point you have to put the toys down and get out of the house.
So we went for a walk in the rain to the beach. TWMBO fell asleep in her buggy and I inhaled big lungfuls of ozone (can I do that? Where’s Professor Brian Cox when you need him?) as the waves pounded the shore. Some folk would find a rainy morning in February in a northern town a bit dreary but I love it. It is calming and, in true Scottishness, cheap.
The best fun, I reckon, is free fun.
We’ve recently discovered the joys of running up and down embankments in the park and we once spent a whole hour on the beach examining pebbles and driftwood.
And a real revelation - tiddlywinks! TWMBO found a small button a few weeks back and goodness know why but I showed her how with the aid of another button you could clip the edge of the first one, sending it pinging across the room. Mega giggles.
We made do with a selection of buttons harvested from all four corners of our home until the recent expedition to Aviemore. There a professional tiddlywinker’s gaming set was obtained for a whopping couple of quid. Hours of flipping fun have been had. Not quite free but almost.
Oh, and you know those moments in Stephen Spielberg films where the kid impersonates the grown up? There’s one in Jaws, another in Close Encounters and I have a vague memory of one in ET or was it an Indiana Jones film? Anyway, Toddler has started doing that with me.
I’m happy to admit I like it partly because it makes me feel a wee bit like I’m Roy Scheider.
But eventually the free stuff runs out and you buckle. To be fair we were giving Groovy Gran a lift home after babysitting so took the opportunity to enjoy the warmth of the Eastgate.
Saying that makes me sound like one of those old geezers who shuffle into a library pretending to be interested in the reference section but who’ve actually come for a lean against a radiator.
We managed to tour the shops without buying very much. Wife Features even put back Season Two of Columbo despite it being almost half price! (As I was leaving the store I turned around, scratched my head and mumbled something about ‘just one more thing’. I went back to buy some Gerry Rafferty.)
Free fun was provided by a wooden stirring stick from a certain coffee chain. We also had a good run around in the toy section of a certain department store. I was intrigued by the fact that their toy section is between the luxury fabric concession and the fine china department.
Some shop layouts really are random. I can think of one where to get to the café you have to wade through bras. You can lose an eye going for a latte.
As well as free fun and calming walks on desolate sleety drizzly beaches I’m a big fan of gentle radio and I like the idea of meditating.
I heartily recommend Radio 3 as a way of slowly coming to of a morning. The BBC Trust published a report the other day urging the station to become more ’welcoming’, whatever that means. I saw this review of the breakfast show and couldn’t agree more. Rob Cowan used to host the Sunday morning slot before being moved to weekdays. He was perfect on Sundays - I hear him less through the week due to work. He will play serious classical stuff but always surprises and charms with something jazz-tinged or movie soundtrack-related.
As for meditation the key it seems is to find a regular slot for it in one’s hectic schedule. I was enjoying this article until I got to the last line. He gets up early, meditates for a whole hour and then has breakfast, takes his kids to school and goes to work. I assume his kids are in their thirties and they are teachers. Or while he’s in his meditative bubble his partner and/or kids are screaming at him to help find the iron, help with the homework, watch Peppa Pig, make a sandwich for lunch, defrost the car, etc.
A technique I have developed in recent months is the half-sleep, invaluable for those times when Toddler is wide awake at 5am and you have no choice but to actively parent, or at least give the appearance of parenting. You find something to occupy Toddler - a good toy, paper and crayons or a DVD such as Finding Nemo or Season 2 of Twin Peaks - and sit upright and attentive on the sofa. You will soon drop off. But I have developed an ability to keep half of one eye open most of the time.
With this newfound talent perhaps once the little darling is all grown up and has flown the nest I can change career and become a ‘cleaner’. You have seen Leon, haven‘t you? It’s very calming.