Sunday, 6 February 2011

We're All Going On A Winter Holiday

Holidays with a little person are completely different from holidays without. This is yet another small but important point those who already have kids fail to mention when smothering parents-to-be with euphemisms about how it’ll change your life.

Wife Features and I managed to align our diaries in a way that if they were planets would have caused Patrick Moore to froth how “absolutely extraordinary” an event was being witnessed. We both managed to bag a couple of days off and hit the road to the Shangri-La that is the Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort.

Don’t mock. It has a soft play area.

Parents with wee ones will know why this is so important.

Frankly, a soft play area should be mandatory in every neighbourhood. Bugger the weekly bin collection and sod the classroom assistants - I’d seriously support a wedge of my council tax going on padded rooms full of slides and foam balls.

Our jaunt to the Davos of the Highlands (both are mountain resorts where you occasionally see economic experts - in the case of Aviemore it’s Treasury Squirrel nipping into Tesco) also presented me with my first chance to take Toddler swimming.

I’m not a regular at the municipal baths - in fact I think the last time I went for a dip was at the Glebe Street pool in Inverness, which tells you it’s been a while.

Toddler loved it. But no sooner had she figured out how to wade around the shallow end (in fact, up to her neck) without mum or dad’s help than she was angling for a trip on the flume. A giant flume slide that was spitting out shocked looking grown ups at the bottom. A tantrum from Toddler’s Finest range was produced and the best I could do was bargain with her. We ended up back at the soft play area.

The holiday fun didn’t stop there. Such variation in scenery and routine obviously affects little people and despite being presented with an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet she opted for a slice of dry toast and some crying for dinner one night.

Our stay-cation was actually really good. The Mountain Café does amazing cakes, and the Rothiemurchus shop has an extensive range of Gruffalo merchandise. Café Mambo took absolutely ages to bring us a simple bowl of soup but they did provide Toddler with her introduction to slot machines. So many flashing lights and buttons! And lots of small print explaining in several different ways why you’re a mug for even coming near, never mind putting a coin in the slot.

I took my bike (OK - one of my bikes) to Aviemore only to draw the curtains in the morning to see a thick blanket of snow. But I am a dad these days so whereas before I would have modified my plans accordingly, I now feel compelled to plough ahead with the previously agreed schedule. It reminds me of those driving trips we had as kids when my dad would see how far he could get before he’d have to turn around to head for home. (“Right, out of the car. OK, we’ve seen what we came to see. Back we go!”) One trip, to John O’Groats, saw my youngest sister throw up as we crossed the Dornoch Firth bridge, my other sister barf as we descended the Berriedale Braes, my brother puke as we passed Wick and when we arrived at the end of the earth the dog threw up.

So, cycling in snow. It turns out I love it. With chunky mountain bike tyres and good off-road trails where the snow isn’t too deep it’s actually pretty easy. Much easier than slipping and sliding on an icy road. Indeed there’s something deeply pleasing about making the first impression on a pristine white landscape. A single tyre track snaking its way across the winter wonderland. I only hope the greens-keepers of Dalfaber golf course agree!

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