Wednesday, 14 August 2013

What We Did On Our Holidays

For what seems like the first time in many, many years I’ve just had a two-week summer holiday. I didn’t leave the country but I did disconnect from most of reality, and spent lots of time with The Bairn and Wife-features. It was bliss.

By disconnect I really mean that. Perhaps my proudest achievement is surviving a whole fortnight without Twitter. I’m not a huge fan of having conversations on it but it is a superb way of finding interesting content and linking to items of note. In the two and a half years I’ve been using it I’ve slowly learned to take it in moderation; dipping in a few times a day for short periods. Otherwise it can be overwhelming.

I made a point of avoiding radio and TV news and tried to dodge newspapers, although did find myself slipping in a little bit of mild environmental campaigning with local media. A brief busman’s holiday as it were.
And speaking of newspapers – I consume several every day for work – I found it hard to go cold turkey and after 24 hours on holiday got the “information shakes”. I ended up walking to a late night supermarket to buy a copy of the Economist. That kept my brain fed for a bit.

I’ve also started floating the idea of stopping our purchase of a Guardian on Saturday. We used to get it and the FT for sheer enjoyment at weekends but the cost mounts up. Wife-features is a big fan of Tim Dowling but I’m afraid the Guardian has taken a shine to the Farage Balloon in recent months, inviting him to editorial meetings, taking him for pints and describing him as a reluctant celebrity. By contrast my holiday treat of an FT resulted in a detailed feature on the forthcoming IPCC report on climate change and a crossword whose answers included Celia Johnson, my secret black-and-white movie star crush. No, I’m not crying. It’s only something in my eye.

As for black-and-white movies I treated myself to a box set of film noirs (or should that be films noir?) – three Otto Premingers and a Jules Dassin – which I watched from under the brim of my fedora while I knocked back bourbon after bourbon. I read 22 Raymond Carver short stories, and looked out my record player and collection of vinyl. The Bairn got a good blast of dark and sad Joni Mitchell stuff, and didn’t object when I insisted on lining up Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. She has since acquired a ukulele. If she turns out to be a genius singer-songwriter I plan to take full credit.   

The Bairn had a whale of a time at East Links farm park, while we spent another day at Dunbar guddling for sea creatures (smaller than whales) and lounging on the amazing sands of Belhaven Bay. We also took Green Gran to the outstanding Falko cake shop at Gullane. I’m a sucker for strudel.

Belhaven. Bliss.
East Links park was actually a revelation. It’s a serious chunk of change to get in as a family but once inside you have the run of the place and it’s enormous. There’s a narrow guage railway, mini-tractor rides, all sorts of play equipment, bales of hay for climbing and trampolines for bouncing. My earlier experiences of soft play centres have been terrifying but this was actually enjoyable. Maybe it was the fresh air; maybe it’s because the Bairn is four and a bit so needs less attention. Either way I’d recommend it. But watch out for the goats. They almost ate my wristwatch.

It does feel like the last “innocent” summer. Next week she starts at morning nursery so no more sleeping after dad’s gone to work. And of course after that it’s full-time big school.

As Joni once sang:

“The seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down. We're captive on the carousel of time. We can't return we can only look behind from where we came.”

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