Monday, 28 June 2010


Lanercost Festival ended yesterday.

It started on Wednesday evening with an public dress rehearsal of Midsummer Night's Dream in the Priory ruins.  On Thursday evening there was a concert by pupils of Chetham's School of Music, for which I was stewarding: I was really tired and feeling horribly nauseous, so thought about going home in the interval.  I'm so glad I didn't as I would have missed the best part of the concert: Wyn Chan, a 14-year old pianist from Penrith followed by a 17-year old boy from Ancora on the violin.  All performers were exceptional but the last two excelled.  Wyn Chan seemed to be able to create a huge amount of feeling in his playing, despite being so young: and the violinist (I wish I could remember his name) played so passionately I thought his violin strings would break.

On Friday evening the 'official' performance of Midsummer Night's Dream took place, again with weather fine enough that it was held in the Priory ruins.  I had hoped to go but again was incredibly tired - I had hardly been able to walk during the day - so missed it, but it sounds as if it was an excellent and memorable show.

By Saturday I had had a good night's sleep so attending Classic Buskers as a member of the audience and in order to review it was a pleasure.  The evening was hilarious: although the virtousic playing also led me to tears of melancholy during Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Defunte.   I'm hoping that my review will get printed in the local paper soon, in which case I'll create a link to it.

Last night I was singing in the Festival Chorus in Handel's Judas Maccabeaus.  I hadn't particularly enjoyed this piece to start with but it grew on me, and whilst I originally thought it had a lot of similarities with The Messiah, as I got to know it better the differences became more apparent.  It was good finally to hear it as a whole, solos, duets and all, last night, and also enjoyable to have the experience of singing with an orchestra again: though the orchestra were nothing like as good as they might have been.   It must be about 20 years since I last sang with an orchestra, in London when I was in the Canonbury Chamber Choir (I wonder if that's still going - I must check the internet).

It was a long performance and I was tired by the end and got very grumpy when I got home and found the house wasn't spick and span.  I'm tired today as well but have managed to keep the grumpiness under control.  I also applied for 3 jobs last week so all in all it was quite a tiring week!  There seem to be fewer and fewer jobs advertised but I guess we're getting into the school holiday period and things may pick up again in September: that is, if the public sector hasn't been decimated by then.

Children both finally quiet which means Daughter has fallen asleep at about 9pm instead of 10pm.  Small comfort but at least the weather seems to have broken so it may be a bit cooler for them in bed tonight.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Winifred Watson - 1938.
I read this while on holiday in Scotland, immediately upon finishing The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  At first glance it appeared - and is, in style and feeling - incredibly different from that book, but there is a similarity.  Both heroines are, superficially, rather drab and unassuming: but both have dreams and ultimately their true character is revealed.

Miss Pettigrew is also interesting as a portrait of its time: some of the behaviour in the book would, at that point, have appeared somewhat shocking whereas nowadays it's something we accept as perfectly normal.

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow - Peter Hoeg - 1992/1994
It must be about the fourth or fifth time I have read this book, and I opened it in excited anticipation.  I was slightly disappointed this time: I think the philosophical musings were more poignant and relevant when I was young, free, single and not very happy nor sure of myself (I probably related to the heroine better).  In addition I found some of it a little pretentious and whilst it is meant to be a thriller and 'whodunnit', also far-fetched.

However there are plenty of quotable passages which I had previously underlined and many of which still hold a resonance for me:
"I feel the same way about solitude as some people feel about the blessing of the church.  It's the light of grace for me.  Never do I close my door without being conscious that I am carrying out an act of charity towards myself."

"Reading snow is like listening to music.  To describe what you've read is to try to explain music in writing."

"Falling in love has been greatly overrated.  Falling in love consists of forty-five per cent fear of not being accepted and forty-five per cent manic hope that this time the fear will be put to shame, and a modest ten per cent frail awareness of the possibility of love."

"I grew up in a community.   If I've desired and sought out brief periods of solitude and introspection, it has always been in order to return to the social group as a stronger person".

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro - 1989
I've included this only because I just couldn't get on with it.  I appreciate that the Butler-Narrator is meant to be typical of his type, class and sex but I just found him arrogant, unsympathetic and completely lacking in any sense of emotional intelligence or self-awareness.  That is of course deliberately how the author wants him to come across, but he annoyed me so much I couldn't even continue reading the book to see whether he changed!  So one of the very few on my list of 'failures'.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

THE LATEST PREGNANCY UPDATE (and not about much else, lest you want to avoid this one!).

This blog really needs a new title.  For anyone who's followed it from the beginning, you'll be aware that I thought rather than 'unemployed' I should have said 'resting'.  I now think, due to the unforeseen new emphasis in my life, that it should say 'unemployed and pregnant' (except that maybe sounds rather pikey) or 'resting and pregnant' (except that they tell you to rest a lot when you're pregnant anyway...).

Today I had my second midwife's appointment.  I ate some undercooked chips yesterday lunchtime and felt absolutely awful all afternoon and evening, so when the midwife said she'd try to listen to the baby's heartbeat I wasn't at all sure she'd hear anything.  Which would have set me into a panic - she would have said it was a bit early anyway; I would have known that I'd heard both Son's and Daughter's heartbeats at about this stage, and would have been worrying for several weeks that I'd got food poisoning yesterday and that the baby had died.

I think in fact, that because I'm pregnant and feeling nauseous anyway, and my digestion seems to be working overtime, that my body just overreacted to the undercooked chips rather than that they were necessarily lethal.

The next worry and debate is, of course, Downs.  The Midwife, lovely lady, didn't see why I should have to pay for the Nuchal Scan and blood test: and £210 is rather a lot to stump up.  If I've understood things correctly they can do the blood test in Cumbria anyway.  Whilst I was looking forward to a trip to Newcastle with Husband for a scan, followed possibly by a nice meal out, if the results are going to come back that I need an amniocentisis anyway then perhaps I should just go for that (Husband and I could go out for a meal anyway as we have babysitters sorted out).  I said to Husband that perhaps there's a bit of me that doesn't really want to know for definite:  on the other hand, thinking sensibly and practically, if it did turn out to be Downs then at least we could prepare for it.  I think what we're both most concerned about is the effect it would have on Son and Daughter: on the other hand maybe it would make them nicer people in the long-term.  Not that I'm particularly concerned that their characters are going to turn out to be rotten: Son in particular seems to have a lovely, kind and affectionate nature.

Lovely Midwife has arranged for me to go to see the Consultant at Cumbria Infirmary on Thursday so I can talk it through in more detail.  The Consultant could then refer me for the Nuchal Scan - which would mean it was free, but last time I saw her she said she thinks I'll end up needing an Amnio as well (or CV sampling, but apparently an Amnio has a slightly lower risk of miscarriage.  Not that I'm desperately worried about that - the statistical risk of Downs for my age is 1 in 16 whereas the risk of miscarriage is 1 in 100 or less.  And I wonder if you're more likely to miscarry due to an amnio if in fact the baby does have something wrong?). 

Fingers crossed about it all: this baby ('Little Guy') seems determined to beat the odds so far anyway.  After all he (or she) is not even meant to be here at all, statistically!

Was speaking to a Doctor friend last night about it all.  She said she felt she was far less likely to have a termination having already had children.  I know exactly what she means: I felt Daughter move at about 17 weeks and it was that realisation which made me question the assumption which Husband and I had previously held that if we knew I was carrying a disabled baby we'd terminate.  I don't think I could now: I don't think I could even give it up for adoption.

I've finally ordered some maternity clothes.  I also told one of my choir friends today.  She was highly delighted as it means she can start knitting.  Apparently she does really wacky brightly coloured stuff for babies!  It sounds ace: but please, no scratchy woolly vests....

Talking of which, and changing the subject, I need to go to get provisions to take to the choir party (and give the children some tea).  I've finished the application for the waffly policy job and am being put forward by a Recruitment Agency for a Senior Estates Manager post.  Meanwhile I keep looking at the Northumberland Estates post and wanting to apply - it really appeals as a job - but I'm not sure it's terribly practical.  Husband has got excited about the idea of nursing as it looks as if nurses are in demand all over the world.

Things will sort themselves out and turn out for the best, one way or another.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


Husband said perhaps we should fill the pond in.  I agreed.  I think we're both a bit sad about it, but basically it's in the wrong place anyway - it gets the full brunt of the sun from morning to evening so the algae, despite having been poisoned last week along with the fish, are now re-appearing already after a week of daily sunshine.

We're going to fill the hole in, dig up the borders around it, and extend the lawn.  A little bit of rockery will be left where there's a change in level, which could be quite attractive (and means I can leave the iris in, which has been beautiful recently), but the entire thing will feel far more spacious and be more child-friendly.  I pointed out to the children that we could even make sure there's a level bit at one end so that there's space for a paddling pool.

Thinking aloud, I think we could take up some of the paving slabs too (can't see them in the photo but they're near the shed/summer house)....

However this is all going to need extra 'stuff' - soil to fill in the hole; turf or lawn seed for the lawn - and a lot of work.  Confirmation once more that I need to get a well-paid job and then I can just pay someone else to do it!

Meanwhile excitement on the ex-work front: the local newspapers have announced that Carlisle City Council is going to abolish Carlisle Renaissance and take the functions back into its own in-house Economic Development Department.  Exactly what I've been saying they should do for about a year.  Two staff were on secondment from NWDA so presumably will move back there: another, a surveyor, will maybe transfer to Carlisle's property department, which may explain why they haven't advertised their vacant post.  It's all eminently sensible.

What's also sensible is it looks as if the Council is close to giving Sainsburys planning permission for their store on Caldewgate: they want the design to be better and more innovative, and I'm sure that's something Sainsburys can do.  I wonder if Sainsburys will think of arguing against any improvements on the grounds that Tesco, Morrisons and Asda all have very bog-standard designs.... anyway I wish Sainsburys all the best as it would be so good to have a decent supermarket to shop at in Carlisle.  Our nearest decent stores are Booths in Keswick and Waitrose in Hexham: unless you count M&S, which I don't really think of a supermarket per se,  though they sell the best quality and most flavoursome fruit and vegetables of any of them.  There will be a Sainsburys in Penrith at some point as well.

So I really must get on with a least one job application this week: I need a decent salary just to fund the lifestyle to which I prefer to be accustomed!

Saturday, 19 June 2010


1.  What a nice nature Son has.  He had a really nasty note in his school bag from one of the other boys in his class on Thursday evening.  Son was upset and angry: but not vindictive.  The next day in school, when I went in to tell his teachers about it, he was brave enough to go straight up to the other boy and ask why he'd done it (apparently the other boy said 'oops'...).

2.  How sweet it is that Son, whilst appearing not that bothered about no.3, occasionally says hello to 'the Little Guy' (his phrase) in my tummy.

3.  That at least, being an older mother, I know my risk of Downs with 'the Little Guy' is very high - statistically 1 in 20.  So I'm not going to get to the Nuchal scan and have a horrible shock: I know the risk is likely still to be high (I'm keeping my fingers crossed for something like 1 in 500 - that would be good) and I also know that I may end up having to have an amniocentesis.  I hope I don't, but at least I'm prepared for that eventuality.

4.  The major dilemma of do I buy maternity clothes now or do I wait until after Tuesday - my next, and 12-week, midwife appointment (just to make sure Little Guy's heart's still beating) or even until after the nuchal scan?  I'm just at that stage where quite a few clothes are getting tight but actually to anyone who doesn't know me I probably just look a bit plump around the middle.  And every time I try on maternity clothes I shy away from buying them - it's almost as if I'm in a state of denial about how much larger I'm actually going to get (and probably also the fact that they are all a bit big still at the moment).

5.  My list of things to do.  Photos for the book (and write up some more chapters); my job application or applications (I can't decide whether to apply for the Alnwick one or not); updating and changing my CV; the party invitation for our soiree; research into the Plantagenet Queens who had babies late in life; singing practice; some exercise; finish painting the bathroom (in fact the list of decorating is a lot longer than that, but finishing that would be a good start and mean I'd accomplished something).  I have to earn some money, that's the main thing: there are too many things I want and need to get for when the Little Guy arrives.  And if I earn enough I can always pay people to do things like decorating, housework, and gardening.....  I need a pot to replant the blackberry bush into temporarily... in fact I want lots of pots and troughs and plants......

Now about to join another Mum-to-be club for some more freebies.  Have two newborn nappies so far....

Thursday, 17 June 2010


Not a good statistic to read yesterday, albeit unsurprising: property is a volatile market and for too long people have assumed that property is a safe investment.  Long term it is, but too many people jump on a passing bandwagon which then, a few years or even a decade later, crashes. 

Still, the above is a statistic merely, with no detail explaining it.  Interestingly however, when I first entered the profession, the rate was quoted as 0.1%, so some conclusions can be formed.
I had a 'Back to Work' session via the JobCentre yesterday.  As part of my 'job seeker's contract' I had to go: but quite frankly, what a waste of time.  One statistic they quoted was that 36% of jobs are never advertised - I didn't like to ask how many of those are professional or senior management jobs (I was in a room with a group of people who clearly were not senior managers).  My guess is that most managerial jobs are advertised, though I stand to be corrected and it would be interesting to find out.  I base my assumption on the fact that organisations generally put a bit more effort into recruiting managers in order to make sure they get the right people: particularly in a recession when they can take their pick.

Meanwhile I have two jobs to apply for, one which I would really like but which I don't think is logistically possible, and one which I'm feeling quite keen on but which would be a complete change from surveying.  It's a policy-type job with Cumbria County Council: one of the sorts of jobs which I'm always saying are filled by over-paid people who don't really do much, and which should be the first to go when local government cuts come in.... I have realised however that basically I like having a decent, relatively risk-free income: a similar conclusion, in a way, to the one to which I came when I was working as a cross-country ski rep. in Norway.  Maybe I'm too lazy to be self-employed or set up my own business: or maybe I just feel more risk-averse now there's another baby on the way.  I also want to be able to support Husband change career to psychiatric nursing, or whatever he decides he wishes to do: he is so clearly not an accountant, although he is quite good at it.

I actually got out into the garden for a bit yesterday and got some weeds up, and cut some of the tall grass which even the excellent new mower couldn't reach.  I think I've overdosed the pond with algae remover: it's gone brown rather than clear and the fish have all died.  It was rather upsetting seeing them just floating there and having to remove them.  I also fished out the 'organic' barley things which are meant to help with algae control: they had obviously been struggling badly with the level of algae in our pond as they were covered in green slime.  I wonder if we'll ever get the health of the pond quite right.... I certainly do not intend to introduce more fish until it is.

Daughter and I are off to Walby Farm Park with Running Friend A and her youngest daughter in a moment.  She'll be able to tell me all about the pros and cons of having three!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


I never dreamt I would be excited to own a lawn mower.

My parents came up for the weekend: I can't remember now how the conversation came up but my mother was asking what sort of lawn mower I was thinking of getting.  I've used cheap Flymos with cheap blades which break at the slightest provocation; the lawn mower we currently have is several years old, has no collecting box and the blades are blunt as blunt; all frustrating and ineffective on lawn which had in parts succeeded in getting to about 30cm tall.

When I came home one day to a big box containing a Bosch lawn mower with a box for collecting up the cuttings and a huge metal rotary blade, I was dead chuffed.  Not only did it look impressive in the box, but my father assembled it (with help from Daughter, aged 4) and then cut the two lawns for me: so the lawns now look more impressive as well.

Just don't look too closely as there is a lot of moss on the front one and there are lots of dandelions on the side one.....

Meanwhile while we were up in Scotland the algae in the pond, which I thought I'd got under control, went mad again and we came back to a murky green pond.  So today I dosed it up with a hefty quantity of anti-algae stuff.  I saw a fish vaguely through the murk so I hope the algae killer doesn't kill it off, nor affect the plants which are beginning to get established (the water lily now has 4 leaves: it arrived with one).   The next few days will tell.  Good Friends asked whether we were going to fill the pond in with the advent of no.3 child: I think I'm more likely to fill it in just because it's a pain to look after!

Talking of child no.3, Husband and I went to the hospital yesterday for my first scan.  Turns out I was wrong: it's not twins; it is indeed a baby; it has the correct number of limbs; and it was moving and had a meeting heart.  It measured as 10 weeks 6 days and my official due date is now 4th January 2011. 

I'm quite amazed that everything so far is fine and despite the photographic evidence and the fact that my clothes are now getting too tight, I've put on weight, and I still feel sick, it still doesn't feel 100% real.  Perhaps it never does until the birth anyway: but it doesn't help hearing that there are loads of risks 'at my age' and that the chances of conceiving in the first place are about zero (which, by the way, the consultant Ostetrician at the hospital more-or-less rebuffed: she had seen a woman of 54).

There are still various tests to go: and of course another 29 weeks of pregnancy: but I have to say I walked out of the hospital feeling more positive (and less sick.... ) than I had for ages.  I must keep away from the internet - other than for job-hunting!

Friday, 11 June 2010


I hate job-hunting.  Applying for a job when you see one you fancy: that's one thing.  But this weekly commitment to look on websites which mostly have jobs in London or else have nothing paying much more than the minimum wage is just tedious.  And I'm running out of ideas for people to whom to write speculative letters.

I do wonder if 'fate' has decided that I should concentrate on pregnancy - maybe with a couple of local part-time jobs if they ever get advertised - for the time being: perhaps my dream job will turn up next spring.  There's one in Alnwick I really, really like the look of but it would take a couple of hours to get there so would entail over-night stays, and I also don't think I stand a chance on a part-time and pregnant basis (not that they're meant to discriminate, but it's a bit of a pain if your new recruit then goes off on maternity leave for 6 months or so).

Husband wants to switch to doing mental health nursing, doing a course starting in September 2011.  So long as I can get a well-paid job by then that could actually work quite well.  It's a matter of being patient: not something I've ever been much good at.

Meanwhile I continue to write and to sing, and may be on my way to fixing up my first gig: or rather, the first gig for Le Due Donne:  so-called because I think the accompanist has just as important a part to play as I do.  It's performing together rather than her just accompanying me.

I have also found the most beautiful duet which I want to sing at a, or some, weddings: Pur Ti Miro from Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea.  I'll try to import a link to a version of it which I particularly like, though I think I may have difficulty finding a counter-tenor to sing it with.

Going out to dinner now while my parents babysit.  Au revoir!

Friday, 4 June 2010


Today Husband and I went to one of my favourite places in the UK: Loch Muick.

I love the 8 mile run around the Loch, dodging streams and jumping stones and then under the glaring sun along the track on the northern side.  Today Husband was running from there up to Loch Nagar and over to Balmoral which we reckoned gave me about 3 hours to go for a walk, have a picnic lunch and then drive round to fetch him.

I didn't want to go up towards Loch Nagar myself as I wanted to be able to keep the Loch in view, so headed off along the southern track.  Before long I saw a tempting sign: Glen Clova via Capel Mounth.  The track headed upwards, which appealed, but also kept the Loch in view as far as I could see.  Up I headed!

As I walked I wondered if this was a very ancient track, one of the many routes which led across the various hills and mountains surrounding the Loch and over into the Cairngorms, Glen Muick apparently being the 16th and 17th century equivalent of a motorway service station.  I wondered about the travellers who had passed that way: what their thoughts were; how far they were going; whether they were lucky enough to be on horseback or were walking.

It was one of those tracks where you think that at any minute you're going to be at the top, only to find when you get there that it turns a bend and there's another 'summit' which needs to be conquered.  I carried on walking upwards, finally out of view of the Loch, for 50 minutes or so until I came to a 't' junction.  By then it was about time for lunch and to turn around, but I stopped to admire the view.  Chocolate brown hills all around as far as the eye could see and not a soul in sight.  Blue sky above with the desirable fluffy white clouds of postcard photography.  Patches of snow up on the summits opposite.  And in the background, the sound of a rust-coloured stream but otherwise not a murmur.  Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones but tears came into my eyes and all I could think to do was look to the heavens and say 'thank you God, for our world - and sorry we're making such a mess of it'.

I hasten to add, for anyone who feels uncomfortable reading those words, that I am not a deeply religious person, not in the going-to-church sense anyway.  But I have always felt a somewhat pantheistic love of nature, and being up there near the top of a hill with nothing man-made within sight, my emotions aroused, God of some description seemed the person to talk to.

I started to retrace my steps and lunched within view of the Loch.  Somewhat further down I came across a walker admiring the view, and stopped for a brief chat.  He had walked over 'from the other side' and passed Running Husband on the way.  It was a pleasant encounter: he had a face which reminded me of the Toy Maker in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and (and this is not intended to sound the slightest bit critical or mocking) would not have looked out of place in lederhosen: a kindly face which made me think he must have a happy life walking up over the hills and seeing fantastic views.  There's something therapeutic about having such scenery to yourself, especially on a glorious today like today.

I got back to the car, gave two walkers a lift into Ballater, and arrived at Balmoral at precisely the pre-arranged time of 3:10: only to find SuperFit Husband had arrived about half an hour earlier, to his surprise as well as mine.  And now we're about to be served paella for tea - yum yum!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


Aberdeen feels wealthy.  The shopping has always been fab., but recently Phase Eight and Hobbs have opened stores and according to my I-hope-soon-to-be-official-new-sister-in-law, various other companies as well.  It makes me want to spend money but it does also make me miss that wealthy feeling I used to have!

Today I was due to sign on in Carlisle, but they had said I could sign on in Aberdeen instead.  I headed for Aberdeen Job Centre with some apprehension: in earlier posts I have expressed how I feel out of place at Carlisle Job Centre, and I wasn't at all sure what reception I would receive in Aberdeen, particularly as I had forgotten all my relevant papers.

The security lady on the reception desk on the ground floor was lovely, with a good sense of humour, and apologetic that although she was going to send me to the 1st floor, I might get sent on up to the 2nd (as it turned out, I didn't).  But prior to that even walking through the doors there was a feeling of calm and quiet: one person looking on the screens for jobs, one chatting to one of the staff: in Carlisle there is a queue at the door at 9a.m. and one gets the impression that from that moment on it is constantly busy, with any chat between staff and 'customers' kept to bare essentials.

Up the the first floor I went, and it was the same up there.  Calm, quiet: claimants or customers all looking quite well dressed, and few and far between.  The only similarity with Carlisle was the desk type and colour of the carpet.  A form to fill in, a reminder that in two weeks' time I have some sort of job finding session to go to, and that was it: I was done and back outside.  My impression of Aberdeen as wealthy was reinforced.  Off to meet Husband for coffee and cake and to get some food for dinner tonight.


Once upon a time we used to go to the Lake District once or twice a year on holiday.  Now we go to Aviemore.

The first time I ever went to Aviemore was when Husband took me there to show me how dire it was, only to find that the entire place was being redeveloped and actually looked a lot more modern, clean and vibrant than it had for decades.

At February half-term, when the UK was having some of the best snow it had ever had, we introduced the children to skiing at the Lecht, which they loved, and then took them in the big soft play at the MacDonald Resort in Aviemore and for dinner at 'Giovanni's' (or 'Don Giovanni's', as they prefer, having watched the penultimate and dramatic scene of said opera a few times and been impressed by it).

This week, the weather having cheered up enough for us to risk camping, we drove over to meet up with Good Friends at Landmark at Carrbridge, had a picnic lunch by Loch Garten - our two children and their son stripping down to underwear and prancing around in the chilly Loch water - and in the late afternoon pitched tent at Glenmore Camp Site by Loch Morlich.  The supermarket-chain-I-hate-the-most-with-the-possible-exception-of-Asda had been raided for barbecue necessities, as had the butchers opposite.  The three children spent most of their time running around and playing with the water taps rather than eating, so we four adults stuffed ourselves on salad, sausages, burgers and 'Italian kebabs'.  Good Friend M then found a 4-leaved clover for luck for me, which made us both a bit emotional, as we all walked down to the beach by the Loch for a post-prandial stroll. 

It's beautiful.  The setting of the campsite is lovely in any case, with a view of the Cairngorms in the background: at this time of year dark and light brown in colour with contrasting snow effects in places.  Down by the Loch itself, if it wasn't for the grainy sand and the fact that the temperature is somewhat cooler than the Mediterranean, one could have been in Greece: at least, it had that relaxing summer holiday warm sunny evening feel.

Overnight the wind sounded in danger of blowing the tent away and the rain beat down briefly, but the next morning dawned dry.  After breakfast in the cafe on the site, watching red squirrels and various birds, we took down the tent, took the children swimming and then ended up at what must be one of our favourite cafes ever or anywhere for lunch.  The food was fantastic and the children's lunch 'boxes' the best they have had (even better than John Lewis!).  I can't recommend them too highly: it was just a pity that after my filling Smoked Fish Chowder I didn't have room for any of the delicious cakes.

We drove back to Aberdeen in agreement that we'd quite happily go on holiday up there again, at any time of the year: so long as we can keep our options open in terms of overnight shelter from rain.