Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Fourteen go mad in Edinburgh

Any birthday with a nought at the end deserves a really proper celebration so when our cricket first team skipper finally reached the same decade as me (at last!) and suggested that a team of fourteen head north to Edinburgh to mark the event, we needed no second asking.

So early Saturday morning, leaving children 3 and 4 home alone for the first time with child 2 in a remote (ie not actually on the premises but near enough to deal with fire, famine, bubonic plague etc) supervisory role, we drove to Darlington station to set off to the Scottish capital. The skipper and his wife, Mrs Broccoli have a lifetime's experience in the leisure industry so the organisation was seamless throughout. We were one of two parties in the first class carriage on the East Coast Mainline, the other being a hen party. They had a large stash of fizz, vodka and cupcakes and we had a similar stash of fizz and some sort of ginger liqueur but a distinct lack of cupcakes which they unsportingly refused to share. I had vowed not to drink in January in England so obviously I had to wait till north of the border but that didn't stop me singing the song about not flushing in the station when required. Actually I've just searched it on the internet and it has lots of surprising verses I never knew about! Hmm...

We arrived in Edinburgh in jolly mood and walked up a million steps to the Royal Mile and the Missoni Hotel - very swanky! Missoni goes in for a lot of primary colour stripes and the rooms were no exception. In fact, wearing the Missoni dressing gown, my beloved looked like a giant bar code. I was briefly worried about what the stripes might do to my vision when I had had a few glasses of red but as it turned out, things were no more blurry and confused than usual.

No time for lounging around, we were straight off in taxis on our mystery tour. All Skip and Mrs Broccoli had told us was that it was not sport - and probably for my benefit as I might have been excited by the prospect of some Heineken Cup rugby. The mystery destination turned out to be the Royal Yacht Britannia moored at Leith and we had a great tour with excellent commentary via handset for thirteen of us and my beloved deciding to do the entire tour with Japanese commentary. Why? Because apparently it helped his Japanese... what Japanese?! Anyway, because he had Japanese commentary, he got round much quicker and found the onboard tea room where a late lunch had been planned. He actually had lunch whilst we were still touring but he managed a second one when the rest of us turned up.

Then it was back to the hotel for some and shopping for others. In my world, a small sleep was required in my jazzy room because I am at an age where I need to pace myself. No such worries for my beloved as he headed out for a beer or three. Then time to get ready for the main event in the evening.

Skip and Mrs Brocolli had organised a wonderful dinner in the private dining room at Hotel du Vin which was just a hop and a skip round the corner. Drinks in the Whisky Snug followed by a fabulous dinner in the Burke and Hare private dining room. Absolutely perfect and I felt especially privileged to be sitting next to the Birthday Boy for at least part of dinner. And then just when we're feeling relaxed and mellow... we're off clubbing!

Le Monde on George Street and, in particular, the Shanghai nightclub, is the scene of a previous big lash in Edinburgh and so in we went, raising the average age by at least ten years and generally doing the kind of dancing which my children would prefer me to do in another country, or at the very least, when they are not present. Yes, behaving in an age-inappropriate manner is what we do best. So we did.

Just before turning out the light in our hotel bedroom about 2.00am, I feel the need to text my older children and having informed them that I had a nightclub stamp on one arm and a tattoo of the saltire on the other, I fell fast asleep. Waking the following morning (did my room get more stripey overnight?), my children had helpfully responded to my text as follows: "Please tell me it's not a real tattoo" - obviously not, it's a transfer but it was a hell of a job to scrub it off. And from the other one: "Every time you go to Edinburgh you text me embarrassing things." There's no answer to that one. It's too close to the truth.

On Sunday morning ... eventually ... we turned down the 'more culture' excursion in favour of a hangover-busting cooked breakfast and some rather good shopping. Of course, my beloved decided the full Scottish breakfast with champagne would suit him best and that put him in a very jolly mood for our brief retail outing before joining the rest of the team for lunch at Harvey Nicks and the train home.

It was epic, unforgettable (and at least this time I can remember it all, even gangnam style in the club and the young man who danced next to Mrs Broccoli and I and felt the need to take his shirt off) and as soon as I have properly recovered and restored my home to order, I shall be ready for the next one.

Special, huge thanks to Skip and Mrs Broccoli for their brilliant organisation throughout and for all their generosity. Fab, fab, fab!

Thirteen of us on the Royal Yacht Britannia - the fourteenth was enjoying his first lunch!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Celebrating The Sisterhood

I've had a complaint! "Where's the blog gone?" Well, nice to know it's been missed in the first instance and my excuse can only be that it's January. My least favourite month and one which, in an ideal world, would be spent somewhere hot watching tennis ie The Grand Slam Plan*. Alternatively, I would be happy to hunker down in front of a roaring fire and a big screen television and watch the Australian Open, the whole box set of Sex and the City and any film with the late, great Heath Ledger. But this is the real world and although a certain amount of tennis-watching has occurred (not as easy as it sounds with England also playing cricket in India and therefore a bit of remote-wrestling with child 3 going on), most of my life is carrying on as what passes for normal in this house ie children 3 and 4 taking their first AS modules in subjects I know nothing about - psychology, mathematics and economics, work and general domestic drudgery. So to help the month along, I have been giving myself a few modest treats of meeting up with female friends I haven't seen for way too long.

Actually I was very slow in realising how important the women in my life, or the Sisterhood as I think of them, are. Growing up with three older brothers and then going to an all-girls school did nothing to endear my own sex to me and then, being a rather ambitious twentysomething when twentysomething women seldom made it to the boardroom apart from when they brought in the tea, I was rather out of step with most of my female co-workers. So the penny didn't drop until my late twenties when I met and made friends with some amazing women and that in itself made me reassess the lovely chums I already had.

Now the thing about the Sisterhood is that they share - not in some weirdy, tree-hugging way, but in a practical, helpful way that is both informative and inspirational. The stuff that you really need to know about bringing up children, for example,  isn't written in books, it's acquired through the sharing of experiences. And then there's all the other amazing stuff they know.

For instance, in the last couple of weeks I have met up with two girlfriends who have explained firstly, in terms a non-skier can understand, the sport of telemark skiing, the social media trend of unboxing and how far pvc windows have progressed in both looks and energy efficiency. Seriously, the women I know are terrific. They can cook stuff that is far too complex and difficult for me and then explain it to me so I can cook it (or think I can anyway); they counsel me through angst about children of all ages; they found charities, run businesses, fight and win the battle against life-threatening illness and top that off with writing books, painting (and not just in the decorating sense) and have all manner of musical talent. Some of them are doing all the above and knocking off a Open University degree as well. And when they're not doing that, they are beating me at tennis and golf - and that really hurts!

Like all mums, there are so many things I want to tell my daughters and they probably don't want to listen and as in all things, we must find our own way and make our own discoveries. I just hope it doesn't take them as long as it did for me to discover the importance of The Sisterhood. Actually, because I have three very smart girls, I know they are way ahead of me.

Postscript: Finally, because it's the start of a new year, here are few serious and not very serious wishes of my own for 2013:

1    That the front half of the sports section of the newspaper isn't always about football.

2    That people who have no intention of playing any kind of sport (ever) don't wander round in tracksuits (although onesies are worse!)

3    That they stop digging up the same section of main road over and over and over again - surely they know if they're going to have to put another set of wires or drains in.

4     That struggling town and city centres offer more free parking to encourage rather than discourage people to shop there.

5     That this time next year we will still have some bookshops on the High Street - use them or lose them.

*The Grand Slam Plan is to see all four Open Tennis events around the world. Three down and one to go (Wimbledon, Roland Garros, Flushing Meadow and hopefully, January 2015, Melbourne).

Mmm... Heath Ledger