Tuesday 26 October 2010
The recession has meant a tightening of belts, and an even more frugal approach to holidays and assorted entertainment. Through my employer’s Sport and Rec membership Kirsty and I were able to take advantage of a discount voucher and booked into the MacDonald Hotel Forest Hills Resort in Aberfoyle. To be honest, we didn’t have much choice because our preferred destination, Crieff Hydro, where we’d enjoyed a great time last year, was fully booked.
K and I returned from Manchester on Tuesday lunchtime and after two stops to collect (a) our daughter from the outlaws and (b) collect our pre-packed bags from home we headed off over the Kincardine Bridge, bound for the Trossachs.
Usually we head in that direction for a pre-Easter break near Strathyre but this time we turned off not long after Blair Drummond Safari Park and headed along a scary road towards Forest Hills. The twisting and turning road would be bad enough to pass on a dry, summer’s day without the added complication of rainfall, farm machinery and speeding locals. We lived to tell the tale though.
The initial plan was to check in and then head straight for the pool, which is exactly what we did. After a much-needed de-stress in the pool – Lewis Hamilton would be quaking after a spin on that road – we headed to Rafters for dinner. I was part of the package along with bed and breakfast. K suggested we needn’t worry about lunch because we would “kick the arse out of breakfast”. I hadn’t even brought my 12″ plate.
After correcting the dinner bill, which we’d have to do every night, we headed back to our room to properly unpack. We had a spacious family room, with Flick loving her bunk bed. She would spend the next three nights starting in one bunk and transferring to the other during the course of her sleep.
The “suite” also had two televisions, trouser press (does anyone ever risk life and limb by trying to using one of them?), iron, tea/coffee/biscuits (Jury’s take note). K and I wound down for the evening with the televisual delights on offer. Or we would have if there had been anything on. With a mere twenty or so channels on offer – it’s not what we’re used to dahling – as well as four radio stations, the selection was rather paltry. We weren’t helped by the torrential downpour outside interfering regularly with the reception.
Sadly we couldn’t even amuse ourselves with our iPhones because, as we would later find out, there’s absolutely no mobile signal in the area on account of it being a National Conservation Area. No wi-fi, no texts, no Facebook, nothing. Sure you could get internet access, but only at a premium.
Wednesday 27 October 2010
Overnight I took ill. During the last couple of years I’d been plagued with stress-related throat problems but had been free of them for over a year. Now it was back with a vengeance. After a “full metal breakfast” I retired to the room for a lie down while the girls took advantage of the board games available in the lobby, after which they’d head back to the pool. As a result I missed all the “excitement”.
When we arrived at the hotel we noticed a helicopter “parked” in the gardens. We imagined some swanky high-roller was in town. A cursory mention of it when we checked in brought the information that “they” were doing “some filming” in the area. We didn’t press for further information on account of Flick wanting to do her Esther Williams bit as soon as we got there. Though I’m not sure the star of many an aquamusical ever wore Finding Nemo arm bands.
The girls returned from the health centre with the news that they’d seen Susan Boyle in the hotel lobby, surrounded by “her people”. Now I’m no fan of her music but I was gutted to have missed her. She would’ve made it four celebrities in about 24 hours. It turns out she’s filming a video in the area for her iminent Christmas single. There certainly won’t be much snow on show but plenty of rain. Maybe they moored an ark on Loch Ard.
I slept through lunch and all the fuss and after all the gossip, the family strolled back over to the health centre to see what else was on offer. There should have been a Kids’ Club on the go but only one child had signed up and they needed a minimum of four. There was a two table snooker “hall”, housed in a converted squash court and a gym hall for things like basketball and badminton. The girls grabbed a couple of rackets and shuttlecocks and I picked up the cue – the only one still in one piece – and some chalk and headed for the slightly worn green baize.
I enjoyed imagining I was at the Crucible but the walk around the table was exhausting. The girls joined me and I coaxed Kirsty into having a go. As Flick was too small to reach the table she would be mini-Michaela Tabb. After some coaching K got the basics although her amble “frontage” did get in the way sometimes!
I returned the equipment only for a couple of kids to borrow it straight after. When I returned to the centre later it turned out they’d subsequently broken the only cue by “leaning on it”! No Kids’ Club and now no snooker!
We headed back to the room hoping to catch one of our two favourite quiz/game shows of the moment, namely Pointless. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and for some reason the only channel we couldn’t view was BBC2! Rather unamused we returned to the pool where I hoped some time in the steam room and/or sauna would help “clear my tubes”. as usual this was followed by rain, dinner, bill, bill problem and run in the rain back to the hotel!
We consoled ourself in the knowledge that after Flick had gone to bed we could help ourself to tea, coffee and shortbread (in packets of tea – phew!) and settle down to The Apprentice. Well, that was the plan, until we saw that BBC1, which we could watch, was showing St. Johnstone versus Celtic in the quarter-final of the CIS Cup and The Apprentice, in Scotland-only, had been punted to BBC2, which, as people with even the shortest memories will remember, was on the blink.
We had to make do with a repeated detective drama on ITV4 in the shape of Wycliffe, who is, by comment consent the dullest, most miserable detective going and that’s saying something. I got so bored with it I went to bed before the end and didn’t care who the murderer was (although we knew it was the geekish bookworm student type with his shifty eyes).
Thursday 28 October 2010
If it’s Thursday, it must be rain. I still hadn’t seen SuBo but her helicopter would arrive and depart at regular intervals.
After another no-holds-barred breakfast, which was nothing less than delicious, we retired to the lounge for some more board games. Sadly Boggle had no timer and Sorry had no rules so we settled for a three-way game of Scrabble. The receptionist warned me that if there was any bloodshed could it happen at the front desk as it was easier to clean!
After confirmed my position as house Scrabble champion, thanks to PARTINGS, we headed off to the pool again. K and I would take turns to be splashed by Flick as the other luxuriated in the steam room or sauna.
We headed along the road to Kinlochard and the Wee Blether cafe for the promise of big slabs of cake. We certainly weren’t disappointed. K and I plumped for hot chocolate, with marshmallows and cream, and Flick had some milk. She plumped for a ham sandwich and a huge piece of Mars Crunchy Bar. A star of Fat Families would’ve struggled to finish it so we cut it in half and the rest in a doggy bag. I plumped for Canadian Road, which was just Rocky Road under the witness protection scheme, and K settled for what seemed like a hundredweight of Lemon Drizzle cake.
With a splish and a splash we waddled back to the hotel. “What shall we do now?” “Oh, I know, let’s go for a swim!” and swim we did. Again.
The previous evening’s entertainment at Rafters had been described as a Scottish night but we didn’t fancy that much – “It’s Brigadoon!” - and we managed to wolf down dessert before the accordions got into full swing. But tonight was different because it was a “Family Quiz Night” and that was right up our Dunfermline High Street. (I’ll be posting a quiz blog special to cover the two quizzes we did this week and if you don’t want to know the score, look away now. And for a day or two because I haven’t written it yet!)
The rest of the night was watching “some pish” on ITV 4 while the wind and rain did their worst outside.
Despite the weather and the apparent lack of things to do – there were outdoorsy things to do but in this weather us city folks ain’t gonna bother – we did enjoy the break but it lacked a certain something. Crieff Hydro seemed to have more variety, especially for children, even at the end of the season. If you can get the weather I’d recommend it because it’s a beautiful setting. Just don’t expect to be able to contact the outside world. Or get BBC2.