The Good Lady Wife had made the not unreasonable decision to spend all day Saturday knitting in Stirling. Who wouldn’t? I don’t know what the opposite of Extreme Sports is, but Stitching and Bitching by genteel ladies armed with nothing but NPLs, some Chiengora and the latest copy of Rowan wouldn’t be far off.
The Flickster and I had to fend for ourselves. I had a To-Do list (as is my wont) and a plan. New school shoes had to be collected – for Flick you understand – but plans to fit in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it haircut beforehand were scuppered by the need for sleep.
Normally I park on the edge of Dunfermline and take a short but bracing walk into town, which is partly for exercise and partly to save a few pennies, albeit a paltry 85p (for up to 2 hours parking). However, with the little one in tow and need for speed, I forked out a pound, yes a WHOLE pound. (We had a lot to do and I didn’t want to waste time walking). I didn’t have the correct change and it seems the ticket machine doesn’t either. Ever.
The shoe shop was busy. A shop specialising in children’s shoes will always be busy but in the week before the return to school even more so. The shop, Clever Clogs, has a well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service and takes the time, as long as necessary, to ensure the customers (parents and kids alike) are happy with the product. They also have a good system of one staff member dealing with appointments and one or two for casual walk-in customers, which works well. This kind of reputation inevitably brings more customers and the shop was very busy but everyone, adults and children alike, was patient and we were in and out with the minimum of fuss, albeit with a 15 minute wait. We left happy although not before Felicity whispered to me that the two ladies behind the counter looked the same. I hadn’t noticed but boy were they the spit of each other. It was like Balamory’s Miss Hoolie and her doppelgänger. One was 10 minutes older than the other as the more mature one was quick to inform us.
Before we headed back to the car we took a wander around the monthly farmers’ market. We purchased some Puddledub sausages and bacon, Anster mild cheese (this was our favourite of the two we tried) and Flick’s usual Gingerbread family.
Next stop, the capital. With it being the weekend and Edinburgh entertaining the Fringe, the International Festival, shoppers and the start of the football season, it would be mobbed. Thankfully we were heading to two different out-of-town shopping centres so we skirted, rather appropriately, round the fringes.
Flick and I chatted and joked as we crossed the “Bumpy Bridge”, her name for the Forth Bridge on account of the regular bumps caused by the joins, or whatever the technical name is for them. We listened to the latest instalment of her “rolling” CD; the latest additions being Ellie Goulding’s hyped debut “Starry Eyes” and Jason Derulo’s “Ridin’ Solo”. The radio station of choice of both her childminder and the Kids Club bus driver – Galaxy FM – has a lot to answer for and has obviously brainwashed Flick. I had downloaded the “Ridin’ Solo” track for her only to find the version I got was the uncensored version. Eventually I found the “Radio Edit”, which had clumsily omitted the “shit” from it. Well, not all the shit because it still sounded crap, although I must confess it worms its way into your brain and has you singing along.
On the way to Ocean Terminal, based in Leith, the conversation briefly got a little bit serious when she said that she’d been a little bit sad because she only had one granddad. I had to explain that my dad’s heart had stopped working but she shouldn’t be sad because she’d never met him and besides he wouldn’t want her to be sad. To be honest, I wouldn’t know what he would’ve wanted because it’d been over 30 years since I’d seen him. My parents had divorced and he left the family home and I decided that he’d made his decision and I no longer wanted to know him. She seemed reassured and I quickly changed the subject to Build-A-Bears.
Flick had received a voucher for the Build-A-Bear shop and we were heading to the outskirts of the capital to spend it and then do likewise with her birthday money at Toys R Us. Slightly confused by some of the worn road markings I was nearly taken out by a Lothian Buses vehicle, which had quite rightly peeped me loudly, as I approached Ocean Terminal.
Flick seemed overwhelmed by the choice on offer in the shop. She had two bears at home that she doted on, Fraser and Lucy, and we eventually plumped for matching outfits (with tartan trim) and a camouflage camping tent for them. Sure it was over budget but spending time with Flick had loosened my usual restraint.
The woman behind the till loosened it even further by asking me if I wanted shoes for each outfit! I hadn’t thought of that. I looked down at Flick, she looked up at me and I melted further. Ker-ching! A £25 overspend resulted but she was happy and I was happy that she was happy. I must say that I’m not one of those parents who gives in to their child’s every demands just for an easy life but now and again I’ll let her think she’s talked me round. It’s all part of the psychology.
Next stop was Kinnaird Park. Her grandparents, on my wife’s side, had got her a Playmobil Circus (the one I built last week in 45 minutes) and we were looking for some of the other accessories, like lions, trailers, acrobats and, somewhat hopefully, a bearded lady. I had checked the Toys R Us website and wasn’t hopeful of their being any in-store when we got there. We went anyway because I do love it, especially the board games section, which is in alphabetical order for easy searching. My fears were well founded. Flick’s heart sank.
Of course, being surrounded by a vast warehouse worth of toys and games, she didn’t want to leave empty-handed and I empathized. I felt her pain. We moved along to the Lego section and perused the selection on offer. We eventually settled on a couple of the medium-sized boxes (okay I “guided” her in that direction) that would allow for some leftover money. We threw in a pack of The Simpsons’ Top Trumps (Volume 3) – a family treat – and again I left the store several pounds lighter. Sadly it was more monetary than body weight.
After the inevitable McDonalds – it really does make for interesting people watching and David Attenborough would’ve had a field day – we headed off to the grandparents to ostensibly break up the journey but also for a chat, a cuppa and, while we waited for them to get home, an ice cream. I had my usual rum and raisin and Flick plucked for fudge. Flick wasn’t happy with her selection and she was right to be concerned. It certainly didn’t taste very fudge-like; in fact it didn’t taste of anything. We swapped, although she rain out of steam with my bigger portion and I finished it off. It was the least I could do.
Regular readers will know I’m a ‘comper’, someone who does competitions and prize draws and has been fairly successful. While listening to Kingdom FM recently – for research not pleasure, I assure you – I had a look at their website and spotted a competition to win some unspecified “summer goodies” for the Baxters shop in Kelty.
Anyway, I (we) won. A quick chat with the manager of the shop had informed me that the prize was £50 worth of “goodies”. On Sunday, not unnaturally, I collected the girls from church (I’m a practising atheist) and headed up the M90 to the next junction.
Flick, not surprisingly, wanted to fill the basket with sweets but we kept her to a couple of things. While the prize didn’t match the likes of The Gadget Show (have you seen their comp on Five on Monday night?), it was still a decent haul. Three carrier bags filled with soups and cider, chorizo, oatcakes, sweets, lemon curd, preserves and much, much more. We were concerned we were holding up the queue but as we had had to wait for a couple spending £530 in front of us we stood firm. As the assistant put our stuff through the till I said if it was under the £50 we would get some of the cheese. It came to £50.34. “Don’t bother with the cheese”.
Normally I’d be preparing for my radio show and leaving for Kirkcaldy mid-afternoon but I’d been invited to a presenters’ meeting at Leith FM. I’ve been looking to move my show to a larger audience, any audience, and I was joining the station. I hadn’t got a slot for my show but was keen to meet some of the other presenters. I went along with John Murray, who is on the board, and Ally Gourlay who presents the excellent Art School Dancing on a Monday night.
I won’t go into the details of the meeting but it contained the usual themes of radio station meetings: lack of communication, gripes about subscriptions, dodgy equipment and funding issues.
After a couple of hours and a couple of pints, we headed back home. We switched the radio on to VRN 1287AM and lo and behold my dulcet tones emanated from the radio. The sound was patchy but it was me all right. I can’t get the station at home so can’t tune in to my own show, on the rare occasion I’m not there, or my fellow presenters. Rather ironically the closer we got to Fife the worse the reception was and we turned it off as we approached the “Bumpy Bridge”.
It was nice being home a lot earlier than normal on a Sunday and having a tea that doesn’t require microwaved and spending time with Flick before she goes to bed. After I leave for VRN the girls usually watch a film and today it was Monsters vs Aliens, which I enjoyed.
A very productive weekend, my favourite kind, but it was back to work for a break.