719 Miles later


719 Miles later

Being back after a near two-week holiday doesn’t actually feel so bad – possibly because it was such an enjoyable, yet exhausting break. So it’s nice to be back in familiar surroundings, plus I had Thursday off work so I could relax a little before getting back to the grind.

I’d like to say a big thankyou to everyone who put us up, fed us, and entertained us over the festive period. In 2007 we’ve been up in Scotland fairly frequently, but I don’t see that continuing in 2008, so it was good to celebrate the close of the year in style with so many friends and family.

If you’re at all interested, here’s a quick recap of what we got up to, as best as I can remember things…

Saturday the 22nd of December

It escapes me what I got up to during the day, but in the evening I went out with Crazy Uncle John to a really nice pub in town called The Logie Baird. It’s my type of pub, too – well lit and with a relaxed atmosphere. We had a really good evening, talking about this and that before going for a really tasty Indian meal, but ended up having a bit of a row about religion to end things off.

I shouldn’t have gotten involved, really, as I hate discussing religion and, other than the bits I’m force fed by society, it plays no part in my life. I had nodded with a blank expression while CUJ had explained (at length) how well read protestants were compared to catholics. Somehow we wandered on to Scientology, so I figured that if he was going to flex his knowledge of the subject I could at least chip in by recalling as much as I could of the account of an ex-scientology victim that I’d read on the Operation Clambake website.

I was barely scratching the surface when Crazy Uncle John told me to save my breath because Scientology was nonsense and he probably knew more than I did. I retorted with a slightly facetious… okay, mostly facetious comment along the lines of; At least the gospel of Scientology was written by the one guy within living memory – the book that your religion comes from was written by a whole bunch of different guys at a load of different times, with a bunch of different guys chopping or changing the chapters as they saw fit.

With hindsight I’d agree that this was not a wise stance to take, as it led to an extended ear lashing on the merits of religion and of how my relationship with him wasn’t “honest” because I’d let him take me to church when I was little. Insisting that I didn’t know it was voluntary at the time did nothing but fan the flames.

Anyhow, despite emploring Crazy Uncle John to quit talking about religion time and again, as I had no interest in arguing over it, we ended the night by getting a lift from a member of the restaurant staff who is also a family friend, trading verbal blows until I departed the car.

Sunday the 23rd of December

During the day we went for a family lunch, before Fliss, Andrew and myself went for a walk around the town. Helensburgh really is such a down-shift of pace that it’s like the whole town is on Night Nurse, or there’s some great big rip in the fabric of space and extra time is pouring in from elsewhere – possibly London – so that everything happens more slowly. Anyhow, after a walk… nay… a mosey around the block we went back to my folk’s place.

That evening I answered questions for Andrew about his new laptop whilst I surfed the internet and half heartedly followed the NFL on mine. Mum doesn’t have Sky Sports, so it was the first time all season I was missing live games. With the Chargers not kicking off until after 1am our time I called it quits and went to bed instead of staying up to listen to the game.

Monday the 24th of December

Waking up in a pretty fuzzy state that morning I suddenly realised that Bohemian Rhapsody was starting on my mother’s radio in the next room. For some reason, going back as far as I can remember, my mother sleeps with the radio on quite loudly. No coincidence, I’m sure, but she also always looks shattered.

As you may or may not know, my challenge for 2007 was to avoid listening to Bohemian Rhapsody. Playing by my own rules, I’m sure I was just under the four second mark when I got my fingers in my ears – all good. I sort of turtled out of bed, calling Fliss through for help, as I couldn’t turn off the radio myself as that would mean taking a finger out of an ear and hearing more.

Fliss arrived and kind of got the gist of why I had my fingers where I had them, but then said, with a quizzical expression, “This isn’t Bohemian Rhapsody – it’s the one that goes ‘mama… just killed a man’…”

To think that I’d been enlisting the help of someone who had no idea what the bloody song went like, it’s even more amazing that I’d made it for most of the year without hearing it. Now not only was it on the radio in the next room, but she was totally trying to sabotage things by serenading me in my boxies whilst I was defenceless. My wide-eyed expression and the words “that fucking is bohemian rhapsody” through gritted teeth spurred her into action, though, and she dutifuly turned off the radio.

How crap would that have been, though, to be foiled in the final week of the challenge?

Later in the day Cousin Iain arrived after an arduous, transport strike afflicted journey up from London. That evening, when we knew the coast was clear, we arranged to head out to The Logie Baird, along with Fliss who was meeting one of her friends at another pub for his birthday. Both Iain and I were tired, though, so it was a bit of a slow night until a couple of friends I hadn’t seen for a long time showed up.

One was Dean – I see him from time to time when both he and I are back visiting family in the area, but the real surprise was that Neil was with him. I hadn’t seen Neil in over ten years and I barely recognised him at first – it was only his reaction at my blank face that made the penny drop. As sometimes happens with young lads, Neil and I had fallen out over a girl back in the day and, although we’d sort of made up afterwards, things had never gotten back to how they were.

Then life overtook us and before I knew it Neil was in the RAF and gone from the area. Turns out he still is in the RAF as a medic, and will be back off to Iraq at the end of the month to instruct trainee medics out there. Wow. I make websites – how unworthwhile, I thought.

Despite his travels, Neil still seemed pretty hung up on the whole girl thing from a decade ago, and kept apologising profusely. I tried to reassure him that it was more than forgotten about before he headed off to enjoy the rest of the night, but really, it made my night just getting to catch up with him again.

During the above, Cousin Iain and Crazy Uncle John had played a sort of tag-team switch on me and Iain was off to Church for some kind of service, while Uncle John had arrived for a few beers. It didn’t seem long before Iain was back again, really, but it was about half past twelve when I got a voicemail from my mum saying that Elisha was “uncontrollable”. I sprang into action and said my goodnights, heading for a taxi and a swift ride home. Turned out Elisha was fine, after all, and my mum had panicked a little when she couldn’t get through.

Ah well, it had been a good night anyway and with xmas day ahead of me it was better to get a relatively early night. Unfortunately, when Fliss crawled in at around half past two she woke me up again and then compounded matters by chucking in the sink next door. I think I eventually passed out listening to her trying to mash the chunks down the plug hole. Yuck!

Tuesday the 25th of December

As can be expected of a family xmas, the day was long and loud, thoroughly enjoyable, and a bit of a blur. Elisha still didn’t seem to appreciate that all the things she was opening were now hers, but I’m sure she’ll get the picture next year. Dinner was good, too – my mum did a frantic amount of work and her new conservatory was ready enough to house us all for the feast.

All in all, a very successful day. 🙂

Wednesday the 26th of December

Boxing day saw us drive over to Millport to see Fliss’ dad. We did our usual trick of making excellent time on the coast road that everybody always tells us will be slow, only to arrive just as the ferry crew were taking a forty five minute break. Which was rubbish.

Once we were on the island and into (Grand)Father Ted’s place we had a top evening – Fliss’ brother Alistair and his girlfriend Gemma were there, and had bought Elisha a rocking horse for her christmas. This was clearly one of the best presents she’d gotten so far, as she warmed to it quickly and was climbing on and off of “Robbie the Rocking Horse” all night long.

Ted put one in the back of the net with the cooking, too – I’m not a huge fan of pork, but it, along with all the veg, was excellent. We usually force him to make us steak, but maybe we’ll let him experiment a bit now!

Thursday the 27th of December

After lunch at Ted’s we drove to Aunty Mary’s place for a Murder Mystery Night. I was playing an illusionist who, as revealed to me on the first page of my script, was the murderer in question. I felt a little bit cheated by that – I didn’t want to be the murderer – I wanted to play my part and try to work it out. Fliss had made me an excellent (and giant) wand and I’d knocked up a top hat from the left over black card, placing one of Elisha’s bunny slippers into it in case anybody cracked the “can you pull a rabbit out of your hat” gag. Why, yes I can!

And I did. 😀

The real mystery of the night was how anyone can keep track of those plots. All of our character bits in our scripts were written in third person, which we then had to transpose into first person to query or answer the other characters. It was really tough going, although we all got there in the end.

Friday the 28th of December

We spent the night at Aunty Mary’s and enjoyed an excellent breakfast in the morning, before heading off to visit Claire, Campbell and Cailin in Clarkston. It’s just occurred to me why they moved there.

Anyhow, after a brief trip with them to the new and underwhelming (no music or games store) Silverburn shopping center we spent the evening playing a game called Gender Wars, I think, which Campbell and I won by a narrow margin. I’d like to think it was sharpness of wit that won the day, but Fliss kept betraying the fact that I’m in touch with my feminine side, which meant I was pretty good at answering the questions that would stump “proper” manly men. Ahem.

Saturday the 29th of December

We barely made it home from Claire, Cambell and Cailin’s in Clarkston before I was in for a quick shower, changed and on the train for Glasgow. Meeting Adrian, George, Karen, and their friend Rob in The Lab, as is usual, the hours seemed to slip away before Adrian and I ended up in a Thai restaurant on Argyle Street.

The meal was excellent and the staff were very attentive, although the final bill was something of a heart stopper. Adrian generously covered most of it, then walked me back to Queen Street station for the last train home. It was great seeing Adrian again – I thought on the train back that it’s a shame to have such a great friend and to only see him a handful of times over the course of the year.

After six hours of drinks in The Lab, plus some red wine in the restaurant, I pretty much passed out listening to my music on the train home. I woke at the stop before my mum’s and, for some reason, texted Crazy Uncle John to see if he was making lots of money in the taxi. He replied in the negative and asked if I wanted to join him for a drink. So, against all reason, I stayed on the train into town and met him for two more drinks before it all caught up with me.

I wasn’t falling about drunk, but I was pretty queasy and decided to head home under my own steam, walking along the front with my music on. I thought I did pretty well not to barf, until I was brushing my teeth back at the house, gagged and did just that. I really must stop over doing it. 😉

Sunday the 30th of December

As you would expect, I woke up on Sunday feeling a little bit rough. I’d arranged to meet my friend Richard Glen for lunch, though, so I showered, dressed and made my way to the Ardencaple Hotel for quarter to one. The last few days had taken their toll on me for sure, but I hadn’t seen Richard in years and the conversation was flowing in no time.

After lunch we walked up to Richard’s place where he let me have a seat in his yellow Lotus Elise. Man, I love those cars, and it was the first time I’d actually got to sit behind the wheel. Unfortunately Richard said we couldn’t go out in it because he’d had a pint to drink, so hopefully I’ll get to experience it next time I’m up before he parts with it.

In the house his son Jason joined us for an afternoon of chat about motorsports, mostly. Richard and Jason are big fans of all types of motorsports, and I don’t have any friends locally who care for it, so it was ace to just kick back and compare notes on stuff like IndyCar, NASCAR, and drag racing. Before I left we made a tentative aggreement to meet up at Santa Pod in September, as I’ve never been to a drag racing event before and Richard assures me I’d enjoy it. He was right about the hill climb event he took me to back in 1999, so I see no reason to doubt him this time. 🙂

Back at the house I continued to feel a bit ropey from the day before, but stayed up to listen to the Chargers close out the season on the laptop before going to bed.

Monday the 31st of December

Eight days of excess had finally caught up with me and I felt awful all day. I thought I was putting on a brave face, but Marjory and others noted that I wasn’t my usual self. After another great dinner prepared by my mum, and celebrating the new year around the table with the family, I managed to get my second wind enough to set up SingStar on Andrew’s PS3 and encourage folk to join in and sing.

Hazel and Andrew did a hilariously bad duet at one point – Hazel was in the middle of a bad cold, so at least she had an excuse. Andrew was just excruciating – I mean, his voice broke a few years ago now, but I think he’s a long way from finding his singing voice. Not that I was vastly better, but my A-Ha and my Rick Astley were acceptable, I think. Fliss finished off the SingStar with a high quality Dido rendition and it was time to call it a night.

Unfortunately, once in bed, I just lay there feeling too sick to get to sleep until finally throwing up when it was still very dark outside. Misjudging the toilet area I kind of hit the edge of it and deflected most of the sick back over myself and the bathroom floor, turning it into a skid pan of dinner and snack related material. Not good.

Fliss had to help me clean it all up before we both went back to bed, but at least this time I managed to get to sleep.

Tuesday the 1st of January

What a way to start the year – a sleepless night where I was sick, followed by tobogganing at the Xscape indoor snow center. We’d done this last year, so we knew what to expect – I even packed some water proofs and my big fleece with it in mind. And, just like last year, the weeee bits down the hill were great fun – it was the slog back up in the snow that was the hard part.

It was cool waving to Elisha & Abigail who were being looked after by Steven and Uncle Peter in the gallery, but a shame they couldn’t join in. Apparently 3 is the age limit, so Elisha will be just old enough if we do it next year.

Uncle Peter made good use of my PSP and its camera attachment, filming lots of toboggan related shenanigans as each of us slipped, fell and wiped out. I only had a couple of wipe outs myself, but called time on my session when, soaking wet from the waist down, I couldn’t take another slog back up the slope.

Once dried and changed we had drinks in the gallery area before heading for a meal in one of the restaurants in the Xscape complex. Everybody else enjoyed assorted steaks, while I settled for some pasta that I didn’t think I’d keep down.

Wednesday the 2nd of January

Wednesday saw us once again over packing the car for the journey home – it’s amazing how much stuff we end up taking back to our small house. It’s also amazing that the car can take it all, too. Saying our goodbyes at around 3pm we enjoyed a smooth, traffic free journey back (as KeepMoving had promised) without a single stop.

And that was the festive period over with for another year.