I’m back to normal life this week after the Easter holidays. While it is quite a relief to go longer than 30 seconds without someone saying “Mummy” (escalating to “MUMMEEE! if I don’t respond within a split second), it has been a really lovely break.
The first week we went on a family holiday to Scotland – taking the sleeper train to Fort William, and then staying for a few days in Plockton, in the Western Highlands, before getting the train south for a few days in Edinburgh before taking the sleeper train back to London.
Sleeper trains have long been something of a passion for my husband and me – in fact we celebrated our first anniversary of getting together with a ‘day trip’ to Plockton, getting the overnight sleeper up one night and back the next, thus only missing one day of lectures! Happily the children both seem to share this affection, and it really does feel like a huge adventure settling into cosy little rooms complete with washbasins, bunk beds made up with crisp white linen, and all manner of intriguing buttons and switches and hidden contraptions. It also has the advantage that a long and potentially arduous journey takes place while you sleep, and I don’t think I will ever tire of the magic of going to sleep as the train winds its way through prosaic North London suburbs, and waking up in the most remote and wildly beautiful part of Britain.
Plockton was pretty idyllic. It is a picture postcard village situated on the shores of Loch Carron, and we were incredibly lucky to have brilliant sunshine the whole time, even though the chilly wind needed a bit of wrapping up against. We went out on a boat trip to spot seals, and the rest of the time we went for walks, explored islands with tidal causeways, clambered on rocks and squelched in mud so thick and oozy I do feel my children’s description of it as ‘quicksand’ wasn’t totally erroneous.
In Edinburgh we had a great time exploring the castle and National Trust for Scotland properties showing what life was like respectively in an Old Town apartment in 17th century Edinburgh and in a New Town Georgian townhouse in 18th century Edinburgh. My husband took the girls to the Camera Obscura while I had a peaceful coffee and mooch in the shops. We also climbed Arthur’s Seat – pretty impressive for the 4 year old’s little legs – and spent a day in Cramond, a pretty seaside village just outside Edinburgh, and another day in Edinburgh’s beautiful Botanical Gardens, as well as lots of time playing in the beautiful, and stunningly located, Princes Street Gardens. I also discovered that the Stockbridge Village area of Edinburgh is charity shop heaven, and I had to be seriously restrained, bearing in mind anything I bought had to be crammed into already over-stuffed suitcases and then fitted into the cabin of a sleeper train!
We had a couple of quiet days at home, when I basically did nonstop laundry, and then headed up to Liverpool to spend Easter with my parents. We went to see the birthplace of Lewis Carroll, as both children are Alice fans, and another day we went to local National Trust property Speke Hall for their Easter egg hunt, as well as a picnic in the grounds. The weather was so good I had to make an emergency suncream purchase, as it just hadn’t occurred to me that Liverpool in April could be hot enough to need it! On Easter Saturday we went to Crosby to see the Anthony Gormley Another Place sculptures, which were stunning, and for a lot of paddling and scrambling on sand dunes.
On Easter Sunday my brother and sister-in-law came over, and we had a lovely family catch-up, complete with one of my dad’s legendary roast dinners, as well as making time for the obligatory Easter Bunny egg hunt in the garden.
We also went to church on Easter Sunday. This is always my favourite service of the year, as even though I am not a practising Christian I always find the message of joy and hope incredibly uplifting. This year the minister’s sermon focussed on resurrection as being an ongoing process, not a one-off event. His point was that resurrection occurs for all of us daily, in our families, through friendship, through nature, at work or school, through the people who help us. Change and development and resurrection are an inherent part of life, and that is a message I find both comforting and inspiring.
Easter has been an incredibly restful and restorative time for me this year, and I think for the children too. Seeing their delight at spending so much time outdoors and free-range, running and climbing and paddling and playing has made us determined to replicate some of this in London, and create as many opportunities as possible for our little urban girls to get into the great outdoors.
It was great to see you and your lovely girls. I didn’t realise you could still get sleeper trains, wonder if that’s just from London – I must investigate.