Friday, 18 November 2011

And it’s raining in Scotland…

So our sojourn of working from home in Scotland is nearly at an end after five years in the beautiful Scottish Borders. This time next week I’ll be working from a home office in North Somerset, but for now I’ll take this opportunity to put a few things straight.

If you listen to Radio 1 or Radio 2 you might be forgiven for thinking that Scottish people have webbed feet as most weather forecasts always seem to end with “and it’s raining in Scotland”. Now this might be true, but Scotland is a tad bigger than you might think. Apparently it’s ‘the last wilderness in Europe’ and it has lots of coastline along the west and north.

The cocky radio presenters could just as well say that it’s raining in England (or Wales) as the west coast is usually drying some of the moisture out of the Atlantic winds at some point. I remember one Scot getting very irate about Radio 2’s insistence that it was raining in Scotland every day for two weeks. He is a keen gardener and had been spending ages watering his garden every day because it had not rained for weeks.

It seems that the forecasts are summarised by people who have never ventured north of Watford. Indeed, many people I knew or did business with from ‘down south’ knew nothing about the Scottish Borders and seemed to presume that you went from Carlisle straight to Edinburgh and the Highlands.

The Scottish Borders is a scenic area, less dramatic than the Highlands but probably more beautiful with rolling hills, sweeping valleys and majestic trees. However, it is the sky that I will miss most – it’s sheer size and the drama it creates. The countryside looks more appealing with sun and cloud rather than a blazing blue sky. The shadows from the clouds and shafts of sunlight march across the hills where you can sit watching buzzards circling below you.

I’m wondering how easy it will be to scare the kids in Somerset.

I may only need a computer to work from home but the Borders countryside certainly helps with inspiration. We are hoping for some more sun in Somerset but are expecting a bit more rain so maybe we’ll hear a Londoner claim that it is raining in Somerset every day from next week…

PS Sorry that the pic is of snow and not rain. It’s just my favourite photo.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Honey I scared the kids! The pitfalls of having a creative dad

I would say that I’m adjusting to being the primary carer for Thing 1 and Thing 2 while working from home. However, the truth is that I adjusted quickly when it was easy, but I’m having a few problems on the days when sanity starts to drift away. Oh yes, and we’ve finally sold our house and have to be in a rental house 350 miles away (that we haven’t found yet) by the end of the month.

The best way to escape the build up of stress is to take our kids out into the stunning Scottish Borders countryside for an ‘expedition’ to soak up some of the kids’ endless energy. Today we were paddling at the edge of a loch, spuddling in deep mud, escaping from trolls and wolves, building dens and being polite to pirate ghosts.

The sun was starting to slide languorously behind a hill giving a gorgeous, golden light to our side of the loch, yet behind us was the menacing black of a pine forest. We hadn’t had snack yet (four and two years cannot survive without food of some description at least every two hours) and I had told them throughout our expedition that pirates would be giving us our snack.

We crept very carefully into the outskirts of the pine forest and looked back at the inviting sun outside. For those who have never entered a managed pine forest you will be amazed at the blackness and the silence. Graveyards are a long way down the creepy scale in comparison.

The story I concocted is that the wood was full of pirate ghosts who had buried their treasure near the loch. If we crept into the forest and asked them very politely they would leave us some sweets and snacks. This was dutifully and very seriously done with very wide eyes as can be seen in the photo.

We escaped the woods and found that X marked the spot (courtesy of two big sticks) of a bountiful treasure of Jaffa cakes and sweets (from their Hallowe’en stash). Sitting in the sun we discussed the fact that the pirate ghosts would appear when it got dark and that we should go soon. I should have known from the earnest request for snacks, delivered into an empting forbidding forest that they had taken it very seriously. However, the true extent of this was yet to come.

A toilet stop was required on the way back to the car and Thing 1 (my four year old son) had just finished watering a tree with his trousers round his ankles when a hiker appeared on the path. The man looked distinctly unimpressed to see this urinating cherub and hurried past. Unfortunately he was harangued by Thing 1 who tried to tell him all about the complex lives of pirate ghosts and their generosity mixed with deadly danger – all with his trousers round his ankles.

The poor man was obviously a seasoned hiker but I’m not sure he had ever been stopped by a trouser-less four year talking earnest nonsense about pirate ghosts. I just shrugged my shoulders as if to say ‘Kids!’ I never thought working from home with the kids would be easy but I didn’t think it would be so entertaining.

Just in case you were worried that the kids really were scared here they are after they had their snack.