off (though there’s the weekend left).
I can’t lie, I’ve had a busy and fun time on the whole and have managed to balance the looking after the children and my creative output to some degree (or at least that’s how I feel, which is important).
It’s reminded me of how important it is to get out and about to get the mind working on new experiences, picking up little images or bits of information here and there that might well become the hooks for a new story.
The piece I’ve just finished was written over 20 yearsago. I put it together at a time when I did nothing but work and stand in betting shops. A day came when I got to spend time with a young lady who’d absolutely bowled me over (she wasn’t trying to, sadly) and all I could think of talking about was the going at Ascot or the result of the 3.30 at Lingfield and other such guff. It was all I knew. The long and short of it is that nothing ever happened with the girl in question, other than I decided to give up gambling (it wasn’t to be the last time) and to decorate my flat. Whilst decorating, I came up with the idea for Deborah Faints, now titled How To Choose A Sweetheart. There’ll be more on that next week when it’s free.
This summer I’ve been out and about.
Being with the children helps with that because I can’t simply stay in and do nothing or hang about online as I’m inclined to do.
I thought I’d put together a mini-list of activities in case anyone’s around this side of Scotland and needs tips. It’s not a big list or an authoritative one, but it might be of use.
John Muir’s Birthplace, Dunbar High Street.
I’d never heard of John Muir before I moved to Dunbar and I’d never heard of Dunbar before I moved to Scotland. I’m glad things changed on both counts. The birthplace has a small museum, free to enter, about the man’s life and
conservation issues and it’s an interesting hour you’ll have should you go in. I wouldn’t allow for too much time in the schedule, but I’d put it on.
Space, North Berwick
I’ve been really taken with this venture. It’s an indoor skate/BMX park that caters for all levels and my kids really loved their first time there. It has a cheap cafe, great music, pool table, a record shop and a rehearsal space. Essentially it’s a vibrant hub for teenagers and children and it has that feel of somewhere that you’re going to meet nice folk and be in the right company. Good vibes.
Castles are great. For a while. I get nervous going up at the high bits and can’t always manage. Tantallan has some interesting bits of structure left and it also has one of the nicest views of the coast and Bass Rock. And I've finally joined Historic Scotland too.
This one’s an oddity. It’s an industrial museum of sorts with a small display of mining artefacts and a little cafe and shop. There’s a massive kiln, old rolling stock and lots of mining equipment and buildings. Top of the bill is an enormous Victorian pump that was used to keep the water from the mines. I’m not big on engineering in terms of knowledge or understanding, but I can recognisesomething special when I see it. Blinding.
Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh
It’s like a big tent next to the parliament buildings with an underground gallery space. Essentially it’s a place where you can see lots of videos in different settings that tell you of the formation of the planet as it is now. There’s a small interactive area and a block of ice that my kids always enjoy. It has a soft play to cap it off and there’s a film to watch in a tiny domed cinema. It’s worth the time, but again isn’t something you can spend more than half a day at.
All of it. Including at Torness power station which has a bizarre feel to it. Cove, Eyemouth, Tyninghame, White Sands, Sea-cliff, East Beach...I look out at the sea sometimes and wonder why all the folk in England flock down to Cornwall (possibly the temperature), but the coast line here is as beautiful as any anywhere.
At Vue cinemas, you can take your kids along to see a film in the mornings for £1.75 per ticket. It’s the only time we get to go and, as long as you don’t mind waiting a while after a release to see a film and you don’t mind it being for children, it’s great.
Taking the children to Peebles for a night of camping was great fun. Everyone had a ball. I must confess, my old bones still haven’t recovered, but that’s not a reason not to do it again.
M and Ds.
Look up M and Ds as a fun park and there are lots of negative reviews. For me, as long as you’re not expecting Alton Towers, you’ll have a lovely family day out there. The rides aren’t all super-modern and it has a low-brow feel to it, but I’ve not come away with anything but happy children after a trip.
It’s that time again. Yesterday we had a massive family smoothie made up of blackberries and raspberries. And we’re doing it again this afternoon and I don’t care.
I don’t know which genius thought of this, but in East Lothian children can go swimming for free after 11am and 8 year-olds and above can go unaccompanied.
Which brings me to the end of the list for now. I’m off to spray my son’s new second hand bike so that it isn’t pink anymore.
Please put in any tips for trips if you have them. There’s always next summer and there are plenty of weekends between now and then.