Helter Skelter

Getting to rural south Wales takes a long time and was made complicated by finding we could not get there before the car rental office shut in a Sunday and needed to be there for Monday for Shane’s dad’s funeral. So we ended up leaving a day earlier and overnighting on Bartimaeus on the way. Our train was cancelled but it was sunny so we sat in Princes Street Gardens. Waverley Bridge where we had been for our vaccinations was now very busy on a sunny Saturday in December. I had never seen such a crowd going to the markets and fair. Later I found out our friends Wendy and Stuart were there. We stayed away from the crowds with our rucksacks. We sat below the helter skelter and as luck would have it chose a Beatle bench. Is O’Boogie a real name?

helter skelter in Princes Street Gardens
Beatles Apreciation bench in Princes Street Gardens

Well I was glad I wasn’t in the crowds but the train journey was obviously going to be busy. We went back in good time to get our next train, no longer with booked seats and I had time to pause at the busking bairns.

Elf and mini Santa playing pipes and drum

We stopped over on Bartimaeus, a handy BnB. During our journey we had a change in Birmingham both going to the boat and on to Wales the following day. There we didn’t just change platforms, and trains, we had to cross town to other stations so there were brief opportunities to stretch legs and take in the festive atmosphere. On the way to Warwick where Bartimaeus is moored we shared a crowded station with families in dressing gowns with teddy bears boarding the Polar Express steam experience on the next platform. Our driver seemed to be hoping for an alternative career in stand-up engaging merrily with all the passengers in our carriage, stepping in saying “Is this the front?” And . On the next day new shiny station front had a magic mirror wonky reflection. It all felt very high spirited and like a day at the fair.

Church tower and Christmas tree in moonlit Birmingham
Terrasse reflected at Birmingham New Street

Bryn and Nye were there ahead of us and Nye had got in food in readiness for inviting Shane’s sister’s family to a meal. We were also invited to hers for our evening meal so between that and left over funeral food we ended up with much more than we could get through in the time despite long walks with their dogs to build up appetites.

On the way back to Edinburgh we had a pause between trains at Crewe. There we found a cafe called Fatu’s Kitchen. The menu was interesting and the staff very keen to chat. It turned out the family business had only been open for two weeks. I asked where in Africa the food was from and was told Nigeria but that she was Gambian. There was great excitement to being told Shane had been to the Gambia, long before she was born! We had the warmest of welcomes. If you want friendly service and an interesting menu (or even just a full breakfast.. it is open from 5.30 in the morning) then this is the place to go. I had a stew with spinach, prawns, chicken and fish with mashed yam and Shane had fried fish, African sauce and fried plantain.

Bryn and Nye didn’t partake of the African cuisine and found their own snack stop. The train ran on time and we were home in time for tea but I was exhausted and emotionally drained having not slept well the night before. An early night and I felt much better the next day, but still needed to recharge. I felt like I could do with some electric hook up like Bartimaeus.

I fitted in a visit to see my sister Margaret, but didn’t have long in Edinburgh. More travel plans were being made for a trip north. A friend who lives in Germany was in Aberdeen for a week and I hadn’t seen her for over three years so I really wanted to catch up. I packed super warm clothes when I saw the weather in Edinburgh.

Looking out our kitchen windows to a blanket of snow

I was worried that would be slow walking to the station in the snow and swithered about the footwear, setting off in wellies and returning to change to more comfortable, warmer boots. When I arrived we found the train cancelled, but Shane had come with me as he wanted to get some admin sorted at the bank, dealing with his dad’s paperwork. We had a coffee together then we parted. I left him to his paperwork and due diligence, and headed off for prosecco and festive fun. I missed out on one event as my sister Mary had to cancel meeting me at the station for lunch as the weather was not suitable for driving on the country roads. I had plenty time to wander in the shopping centre, find the fastest serving, highest tech ordering eatery and a stall giving tasters of local fruity liqueurs. I managed to find space in my stuffed bag for a bottle. Aberdeen university students were singing Christmas carols for charity in the shopping centre too so I wasn’t bored.

Relaxed singing

I was soon in touch with my friend Marion and the socialising could begin in earnest. We met up and headed to the art gallery and blethered until our friend Margaret was available and we had a coffee and cake there.

We had all had our plans scuppered in the morning and had delays and worries but the afternoon was working out well. We parted ways with plans made to meet up again later and Marion and I headed for the flat she had rented for the week. I had snacks and raspberry liqueur and she had snacks and pink prosecco so a good time was guaranteed. With dire warnings to dress warm overnight I had brought a never before worn peacock onesie, I had bought for a school charity day that never transpired. I was super cosy in it but we were both surprised by a knock on the door in the morning, still in our nightwear. The owner had come to adjust the pressure on the boiler and demonstrate to us how to do it – I tried to look serious and take it in, dressed as a peacock. It was worth the embarrassment to have a hot shower and heating.

Taking advantage of the sunshine we had arranged a walk on the esplanade. Some surfers were braving the cold sea. At the far end on the beach walk is a quaint planned village of little fishing houses, called Footdee, pronounced Fittie. It isn’t all fishermen there now, and we popped into an artist’s gallery on the way round. On the way back we saw a bird, strutting around and we didn’t know what it was. Looking it up when we got back to Margaret and Roland’s house, we identified it as a turnstone.

We had a lovely afternoon at Margaret and Roland’s and we all helped put up Christmas decorations. Roland was up a ladder getting cold fingers and toes putting lights up outside, while we constructed the tree and adorned it. My one is not up yet in Edinburgh though.

The next day I was catching a bus, but still not returning to Edinburgh. Shane was travelling to Dundee and I was meeting him there. It is the latest our anniversary alphabet trip has been, but I was looking forward to it actually happening. It wasn’t as exotic or new to us as previous destinations, but I was confident, whatever the weather, that there  would be plenty to do and be more successful than our choice for D the first time around: Dalwhinnie – there was a blizzard and the only planned/possible activity of cross country skiing had to be abandoned with the wind so strong.

I still had to get there. At the bus station I discovered my booked bus was cancelled. The next one was only half an hour after and it gave me time for a toilet visit and get back to the lunch spot to retrieve the scarf that had fallen on the floor. It’s an ill wind as they say and Dalwhinnie did have an ill wind. The bus left reasonably promptly and I had a fine view of the harbour and rural Aberdeenshire heading for my next stop Dundee City of Discovery!