On Wednesday morning we drove up to Aberdeen to see my Grandma. After some lunch, we drove out to Ballater. We checked in to our hotel (the Auld Kirk), then went out for a short wander back into the village. It had been a gloriously sunny day, and the afternoon was just starting to cool off with a fresh breeze. Alex played around on the grass next to the church, and had a great time waving bye-bye to the big buses as they finished their routes and parked in the depot.
In the evening we had dinner at Johnson's Restaurant, which is part of the hotel. Before we went in, we had drinks in the lounge, and Alex flirted outrageously with the folks at the table next to ours. Really--it was quite shocking. He was turned around in his chair, ducking down behind the back and popping up again with a "boo!" and a shy little grin.
The meal itself was okay, but not more than that. I'll describe it in a separate review soon.
The next morning we got up to a hearty breakfast, and learned that Alex really doesn't like porridge. Fortunately, the carpet didn't show all the spatters very clearly. Afterwards we had another wander into the village, so that Grandma could buy Alex something from the Ballater toy shop. So Grandma has now bought stuff for three generations of kids in my family there now. When my mum and aunt were children, they took holidays in Ballater, and the same toy shop was there. And I remember going there when I was young, too. So now it's Alex's turn! I wonder if he'll carry on the tradition if he eventually has children. I'm sure the toy shop will still be there...
Just before noon we drove onwards to Braemar, in the hope of winning another car. Alex fell asleep on the way, and stayed asleep while we got him out of the car, walked to the Fife Arms hotel, and sat down for a cup of coffee. When he woke up, we headed over to the Alldays shop where we bought the winning packet of film two years ago, but alas, there was no such luck this year. I had found a penny in the street earlier in the day, but even its luck couldn't reveal more than two matching amounts on the scratchcard. Oh well.
What we lacked in lottery fortune, we made up for in spades with a good hour and a half spent in the grounds of the Braemar Highland Games. The morning haze had lifted, and the grounds were mostly sheltered from the breeze. We sat on the benches while Alex played with his ball, and toddled all around the field. Abi did some cartwheels, which Alex found completely mind-blowing. He clapped and went "yay!" and made Abi do it again and again. He even tried to imitate her, bending over and putting his hands and head on the ground in a partial handstand! I chipped in with a couple of forward rolls, which he enjoyed as well, but not quite to the same extent. I also lifted him up and spun him around a couple of times so that he could be just as cool as his mommy.
I can watch him play for hours. He finds fun and fascination in the littlest of things: rocks, a fence, a bench. Anything can be a toy. You don't need any fancy battery-operated gizmos. All you need is something you can throw, sort, climb on, or run around. Adults usually need to accessorise their play, but children don't. Their joy is simple. Whenever I join in with Alex, I find myself getting absorbed in the properties of flaking paint, or in the countless things you can do with handfuls of gravel. I can lose myself in the concentration and delight of his play. It makes me feel young and carefree again.
Eventually, though, it was time to head back. We stopped off again in Ballater for some afternoon tea and cakes, and managed to leave behind Alex's little blue backpack--the one that clips on to his carrier backpack, in which we keep his changing kit, spare clothes, and backup biscuits. Unfortunately, we didn't notice this until we left Grandma's in the evening, and wanted to change his nappy. Fortunately, though, the nice folks at the tea room found it and kept hold of it, and will be putting it in the post to us.
We had considered going out to dinner again, but we were all still pretty full from the previous night, a big breakfast, and the afternoon cakes. So we ended up stopping off at Asda, picking up some cold meats, and having a nice little sit down meal in Grandma's kitchen. We had also considered staying on in Aberdeenshire for another night. Maybe drive out West or North, find someplace to stay, and then do some more wandering around the next day. But it was getting late, we were getting a bit tired, Alex hadn't slept too well the previous night, and we just didn't think we'd get enough enjoyment out of another night in a hotel to make it worth our while. So at just before eight, we set off home again.
We had a fabulous time. And Alex is old enough now to know that he enjoyed himself, too. Because just before we left, he toddled over to Grandma, took the noo-noo out of his mouth, and stuck his face and mouth up to give her a kiss. He loves his Grandma, and she loves him.