Alison Craig: A study in the benefit of the great outdoors

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Well that’s us back from ye olde Scottish holiday. A convoy of cars took us up to Loch Carron in the Highlands with four teenagers, three youngster, four dogs and eight adults, and what a blast we had – not just of wind.

It was hit or miss before we went as to how it would all work out. After all, four of the teenagers are sitting Highers and Standard Grades in a few weeks so studying had to be part of the day. As we arrived one by one the teenagers slunk into the house laden with books. Of course the books being transported all that way was one thing, whether they would be opened or not was another.

Teenwolf, now 17, went away with the school when in primary 5 for a muddy adventure. Five days later he arrived home exhausted and yirded from head to foot in mud. Due to the gunge within, I emptied his bag with a pair of kitchen tongs and a mask and eventually found his sponge bag at the bottom. In it I found his soap, facecloth and toothbrush, all in pristine condition. Yes, it had remained unopened for the entire trip. I wondered if the books would receive a similar lack of interest.

It seems not. I was shocked, amazed and delighted when they set about doing some work. Admittedly Jackie, one of the other mums, had an excellent technique of drip-feeding them fruit gums and chocolate just as they were beginning to look vague and distracted. If every time I looked vague and distracted someone gave me chocolate I would be the size not just of Arthur’s Seat but the rest of his body too.

Still they got their heads down for a couple of hours in the morning, agreeing no long lies. Normally for them that would mean not up before midday – but a shake at 9am and up they got. The incredible waft of black pud, white pud, sausage, bacon and egg might have something to do with it, especially as they knew the adults were intent on filling their faces, so they had to be quick or it would be a piece of toast and a cup of cold tea for them. So, controlling teenagers with white puddings, who’d have thought it? Having said that, now we have reacquainted ourselves with it you can expect to see it on the menu at Howies, as I am now the Loch Carron white pudding evangelist. It is indeed a wondrous thing.

I digress. So after a hearty breakfast and some study time for the kids, we’d go and do something. Undaunted whether faced with wind, wet, sun, fog or, on one day, snow, our startling surroundings seemed to snap our teen element out of their hormonal torpor. And me for that matter.

On a day in Edinburgh if you opened the curtains to a smurr of rain you’d just close them again and go back to bed, but up there we did no such thing. With no dissent it was into giant socks, ridiculous hats, waterproof jackets and scarves and out into the wild day to enjoy it. Walking along the river, up the odd (not very steep) hill, shuffling round the local village where we found a shop with everything from a neck warmer, battleships game, lottery tickets, socks, flea spray, sacks of potatoes, fresh Danish pastries, nail files and car tyres.

Glugging hot chocolate and scones at every opportunity we just wound down. All of us from the stressed teen to the overworked parent and even the urban dog who could run wild. Or in the case of our daft Labrador Sam, just sit in the field next to the house and gaze into space for hours on end.

As the week progressed the importance of mobile phones, iPods, iPads and being in constant touch waned and we all reverted to how humans were before a cacophony of technology invaded our space. Scrabble, battleships, cards, tennis, pitch and putt, a jigsaw and baking. Meals round the table where all generations sat and chewed the cud for hours sporting faces like well-slapped babies’ bums humming from the weather, be it wind or sun, and the best bit of all when the head hits the pillow you are out like a light. Bang!

Within this good old-fashioned Scottish holiday, there were dogs, kids, weather and lots of it. Mind, the teenagers remained true to their creed. Undaunted by the fact we were in the middle of nowhere, changed their clothes frequently, from shorts, to jeans, to tracksuits, gelled their hair and snorted with uncontrollable laughter until tears rolled down their cheeks at private jokes during all meals. But we decided if you can’t beat them join them.

It was voted by all parties involved the best holiday they had ever had. Yes. A holiday in Scotland for us was like The Highland Health Farm – I recommend it.