Monday 18 February 2013

A sleepy little town

I was long overdue a visit west so I headed off on Friday with Rowan and Angus in tow, after the usual morning spent packing, to see Dorothy in Paisley en route to heading over to Millport. Dorothy was looking well, having passed her 80th birthday last year. Rowan and Angus were suitably well behaved, although Angus did nearly knock Dorothy over when he rushed at her as we were saying goodbye after a walk across Brodie Park to the playpark. Rowan was delighted to discover Dorothy's Nintendo DS. That kept him occupied for half the visit!

We did a brief tour around Glenburn by car. The last of the tenements have now been removed from Grampian Avenue meaning that the landscape of my childhood is now a very odd one, with strings of terraced houses separated by broad green spaces. At least they have grassed over the gap sites but it is fascinating to see the path from Skye Cresecent shops standing in isolation where once it cut between tenements and lock-ups. I asked Rowan if he would find it strange to come back to Swanston Terrace with his children to point it out to them, but that someone else would be living there. I could see him coming to terms with the idea until he gave one of his sage nods and agreed "that would be weird."

It was chilly on the ferry across from Largs to the Cumbrae Slip. Angus was excited as we docked and the door laid down to let us drive on to the island. We came over Ferry Road which affords a lovely view down over Millport to the Wee Cumbrae and beyond to Bute and Arran. Dusk was approaching as we arrived at our rented flat, 24 Stuart Street, top floor above the Ritz Cafe. Having lugged the stuff up the stairs (the wee two aren't renowned for their ability to shift baggage, although Angus can manage a fair weight in his muckle paws) we went for an evening stroll along the deserted prom and threw some stones in the sea at Newton Beach. There was some snow clinging to the slopes of Arran's mountains and the profile of the Wee Cumbrae was as familiar as ever.

After dinner and telly I finally settled the boys down. They were sharing a double bed while I was in a sleeping bag on the bed settee. Millport was like a ghost town, a fact echoed by the lonely caterwaulings from the George Hotel karaoke as the evening wore on. Saturday dawned grey and grim, with the last remains of a band of rain lingering over the Firth of Clyde and a stiff breeze blowing. We had a late breakfast, watched the seals on the Eileans through the binoculars, then eventually wrapped up and battled our way along the sea front to Kames Bay. The boys ran about the crazy golf, were curious about the Crocodile Rock and had to be warned off the rocks which were slick with algae and rain. We cut back along the back streets "It's a sleepy little town" declared Rowan. He decided that one dwelling "looked like a vampire house" just before a curious wailing rose on the air from it. Rowan's eyes widened and we scuttled on!

After lunch we walked round to West Bay to see May and James. Alison was there too. I hadn't see her since Dad's funeral, over sixteen years ago. May broke a couple of ribs last week but is still looking well and James still has his spark of humour despite being pretty much housebound these days. He's getting more deaf and his lungs and heart aren't great but he still had a smile on his face. Rowan read most of the time but then he and Angus took to wrestling on the carpet in the hall which was not conducive to a lengthy visit.

Fortunately they had a diversion just a few doors away. The Best girls, Emily and Rachel, were staying with their gran, Lorna, at number 15. Rachel is in Rowan's class at school and Finn is in the same class as Emily. It was dry overhead but still overcast, damp and cold, but the boys and girls had a great time playing in the West Bay play park. We went inside for some indoors play while I had a cup of tea and a chat with Lorna. Angus and Emily went down to the little beach then the girls showed the boys an old World War II cannon on the edge of the playing field. By now, Rowan was running about without a coat on, despite it being cold. It was an enjoyable afternoon with no rush to go anywhere or do anything other than play.

As it started to get dark we bade our farewells and walked back round to our flat for tea and telly. Angus was much quicker to get to sleep after a day of fresh air and no naps! Rowan continued his reading rampage, piling through Beast Quest books at a rate of one an hour or quicker. It's great to see.

Sunday morning was a marked contrast to Saturday, the sun dancing on the sea as the tide began to recede from its dawn high water mark. The flat we were in had a lovely view across the Eileans in the bay to Hunterston (well, power stations do spoil a view somewhat) and down to Portencross. The chairs by the window were just the spot for a leisurely cup of tea. I packed up and washed up then we went a short distance to the rocks below the crazy golf. Rowan impressed by climbing the four to five metre wall that I once froze on as a teenager (I climbed it before Rowan, just to prove to myself I still could!) then, as I was taking a photo of him, I felt my feet slipping away on the rock. I tried to re-adjust but had to step on to wetter rocks and more seaweed. My legs went from under me and I sprawled on my back. I was fortunate that I landed on a flat, but damp, rock. How I didn't break my camera, my wrist or crack my head or damage my back I don't know, although I suspect I did sprain a thumb as my hand is rather tender today.

We packed the last of the gear in the car, the boys had an ice lolly from the Ritz Cafe, we wandered around the block and up the Old Pier, then got in the car. I drove the long way round to the ferry, up the west coast of Greater Cumbrae with its views across to Kilchattan Bay, Arran and Kintyre beyond. Rowan was disappointed not to see Indian Rock (I think it was overgrown) but was singing lots of songs about Pooh Bear and was in a great mood. Angus was also pretty lively. I think they enjoyed their "venture" as Angus called it. We missed the 3.30 sailing so I drove up to the Glaid Stane at the top of the island. It's a fine point from which to view the Firth of Clyde: north to Inverkip and the Holy Loch and Kyles of Bute and south to the Wee Cumbrae and Arran.

From there we were homeward bound, crossing on the 4pm ferry and arriving home at 5.45pm in time for tea. A great wee break "doon ra' wattir!"

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