Monday, August 15, 2005

Brian, Fiona, Francis & Ruby come to stay...

My friends Brian and Fiona and their two children, Francis & Ruby came to stay with us for a couple of weeks holiday on August 1st. The preperations were made before they arrived with bits of the house spruced up that are usually cleaned as often as Halley's Comet makes an appearance and the cats were evicted from their room and relocated under the stairs. Gizmo was not impressed!

Just to give you some background in case you didn't know. Brian and I were friends since before we started school and went to the same primary and secondary schools and mispent our youth together until his Sister Tricia, with whom he stayed, moved to Dublin and I moved in with Brian to share what were probably our best and worst times together!

After 3 years living together relations were becoming a little strained. Brian joined the Navy and I bought a flat in Johnstone. It was while he was in the Navy that he met Fiona, the love of his life and after doing everything he could to avoid going to sea, he left the forces and joined civvy life.

Francis was born on August 4th 1999 and I had the honour of being asked to be his Godfather with Fiona's Aunt Michelle as Godmother. A few years later and Ruby arrived to make the family complete. I not only have the privelage of being Francis' Godparent but I have always been welcomed by Brian's family and feel like a kind of Brother.

Anyway, they arrived around 9.00 pm and the kids were hyper. It's 8 months since we last saw them and the difference in the kids is amazing, especially Ruby who is her own wee person now. We stayed up late that night catching up and trying to get the kids to settle down, which was not easy as they were understandably excited.

I was working all week and so didn't get much time with them during the day and Fiona returned to work on Wednesday so Ryan spent the second half of the week with Brian, Fiona and the kids which kept him happy. Unfortunately the weather was not very Summery all week but they still managed to get out and about going to places like Clyde Murshiel Park and Barshaw Park where a trip was taken on the Barshaw express!

The kids board the train at Barshaw Central

On Thursday it was Francis' birthday and he was up early to open his presents. Unfortunately, I was away to work and missed the fun but as you can see below, he obviously enjoyed himself.

Francis opens his Birthday presents as Ruby looks on

That evening we went to TGI Friday's in Glasgow to celebrate his birthday and Brian's Sister, Mary and Brother-in-law, Albert were meeting us there. It's always nice to see them and considering that they only live along the road in Paisley I really should make more of an effort to visit them.

The meal was lovely and the staff went out of their way to make sure we had a good time. After the meal they brought out the birthday cake that we had taken along and had Francis stand up on a chair while the whole of the restaurant sang Happy Birthday to him. His face was a picture!

Click here for a video clip of us singing Happy Birthday to Francis!

Francis enjoying his party

The two Fionas

Fiona, Ruby, Francis and Brian

Uncle Albert & Aunty Mary with the Birthday boy

Father & Son

Ryan & Ruby

The next day was a quiet one with the kids playing happily and Brian and Fiona having some much needed time together alone. I was happy to be finishing my work for three weeks annual leave so all was good in the world!

The boys, playing

Ruby in the garden

We postponed the planned camping trip from Saturday to Sunday after a check on the weather forecast showed that despite it being a beautiful day it was going to be 1 degree Celcius overnight. Not what you would hope for in August!

We got organised on Sunday Morning and prepared the food and packed everything we would need for a couple of days camping. Regular readers of this blog might be able to take a wild stab in the dark here and guess where we were going...

An hour later we were in Rowerdennan (old faithful!) and luckily we had our usual spot to ourselves. I could tell Brian was impressed as it really is the ideal camping spot. We unloaded the car and Brian drove off leaving Ryan and I to set up the tents and collect fire wood while he went back home to collect the rest of the gang.

Fifteen minutes later he returned to inform us that the gate which had been left open had now been locked making it impossible to get the car through. Brian blamed it on his notorious "August 6th Curse" and he went to find a friendly Park Ranger who would let him through.

Three hours later and they returned with the kids and bags of firewood and coal. It was going to be an excellent campfire tonight, I could tell. The kids got changed into shorts and made a beeline for the water.

Francis has a paddle

Ryan, Ruby & Fiona in the tent

The view over Loch Lomond

My Fiona made a sneaky phone call to Alan & Margaret to tell them to stop what they were doing and get their backsides up to the campsite. A couple of hours later they arrived just in time to have a beer and enjoy the BBQ!

It was perfect. The gang was all there, the kids were happy and the scenery was, as usual, fantastic. We got a nice big fire going and toasted marshmallows and had a beer or two as the sun disappeared and was replaced by twilight. Slowly a blanket of stars appeared in the cloudless sky and we moved down to the water's edge just to admire the spectacle. It doesn't get much better than this.

Fiona was shattered and took the kids to bed sometime after midnight and my Fiona and Ryan retired a little bit after that. It was down to myself, Brian, Alan & Margaret who chatted about this and that and continued to enjoy the now rapidly deminishing beer supply. I baled out around 3.00 am and left them too it and I was glad that I did when I found out that they had stayed up to 5.00 am!

Fiona at the BBQ

Happy campers

Not sure what Brian is doing here, but he's enjoying himself!

Sunset over the Loch

The next morning I awoke and got out of the tent as quickly as possible since it was unbearably hot. Fiona was already up with Ruby and was having a rude awakening by the Highland Midges who were swarming everywhere. If you haven't encountered them before in full force then it is a nightmare. Fiona wanted to go home as there was no escape from them and I can't say that I blame her.

However, as time went on and the sun became stronger they began to disappear and she decided to stick it out. We had breakfast and Alan & Margaret headed for home as they had things to do.

It was another beautiful day and if anything it was even nicer than the day before and we relaxed by the edge of the water and went for the occassional swim in the Loch. The kids were loving it and it was by far the best day of the holiday so far.

As the day went on we packed up all our equipment and it was decided that Fiona, Brian & the kids would go first and Brian would return for Fiona and I, later. We went for a nice walk and spent some time on the pier where a bunch of young lads with too much testosterone and no common sense were jumping off the end of the pier into the icy water. Rather them than me! Then we went to the Clansman Bar for a drink while we waited for Brian to return.

Click here to see the lads jumping of the pier.

Fiona & I on the pier

Monday was a chill out day, but on Tuesday we decided to go for a walk to the Howwood Inn pub. We had a few games of pool and a couple of drinks and Brian & Fiona decided that they would come on Friday for a meal while we watched the kids. It's a really nice little pub with a great reputation. Indeed it has been voted Scotland's "Pub of the Year" before and I recommend it as a good place to visit.

Brian & Francis playing pool

Me & Fiona

On Wednesday while my Fiona was at work, we decided to to to the Transport Museum in Glasgow with the kids. Brian's Fiona decided to give it a miss as she was not feeling too well. So we set off around 1.00 and as always when you get into a car with Brian, you expect the unexpected!

We drove around for a couple of hours looking for a nice park in which to have our lunch and to cut a long story short ended up eating our sandwiches in the Transport Museum's car park. Not quite the park I had in mind but not to worry!

The kids enjoyed the museum especially the latest exhibits, which are props from the kids television programme "Balamory" which they had to hunt for around the museum, including PC Plum's bicycle which was hidden on top of a double decker bus, for some strange reason.

After we had left and had got into the car, something caught my eye. It was a man in his fifties cycling along, quite the thing. The only strange thing was he was carrying a 2-seater couch on his back, which was tied on with rope. I've never seen anything like it in my life and we set after him in true Starsky & Hutch style so that I could take a picture of him. However, for some bizzare reason we lost him. I do not know how that happened, as let's face it a man cycling with a couch on his back is pretty easy to spot. So I'm afraid there is no picture to show you, you'll just have to take my word on it!

The kids and the bus from "Balamory"

The next day we went for a walk up to Robertson's Car Park at Glennifer Braes and let the kids run riot on the swings and climbing frame. Of course, Brian and I had a shot too!

Click here for a clip of the BIG kids playing on the see-saw!

A couple of miles away there is a waterfall, so we went for a long walk through the woods and eventually reached the waterfall only to find that it was more of a drip than a fall, due to the recent lack of rainfall! However, it was a nice walk and as Brian and Fiona commented was something we probably take for granted even though it is right on our doorstep.

Ryan & Francis

Here'ssssssssss Francis!

On the water's edge

Friday night arrived and Brian and Fiona went out for their meal at the Howwood Inn leaving us to watch the kids while attempting to watch the Big Brother grand final, in which the fabulously, excentric Eugene was cruelly beaten by Geordie pretty boy Anthony. At least Makosi didn't win!

Fiona went to bed around 11.00 and I stayed up waiting for the dirty stop-outs to come home! Brian phoned me at 1.15 to ask me to phone a taxi for them and 30 minutes later they roled in the door and Fiona promptly fell asleep. Brian and I chatted until 3.00 before we hit the hay.

Brian & Fiona on the way out to the Howwood Inn

Saturday got off to a slow start and eventually we were all ready, except me and Brian & Fiona took the kids out for a trip down to Saltcoats, Ardrossan and Largs. The house was earily quiet for the first time in a couple of weeks and I pottered around cleaning the house and even sneaked in an episode of Star Trek as a reward to myself!

My Fiona and Brian, Fiona and the kids arrived home at roughly the same time ending the state of grace, instantly. We spent our final night watching TV, chatting and having a couple of drinks, but everyone was off to bed pretty early that night as they had a long drive ahead of them the next day.

On Sunday there was a kind of horrible feeling around the house as we knew the holiday was over and it would be many months before we will see each other again. Brian and I packed up the car and Fiona got the kids ready to go. They were playing happily out the backdoor and were probably looking forward to going home to see their Nan and Aunt Kay.

Ruby & Francis

After breakfast, Fiona made up sandwiches for the journey home and now the time had come to say goodbye. We hugged and kissed and as they drove away the two Fionas were crying.

As we went back into the house Ryan suddenly started to cry uncontrolably, which surprised us as we thought he would be happy to get his room back to himself. Just goes to show you. His hands were manky and as he rubbed his eyes to wipe the tears away, this was the end result...

Tears of a clown

Being the caring Father that I am, I immediately started to laugh hysterically and took a photograph of him.

All in all it was a fantastic two weeks, in which we did loads and I hope that our guests enjoyed themselves.

I look forward to the next time....