How we made a bond in Bonnie Scotland ...
Since my first-born son, Luke the Elder, flew the nest last September to go to university in London, I've been more aware than ever that my job as a full-time mum is drawing to a close.
Son number two — my ... ahem ... ‘baby’ — is already discussing university options and career choices and before I know it he will be off into the big world to do his own thing without so much as a sidelong glance.
With this in mind I was determined to make the most of the precious extra time we had together at the half term break. Normally when Finn's off school he's either out playing rugby or occupied with his mates and I don't usually get a look in between meals except when he needs his pocket money. So I had to think of something that we could do together, would take us out of our normal environment, but would appeal to both of us.
That in itself is easier said than done. Finding something that is accessible, affordable and appealing to both a middle-aged woman and a 16-year-old boy? Neither of whom have very much spare cash? Was I completely mad? The very idea goes against the laws of nature that state when a boy gets to a certain age the very last person he wants to be seen with is his wee mammy.
Nevertheless, after a lot of thought and planning, I came up with a brainwave and I'm delighted to report it worked like a dream.
So, last week we packed up the boot and set off on a mid-week ‘car-cation’ to Bonnie Scotland — a country we had driven past on many an occasion but never had time to explore.
First stop, Belfast ferry terminal to catch the red-eye superfast crossing to Cairnryan. Even just doing that was fun in itself. As we sat in the busy passenger lounge we played ‘guess the occupation’ of the people around us, which was like a modern day cross-generational version of I spy with my little eye. As a typical teenager who's obsessed with thrillers, he decided that most of the men on board were either serial killers, mafia mobsters or escaped prisoners fleeing from the heat, which was hot on their tail.
Upon arrival at the other side we hooked a USB cable to connect his iPod to the car speakers, so Finn was the DJ for the entire trip. This was my idea, recalling with horror those long and infernal family car journeys when I was a kid, being forced to listen to The Archers or the World Service on the radio. I couldn't risk a rebellion at that early stage, so heavy metal it was. All the way there.
Instead of turning right and going down-country like we always do (to visit family in England) for the first time ever we took a sharp left at the terminal and headed into the Caledonian unknown. From the cursory glances I'd made on Google Maps beforehand, I had anticipated that this would be a very scenic route, but never imagined how stunning the drive north would be in reality.
As Ailsa Craig rose out of the misty horizon like a sleeping kraken from the depths of the Irish Sea, we both gawped in awe at the stunning spectacle. Finn is a keen photographer too, so we stopped at several spots along the way (whilst the dulcet tones of heavy metal pounded in the background) for him to click on his camera shutter.
Eventually, after a three hour drive — during which I spotted a golden eagle soaring aloft and nearly crashed the car in the process — we arrived at Jury's Inn, Glasgow, chosen mainly for its price bracket but also perfectly positioned for its proximity to lots of teenage-friendly attractions.
These included the Science and Space Museum at the Glasgow Exhibition Centre (“awesome” he said), all the shops you could imagine in the Buchanan Galleries and St Enoch's Centre — and the Museum of Modern Art, which we both enjoyed because it was so damned quirky!
We were also delighted to discover that the Glasgow Film Festival was underway and so, as we are a family of film buffs, we took in a good selection of new movies too.
When we got home, as Finn went off to play in the Schools Cup rugby match and I tackled the inevitable mountain of holiday laundry, I took a moment to look through the photographs from our brief but memorable road trip.
For once, I agreed with a well-known advertising catchphrase: Moments like these are priceless. For everything else there's Mastercard. Even if mine is currently maxed-out. But that's another story ...