Today marked the Big Day! The reason for descending upon Aviemore. Weddings in my family tend to be big, boisterous affairs and this promised to be no different. My second cousin had hired a grand hall to host her special day – and this provided a good reason to get suited and booted!

Aultmore Hall is an astonishing venue. A huge place that’s obviously hosted a wedding or two, the hosts ensured the wedding ran smoothly and that everyone had a great time! My wife and I watched our adorable little girl throw herself into the festivities with abandon, and we enjoyed a big big dinner (which I am still recovering from). The whole day was glorious, and I wish the happy couple all the best for the future!

Today has been an altogether more sedate experience. A trip to the local cinema to see Captain Underpants (a better film than I’d expected!), a few unplanned run-ins with relatives and a couple more sights of the steam railway. We also fed a duck!








Tomorrow is the big one – the wedding!

Pictures to be added later to this one!

Today was very much an ‘action adventure’ day. I did something I’d never done before, and I loved it.

What was it you ask? Something called canyoning. It involved a wetsuit, harness and hard hat, to give you an idea as to the nature of it! The experience began in earnest with a jump – literally, we jumped into a river, from a reasonable height. The water was cold (but then, we are in Scotland), and from that point on, we did a mix of sliding down the rapids, hurling ourselves off various points, and abseiling too. For me, the most nerve-wracking parts of the experience were sliding from a near-vertical drop into pitch-black waters, and abseiling more or less into a waterfall. 

This is actually a tough experience to describe in a manner that does it justice. If you don’t mind getting wet, aren’t too worried about heights and prepared to ache afterwards, it’s worth a go! 

Scotland is famous for a great many things. Haggis (I’m not describing that one in any great detail), kilts, Hadrian’s Wall, a weak national football team (sorry but it’s true!), the Loch Ness Monster, deep-fried Mars Bars (not strictly Scottish but certainly found up here), freezing winters… and Scotch whiskey. I like a bit of whiskey every now and then, and some of my favourite brands are Scottish ones. When the offer came up to visit a distillery I wasn’t going to say no.


Glenfiddich Distillery is home to one of whiskey’s most famous brands. There’s a lot of history behind this name, history that was made clear to us as we were guided around the distillery. Wherever possible local resources are used in producing the whiskey, and the distillery even went as far as to buy the land upon which a certain stream runs, in order to safeguard it. 


It’s a fifth generation family-run business, with a great deal of pride in their traditions. The steps include fermentation and ageing, using methods first put into use in the 19th century. 


A smell of honey (it’s not actually honey but it sure smells like it) hits you when stepping into the distillery. There’s also incredible heat. 


My overriding sense of the trip is one of great care and love for the craft. To learn more of the process behind one of my favourite treats was also a… err, treat.


It’s all bottled right here too. Therefore nothing leaves Glenfiddich without it meeting the approval of the distillery. The whole experience was amazing!

Having survived a loooooong day of travel, the second day of our Scottish adventure began with a brief lie-in for the adults, and for the kids… well, my nephew was up quite early, but he’s one, so he’s going to wake up whenever he wants. My daughter… well, after being sick five times in two days, she slept in.

So Day Two began in a lazy fashion. Eggs and bacon for breakfast, a couple of cups of coffee. Having unwound we then embarked upon a trip to Aviemore itself.


Aviemore is quite beautiful, and yet also surprisingly busy. The town was bustling when we went in – not perhaps that much of a surprise given the tourist nature of the place. After lunch in a local cafe we geared up for a trip on the Strathspey Railway. This is a volunteer-led heritage railway that serves three stations.


Aviemore station is also a regular mainline station – platforms 1 and 2 serve various destinations. Platform 3 (on the far right) is where we would catch the train (not literally, it’s far too heavy).


I should stress, this also is not the train.


This is the train. A beauty no? My daughter appeared to enjoy the experience – it was a gentle, sedate voyage, through some truly picturesque countryside.


Oh yeah, train heaven! 


The first stop of Boat of Garten was beautiful:


Our final stop was Broomhill:


From here it was back to Aviemore, and our home away from home, for a chilled evening!


The clan (the term my family use to describe themselves) has descended upon the sleepy Scottish towns of Aviemore, Nethy Bridge and everywhere in between for the occasion of a family wedding. I’m not sure the Highlands is quite ready for our arrival.

Nor am I complete sure we are ready for the Highlands. The voyage began with the journey from my home to my parents home, a journey of around an hour by car, in which time my little girl (who’d been complaining of feeling a little unwell anyway) was sick. She doesn’t tend to travel well by car anyway, and combined with a slightly upset tummy, I guess that was inevitable. She was then sick again later that evening, and sick again on the journey to the airport the following morning, and sick twice on the plane. Not the most auspicious start to the holiday.

After that, she perked up, and we began to take in the sights of Scotland.


There’s a sense of space up here that isn’t found anywhere else. It will be a good week!

These are eggs. They are wonderfully versatile. You can fry them, boil them, poach them, scramble them, turn them into omlettes, use them to make cakes and use them to make glazes and sauces. Great things, eggs. Of course, to cook with them there is first one key detail – they need to be real eggs. Unsurprisingly, plastic ones won’t work. My daughter’s clever little practical joke involving a toy rubber egg will be marked up as a story worth embarrassing her with when she’s older. In the meantime… well played!

Sometimes, I manage to embarass myself through saying or doing something really stupid. Tonight, I managed to do this by not noticing something.

What did I not notice? My wife and daughter, even though I had walked right past them on the way home from work.

How did I manage this remarkable feat? Well, in my defence, I present the following evidence:

  1. It was dark. I also had my hood up and so my vision was obscured.
  2. I had my headphones in and was very focused on my power walk, so I didn’t hear my wife calling me.

Nonetheless, this remarkable gaffe is one I managed to compound. My wife got my attention by phoning me, upon which I immediately turned around. I had been aware of a woman walking with their child (just not that they were my wife and child), but for some reason, in the periphary of my vision, I thought they were Chinese. I don’t know why. Upon mentioning this, the ribbing has been merciless. I don’t think I shall ever live this one down.

Originally I started writing this post all the way back in November. I wanted to prep it early, but as I wrote it and re-read it, something just didn’t feel right. It felt focused on the wrong things, so I’ve obliterated that version and started again, this time, with what really matters.

Family

My family got bigger in 2016, with the arrival of my nephew – that’s right, I became an uncle for the first time! Their little boy is as cute as a button and my daughter is already smitten! She is very happy to have a new cousin to fuss over, and I have to admit, I am very happy too! It’s brought memories flooding back of my little girl at that age – the sleepless nights, the bath-time fun, the nappies (all I can say is WOW to some that my daughter produced), and the sleepy cuddles in daddy’s arms. It’s a remarkable journey, and a learning process, and one that doesn’t end. Nor would I have it any other way. My brother and sister-in-law are fantastic parents and my little nephew is going to be spoilt rotten!

Speaking of which, my daughter got to see The Lion King musical in February. This was a delightful moment, and one that brought back a lot of memories for me. The very first birthday present my wife got me was tickets to see it, all the way back in 2004. 12 years later, we were retracing our steps, this time with our little girl, and she loved it. Experiencing the majesty of The Lion King (see what I did there?) through her eyes was a real joy.

Thanks to the generosity of my parents, my wife and I got a trip to Birmingham in October, to go to Destination Star Trek 50, and among other things, I got to shake hands with George Takei and get my photo taken with the amazing Marina Sirtis, whilst my wife got her photo with William Shatner and got Christopher Lloyd’s autograph! I cannot thank my mum and dad enough for making this happen, and I will always be grateful for the love and kindness they show us.

What I must mention – for to do otherwise would be to do her a disservice – is a word on our beloved cat, Trinity, who left us for the rainbow bridge in October. I have never known a friendlier, happier cat – if you had a lap she would sit on it, and she loved a cuddle. Always good-natured, right to the very end, Trinity will be sorely missed.

Family keeps me grounded, as always, and in what’s been a turbulent year in many ways, family helps me keep perspective.

Sport

Without going into lengthy detail, this year has been a momentous one for Leicester City football club, who pulled off one of the biggest shocks in sporting history when they went from being nearly relegated the year before, to league champions 12 months later. It’s still a ‘pinch me so I’ll believe it’ sort of thing. Less surprising was England’s tame defeat to minnows Iceland in the European Championships – le sigh.

The Olympics were a magnificent contrast, with Team GB doing themselves proud, whilst Lewis Hamilton was narrowly beaten to the 2016 F1 title. My beloved Liverpool FC are resurgent this season – we’ll see how they go in 2017!

Politics

I don’t want to dwell too much on this, save to say that between Brexit and Trump I fear we have taken a huge stride backwards. Time will tell, and for the sake of the world I hope both succeed, but I fear we have set ourselves down a collective path of misfortune.

Weird

If I had to highlight the most surreal and unusual experience I’ve had in 2016, it would be this. Click the link, read the post, and you’ll understand why.

Web

This year I started up something, a project that, whilst not without knocks, is one I feel is worth pursuing. The Coalition of the Brave is an attempt to take a stand against injustice, and is a group project that will hopefully continue to grow in 2017.

I also joined The Nudge Wink Report – another group site, devoted to satirical observations about life. Expect to see more posts from me on there next year!

Celebrities

It’s impossible to talk about 2016 without mentioning the long list of famous names who have left us this year. It seems every time you check out the news, someone else is gone. As I write this, news of George Michael’s death has recently broke, and I dread to think if 2016 has any other deaths left in it. Every one of these famous faces means something to someone, and they all left their mark on the world in remarkable ways. I’ll be charging a glass to them on New Year’s Eve.

So that’s it – 2016 in a nutshell. 2017 holds a lot of uncertainty, but if we face it together, we’ll get through it. I know it.