That Road Trip Kind of Weekend

Last weekend was both enjoyable and surreal in equal measure. Over two days my girlfriend and I spent a huge amount of time traversing the North-East. We were able to show each other our local haunts from before we moved to the big city in search of fame of fortune. Well, to the moderately sized Aberdeen in search of a university degree actually but you get the idea.

The weekend, as it usually does, started on Friday evening when I picked Leah up from the slightly underwhelming student halls which we both stay in. Located quite near the city centre, I was pretty nervous at the idea of driving in the city, becoming even more of a country bumpkin when it comes to driving.

However, this part of the journey went relatively well as I carefully negotiated my way through countless traffic lights and lane changes before eventually reaching a nervous looking Leah at the entrance to the halls. I couldn’t tell if it was either getting in a car with me or the looming first meeting with my mum that was making her more anxious. I decided it was a likely a good mix of the two and I didn’t blame her.

Luckily, I was able to put her mind to rest (I think) as we reached my home village of sorts in good time. In fact, Braemar was looking very bonny in the fading light as the sun struggled to stay above the still snow covered Cairngorms mountains. We had made it in one piece.

The next morning the weather had changed drastically as even the smallest of local hills disappeared in low cloud, as heavy rain welcomed anyone who was brave enough to go outside. The next journey was to Banchory, my brother’s cricket being cancelled for obvious reasons. These reasons being weather related and not in relation to how dull cricket is (please write in).

Driving to Banchory involved some aqua planning at first, but the weather improved slightly as we travelled further down the Deeside Valley. I enjoyed pointing out the places I had worked along with both my primary and secondary schools to Leah. This in itself felt pretty bizarre as there had been a sudden blurring between my life in town at university, and my life at home.

Picking up my brother from my dad’s flat, I decided to give my poor girlfriend a more detailed tour of the Deeside Valley. If travelling through the rain soaked villages of Torphins, Lumphanan,Tarland and Ballater wasn’t exciting enough, the usually stunning views from the subtly named Queens View (near Tarland) weren’t at all visible.

Again, we made it back to Braemar in one piece, my driving duties for the weekend finished already. The only hiccup being an unfortunate change into third instead of fifth gear followed by a slight panic. My two unsympathetic passengers enjoyed this greatly, as my ego, bolstered by some good recent driving, was significantly deflated.

That evening we left Braemar for Huntly, my mum driving as she insisted it was the only way she would be able to stay awake. Are my only one who’s always found that logic slightly concerning? Anyway, we travelled the long road to Huntly to a party as I tried to convince myself I wasn’t feeling car sick. Nothing to do with mum’s driving of course.

So far, I’ve made it sound like we were forever on the move last weekend and although this isn’t totally accurate, we found ourselves awaiting a train to take us from Huntly to Keith later that night. Ourselves being my girlfriend and I, as my mum and brother made the winding journey back to Braemar. Their only company the darkness of the night and Magnus’s likely below par chat and tunes.

Arriving in Keith at just after 11 pm, I struggled to gather my bearings as Leah’s grandmother kindly gave us a lift back to her home village. Keith and its surrounds aren’t an area I know well at all, although all became clear the next morning as I peeked a look out an easterly facing window.

I could see the railway and many distillery barrels piled high beside the Inverness-Aberdeen line. There were some hills, but in comparison to Braemar the surrounding area was relatively flat. I found the fact you could see for a further distance quite refreshing. There’s something comforting about an open sky, even if the dull weather had continued from the day before.

It was after a lovely meal in Keith that we hit the road again. My girlfriend (not Jesus) taking the wheel for the second part of the road trip. We decided to go north towards the coast, with the small village of Sandend being the designated destination. After maybe ten minutes on the beach, with the wind blowing a hooley, we made the executive decision to return to the car. You wouldn’t have thought we were both raised in the North-east of Scotland.

After some thought we continued east along the coast, driving through Portsoy before I sent Leah along a nightmarish back road that I seemed to remember led to Whitehills. The road was winding, with little passing places but I was able to relax the driver with some well-timed Mcfly. While on the subject I feel pretty guilty I had control of the music, realising afterwards that someone controlling my music while I drove would likely be classed as a cardinal sin in my car.

Anyway, I wanted to show Leah Whitehills because that’s where I had spent the fist year of my life, in a house supposedly so close to the sea that the sea spray used to collect in the window frames on a stormy day. The only issue being that I hadn’t been to the small picturesque village in about ten years. So unable to identify where my old house was, we continued to the nearby Banff Links.

This is a place which has an equal amount of resonance for me as I remember spending many a happy day with my parents and grandparents here on family day trips back in my heyday (circa. 2006 maybe). My late grandfather pushing my brother and I on the swings. In those days I was a lot younger and I actually get motion sickness when going on a swing nowadays. I live a very crazy lifestyle.

We also managed to fit in a short trip across the bridge to Macduff, before heading back. My girlfriend wanted to show me the school she had attended and I was surprised to discover it has a smaller enrolment than Aboyne Academy (my school). I guess Aboyne must have a much larger catchment area.

Leah was even good enough to give me a lift back to Aberdeen that evening as a hugely enjoyable weekend came to a close. For the first time I had brought my life at university home and she had done the same. Surreal perhaps, yet there was a level of comfort in it. I think it was interesting for us to be able to pinpoint where some of our past individual memories were made. The places which likely shaped our two different backgrounds.

 

A Very Late Tribute to Big Ben

I can’t remember the exact date when Mum texted me the news that my Grandmother’s dog had been put down, but I remember it flooring me. This sounds silly. I mean I’m referring to a huge fluffy golden retriever. The thing is that dumb dog was my best friend.

The reason I write about it now is I realise I never gave Big Ben a proper tribute at the time when he transcended to dog heaven about two years ago. I’m not religious, but dog heaven sounds more pleasant than whatever his fate actually was. Ask a vet if your curious.

I don’t want to call him my best friend because that wouldn’t be true. Humans tend to provide better conversation where most animals generally can’t keep up. I guess the difference is I liked Ben because he was a great listener. Perhaps not by choice a lot of the time but that’s by the wayside.

He would listen to my problems when I took him for long walks and he was always happy to see me. Even when his arthritis was really bad and he was almost completely blind he would be happy to see me. Tail wagging, tongue sticking out. He just looked happy to be alive.

It was this that actually kind of cheered me up as I sat feeling miserable in my Dundee student accommodation, having heard he had been put down. The last year or so had been difficult for me but when that dumb dog passed away I was reminded of how happy he was and this helped change my thinking. Thanks Ben.

In the moments after hearing that news I wanted to try and see my life in a more positive light. I desperately wanted to be happier again and try to enjoy living life as much as Ben did. I knew this meant taking some drastic steps in my own life and still often think about him if I’m feeling out of sorts.

I keep referring to Ben as dumb and I know this isn’t very nice. I see it as endearing though and there’s no point in pretending he was the Einstein of the dog world. Believe me he really wasn’t.

When my grandparents lived in the seaside village of Newburgh he would run for miles and miles along the beach and through the sand dunes. Running until my grandfather would shout his name over and over to no avail. I don’t think he ever did know his name.

There was also the time he nearly killed my grandmother, dragging her across the main street when a to scale statue of a butcher outside the village butchers spooked him. This along with the time he killed a sheep by chasing it off a cliff.

Having not witnessed the poor sheep’s heroic death I had always wondered why we had left Sandend so quickly that day. This along with the day he dragged my Mum across a barbed wire fence (she still has the scars) when he was spooked by a piece of shiny material.

No, Ben didn’t have the biggest brain but he did have the biggest heart of any dog I’ve ever met and might ever meet. In his own way he also looked after my grandmother when she lost my grandfather, providing her with company around the house. So here is it Ben, a tad late, but a tribute I hope is fitting to a lovely dog.

Weekly Rambling

Issue 6 – Monday 25 February 2019

The Good

The last week seems to have gone past very quickly so maybe this will be a slightly shorter weekly update. Here’s hoping it is less of a rambling mess than usual.

So once again the last seven days have been pretty good. Not as good as last week because Scotland were playing rugby, but momentarily forgetting about that, its been a good week.

On Monday I returned from Braemar on the bus and I’m already missing being out in the countryside. It was a pleasant surprise to realise my Monday tutorial had been moved to Tuesday and meant I could spend an extra day up the valley annoying my brother.

Poor old Mags is on reading week. When he hasn’t been reading though, he has likely spent the last week harnessing his skills on Rugby O8, a PlayStation game which he uses to inflict pain on yours truly.

Anyway, it was good to spend an extra day with him, resting my legs after the previous day’s half marathon. Did I mention I like running? Joking aside, the running has been going well this week.

I’ve been taking it fairly easy and that’s actually been quite pleasant, as its provided me with quality thinking time. Don’t worry I’ll have the meaning of life figured out in no time. Perhaps more importantly though, I’ve found my running quite relaxing this past week, which is probably the most important reason why I run.

I also managed to get my bike up and running again by actually buying a decent bike pump. Now, I just need to oil my chain a little more, as I learnt when I dropped it at a busy roundabout.

University has also been going pretty well and is likely to get better for me and my classmates this coming week, as I will be cycling to campus instead of running. This means I will be slightly less of a smelly and sweaty mess when sitting in class.

However, a downside of this is I will have helmet hair which will affect my usually flawlessly maintained hairstyle. A hairstyle maintained through using women’s shampoo followed by a dollop of hair gel which always does very little.

Its also been a week of reflection as on the 19th February last year I travelled to Fiji for two months. Its been quite interesting reflecting on the happy memories that I was so lucky to make on the other side of the world with some wonderful people.

I’ll probably go into more detail about my memories of this time last year in a separate post at some point. I’ll keep you posted.

The Bad

Well apart from the incident at a roundabout and my dreams of starring in a hair gel advert taking a dent, there hasn’t been too much bad in the last week. I don’t like speaking about alcohol too much as I don’t want to admit to being a bit of a party animal.

But I am. Big time. Anyone who bumps into me while I take the Aberdeen nightclubs by storm with the world famous ‘Finn dance’ will back me up on this. Okay maybe not everyone.

Anyway, I’m rambling again. My original point I was going to make is that I’m never touching coke and vodka again. Its taken me two years too long to realise that, like most alcohol, it is horrible and I’m never going near it again… or at least until next week.

Purchasing alcohol is also expensive (I should work for AA) and means I have gone below the amount in my account that I agreed I wouldn’t go below when I started uni. This basically means I need to saddle up and get some Deliveroo deliveries done, while wasting less money on buying sweets and alcohol.

Lastly, I took a bit of fall while running the other day while passing two concerned citizens who watched me just about fall flat on my face. They both reacted in the most Aberdeen way possible. In their heads I knew they were concerned about whether I was hurt. I just couldn’t tell by their expressions or actions.

In all honesty though, I’m technically from Aberdeen (I like being cutting edge and pretending I wasn’t born in the Granite City) and I maybe would have reacted in a similar way.

The fact my lucky green hat* fell over my eyes and momentarily blinded me probably didn’t help, perhaps making the whole scene look slightly slapstick. I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had laughed.

The Ugly 

Being a Scottish rugby fan is hard. Like really hard. After watching Scotland play rugby for the best part of 15 years, I spent Saturday afternoon feeling low.

This was after watching a comedy of the usual errors which were synonymous of the your Frank Hadden’s Scotland. Errors that had seemingly been snuffled out under the tutelage of Cotter and then Townsend.

A 27-10 loss to France at the weekend proved this theory wrong and Scotland seem destined for a worse than average six nations performance. There is still hope of course, but wins against England and Wales look unlikely. Wales coming off the back of a sensational win in Cardiff against an in form England.

However, after the game I was more disappointed but not surprised by the analysis which appeared on the Scottish Rugby section of the BBC Sport website. There is a journalist who I won’t name who seems to savour every Scottish rugby failure.

His article which attempted to promote a non-existent nasty rivalry between Ireland and Scotland before the first round of the Six Nations would have been better placed in a tabloid newspaper than on the BBC website.

Anyway, I’m glad to announce that’s my rant over and apologise that this is another long post. Maybe I need to find another sport to watch. I heard Scotland have a good curling team.

*Because of my lucky hat I remained physically uninjured, although my dignity did take a bit of a knock. 

 

 

 

Weekly Rambling

Issue 5 – Tuesday 19 February 2019

The Good

I am pleased to report that last week was a pretty good week overall, those concerned by the slightly moody nature of my previous weekly updates will be glad to hear. And no it isn’t just because Scotland weren’t playing rugby, though it may have helped.

To be honest I have been quite a moody person recently, though I would prefer to describe myself a dark and brooding. Although the fair hair does spoil this image slightly…

So I’ll get the running news out of the way first as this is obviously something that occupies a lot of my head space. This being when I’m not thinking dark and brooding thoughts which I often do when I’m actually running funnily enough.

Anyway, an event up on the Moray Coast was preceded by a week of running to university with a bag on my back in relatively mild weather for this time of year.

With temperatures hitting double figures in the Granite City I wasn’t lacking in perspiration when I arrived for class in the mornings.

There’s only a certain amount Lynx can do and for this I apologise to anyone who had to sit beside, or perhaps even in the same room, as me.

Some of my fellow students may be thinking the running to uni is an ego trip in showcasing my sporadic fitness regime, while others may be thinking its because I think I’m cutting edge.

Its actually because I don’t want to pay the bus fare but that can be our little secret. Also when I have insisted to my family that I am cutting edge in the past my brother’s reply has been that “you barely know how to work a computer Finn.” Unfortunately he probably has a point.

The pre-mentioned event was the Kinloss to Lossiemouth Half Marathon and included an early Sunday morning (by my standards) and a solo road trip.

I’ll hopefully have a race report written up with the details of the day by this time tomorrow, but can tell you it was a good day. I managed to achieve a Personal Best and met up with my girlfriend so Sunday afternoon was definitely the highlight of my week!

In other news, on Thursday we journalism students were given a talk by local BBC Scotland reporter Davy Shanks. It was an interesting listen and really put into perspective what the job of a broadcast journalist includes nowadays.

That evening I also ventured out to Ellon and spent a lovely evening with my Grandparents who I am grateful to have so nearby.

The Bad

Returning to a many dark and brooding thought its time to delve into what wasn’t so good this week, which in an essence was my anxiety. This may be a lot more serious than usual but here it goes.

I won’t go into great detail as it is quite personal to me, but feeling anxious is a big part of my daily life and something that I’ve become accustomed too, it being particularly noticeable to me since the start of this year

I would like to think I’ve equipped myself quite well to deal with it, but often it will become slightly overpowering. I realise everyone suffers from anxiety at some point and many struggle with it to an extent that it is difficult to get out of the bed in the morning.

This is very rarely the case for me and I won’t devalue what others go through by even drawing a comparison to this. Instead for me it has been a long term thing which I feel has often held me back or meant it takes a huge effort to push myself when doing normal day to day activities.

For example, driving to Lossiemouth to run a Half Marathon had been filling me with quite a lot of dread and resulted in sleepless nights for the week preceding it. It was something I wanted to do in theory but had to push myself hard to actually convince myself to carry it out.

And when I did arrive home safely on Sunday evening I knew all the dread and worry was well worth it. All the creative outcomes in my head about crashing the car, or stalling on the A96, or getting halfway through the race and having to abandon hadn’t come true.

Yes, there were some slightly hairy moments. Accidentally pulling out in front of a poor lady at a junction was one*. Not eating enough before running 13 miles was another, but I made it through the day and had enjoyed it for the most part.

The truth is there will always be hairy moments in my life and its about accepting that I’ll learn from these, while realising that they shouldn’t affect all the exciting things that I want to get up to.

So next time I’m lying awake in bed, heart racing and mind full of negative thoughts as daylight becomes nearer and nearer, I’ll try and remind myself of this, using this past Sunday as an example of what I can do when I push myself.

The Ugly 

My music taste has always been…eh…interesting. But during the last few weeks it seems to have hit even lower standards than usual. I’ve always accepted the fact that in a family where Moby and Genesis are gospel to some (I won’t mention any names) my music taste is often regarded as being the worst.

I would argue this is unfair but scrolling through my daily mixes this week, which Spotify so helpfully compiled for me, was a truly sobering experience.

I won’t mention any of the artists (some things are just too personal) but I can tell you that I would still rather listen to P!nk on repeat for three hours than sit in a car with my Dad and brother listening to Test Match Special.

If you’ve never listened to TMS (probably likely) then think about how boring cricket is to watch normally, and then remove the moving images.

*FYI – If you’ve angered a fellow driver giving them a wave doesn’t seem to calm them down much.

 

 

Nightclubbing – what’s it all about then?

My first experience with drinking was three years ago and I can remember it vividly. I was 16 and most of my schoolmates had already had a taste of the ‘naughty juice’.

I remember stumbling around a friend’s field, being an utter and total lightweight, a category I would likely still firmly place myself in. Now three years on and attempting university for the second time, I obviously have much more experience with drinking.

Living in Dundee two years ago, and now settled in Aberdeen, it’s an activity which is no longer limited to damp Deeside fields and freezing River Dee ‘seshes’ (drinking sessions). These locations featured heavily in my early experiences with drinking, stumbling over my own feet as I tried to judge my surroundings.

Back then it was never a regular occurrence and it still isn’t really. However, it would be churlish to deny that for many students, especially excitable first years, drinking plays a significant role in their lifestyle.

There are many freshers who don’t like drinking and when I left the comforts of home for the ‘up-and-coming’ city of Dundee in 2016, I was one of them. This may have been mostly down to my lack of success in making many good friends, something I blame solely on my failure at being sociable. As my long suffering Dad always says, “its not rocket science.”

Anyway, while at Abertay University I got my first taste of nightclubbing, a new form of nightlife which I had never been party to. It was both terrifying, entertaining and, because I’m a bit weird, fascinating.

Its like my peers had chosen the loudest place to try and socialise with each other through the medium of bad dancing to the deafening thud of often below par music. I soon found the key was to drink and to perhaps drink to excess in order to enjoy this experience on any level whatsoever.

For me, rule one of nightclubbing would definitely be to not even consider entering a nightclub if you feel slightly sober. When breaking this rule I either break the bank buying drinks from a bartender intent on ignoring the small, yet incredibly handsome fair haired man standing at their bar or become thoroughly miserable.

Drinking enough before heading to the bright city lights of Dundee and now Aberdeen has therefore become a vital part of a good night out. This part of the evening, for the uninitiated, is simply referred to as ‘pres’ and usually ends at 11.30pm, when everyone heads for the nightclubs.

In Aberdeen, I have likely been out more than I did during the whole year I spent in Dundee, having both high and low points in my mission to convince myself that nightclubbing is a fun activity. Many nights have been fun, with good company and memorable moments cancelling out the repetitive music and my questionable dancing which often raises a few eyebrows.

My conclusion thus far is I remain wholly unconvinced by the whole experience. Looking past my lacking dancing abilities, I seem to spend most of my time in these dark, loud buildings either looking for or having shouting conversations with my friends, going to the bathroom or awkwardly standing about with a drink in my hand while others around me look at total peace with the madness.

I won’t however deny that on some level it is good fun. Unlike my year at Abertay in which I let my anxiety about social situations take control, I am slowly and surely pushing myself more. I feel that something as benign as nightclubbing is assisting in this greatly, however awkward I feel.

Maybe by the end of the year any negative views I currently have about this activity will have dissipated and I will become less cynical and more positive. Any partygoers reading this can only hope for such as I am yet to release the true party animal which lives inside.

Whatever happens I will strive to find a new conclusion about nightclubbing. Lets see what happens…