Edinburgh 2-6 May 2014

My youngest brother and his family live in Edinburgh. At the moment it’s the same country… well at least it’s also in the United Kingdom. However there’s a big vote soon where the Scottish people get to decide if they want to be their own little country and separate from the United Kingdom. My brother and his wife are all for this change. I however don’t have enough information to make an informed choice nor am willing to invest the time to unearth the information. However I do feel a little like a strict parent and believe it’s like having a teenager leaving home. If they want to go then they should go entirely… no borrowing money, bringing your washing home or popping in for dinner! We softie southerners will await the result of the vote. Oh one more parental comment – if you don’t get independence, will this be the end of it?

For simply ages, I’ve received little postcards, notes, Skype calls, video messages and phone calls from my Scottish nieces to say they’re missing their Auntie Anna soooooo much. They ask when am I coming to visit and how many sleeps it is until I do etc. So this long weekend (a bank holiday in both England and Scotland) I ventured across the border!

Such a cuddly pair of wee girls. The oldest aged 8 and the youngest only 4. My flight on Friday night wasn’t due in until late and by the time I reached the house it was nearly midnight. But not to be deterred from the earliest possible Auntie Anna cuddle,the girls had had a plan, a very cunning plan. Very early bath, early to bed and a promise that I wake them on my arrival for cuddles, warm milk and a midnight snack. Cunning eh?

Saturday morning started with two wee girls delivering a cup of tea to me and climbing into my bed for a chat and a cuddle. I love these moments with them. A little bit snoozy and chatty but excited about the day ahead.

In Edinburgh this weekend is a festival called Tradfest. The festival is in its second year and it aims to reintroduce Scotland to it’s culture, crafts, traditions and arts.

We headed up to the City Centre after breakfast to watch and walk alongside the May Day Parade. The parade itself seemed to be way more political than promised and we were constantly being forced to take leaflets about politics, war, religion or independence – surely not what was promised or intended for the festival parade? There were a few groups in the parade dancing, singing with bagpipes and drums etc but far fewer than the more politically charged paraders.

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The parade concluded at the Pleasance Theatre where we had read there would be crafts, music and dancing together with space for a picnic lunch. Again this didn’t match the promised description in the Tradfest brochure or website. We found a picnic bench and sat eating our picnic anyway… well until the table seemed weighed down with leaflets and someone pointed out that a sign above the girls head indicated that they had joined the communist movement! My brother wandered inside to see if there were crafts and other happenings worth visiting but came out disappointed once more. Such a pity as a MayDay Parade through Edinburgh would be a perfect platform to advertise the Festival and for tourists to partake.

My brother had heard that there was a family friendly storytelling event taking place in the afternoon telling the tales of the Edinburgh Beltane Stories. So shortly after lunch we headed to the Story Telling Centre to enquire that these tales were family friendly. As we waited for the start of the storytelling we made ourselves comfortable in the cafe with indulgent hot chocolate and cake.

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This event was in two parts. The first where a gentleman told the story. Fortunately my nieces are very good at watching plays and listening… a blessing as the story was slow and I’m not sure greatly rehearsed or the mixed audience totally considered. Sadly I don’t think we learnt a great deal from this part of the show. My youngest niece just seemed to be quite put out that it was sold as a storytelling play but yet there was only one person on stage – surely “this isn’t right”, she kept asking?

The second half was more interesting for us. A shadow play. After a brief break we returned to the auditorium to find a shadow box had been set up and a tale was about to be told via music, words and shadow puppets. This was much more engaging for the children and we heard and remembered the story being told.

Before supper time the youngest said she had to make a birthday card for her husband to be (aged 4!).  She’s got it all worked out.  Apparently they’re going to be in London and she’s going to live with me until the wedding day (when I have to do her hair and makeup).  When they’re married they’re going to live next door so they can pop in to see me whenever they want.  Anyway the poor chap’s birthday card was actually a picture of me and her big sister.  Recognise me?  I’m on the right…

Celeste's picture

After the youngest headed off to bed, the 8 year old and I had some time for ourselves to play some games. It’s fabulous she’s just at the age when she’s started to enjoy board games, understand strategy and eager to learn some new things. My brother has a selection of the games that we had as children and we managed a few rounds of Connect4, backgammon and her first game of Mastermind. Let it be said that I certainly didn’t win them all!


Remember this?

Sunday was a very exciting day in this household. Firstly my younger niece was heading off to the birthday party of her husband to be. I heard, at length, all about Joe. Plans for marriage and life together and that they are going to live in London in the house next to mine when they’re married. Until then my niece is going to live in my house and I’m going to help get her ready for her wedding day. She wasn’t sure when this was to be but eventually settled for when she was an adult… perhaps when she’s 8!

Secondly, my oldest niece was today taking part in the TradFest. She’s been learning to play the fiddle and her fiddle group are part of a parade along Portabello Promenade.

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My role in getting the girls ready was, of course, hair and makeup.

Here’s a little clip of Iola practicing her fiddle pieces with me before we headed out to the parade.

So after a little play on the beach and some ice-cream the very serious part of the day the performance and parade began. I’m soooo proud of her!



Monday – My brother had arranged tickets to head to the Dynamic Earth exhibition in town. The exhibition was created for the millennium and apparently is only just hanging on with attendance down. We were keen to find out more, excited to see dinosaurs and hopefully going to learn something too. I was surprised at how much the tickets were – surely not!


An exhibition for all ages. The exhibition is underground and I couldn’t help but feel a little claustrophobic at times. It seemed as if you couldn’t escape the route that was designated and that the only time you could use the toilets was at the beginning and end (surely a mistake when wanting to attract groups of people with children!). Points of the exhibition were interesting. The iceberg was, according to the girls, ‘incredible’. Sadly the dinosaur exhibition is apparently only on during the week and we saw a film about the wildest weather that turned out to the weather on other planets not our own! There were various points at which the children could turn a handle, press a button or talk to an interactive television but these seemed to be sparsely set around the route and not always worth the wait as other children got to them first. Sadly I don’t feel we learnt a lot and my brother didn’t feel that they’d be returning or recommending it particularly. What a shame and perhaps why it’s not doing so well.

Unsurprisingly the smallest niece was bored, tired and very very stroppy by the time we headed home for the bus.

Tuesday – my final day

Up early so that I could have breakfast with the munchkins before Iola headed off to school. She has a school trip today to a Mosque and I’m going to try to meet up with her when she arrives back from the trip for a quick cuddle before she finishes school and I head off to the airport.

My Auntie Anna duties aren’t quite over though. I walk the youngest to nursery and I hole myself up in a coffee shop for a few hours whilst she’s there. I asked her last night if she’d prefer to hang out with me instead of going to nursery for these few hours but she was desperate to see her friends as she’d not been with them for 4 whole days!

At 11.30 I’m back to collect her and she doesn’t stop chatting about what’s happened at nursery for what seems like an age. Eventually I’m allowed to get a word in and suggest we head down to the canal and find a cafe for some lunch together. She continues chatting all the way there!

We find a cafe, Mimi’s Bakehouse, which looks just the ticket for an Auntie Anna lunch and treat. The decor is beautifully done. A little like an old fashioned parlour. When our lunch arrives Celeste is quick to point out that there must be fairies here too… they knew her favourite colour was purple (her knife is purple) that her favourite drink is apple juice AND that it’s in a beautiful cup with a perfect straw, that the sandwich filling is her favourite – egg AND that the crisps are her favourite flavour. I mean how could they have possibly known that?


After lunch we purchased some cakes to take home with us which were presented in the most adorable cake box.


We rushed home in the hope that we’d get the chance to ‘bump’ into Iola outside school as her trip had returned a little early. Sadly we missed her so no more cuddles before I headed for the airport and home.

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