This Christmas is the first one that I wanted to get over and done with. Too much excitement for eldest and his seizures. Too many visitors and too much anticipation. But now we are in the quiet period before the usual routine commences in January. It is just us and it is the best. Happy Christmas.
It is the time of year again. Cake baking time. Over the years i have worked on perfecting the family recipe for Christmas cake passed down from my grandma through my mum and then to myself. These days the kids are involved too, especially eldest who did the lions share this year. As myself and both kids are gluten free, our baking is therefore done using gluten free ingredients.
We actually make two cakes. Firstly the traditional dark fruit christmas cake following my grandma’s traditional Yorkshire recipe. Being a traditional Yorkshire fruit cake it must be eaten with cheese. Though Wenslydale historically was the cheese of choice in the North, our family always ate our cake with Cheddar. Cake and cheese; sounds mad I know. But just go for it. It’s beautiful, I promise.
Our other cake is Gala Cake. This is my personal favourite. My mum adapted the recipe from a white fruit cake recipe for my dad, who hates dark cake. Being a Yorkshireman, he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t like, and absolutely wont be deviated from it. I finished baking this tonight and it is now sitting, laced with sherry and packed in clingfilm, ready to be devoured.
Its been a long holiday and its not over yet. Our weeks in Edinburgh are over and now we have moved on to Ayrshire. The Festival bit of it was something i have wanted to do for a long time. Years ago i was in a show written by @Gawkagogo who’s fabulous shows and art can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Gawkagogo-Freakshow-177457081457/ .In later years i wanted to go back to the Fringe and experience it from the other side as the audience. So finally this year we took the caravan to a site in Edinburgh for the four weeks of the festival. It also gave us plenty of time to explore Edinburgh and the surrounding area. We,as a family, do things at a much slower speed than most. Two of our number having health and mobility issues means that accessibility is very difficult for us and needs planning with military precision. Edinburgh and its Festival does not score highly for accessibility. So we needed time.
In the end we realised that you don’t actually need to pay to see shows in difficult to access venues because so many of them did free performances outside on the streets. There were two main areas providing a constant supply of fringe performers. We spent our time at the performance areas on the Royal Mile. With several acts on at a time throughout the day there was an ever changing supply of acts to choose from.
The guy in the bottom photo was bloody amazing and when i find out his name i will add it to this post. He is the one that i would have paid full price to see instead of the money in a hat that he recieved that day.
The festival has changed a lot since i performed in it 20 years ago. Like many things it is now very commercial with more celebrity acts it seems and less ” take your own show on a shoestring” acts. Even Esther Ranzten had a slot this year. Quite how that can be called Fringe i’m not sure.
Still I went, I saw and it was great.
At the end of the first week of September we are still on our Scottish holiday. Originally it was a four week jaunt up to Edinburgh. We have had a hell of a year and last summer’s holiday resulted in a hospital stay for our eldest and a diagnosis of Epilepsy. I won’t say any more because that post has been done, except that the year that followed has not been the best and we needed a long, quiet and relaxing holiday this year and to be completely on our own as a family unit, away from any outside influences.
We have had that luxury and done all we wanted at the pace we needed to do it. It has been such a good holiday that we have stayed in Scotland for a further three weeks. We packed the workbooks and laptop and the kids have been learning in the awning. Now that we are in term time again the Haven site that we are on is lovely and quiet during the week. On Friday afternoon the families arrive in droves and the place goes mad. But they all race off again late on Sunday or early Monday morning and peace resumes. So at the weekends we relax in the caravan whilst the rest of the site runs around cramming in the fun.
The kids have had plenty of opportunities to learn. Amongst our visits have been the Museum of Childhood, The Industrial Museum and youngest learned the story of Greyfriars Bobby and visited his memorial statue. On the list now that we are in Ayrshire are Robert Burns’ birthplace, no end of castles, Donald Trump’s Turnberry and we have even found a road where cars roll uphill. We found jellyfish on the beach. We’ve seen seals, seabirds, highland cows, rabbits and hares galore.
Our learning never really stopped through the summer, though it was more experiential than table most of the time. And now, although the kids will be sat at the table more regularly we are enjoying not getting straight back to the more structured side of our Home Ed life. I dread the day that my youngest decides she definately wants to “try secondary school”. It isnt too far off. With that knowledge in mind we are enjoying and exploiting this years not back to school experience to the max.
Noise has been an issue in our family for a number of years now. Our eldest has had problems for years with noise induced pain (Hyperacusis). That noise induced pain sadly became noise induced seizures followed by a diagnosis of Epilepsy.
Consequently our lives are currently dominated by the need to avoid environmental noise.
What has become painfully evident however is that the noise is absolutely impossible to avoid.
It is everywhere that we go. It is in shopping centres, supermarkets, the street, museums. Even the local library, traditionally a place of quiet,now comes complete with the sound of computers beeping, the photocopier whirring and toddler time with children squealing and crying and around twenty ladies and gents singing “row, row, row your boat”.
A while back the kids wanted to go out for Pizza. We decided to go to a well known American Pizza chain restaurant on a large retail park. It was a week day afternoon, during term time. We reasoned that it would be fairly empty and quiet. However as we walked across the car park towards said restaurant, we were met by a booming blast of music. Eldest really wanted the pizza and couldn’t be swayed to go somewhere else so we went in and he ate his pizza, headphones on with one hand holding his head. As soon as we had finished we left, our son nursing a freshly acquired headache.
Why do restaurants, cafe’s, ice skating rinks, bowling alleys and clothing stores amongst other businesses think we all want to spend our leisure time in a disco?
Do we want that? Are we the only ones who dont like this current state of affairs?
I remember being a teenager and being told to be quiet in libraries. Now noise is part of the experience. Background music has clearly become louder, forcing everyone to talk more loudly to each other. Why would we want to sit in a cafe where the music and the other people’s voices are so loud that we practically have to shout at each other?
The rise of sound sensitivity in children surely cannot be unconnected to the fact that our environment has become increasingly loud.
A recent article in the Guardian highlighted the long term heath effects of noise pollution including type 2diabetes and heart attacks.It refers to analysis done at Imperial College London of the health data of 356,000 people in Britain and Norway. They found that long term exposure to traffic noise affects our blood biochemistry, over and above the effects of the exhaust fumes. Noise pollution, the article says, also effects our cardiovascular system and our mental health.
Recently a major supermarket chain introduced a promising initiative. An hour every week on Saturday mornings when the store switches off any beeping machines, tannoys and background music. Although this is aimed primarily at people with autism it will also be welcomed be people with other conditions such as Hyperacusis and hearing loss. It is to be hoped that it is an initiative which catches on. If not people in my son’s position will continue to be restricted to shopping at nine o clock at night when it is quieter and some places will continue to be off limits completely.
The other day we visited St Abbs and Eyemouth on a quest to find Scotland’s wildlife. The caravan site where we are staying has an abundance of rabbits and hares, which has impressed youngest, but i wanted to show the kids something that was a bit more wow.
Our first destination was St Abbs head. Due to accessibility issues we were not able to get to the headland itself from the car park, not the place to go if you have mobility issues. However we took the car down to the harbour and got down onto the rocks. Sitting on the rocks we could see the seabirds sitting on the rocks further out to sea. They weren’t puffins but it was still an impressive sight.
It was however Eyemouth harbour which was that highlight of the day. We pulled up next to a fishing boat and saw that the men on board were throwing fish overboard to some huge dark shapes in the water, which on closer inspection turned out to be seals.
The seals are fed in Eyemouth harbour every day until 5.00pm. It is such a cool sight. I don’t know who was more impressed, me or the kids. Me probably.
Edinburgh is an absolute treasure trove for the gluten free visitor, as we discovered whilst undertaking our usual pre holiday search for GF friendly eateries. Our first visit has been to Loudons.
Eldest wanted pancakes and Loudons did not disappoint . The Gluten free option was banana and cinnamon pancakes, at £9.95 a little pricey but well worth it for taste and portion size. The menu description read “Homemade vegan and gluten free banana & cinnamon pancakes topped with banana, vegan chocolate sauce, toasted hazelnuts and icing sugar”.
When they arrived the plate and contents were huge and smelled beautiful. Both kids enjoyed them and, thanks to the portion size, were happy to share with parents.
We would definately recommend Loudons and may revisit before our trip is over. Loudons can be found at 94B Fountainbridge, Edinburgh EH3 9QA. Their website at http://loudons.co.uk/eating-in-edinburgh/ has the full menu. #glutenfree