It was 2013, and had been over 10 years since I had spent any length of time living on my own.
As fresh faced young 20 something pup when I had just arrived in Aberdeen.
Green and wet behind the ears.
I’d just moved into a new city, a new country!
I had everything to prove to myself.
Working in a new industry, just bought my first home, meeting new friends, and whizzing up and down the A1 to South Shields to see mates down there and to watch the football at Sunderland.
Generally living a pretty care free live.
Well, okay apart from the heartache of watching Sunderland then! You can’t have everything eh?
Skip to now (well 2013) and I was approaching 40, had 2 great kids, then 6 & 7 years old and my main aim was to see them as much as possible and be the best dad I could be.
That was it.
Although he was a great dad and role model to me and my younger brother, like many from north east England, my old man worked away throughout a lot of our childhood.
He did it for all for us. But it did mean that I saw less of him day to day.
And when I became a father I made a vow to myself that I would always try to be around as much has possible for Sonny and Lola.
That was my number one priority.
So anyway, after having 2 energetic kids around me 24/7 in my nice big family home it was a massive culture shock to be back in my old apartment by myself most of the time.
I missed the kids.
Especially during the first few months.
I found it really tough.
When you live a mile apart and want to see them but you can’t, it is pretty hard to bear.
It’s a feeling I guess lots of other single dads might have encountered. And it’s not a good one!
However, after a wee while we got into a routine of them being with me on alternate weekends; Friday straight from school until Monday back to school.
And a few months later they came one mid week night a week so they were with me for 5 nights every fortnight which was a nice amount of time to be spending with them. And we also agreed to split the holidays 50:50.
I wanted to have them half of the time but this was not permitted.
So after the initial period I got to see a lot of them and will always be grateful to their mam for that.
For all of our differences I will always respect their mam for that as it is not always the case with many separated couples. When children get used as human weapons.
So given the massive life change of no longer living with them I did my best to stay in their lives as much as I could.
May 2013: Aberdeen beach – Sonny still in his football kit
On our weekends together we would go out exploring (after poor Lola got dragged to watch Sonny play football every Saturday morning).
Looking through my old photos it’s all outdoors, up Bennachie (the nearest hill of note to Aberdeen) and around all of the beaches, parks and riversides which we are blessed with having all around us! I’ve never been one for staying in much! haha.
April 2013: Top of Bennachie with a cheeky little rainbow. Best kids in the world X
We went skiing to the Lecht in the Cairngorms in the 2013 spring holidays and we would later go on 2 skiing holidays in the French Alps with friends and their kids.
April 2013: Our first bash at skiing up The Lecht, Strathdon, Scotland!
And in May we got our first ever camper van! A Mazda Bongo!
It was ACE.
They’re second hand Japanese imports so are usually immaculately maintained by the diligent Japanese folk and also rust free as they don’t use salt on their roads.
After a couple of local trips to test it out in Stonehaven and Aiden Park, Mintlaw we would later go on to have some great adventures in it all around the Highlands and into the wider UK.
May 2013: Aiden Country Park. First weekend in our Bongo!
Another thing I developed a real passion for was taking one of the school football teams in Sonnys school year.
At that age group the Scottish Football Association had the kids in 4 a side games and they were great!
It was blood and thunder!
Literally sometimes haha!
The tackles were flying in and the kids would just get straight back up.
A few years later many started rolling around like a wounded solider if anyone went near them after watching their beloved Barcelona and Real Madrid idols diving around play acting on TV.
Training was every Wednesday night and matches on Saturday mornings on some windswept field dotted around the city. I was a great way to discover new parts of town I hadn’t ventured to before.
Later the teams got streamed into an A and B team.
The “more talented” kids are put into a separate group to the “less talented” ones.
The fun subsided a bit at that point.
I’ve read up a lot on this and disagree completely with streaming kids that young.
The older kids in a school year are more physically and mentally developed than the younger kids so have an advantage at any given sport.
Some of the kids were almost a year older than others and this makes a huge difference at a young age obviously.
So after this streaming process, the “more talented” kids (statistically proven to be mainly kids born in the first few months of a school year intake) play for the school teams and then get into club teams.
So they get more game time and coaching so get further ahead in their chosen sport (than the younger kids).
And the supposedly lesser ability kids (the younger ones) don’t get he valuable game time or coaching so lose out on a lifetime playing sport.
Because of the time of the year they were born in!
What a crazy system! Anyway…
When Sonny and Lola weren’t around I tried to keep as busy as possible to keep from missing them so did what I did best.
A started another wee renovation!
My flat I’d moved back into still had the original kitchen from the 90s from when it was built and needed upgrading. And since I was back in there I factored it was an ideal time to get stuck into it.
So I got a tradesman friend in and ended up removing the partition wall between the living room and kitchen and fitting a lovely modern kitchen and wood flooring throughout.
It was a decent chunk of money but well worth it! This would 2 years later become our first self catering property.
I was walking LOADS at this time. I walked to work every morning.
February 2013 Walk to work! A cold and frosty morning along the Aberdeen riverside looking west up the Dee.
And I walked back!
February 2013 Walk from work! The sun sets over the horizon towards Royal Deeside along Aberdeen riverside.
And once or twice a week I’d extend the walk home to 7, 8 or 9 miles going up the coast to Cove Bay, then back via Torry Battery and through Duthie Park and maybe along the beach as well.
May 2013: The calm before the storm!. The long way home via Nigg Bay – looking back (north) towards Aberdeen.
Benefits were threefold.
It gave me time to myself after a day in the office.
I could enjoy enjoy the stunning sweeping clifftop scenery that takes you along the North Sea.
And it got miles into my legs for a 24 hour hill walk I was doing with friends called the Cateran Yomp to raise money for army veteran funds.
The route was the same one used by the Caterans, fearsome cattle thieves who raided Strathardle, Glenshee and Glen Isla from the Middle Ages to the 17th century and after whom the trail is named.
I have always been into hill walking from my childhood holidays being dragged round the Lake District in Northern England and had started hill walking with this fine band of individuals over the previous few years.
The wildlife is amazing and would often see Golden Eagles which was a total buzz for me, specially the first time we saw them on reaching the peak and seeing it soaring above your head.
It’s not just the wildlife and scenery but also the history of the places your walking though. Many of the hills have historic crash sites which I find fascinating.
We ventured into the highlands about once or twice a month.
A friend and I went right up to the most northern mainland coast for a weekend to do Ben Hope and Ben Kilbreck, the two most Northerly Munros (a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet).
The lads I walked with were mainly oil and gas telecoms workers and mostly ex forces so were good solid guys to have your back if anything went wrong on the hills or off it, haha! We had good craic and felt an instant bond with them!
You know how it can get out on those hills! Haha.
We would leave Aberdeen Saturday at 7am and be in the heart of the mountains by 9am.
A Munro or 3 were usually nailed and the day was often rounded off with a pint or three at some bar on the way back along the Royal Deeside road which winds along the River Dee to take you back to the bright lights of Aberdeen!
Those days were absolute lifesavers to me.
Even though there would be a handful of us at least usually, 3 or 4 maybe up to 8 or 9, and we’d have great crack there are always periods of time when you are alone.
Just you and your thoughts.
Anyone who has ever done serious hill walking will know what I’m, talking about.
The relative solitude. The peace.
A total lack of humanity apart from the small band you are with.
The vast landscape reminding you that your problems are really insignificant in the grand scheme of the world.
I guess the Scottish mountains became the place where I could offload all of the stresses that had built up during that time in my life.
Like a pressure relief valve. And breathe!
Back to nature. Back to the wild. No mobile phone signal. Bonus!
Like my Scottish version of Marsden Beach which I mentioned in my previous blog.
I feel blessed to have had those days in the hills and I continue that family tradition of dragging my now teenage kids up some of the hills around Scotland!
Often much to Lolas disgust! But once at the top and on the way down she gets into it haha. Sorry Lola. Love you pet. X
February 2013. This was just a local walk with the lads. Just a stroll around Bennachie. I’m at the front.
In the summer we headed off in our camper for 2 weeks on our first big Scottish Adventure.
But I reckon we should save that for the next time .
Hope you enjoyed reading and as always I’d love to hear from you if anything here has taken your fancy or even if you just wanted to say hello!
July 2013: Heading into the hills.