Friday, January 31, 2014

What is it with our hospitality industry?

Though I love Scotland, I have grown weary of the oft-encountered, poor customer service.

I am toying with the idea of booking a 2 night, February break in a hotel 'resort,' an hour's drive away. There are 'luxury' lodges and a hotel swimming pool, pine trees and lochs.

I am hesitant, because it feels like a possible indulgence and the weather could be dreich. Still, I phone the (4 star) resort, looking for some encouragement.

-Hello, I am thinking of booking a break with you soon and I wondered if there are any children's activities running?

Woman: (flat-voiced) I have absolutely no idea.

Me: Well, how would I find out? Should I phone back?

Her: (irritation suddenly rising to match mine) Well, it would help if I actually knew which weekend you were coming?

Me: Not this weekend, but next.

Her: Well I don't know. The activities are only planned week to week. But usually, only if the schools are off. So, usually not.
If you phone back next Friday, I can ask the leisure team, but there's been nothing on at all this week....

Me: Okay, thanks. I'll think about it. (Hangs upBlogs in frustration about it).

How different it could have been! Even if there are no kid's activities on out of season, she could have sold it to me with warmth and welcoming. 'Kids always love it here. There are great walks and a play area. It's very family friendly,' etc.

When I do get good customer service in Scotland, or anywhere, I make sure to lob liberal smiles and 'thank yous' at them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Avoiding the Expectation Management chat with a five year old

It was Hugh's buoyant certainty that made my heart pang; the certainty that all the local children would read the above poster (barely legible in the photo): Hugh's poster. Come to Hugh's house if you want to come to the treasure (hunt). Don't be late.
He thought they would come streaming, in joyous droves and he would be the Great Gatsby of our postal code, handing out wrapped-up treasure, glowing with the joy of giving. He didn't say this, of course, but it was there in the subtext.
I couldn't bear to tell him otherwise, so I texted 'Daddy' to make a fuss of the clues. Somehow, the fact that daddy was on his way home anyway, was subsumed by the fact that Hugh's poster had called him from afar, beckoning with promise. Alchemy in itself.

Monday, January 27, 2014

If I've done one useful thing today... has been to sign a petition in the No More Page 3 campaign. I never buy the tabloids, but when I take Hugh (now five) to get his hair cut in the barbers, I always forget about page 3.
I pick up a paper and start to flick it open....and then quickly shut, newly annoyed that the objectification and exploitation of women is so everyday. It's not the nudity; they could look at National Geographic or the step-by-step breast feeding photos in my Mother and Baby guide - but the meat-market approach of page 3. It's grim and I shall gladly click on the petition to ban it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Girls and their advance planning

Our wee girl, Tess, came back from playgroup and told me that there was a new boy there and she was, 'falling in love with him'. 
I asked her what made her fall in love and she said, 'hmm, (embarrassed laugh), his hair and his eyes and his teeth'.

It'll be no different at age 14, I thought.

Meanwhile, he's still 2 feet high. She said, 'I didn't tell him I was falling in love with him and I might want to marry him. That could be a wee surprise for him.'


Friday, January 17, 2014

Festival highs

Good luck to my old friend, Stuart, whose first feature film, God Help the Girl, is debuting at Sundance Film Festival.  I'm sure it's thrilling to be there, in the mountain air. Even rolling the name, 'Sundance' across my tongue is enough for me.
Last night, Francis and I went to the opening night of another great festival, Celtic Connections. The musicians appear effortlessly talented and convey such a feeling of inclusive magic - as if you've just stumbled into the best party in town, their party, and they're going to let you stay. They'll transport you and ravish you (sort of) and leave you walking out lighter. Brilliant.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Child's play

Wow. I agree with every word of this important article about why free play is crucial to the development of young kids, and how society is slowly but surely reducing opportunities for it to thrive.

'The most fundamental social skill is the ability to get into other people’s minds, to see the world from their point of view. Without that, you can’t have a happy marriage, or good friends, or co-operative work partners. Children practise that skill continuously in their social play.'

Roll on Spring and a childhood revolution.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The risks of excess sugar...

were featured widely in the news today. I liked this quote -

Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, Canada, Yoni Freedhoff; “Not only has added sugar found its way into virtually everything we eat, but worse still, the use of sugar as a means to pacify, entertain and reward children has become normalized to the point that questioning our current sugary status quo often inspires anger and outrage.
“We need to re-relegate sugar to the role of occasional treat rather than its current role of everyday, anytime, crutch”.

Hmm. Will I be deeply unpopular if I only put out oatcakes, cheese and apple whilst hosting my next play date?