My cousin Ailsa was heading up Elgin way a couple of weeks ago to see her parents for a few days and as I hadn't visited in years, I tagged along too.
As our train was an early one and there wasn't one which would get me into town on time, I stayed over at her flat, passing this rather entertaining magic glowing cone/quest marker on the way.
The journey up was lovely, and we had a rather delicious brunch at Patisserie Valerie in Aberdeen upon arrival, then it was onto Clochan itself after my aunt picked us up.
Half the purpose of the visit, in all honesty, was for some much needed cat time, courtesy of the most handsome of tabbies - Miko, now aged 15!
We always maintain that there's a bit of wildcat in him (which in all honesty is very possible as I think he was born on a farm in an area they frequent and his mum was a really delicate looking moggy) and he really looks the part when he glares/shows off his resting bitch face.
Miko isn't the most affectionate of cats, much preferring the occasional fuss on his own terms, but he's mellowing in his old age.
He was very purry all the time, and while he still insisted on giving us the odd irritable swipe of a paw or show of teeth along with a grumpy 'beeehhhh' when he'd had enough, he was remarkably sweet. Still no chance of being a lap cat though!
^ My aunt there, telling Miko it's time to go outside one night, and his ridiculously lazy response. He doesn't even meow any more, just 'mehhh'
One of the days though, he actually trotted through to the room we were in and meowed at us until we followed him into the living room to play with him.
Other than the cat, there were a lot of beautiful places to visit nearby, though the weather put paid to that idea fairly early on. Our traditional trip to Spey Bay was one of the first outings, and it was apparent as soon as we arrived that a storm was well on its way.
Given the choice of wandering about on the beach or having a cup of tea in the cafe there first, the tea won the vote. Unfortunately this let the rain catch up with us and by the time we got outside it was absolutely freezing with horizontal rain and very high winds. If you turned to face it, it literally took your breath away, so we didn't linger more than a couple of minutes.
I was really disappointed as this seems to happen every time we visit Spey Bay, especially as I've long wanted to catch a glimpse of the resident dolphin population offshore. My friend Viki took some incredible photographs of them when she was up here a few years ago, but this time I just had to make do with a solitary seal. Maybe next time!
These photographs are very deceptive and really don't show just how horrible it was out there!
That isn't mist in the distance, that's rain!
We took a suitably windswept selfie before legging it back to the dry warmth of the car.
Rather than just go straight home we had a drive around the coast, taking in the now very stormy seas at Buckie and the surrounding fishing villages.
The weather went from rain swiftly to snow...
...then back to rain, then snow then rain, then hail, then snow again.
I wish I was joking.
We found Miko asleep when we got back, so I took advantage of that fact and dug out my clip-on macro lens for my iPhone and tried to get some closeups of his face now that he wasn't glaring at us.
Not too shabby for a phone, eh?
By evening, the ground was covered in a thick blanket of snow, which unfortunately didn't last the night, having been melted away by yet more rain and hail.
As the weather soured and showed no sign of improving for days, we rolled out our art supplies, (including the half ton of paper Ailsa brought with her and never actually used) put some Bob Ross's 'Joy of Painting' on Netflix, stocked up on snacks and warm blankets, and finally got started.
Before we left Spey Bay, we'd grabbed up a few flattish stones to paint on, as something a little different to the usual pads and loose leaves of paper we'd brought with us.
While I went for a kind of quasi-pictish design on mine, Ailsa made Tom Jones in rock and oil pastel form.
Because, why not? XD
Inspired by her use of oil pastels, something I hadn't used at all since school, I had a go, though I stuck to paper...
I still prefer watercolours, and as I haven't really done much with them recently, decided to improve my technique. They're still very amateurish but I'm pleased with the first one.
I also did some mini ones which I'm hoping to cut out and attribute to Juno for her painting corner.
The weather continued to disappoint for the rest of the week, but the day before we were going to head for home, the sun finally came out, and after a brief look at the spectacularly decorated garden nearby, we set off for Lossiemouth for some much needed sea air.
We arrived just as the cafe we were going to visit closed, so we went elsewhere, then made for the beach. It wasn't a complete waste though, as we caught a fleeting glimpse of the gold postbox which honours Olympic rower Heather Stannings.
Lossiemouth is one place I'd never been to in all the times I'd been up, so it was a nice surprise to see it in the sunshine after the rest of the trip had been so soggy and miserable.
The river cuts through the beach, so we had to cross a delightfully rickety bridge to reach the dunes.
Gulls and Oystercatchers cried out as they drifted above on the sea breeze, but it was a lonesome Grey Heron in the river that really caught my attention. We got a great view of it from the bridge, high and far enough away that it didn't feel threatened by our presence.
There was still a bit of a cold breeze, but the sun was out and it was easy to ignore the chill. The dunes seemed to go on forever, and while there weren't many other people out on the sands, I bet it would be absolutely heaving on a warm day when the wind drops.
The grumpiest pebble ever.
Obviously being indoors for so long had gone to our heads as we ended up doing some ridiculously dramatic leaps for photos...well, Ailsa did, I only went once and it was so hilariously terrible we had to stop in case we damaged something laughing.
^ This one has meme potential I think.
Such elegance, very majestic.
So much so, I couldn't resist turning it into a gif. XD
That hilarity out of the way, we headed home, taking in the view at the top of the hill and the recently installed memorial to the Women's Land Army.
We now had only one more evening for art and our background entertainment was poor.
We'd long finished our staple entertainment of 'Curious and Unusual Deaths' on Netflix (the terrible acting of 'Jeff's Golf Rage' will never not be funny to us) and as lovely as Bob Ross was, there were only so many happy little clouds that we could look at in a 24 hour period, so we ended up watching something else, the name of which escapes me, but it had something to do with witches cursing towns and stuff which absolutely hit the spot.
Anyway, I painted some galaxies and they're now my favourite thing ever.
(With bonus Hamilton lyrics because it's amazing and I've only recently got round to listening to the soundtrack!)
True to form, the weather was lovely for the journey home.
We changed at Aberdeen and had some breakfast at Patisserie Valerie again, where I found the most horrifically offensive piece of graffiti in the toilets. XD
Once back in Glasgow we finished off our mini holiday with a shared pizza at Paesanos, which was really, really, really nice. It's super cheap and tastes incredible, and I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone who visits Glasgow!
Obviously it would have been nicer if the weather had cooperated all week, but I can't really complain; it was nice to get away for a while, even if we did spend most of our time wrapped in blankets with paintbrushes in hand!
It turned out not to be my only week away, so watch this space for more!