Getting Creative

scottish mersAs I write this we have a real live mermaid waving to passers-by from our shop window. As is probably the case with many largish towns (i.e. nowhere near city size but a lot of people about) we have a very diverse and vibrant community here in Crieff and this weekend is something of a celebration of that, it’s the Crieff Arts Festival.

I’ve mentioned Crieff’s creative side a few times on here, whether talking about ‘Mole’s House‘, random forts and dens or just the generally interesting things you can come across here (check out #awesomecrieff over on twitter to see a wee selection of what our population of 6000 can do).

real live mermaidSo back to today, guilty as I am that we’ve pinched the living mermaid (Clan Dragon had her on display at last year’s festival) it’s a great match for the toy shop and kids are loving getting a chance to talk to her (some are little shy so they’re opting for waving behind their parents’ knees).

This is just a wee short one today. What creative town events etc. do you feel particularly proud of? I love how surprising it can be to be involved in these kind of events, if I’d known how fun it was as a teenager (back when I had some of that mythical ‘free time’ that I hear people talking about) I’d definitely have been more involved. What’s the most rewarding community project you’ve been involved in?

As always, thanks for reading and don’t be a stranger, if you’re an actual human being I’ll happily follow back over on twitter, Cheers, John

Everything you know will change!

the knock crieff den wooden structures forestIt gets pretty repetitive hearing people tell you that having children makes you look at the world around you in a different way, to be honest this is so well recognised that it’s hardly worth saying. However, one thing you don’t expect is for your children to change the way you look at the town you live in. For those of you who don’t know, I live in a medium sized town in Perthshire, in Scotland, called Crieff.

Having kids has made this whole familiar town change before my eyes. It’s not so much seeing the town through the eyes of a child, I’ve lived here since I was seven years old (with a break of about four years when I left for Uni) so I’ve already seen it through the eyes of a child and an adolescent. I don’t think any teenager is able to find redeeming qualities in the place they grew up, to be honest when I was that age I never wanted to see the place again. I think the main difference in the way I look at Crieff now is that things that I’ve grown accustomed to are surprisingly exciting to my kids, whilst things that I find unusual and different sometimes have no effect on them. And then there’s little things that surprise and entertain us all.

Not all that long ago I started using the hashtag #awesomecrieff on Twitter to highlight things that I was doing with the kids or things that just stood out as highlights of Crieff. Trust me the teenaged John would have been shocked and appalled that I could ever find anything ‘awesome’ about this little town. Nonetheless, the more time I spend looking for positive things about this little place the easier it’s becoming for me to find them.

Mole's house Lady Mary's walk Crieff PerthshireThe first thing that comes to mind is the creativity and slight rebelliousness of the people that live here. I’ve posted about ‘Mole’s House’ before (a tree which has been customised and decorated to provide a perfect home for ‘Mole’ down in Crieff’s Lady Mary’s Walk). However, this is by no means the full extent of creativity to be found, I’ve lost count of the amount of small dens that we’ve found in various wooded areas around the town, but by far the most impressive so far is one that Hazel and the boys found up the Knock (the name given to the big hill upon which a large portion of Crieff is built). Apparently there was room for the three of them to sit in the den’s provided seating fairly comfortably (you can find a picture at the start of this post). There’s no way of knowing who creates these little houses but this one really stands out, so far they win the prize of Crieff’s best den (I’m not sure what the prize is but whatever it is they win it).

wpid-imag0578_1.jpgThere’s plenty of ‘official’ creativity to come across too, we’ve had June McEwen’s Highland Cow installation (now replaced by a Highland Calf) which the boys liked to pretend was going to charge after us when we passed it on our way home from the shops (was always a good way to hurry them home anyway). The cow is only June’s most recent addition, she also provided the driving force behind the ‘Crieff Arts Festival’ which was on last week, and a number of years ago she also painted some bustling barflies on the boarded up windows of an old pub at the far end of the high street, the boys were intrigued by these strange characters but probably (thankfully) didn’t get what they were all up to. We have a whole host of local artists in Crieff but along with June one of our art institutions has to be Pedro, who is an artist/photographer/caricaturist who often turns up at local events and draws caricatures of kids and adults (we’ve even seen him up at Crieff Hydro a couple of times).

wpid-imag0615.jpgIt’s probably part of being a parent that you start looking for things that will entertain your children, some of the things scattered around our little town might not have stood out to the boys if Hazel and I didn’t spot them first and the same goes the other way. Maybe the transformation in the way I look at things now comes from not just looking at what the world has to offer me (as I think we all do as children, to an extent) but what it has to offer my children. This occurs through almost everything I do but it’s perhaps most unusual and most noticeable when this ‘parent’s eye’ is aimed at the domestic, the familiar and the everyday of the town where I grew up.

Have you had any familiar places change before your eyes since becoming a parent? Is there anything you miss from before you developed ‘parent eyes’? (e.g. seeing a fancy restaurant and not immediately imagining restless children and temper tantrums, or looking into a lovely open fireplace, watching the flames dance and the logs glow and not thinking ‘Oh my God! Hazard! Where’s the fire-guard? Dow we even need a fire on?’) As always comments are more than welcome and I love to catch up with anyone who reads my blog over on twitter. Thanks for reading, Cheers, John

Mole’s house Crieff and Imaginative Community

Mole's house Lady Mary's walk Crieff PerthshireI’ve been meaning to post about this for ages. As most of you know I live in Crieff, a little ‘market town’ in Perthshire, Scotland. Down the road from my house is a popular local walk called ‘Lady Mary’s Walk’ and somewhere around half way along this walk is something really special: ‘Mole’s House’. No one I ask seems to know who started this idea but every local parent seems to know about it. Basically at the foot of an old tree in a spot where the bark is less rough someone, some time, decided to paint a door and ‘Mole’s house’ was born. We’ve all donated a wee something there, a well loved toy or something else special for Mole to use or play with. He never seems to be around when you walk by but the kids always stop to look for him and to see what new things mole has collected.

Logan at 'Mole's house' Lady Mary's walk CrieffThis has been going on for years and I’ve been meaning to post about it since I started this blog but it keeps slipping my mind to take a picture when I’m down there with the family. Yesterday I had the day off and on our way round ‘Lady Mary’s walk’ I remembered to pull my camera out so that I could share this wee gem of imagination with you. Logan posed in the picture to the left so he could show off one of his favourite things about the walk. As you can see in the picture Mole has his own house sign and there’s even a wee mole that appeared one day. I suggested that this was Mole but was quickly informed by Logan that it was a toy and that the real Mole must be in bed because he’s ‘nocturnal’ (maybe I watch too many documentaries with him).

If things like ‘Mole’s house’ happened all the time perhaps they would seem less special but I’m inclined to think there’s enough room in a child’s imagination to accommodate a whole host of magic and make-believe. However, the uniqueness, the anonymity of the creator, and the amazing community spirit that keeps it going are all fantastic lessons to introduce your child to. I remember when I went to school in this town a lot of the kids thought of Crieff as a ‘boring’ town but things like Mole’s house show that it’s not. I am happy to say that I live in a town full of artistic people and big kids and long may it continue. If whoever came up with ‘Mole’s house’ ever reads this then thank you from us all for a wonderful lesson in imagination and wonder to present to our children (and don’t be afraid to expand on it, I for one would love to see what else you have to offer).

Short one today, thanks as always for reading. Tell us about anything similar to ‘Mole’s house’ that you’ve come across, or if you’ve been for a visit tell us about your experiences by adding a comment below. Also as a quick reminder, you can follow my block by popping your e-mail address into the box to the right (wordpress and myself have no interest in passing your e-mail address on to third parties). I’ll leave you with a picture of the boys being lions in the grass down by Lady Mary’s yesterday. Cheers, John


Events this fortnight

ben-lawersApologies to anyone who is reading this from further afield, I’m doing something a bit different in this post, not really chatting about toys as you can see. We hear about all kinds of different events that families are going to from conversations in the shop and I’m yet to see somewhere that mentions all these local events in one place so I thought I’d pop as many as I can down here. This is a list of events in and around Perthshire covering roughly the next two or three weeks, hope it helps someone out.

1st-12th April ‘Discovery Zone & Nature Crafts’ at RSPB Loch Leven Centre, Loch Leven Reserve, Kinross Perth Kinross KY13 9LX “Escape from the cold and drop into the ‘Hive’ to discover and get creative! Explore fascinating nature finds at the discovery tables – find out what an owl has been eating by looking at the bones in the owl pellets, have a look at a wasps nest, check out skulls & feathers, and peer through the microscopes! Get creative in the craft corner, turning recycled materials into easter animals or making bird feeders! Drop in event, no need to book. All children must be accompanied by an adult. NOT on Sunday 7th April 10am – 4.30pm” Cost: Free Telephone: 01577 862355

2nd April till the 12th Budding footballers (boys and girls) of 5-16 years can get a wee bit of training from SFA coaches for £5 a session (drop in, no booking required) at various sites around the area (we’ve missed the Strathearn Community campus one already), head along here for more information.

6th April Perth Farmers Market

7th AprilSwim, bubble and splash: Storytelling & Pond Dipping’ at RSPB Loch Leven Centre, Loch Leven Reserve, Kinross Perth Kinross KY13 9LX: “Gather round in our woodland den and join local storyteller Claire Milne as she leads us on a magical trip, diving underwater to find out about the secret lives of the slippery creatures of the pond! Claire’s interactive story session will be followed by a pond dip to see if we can meet some of the creatures from our story. This is an outdoor event, so please wrap up warm and waterproofed! All children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult. ” Time: 2 – 3.15pm Cost: RSPB members – £2, non members £4 Telephone: 01577 862355

8th April ‘Explore the world of Peter Rabbit’ storytelling and activity session for 3-9 year olds, 2.45 – 3.30pm in Loch Leven Community Library (free to attend)

8-12th April There’s the ‘Adventure festival lite’ where you can participate in Climbing (8th), Kayaking (9th), Coasteering (10th), Canyoning (11th) and White water rafting (12th)  (cost £30 per person, from 8 years and up, at Balhousie Primary School in Perth at 9am to return to the same location at4pm, minibus transport is provided), contact the Outdoor Education team at or call 01738 472236 full details here.

8th-12th April There’s the ‘Easter Dance Camp’ at The North Inch Community Campus in Perth, for high school age children, each day at 10am-4pm. Please note that they seem to require payment by cheque in the post so it may be hard to set up bookings. More information can be found here and the application form is available here.

10th and 12th April More Easter fun down at Macrosty Park see this link for details.

12th April Family Bushcraft Challenge at RSPB Loch Leven Centre, Loch Leven Reserve, Kinross Perth Kinross KY13 9LX: “Take your family into the wilds this half term, get close to nature & have some fun with our exciting bushcraft challenge.” Time: 1 – 4pm Cost: RSPB members – Adults £7, Child £3; non members – Adults £15, Child £6 Telephone: 01577 862355

12th April Fun day and craft fair Fri 10am – 3pm Oakbank Community Centre, Perth. Outside and inside craft stalls, balloon modelling, face painting etc in aid of the National Childbirth Trust Perth

12th April curtsey of Crieff Primary Parents Page “If anyone is looking for holiday entertainment there is a magic show in Muthill village hall 6.30pm Friday. You can get tickets at birdhouse bakery. £4 adult and £2 for kids or £10 family ticket. I am looking forward to it :0)”

13th April Crieff Country Market

14th April the Scottish Model Engineering Trust ( is hosting their open day on Sunday the 14th (mini railway rides) a few miles outside Methven, the web site list Trevor Goody (the membership secretary) as someone you can contact by phone on 01738 812479

20th and 21st of April You can join in with the Sports showcase weekend, hosted at many sites around the area. “Whether it’s as a spectator, player, parent or aspiring coach the sports clubs of Perth and Kinross definitely have something to offer you.” head along here for more information.

23rd April At Perth Theatre/Horsecross ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark’ shows are at 10:30am, 1:30pm and 4:30pm Adapted for the stage by Lynn Robertson Hay, with music and lyrics by Frank Goodhind. Directed and designed by Bill Davies. ‘Based on the classic children’s book by Jill Tomlinson, this funny, gentle and reassuring tale is written especially for small people aged 3 – 7 (and grown-ups who sleep with the light on).’ for more information or to book tickets, go here.

28th April ‘Annual Celtic Food & Drink Festival’ at the Scottish Crannog Centre 11-4:30pm Discover Iron Age cooking including claybaked and smoking fish, spit cooked meat, crannog stews, locally foraged greens, breads and spreads, and themed beverages. Pop along here for more information.

Throughout the summer/year Perth and Kinross Cycling Summer is an event with loads of scheduled cycling events throughout the year, some set up for children to join, I don’t know any dates, times or loacations for this and I’ve only put it here as I came across it while browsing the web for events. Apparently you can get more information about times and locations by calling the Perth & Kinross Council Sustainable Transport Officer on 01738 476515

OK that’s as much as I can find at the moment, let me know if you come across anything else that’s happening and I’ll add it to the list, there’s more on than I thought, Cheers, John