As you will no doubt know by now, I don't get out much. Certainly not beyond the confines of south west Scotland. Yes, it is true, I sometimes break free for Tuscany. Occasionally, I know, I seek island solace on the Isle of Cumbrae. But, by and large, as a father of two young children my forays into what normal people call "having a social life" are few and far between.
The times when that involves my wife are even fewer.
So, it was with great fear and trepidation that I ventured to Edinburgh at the weekend. It was, by my good lady's reckoning, the first time we had been away overnight as a couple sans enfants (how's that for pretentious?) in five years. Yes, you read that right, FIVE YEARS!
I was so convinced that this weekend would not actually happen that I did not pack my bags until the last minute. I knew, with every pessimistic bone my dear old Nonna put in my body, that one of my children would start coughing and wheezing and we would be unable to leave. I stayed up the night before we left, fully expecting to have to wrestle off an infant's duvet cover strewn with sick. So, when none of the above happened, I was in a state of delirious shock as we left for - the Capital.
My sister and brother-in-law travelled with us and we had a splendid time. A glass of wine with lunch at All Bar One gave that light-headed, floating-in-a-bubble feel to walking along Princes Street.
There was footballing entertainment, of sorts, as Hearts succumbed to Motherwell 3-1. Tragically, there was no pie to review here as they had sold out of all food! I ask you, this is a club with delusions of making it into Europe!
Then, at night, dear sweet Librizzi. A favourite haunt of my co-auteur of the diaries, this is the place where they offer you a choice of grappa. The whole lovely meal - duck liver followed by monkfish in lemon and chilli - was but a preamble to this moment. "Chiara o scura?" the waiter asked. "Chiara! Chiara!" I almost belowed. He furnished me with three bottles from which I selected a Cabernet/Merlot mix. Fantastic, truly fantastic. My only gripe was that I spotted him using a measure to pour it out.
There is a vaguely amusing postscript to this story which will certainly entertain any Edinburgher reader. We were staying very central, and decided to park in a big NCP car park just off Princes Street. It was busy when we arrived on Saturday but, laughed smart driver me, look how empty level 4 is! I swung into my parking space smugly and left the Grappa Diaries People Carrier (GDPC from here on) until the following morning.
Have you guessed the punchline? Perhaps not. This was the Omni Centre car park where, unknown to us country folk, they hold one of the biggest car boot sales in Edinburgh every Sunday from 9am to 1pm, guess where? On level 4!
We emerged with our cases into what I can only describe as my idea of hell on earth - even if I wasn't trying to wheel my luggage. The four of us bravely fought through but I had visions of us being stuck their forever (or at least until the afternoon) gazing forlornly at Neil Sedaka LPs and unwanted wedding presents. It was only good fortune that a kindly security person took pity on us - "Happens all the time," he smiled and limped up the down-ramp to set us free.
God bless you sire, whoever you were. You guided me from the depths of despair back to a semblance of sanity. Then it was back down the road to the children howling the house down. Ah, we must go away again some time soon. I've got a free weekend in 2012...