The narrow road to the Glenelg ferry.
Well it is mid-August and I am not quite sure where the time has gone, I finished the carved woodcock which was discussed in the last round up, just before the friend who commissioned it moved south. I am happy to announce that both he and I were happy with the way it turned out. I would love to find some more bog oak, it is amazing stuff but quite hard to carve and very unpredictable due to its extreme age.
I spent a week or so painting the tin house on the estate, I dislike painting but seem to keep being asked to paint things, despite some minor protestation. These small jobs do however pay for my electricity and allow me to fish freely on the estate as they elevate my position from mere tenant to ‘estate worker’.
I was in the pub a couple of months back and a chap who had been sitting in the corner came over and introduced himself, he had just moved into the village and was keen to meet some locals. The first person I introduced him to was Dunc, the chap whose house he had just bought which was a slightly surreal coincidence. They had not met due to the estate agents handling everything. Hugh, my new friend and I then discussed our previous lives and it turned out he had moved up from Petersfield, some ten miles North of Bosham where I had moved from, so another uncanny coincidence. He has a Scottish accent so I asked him where he came from initially and he said Fife, he said “If you come over the Forth road bridge and turn left”, I said you’re not going to say Charleston, he confirmed that was where he grew up. This is also the village I grew up in and we discovered we both knew each other’s houses and that he was a couple of years my senior but that we had some shared friends and memories from the village.
Hot on the heels of this coincidence I was taking an evening stroll up the glen when I bumped into a couple coming down the track, I got chatting as is the norm and discovered that they were from the forestry management team of the estate management company, they said they had been looking at the woodland with a view to harvesting some of it. We chatted for half an hour as I was concerned how this might affect my immediate surroundings, I became aware that I had met the girl before. I asked if her name was Georgia, she confirmed it was and I reminded her that we had met in a pub (unsurprisingly) in Rothiemurcus near Aviemore and had chatted for a couple of evenings while I was there exploring the area on a mountain bike. She was doing some research for her forestry degree. So another extraordinary coincidence.
An annual reminder that summer has arrived are the swallows which come to nest around the cottage, they are great little characters constantly on the move and they enjoy chasing each other around the cottage and trees like small fighter pilots in a dog fight. This summer I noticed a behaviour I have not seen before, I witnessed what I assumed was a male swallow teasing his partner with a small bit of cast off sheep’s wool, he dropped it in front of her while they were flying around, when she did not respond he caught it in the air again and released it in front of her, repeating the is process for about fifteen minutes before giving up. I don’t know the outcome of this flirtation but she didn’t look that impressed. She had probably had a bad experience in the past with another wool juggler.
My Sussex friend Alison was in Edinburgh for a weekend, attending a bell ringing convention and she invited me to come down to stay, they had the use of a flat near Salisbury crags, so quite central. I took up the offer and while they were convening meetings and ringing bells, I went walk-about round Edinburgh joining them in the evening for drinks and food. Edinburgh is great, I love its vibrancy and eclectic mixture of inhabitants. I spent my early years in Edinburgh and went to school there before we moved south when I was sixteen, so I am quite comfortable there. While I was staying with Alison I had an e-mail from a school friend who I had reconnected with, inviting me to a spontaneous get together that same weekend. So I managed to catch up with some folk who I have not seen for probably thirty years or so, which was great. No one had really changed that much over the years our mannerisms seem to be quite ageless.
Alison also looked after me later on when I was invited to go sailing to France with some Bosham friends, I ventured south a few days early so I could catch up with everyone and Alison kindly lent me her bicycle so I was able to travel around. The landscape and environment had not changed much but it was quite surprising how some of the people had moved on in a year and a half, children had been born, people had got together and split up and some had moved away. It was great to catch up with as many as I could in the time I had. Note to self, go for longer next time…
The main reason for going south was a sailing trip I had been invited to join, I was sailing with some of the friends I cruised the West coast of Scotland with in 2013. This trip in principle was going to be much less challenging. We started our cruise from Chichester harbour and sailed to Alderney where we picked up more crew and then went straight on to Guernsey where we caught up with the other boats from the RYS who were taking part in the cruise. We had left Chichester a day early because some weather was coming in and I am glad we did, the weather front brought some strong winds but Guernsey is a pretty safe place to be and is home to some very nice restaurants. I used some of the time there to fix one or two minor cosmetic problems with the boat. A couple of days later and with some still quite large seas we made our way to St Cast marina which is new and fully featured. This proved to be a good place to go and investigate the surroundings from, we took a mini bus from the marina to Fort La Latte, there was some slight confusion and we ended up walking quite a way back looking for somewhere to have lunch. I stopped and asked a local in my Pidgeon French if there were any restaurants nearby and he confirmed they were all shut or too far to walk to, so we had to walk another mile or so to get a signal on a phone in order to ask the mini bus to come and collect us. That evening we had drinks on board a couple of other boats, something which is common on a RYS cruise, everyone is always very friendly and hospitable. The next day we sailed round the corner to Des Ebihens a Saint Jacut De La Mer. These were private islands owned by a French RYS member who treated us all to lunch on his extraordinary island home. The group of small islands reminded me very much of the Scillies with fine white beaches and sculptural weathered granite formations. After lunch we all upped anchor and sailed round to St Malo where we tied up at the marina in Quay St Vincent. That evening we had a good meal in St Malo and the next day we dropped off my friend Merrick who had made my trip possible, so he could get the ferry back home. We made our way to a small port where we jumped on a tourist boat which took us gently up the river Rance with a rose or two to keep the spirits up. We disembarked at Dinan and walked up quite a steep hill to a restaurant at the top which was our lunch venue for the day. It was a very hot day and quite a steep climb and I was not too sure our French guide was up to it but with lots of stopping to get some breath back she made it to the top. We had a good lunch, some cheery speeches were delivered and we all caught a bus back to St Malo. There was another drinks party on board a rather spectacular power boat with enough grunt and fuel storage to get across the Atlantic, I was particularly impressed with the engine room which had an immaculate workshop equipped for any eventuality. The next day I had to fly back to Edinburgh so, said goodbye to everyone and attempted to get a taxi from the rank by the tourist office. After a long wait no Taxi’s arrived so luckily I was given a lift to the airport by one of the very kind and highly efficient RYS ground team just in time to check in. I got back to the glen at 1:30 in the morning. When I got back from my sailing trip I was sitting outside the cottage absorbing my environment with a glass of ‘welcome home’ whisky and listening to the soft noise of the wind in the larch trees, it can be almost musical. I mentioned this to Michelle at the Inn a couple of days later and she said, oh “A woodwind instrument then.” I suppose you can’t really argue with that.
While I was at the Inn another local friend turned up, his name is Craig, he works in forestry, driving the harvester which is an enormous and complicated combination of digger and saw mill all in one, the drivers are paid by the ton so they do long hours and can afford a good break every now and then. Craig had just got back from Florida where he had hoped to go fishing for Bonefish and Tarpon on the saltwater flats, the weather however had other ideas. So he hired a Ford Mustang and went for a drive. His driving style is best described as enthusiastic, so much so that he got caught by the police doing 130 Mph, which is a bypass all of your human rights and go straight to prison sort of offence in America. I think he was there for a few days before he was able to get back, sharing a cell with some fairly hardened criminal types. Not really my idea of a quiet break away from it all.
I was invited to go and visit my friend Carol in Arisaig, her brother is an old school friend and was going to be around for a week or so, so I fitted the camper to the pickup and drove to Arisaig where we spent a couple of days catching up, fishing and walking. It was great to see yet another old school friend from my Scottish days and to catch up on what life has thrown at us since. As I had the camper I decided to carry on to Skye on the excellent Mallaig ferry, I went to Carbost to catch up with my friends at the Old Inn. There is a camp site nearby and I was planning to park there for the night but I was greeted by some rather snooty Caravan club members who told me the place was full and that there was nowhere for me. Luckily I know the guys at the Inn, so I managed to squeeze the camper into their carpark and there it stayed. No booking or overnight fee, happy days. Unfortunately all of the musicians I wanted to see were over at Glenelg, which bizarrely was where I was planning to go to next. There was some music though and myself and another chap I had been talking to sat and enjoyed the young band that were there. The next day I took the winding road from Broadford to the Glenelg ferry at Khylrea. Unfortunately I left early and the weather had stopped the ferry from running, I had taken the small single track road before anyone had got round to putting the ‘ferry cancelled’ sign up so had to go back up the narrow road and over the bridge, this added about an hour to the journey, but I made it in time for a pint and to ask for permission to leave the camper in the car park. I had hoped the musicians were going to still be at Glenelg but it turned out that they had moved on. That evening there was some music however, there was a musician who I had met before called Scott McDonald and it turned out he plays in Pitlochry from time to time, so I promised to see him there. Scott was at Glenelg to provide a musical backdrop for Channel 4 or ITV who were filming in the bar, they were doing a program which featured two celebs driving round Scotland in a Morgan sports car and chatting to each other in different pubs with some atmospheric music in the background. One of the celebs was Peter Davidson from ‘All creatures’ and Doctor Who, the other one was Welsh, sorry I am not good with celebs. I love Glenelg and the people that live there. That evening I managed to end up at a house party until 2:30 in the morning, which is always fun. There may have been a whisky and a mouth organ might have been played.
When I got back from my road trip, I was just drawing up to the road bridge at bridge end near the bottom of the track when I saw an elegantly attired lady looking into the river from the parapet of the bridge, she was slender and wearing a black skirt high heels and a smart black top, just as I got to the bridge she turned to look at me and I noticed she had a full grey beard! Not quite what I was anticipating and by any measure quite an odd combination. Hey ho, each to their own.
I was invited to a christening for Lawrence and Becca’s lovely son Leo, this meant a fairly early appearance in the village Kirk on a Sunday morning. I felt very honoured to be asked to attend this event and it is testimony to the friendliness of everyone up here that they feel the need to be so inclusive. It was a lovely informal affair with good words and advice from the lady minister and some hearty singing thrown in. Once the formalities were over we repaired to the pub for the more secular part of the occasion. This lead to some rather early banter and some unbridled drinking, apparently I finally left at about 10pm, I tried to leave earlier but had been prevented from going by Leo’s dad and some of the other friends. I frankly can’t quite remember that bit of the evening, but still managed to get back on the bicycle somehow.
I mention fairly frequently in these updates that I have a number of game birds around the cottage, this year they have bred quite well and there are four pheasant chicks, three of which are nearly fully grown and one rather runty specimen. I don’t know why they have managed to breed so well this year, but spring was quite mild and I have been feeding them which has probably helped. On the subject of wild life I was cycling back from the pub a couple of weeks ago and I spotted an animal emerging from the undergrowth on my side of the road, it stood in the road watching me approach. It was quite brazen and I could see it clearly in the light of my bicycle torch, it was a large male pine marten and completely unflustered about my appearance until I got to within a few meters away when it slid back into the undergrowth. It is the first one I have seen since being up here, I have seen their tracks in the snow on the garden but never encountered one face to face. I also saw a couple of salmon in the river yesterday, so they are on the move, we have had quite a lot of rain recently which they need in these spate rivers to get up to the spawning grounds. I dug out a fly rod but they weren’t interested, I am investigating how to build a smoker and am currently on the lookout for a couple of oil drums if anyone knows of any.
Well I think that is probably enough for the time being, I apologise if you got bored before reading this apology.
Fair thee well for now.