Summer follies and felted fluff.


The hypnagogic folly.


Well, I finished the last blog discussing the river folly, so it seems reasonable to start this one with both a picture and a folly update. As a direct result of a very interesting Radio four program which was mainly about Salvador Dali I am now fully of the opinion the folly might have been the result of a hypnagogic dream. This is a mental transitional state between sleep and wakefulness. A psychological state  where reality can drift into unreality, in Dali’s case a state which provided the inspiration for much of his surreal art, melting clocks, flying tigers (apparently caused by a bee flying around a pomegranate) and the reflected world of ‘The metamorphosis of the narcissus’. Well it seems highly likely that I had my folly idea while in one of these states, well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. I was in bed and I had been drowsing. The full history of the folly is, despite this rather flouncy build up, rather a short one. Folly mk1 was started and then collapsed in mid build. So a week or so later once enthusiasm for the project had re-emerged, folly mk2 was started using the base of mk1 as a foundation and this second version went on to full completion and is the one gracing the top of this article. I don’t know precisely how long it lasted because I went sailing in France and on my return when I bounded eagerly down to the river, to spend time with my creation, it had collapsed. I think the second collapse might have been mainly to do with a flash flood washing at the base of the structure while I was away. I mentioned this to Willy the digger driver on the estate and his only comment was to recommend that I don’t take up dry stone walling for a living. He is probably right, but in my defence all the stones by the river were round and you don’t normally build walls in river flood zones.

Talking of follies, Hugo a friend and co-owner with his wife of the lovely Ashintully estate where I go beating, had decided to have a hill climb on the track leading to the castle. I was sitting in the pub enjoying a pint and a catch up with a few locals when Hugo entered the bar, in a state of what can only be described as high excitement. He had with him a rather oily specimen whose attire suggested its inspiration was taken from an American swamp dweller of the type who occasionally make an appearance on one of the more off beat TV channels. He was wearing a once orange boiler suit which he had slightly outgrown and of which, the cut of the sleeves and trousers had been “improved”, by shortening them with a blunt instrument to just below the elbow and the knee respectively.  This highlighted the well-worn hard toed safety boots he was wearing and gave me the slight feeling I was having another hypnagogic dream! Hugo was very animated and bid me go outside, where he had something which was worth checking out. I rather sceptically got off my bar stool and sauntered outside. There in the car park was a ‘Green goddess’ ex-army fire tender, from probably the late sixties! Hugo and the orange chap had been to a scrap yard, spotted the goddess, spent the morning getting it running and were now at the pub celebrating the fact it had got that far without any major malfunction. Water was running gently out of somewhere under the bonnet, but all in all, I too was quite impressed by this beast of a thing. It turned out that this was to be one of Hugo’s entries into his hill climb. I wasn’t unfortunately able to witness the spectacle because, as mentioned earlier, I had been invited to go sailing and was away for the event, which it turns out was won by somebody in a souped up Subaru Impreza which got up to a very impressive 140mph on the mile long track. It must have been airborne for most of it. Apparently there was also a police car which one of Hugo’s friends had acquired for the hill climb and a number of more day to day entrants. I don’t know how the goddess got on but don’t imagine any records were broken, maybe fires were extinguished, but I am afraid I cannot offer any further enlightenment.

I mentioned my sailing trip, I had been invited to go sailing with some old friends from Sussex.We were part of a cruise organised by the Royal yacht squadron. I have done quite a few of these now and am getting quite good at packing the right amount of ironed shirts, blazers and chinos to see me through a week or so while in the company of the RYS. The squadron is in essence a very smart sailing club, someone like me would not normally be invited to take part but I am very lucky to have a number of friends who are members and who seem happy to smuggle me in. I had to get up at 3:30 in the morning to get ready to drive to Edinburgh, where I flew down to Southampton in order to change planes and meet the wives who were jumping on at Southampton for Nantes. When I got on the plane in Edinburgh the cabin crew had rather smart, slightly Scottish accents of the Morningside variety proffered by Maggie Smith in the classic film, ‘The prime of Miss Jean Brodie’. On arriving at Southampton I disembarked, wandered into the airport rechecked in, met the girls and then climbed straight back onto the plane I had just got off. This time however, the very same cabin crew had polite French accents and greeted us with a cheery ‘bonjour’ which, for me, was slightly unnerving, I had a sort of ‘off focus’ sense of déjà vu. The sailing trip was great, as always, although the weather in Brittany was bizarrely not as good as the weather I had left in Perthshire. We went to la Trinite, where there were some very serious round the world racing trimarans. We did a trip to the beautiful gulf of Morbihan, we were conveyed around the gulf on a smart ferry sort of thing and had a French club member on a microphone giving us a background narrative of the place. We also had a trip to see the Carnac stones, which were completely extraordinary and I felt they had been slightly unexplained, despite the French archaeologist who took our group round. They are so old, (6000 years) that it is very difficult to find clues as to the purpose of the stones. Our guide thought it quite likely that they were placed on the route from the sea to the town and that the point of the stones was to give an impression of strength and unity to any visitor who might have thought of causing trouble. Even so, whatever the reason, over 3,000 stones in their ranks of megalithic alignments were an amazing sight. We all then sailed to Belle Île where we tied up inside the locked inner harbour and where we enjoyed a number of drinks parties, a beer or two was had with other crews and a big meal with speeches was provided for us all in the very impressive Vauban Citadel at the entrance to the harbour (captured by the British for two years under Henry the Eighth, by the way, the French failed to mention that for some reason). We were sharing Belle Île with The Royal air squadron, who had arrived in their light aircraft and helicopters for a joint bash in Brittany. The two clubs have a sort of understanding and I have been to a few events where they have enjoyed a get together. I was treated to a rather fun, fly round Belle Île by a very nice member of the Air squadron along with any other of us boaty types who fancied a low level inspection of the coast line. I learned quite a bit about light aircraft, all of it interesting. We had drinks on an astoundingly lovely ‘Spirit yacht’, I was extremely impressed by the quality of the workmanship, the materials and the design. The next day we all left for home, each yacht largely going their own separate way. On Sundancer we decided to bash back quite hard, with one night at Camaret sur mer, near Brest, where, as we rounded the corner to get into the marina I spotted the lovely ‘Provident’, an old Brixham sailing trawler. I know Provident quite well having sailed on her from the Shetlands down to Oban a few years ago and then I did a week’s further sailing as a sort of unpaid but well fed crew. So it was quite a surprise to bump into her in France, to add to the coincidence Ben, an old friend from Sussex who had been Provident’s skipper in Scotland and who had organised my first trip, was her stand in skipper for their French trip and Stilo who I met on board in the Shetlands was once again on board in France, so happy days, a whisky was shared and stories told. Randomly I had my Provident T’ shirt in my bag which I went and put on as a mark of respect. We had a good sail from there to Alderney during which dolphins were spotted and fine foods eaten. We then sailed back to Chichester harbour where the real hard work began, catching up with all of the old friends from my previous life while I had lived down there. Three days was not really enough.

When I finally got back home there was evidence that someone had been to the cottage. The main gate to the drive with the deer fencing was slightly open, I always shut this gate to keep the sheep and deer out of the garden and the little wooden gate by the front door was shut, I always leave this open, partially to show a welcome to visiting friends, but mainly out of sheer laziness. When I approached the front door I noticed a stone had been placed on the ground in front of the door, when I pickup it up there was a note underneath. Letting myself in and unburdening myself of my bags I dug out some reading glasses and under a light I scrutinised the note. It read “Steve, ere air ere”. Now, I knew what this was referring to, I used to share a house in Sussex with a girl whose idea of the best film in the world was ‘Withnail and I’, so I have seen the film enough times to know about the scene where a poacher nails a hare to the front door of Uncle Monty’s country cottage with a note saying “here hare here”. So that bit was reasonably clear, what I have never managed to establish however, despite having put in some effort, was exactly who had left my note and where the hare had gone, if indeed there ever was one. This is not the first time I have had unusual comings and goings at the cottage, last winter while working at Glenshee I got back and there was a single wheel trail witness mark in the snow on the drive that looked like it had been made by a bicycle. I imagined the worst and assumed that my bicycle had made a bid for freedom with a new owner. I made my way to the shed following the trail and my bike was still there, so what was going on? I looked around then realised that my wheelbarrow was not where I had left it, so retracing the steps I could see where the barrow had been wheeled down the track and then brought back via the narrow track I had cleared of snow to walk on. So to recap, someone had made their way three miles up a track, come into my garden, let themselves into the shed and borrowed then returned my barrow! Why, who and what for? Another oddity never resolved.

As I mentioned in the previous missive, my landlord’s daughter got married a couple of weeks ago. The wedding was quite an event, the keeper’s field, a very extensive open grazing area behind the lodge was where the main marquees were set up and they had erected large flags on scaffolding poles, I thought I was back at Glastonbury the first time I saw the arrangement. Quite a spectacle. As I mentioned before I had offered to house some guests and it was confirmed prior to the event that I was hosting the vicar. I thought this pretty brave of Florence, me responsible for looking after the vicar and his wife who also came to stay. They proved to be a lovely couple, I got on very well with them and enjoyed their company. There was only one small hiccup, on the morning of the wedding. They thought it would be nice to go for a walk, so having established that they would like a small hill, I recommended that they cross the river by the very rickety bridge and walk up the hill on the other side. I specifically mentioned that the woodwork of the bridge was not to be trusted and that the safest crossing was achieved by shuffling sideways along the iron work of the frame of the bridge. I was sitting at my desk when, fifteen minutes or so later Jo, the vicar’s wife burst in in a fit of giggles and said if I wanted a laugh to come outside now. You have probably guessed where I am going with this. When I got outside Tom was standing in the garden with his arms outstretched (a crucifixion image has just unnervingly arrived in my mind), he was dripping with fresh river water. He said he was nearly across and things had gone so well, until he had stood on the last wooden board and had fallen straight through. I was mentally running through all of the scenarios which might have caused the flying ambulance to divert to the cottage on the day of the wedding for the third most important person attending the wedding and had not relished any of the possible outcomes. Luckily and rather amazingly, he had not hurt himself, he had stripped off on the lawn and having had a change of clothes they both went back for a second go at the hill. My Facebook friends will know that I made a present for Florence and her new husband. I carved some of the cherry wood from a tree I had pruned in my garden into a pied wagtail, made and dyed a felt nest from the black faced sheep’s wool I had found cast off on the track and had furnished the nest with some polished pebbles taken from the pool in the river where the wedding ceremony was to take place which I shaped into eggs. The symbolism of the bird, the nest and eggs probably needs no explanation. The wagtail was chosen because it is the first bird in spring to arrive in my garden, representing the ‘the springtime’ of this youthful couples lives. I hoped that the sourcing of all of the ingredients from the estate would give them both, a little item with a big connection. I was quite pleased with the outcome and I think Florence liked it.

So on to the weather, I always like to finish up with a little meteorological roundup. After the heatwave which had gripped Scotland for about twelve weeks, even my lawn had gone brown and that doesn’t happen often up here. The weather has now gone back to ‘normal for the time of year’ and has been pretty changeable recently, being both cooler and damper. My lawn has started growing with a vengeance and recently, mowing has been more like an agricultural operation than a simple trim around the place. Ron, a local friend of mine said the other day that “the trouble with here is that, when it starts to rain, it sometimes forgets to stop”.

With that in mind however, today looks lovely so the lawn is going to be harvested. I hope the sun is shining where you are…