New Sunday

It may seem trivial but I had never really given much thought to clothes pegs other than when using them to hang up newly processed films or to dry back to back photographic prints. These simple devices have developed a new importance in my thinking over the last few months. When hanging the washing out, due to the strong winds earlier this week, it has been necessary to use lots of pegs to prevent the washing from disappearing over the loch, never to be seen again. Many of them crack and break due to the wind pressure and we tried to source some in the local shops as we were down to a few survivors. Clothes pegs? “Sorry” came the reply, “can’t help.”

Nevertheless on the way back to the house we noticed that our neighbour’s washing was tenaciously clinging to the line, horizontal and straining in the wind… There is a very interesting market shop at the North end of South Uist where it is possible to buy anything within reason. I even bought some dried sprats (as a doggie treat) there once. The very thoughtful woman in the shop understood our problem and mentioned that her own (extra heavy duty) clothes pegs came from a friend in New Zealand. I wondered if there were mini mole grips available, but we eventually settled on a mixture of plastic (ulp!) and wood (good) pegs, hoping that if we used enough of them and the attrition rate was reasonable that they might do the job.

The wind dropped midweek and we travelled over to the wonderful beach at Balashare. The sea was aquamarine and there were good strong waves coming onto the beach. In order not to alarm the children we had recently bought two tent –type beach towels for changing into our wet suits underneath. These brought a new dimension to changing, and after painfully hopping around on the rocks and a fit of hysterics we emerged neoprene clad with our gloves and hats on clutching our newly acquired body boards. Mine, typically, had a weather map on it whereas Nicola’s was covered in pink flamingos. Determined to be at one with the environment we purposely strode into the sea. The effect was breath-taking. It was a fantastic adventure and it was amazing to swim and to ride on the incoming surf. Somehow in all of the excitement I managed to bend my body board with the force of the water but this seemed a small problem compared to removing the wetsuits..

I have been fishing three times this week. On one occasion I caught 2 brown trout, on another occasion with my friend Keith caught nothing (he caught 2 brown trout). On the final occasion I caught 2 brown trout, which could have been the same fish as on the first occasion but we had already eaten them.. The lochs are a bit dour at present with no fish visibly moving and they are still deeper in the rather cold water. Hopefully May will see more action.

Food is never far away from one’s consciousness and we were thinking about what to give our visitors when they visited us at the weekend. One of Nicola’s specialities is Nettle soup. This is accompanied with nettle pesto, and with an aim to making the latter, we picked the nettles in the field next to the house. Our crofting neighbour Andy, came to talk to us whilst riding across his land on one of those quite interesting-looking quad bikes. His new sheep, recently purchased at the Auction Mart in Lochmaddy, have settled down and are happily doing whatever it is sheep do. They are beginning to recognise us and do not run away quite as quickly as before.

n.b. Nettles grown in peat have an exceptional flavour.

Later that evening we noticed that the sheep had moved towards the foreshore and were grazing behind our house. We counted them and it seemed as if there were only 5 as opposed to previously when we thought that there were 6. This naturally, caused us much concern and we were worried that one had become stranded or injured. After walking around the croft and not finding the lost sheep, we decided to walk up to the farmer’s house and let him know that there were only 5 sheep grazing behind the house. He said “that’s right there are 5 sheep”…

Both Nicola and I have been teaching this week on the Fine Art Programme at the University of the Highlands and Islands. This has been an ongoing arrangement in Nicola’s case but for myself it was the first time meeting with and working with the the 4th year students, which was a great pleasure and an interesting experience, hopefully for everyone involved. Much of the next day was spent in preparation for our visitors at the weekend in honour of our guests we sourced a bottle of the Island’s new drink. Surprisingly not whisky but Gin. Named after the ever-changing weather, the new Gin is called ‘Downpour’. If Gin is your drink, you will love this.

At dawn, on saturday morning the rear window to the bedroom was open. The air was still, and silent, the sky in the distance showing an orange streak across the horizon. “Cuckoo” then “Cuc” then “Cuckoo” then again CUCKOO!. This went on for a long time, making sleep impossible and we left the bed and watched the Cuckoo sitting on a telegraph pole, very close nearby, before it had made its point and flew off along the loch-side to spread its message of summer. It was an exceptional start to the day. Our visitors spent much of Sunday with us and it was a great pleasure to see them. The food was excellent and everybody brought something along to share. Angelo, our white cat distinguished himself by making an appearance in the living room and accepting gratefully the attention that was bestowed upon him.

Monday morning is pay-back time and we spent much of it recovering from the excitement and slight excesses of the weekend. The Sunday papers, which due to the religious observation on North Uist, are unavailable until Monday – this has extended the weekend to 3 days, and Monday has become the new Sunday.. No complaints.

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