The Mushrooms

Weather: Very showery and mostly quite windy. Warm at nights when the wind is quiet and some midge filled intervals in the early mornings.

Following my late-night arrival back in Minish, it seems like there was scarcely a moment before being due at Lochmaddy Hall for the R.N.L.I. (Lifeboats) fundraising event. To this end Nicola and I duly appeared with our Photo – Booth setup, although our positioning in the hall was not ideal. The day contained all of the usual events and sideshows and passed successfully with a significant sum being raised for the Association. We had agreed to photograph the procession of the inevitable pipe band marching from the pier to the hall, but the inclement weather made this impossible. Instead the band played in the hall. Bagpipes of the Scottish variety (as opposed to the Northumbrian or Galician pipe) are designed to stir the blood on the field of battle and when played indoors are, unsurprisingly, extremely loud..

Nicola and I had a very pleasant evening and dinner with artist Fiona Pearson and her family. A well spiced curry made by Fiona and Nicola’s homemade chocolate mouse.

Much of the week there-after was spent in indifferent weather, catching up with the various writing and reading tasks, together with producing materials for on-line and other publications. There was time for a visit to the swimming pool and to see the photographic exhibition about Vatersay by Paul Glazier on in the museum in Lionaclete.

Nicola agreed to look after our neighbour’s dog, cat and fish – for three days whilst they were away- this meant dog walks twice daily, a cat count (the cat lived outside) and a sprinkling of fish food in the fish tank. The black and white collie – called Geordie  was a delight to walk, but a dog is definitely more demanding as a pet than a couple of cats.

The area around our neighbours house is quite boggy, it has been used for peat cutting and provides rough grazing for sheep. This boggy land has many interesting plants – such as the carnivorous sundew and increasingly, as the seasons are shifting towards Autumn – some very interesting and quite rare fungi. Nicola spotted and picked some puff balls that we later had with our lunch – a delicious mushroom tasting of omelettes.

Since being on the Island, Nicola has persuaded me to attend a yoga class with her and I would like to say that I really enjoy this gentle and restorative yoga class despite being flexibly challenged and the only man who attends.

The rain, meanwhile does not seem to have abated for days, although the forecast suggests that there will be a sunny warm period at the weekend.

The Saturday, was better than forecast – it was an excellent day, warm and sunny with light winds. As the weather was so good, we decided to take a walk at Scolpaig (as I have previously mentioned, proposals are in place to convert this special place into a rocket launch centre, so it was with a hint of sadness that we walked around the loch onto the grassland fringing the rocky shoreline here.) We encountered a number of Geologists and Entomologists with nets – they were collecting various types of algae from the fresh water loch around the tower and studying the different bee species. We were shown a nest of the Great Yellow Bumble Bee. It was lovely and informed walk – you just never know who you will meet out here. A hot haze filled the air this day and going indoors didn’t seem a like a good option on what could be the last of this summer’s days.

We chose to spend the evening at Balashare beach, our favourite camping and swimming spot. We got back to the house and packed the car with a substantial quantity of the household bedding and cooking equipment. We took our newly acquired snorkeling gear, together with usual body boards and inevitable wet suits and set off to Balashare. On arrival at the beach, the weather made a dramatic change (dark clouds suddenly started to ominously roll in) but we were committed. We pitched the tent (our special anti-wind South-Uist model) and settled in against the prevailing wind (a lively westerly). When our camp was secure, we went through the ritual of changing into our wet suit gear, now with the addition of fluorescent blue (for me) and fluorescent pink (for Nicola) flippers. Much hilarity was had. The surf was quite lively, and it was quite an experience trying to walk into the sea with full snorkelling equipment fitted. What became increasingly obvious, was that this was not the right place for this activity – it was impossible to see much of anything in the sandy turbulence of the water. I ended up being up-ended, and quickly went back to using the more familiar body board. We had a most joyful frolic, jumping on and surfing the waves.

After an hour or so, wet and windblown, we headed back to camp and prepared our portable barbecue, surrounding it with wind-breaking stones. We had an excellent supper (in the rustic style). We spent a comfortable(ish) night in our tent despite the noisy lashing of the wind, threatening to blow us away. Early the next morning, we hastily packed up (before the inevitable rain) and returned to the house. We had our morning coffee and an extra nap. The wind in the tent had kept us awake. This camping trip seemed to mark the inescapable change in the seasons, it has been a good summer but the weather has not been consistent and the change has been quite sudden.

Some good news at last from ‘the team’! After a poor start to the season (as usual) they beat Spurs at White Hart Lane giving all Magpies a sigh of relief and Steve Bruce cause to relax for a moment… My apologies to my dear friend and Spurs supporter D.C. but it’s about time…

Now that the weather has an autumnal feel, we have been ‘mushroom hunting’. Being amateurs of course, there has been much recourse to on-line checking of which fungal varieties are suitable for eating. To date we have found Field Mushrooms, Wood Mushrooms, Puffballs, Scarlet Wax-caps and Crimson Wax-caps together with several smaller, non-descript varieties that we are still trying to identify.

A single fishing trip to a hill loch has again produced zero fish for myself, although Keith kindly let me have one of the small brown trout that gave themselves up to him. This little fish would feed the cats well!  

The seals have deserted the rocky outcrops in the bay overlooked by the house at Minish. This morning, five sheep unexpectedly wandered into the garden and enjoyed eating the long, fresh grass before running off to their more familiar pastures. They are such strange creatures. Apparently, a ram has been introduced to the field which explains their new-found friskiness.

Nicola met with the course team at the University of the Highlands and Islands to agree the forthcoming term teaching arrangements on the fine art course. We met with Andy McKinnon from Taigh Chearsabagh (TC)  to discuss our ‘work in progress’ exhibition in the downstairs gallery at the centre. We have agreed that this work would be shown next June/July/August 2020. Meanwhile Norman (the Manager from T.C.) handed me a substantial electrical transformer from the darkroom in the hope that I might be able to fix it and make the darkroom useable. We’ll see…

In true Hebridean style, the weather has had a momentary change, enabling another trip to the loch where the wind had dropped, and the sky becoming crimson as the evening progressed . I managed to connect with a good fish but sadly we parted company, the fish jumping and twisting, flashing gold in the evening sunshine never to be seen again. By this time, I was resigned to coming away fishless again… until spotting a rise as I was preparing to pack up. I cast to the rise and eventually landed my first sea trout this year. Nicola and I ate this beautiful tasty delight with relish and gratitude – almost biblical, a special moment was had. (“May the Lord open”)

Our next day was spent in preparation for the visit of two of my oldest friends, both of whom were on the Fine Art course at Brighton with me back in the temporal mists. They are due to arrive on their motorcycles on the evening boat from Uig and will be in need of refreshment. Alan is riding his Moto Guzzi V7 Sport (an original, elegant lime green one from the early seventies) whilst Mick (who is a motorcycle journalist) is on a 390 KTM, one of the better-looking single cylinder bikes from this Austrian manufacturer. I cannot help thinking that the majority of these bikes look as if they have already crashed, such are the vicissitudes of contemporary design fashion. Possibly this is just my prejudice, but modern motorcycles do seem to me to be aesthetically challenged.

Angelo and Alice have been content in their feline routines. Alice is a dear sweet soul and deeply affectionate, she loves to sit by the back door and survey the world, whilst keeping a wary eye on the sheep. Angelo continues to drop headless rats on our doorstep, tokens of esteem – for which we are most grateful.

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