Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Weather: Temperate, especially when compared to the weather conditions in the North East of England and Glasgow. No flooding.

Since the clocks have gone back the nature of the days have changed. The arguments given to ensuring lighter mornings makes more sense in this latitude, although the afternoons still become evenings quickly enough – dusk starts at 4pm (Creating a minor confusion around wine o’ clock).  The lack of street lights in the Hebrides, means that the nights are an intense velvet black that is only broken on clear nights by a back drop of stars stretching into infinity and from the light of the moon, this can be very bright and intense when it is full. The winter nights are a shock when they come and are in such contrast with the almost 24 hour light that is experienced throughout the summer months.

There have been some spectacular Autumn days with beautiful light and only some strong winds mostly coming from the North East. There have also been several wind free days and these days have a profound clear silence. Nicola and I have been very grateful to have escaped the deluge experienced by much of the North of England. (The one referred to by our visionary Prime Minister as ‘not a national emergency’).

The oncoming autumn has once again changed the colour of this fascinating and remarkable landscape, the rusty brown/gold palette has now become desaturated making pale yellows and lime green moors to be framed against the fading distant purples and blues of the hills. It sometimes feels like the landscape is drawing breath before embarking properly with the winter. Sadly though, on the 6th November a high wind meant the bonfire celebration in Lochmaddy had to be cancelled.

The Autumn has also brought a new emphasis with the local bird life. Because of the lack of blossoming vegetation, it has been easier to see the redwings and thrushes pulling out worms and the tiny wrens going about their urgent business. The snipe and curlews are in evidence and the starlings and lapwings are gathering in flocks. There are lots of swans and geese – the returning birds, and a variety of ducks and gulls. I took a cross country walk to Lochmaddy from Minish (approximately 2 miles) and it was good to see a lone seal fishing in the loch immediately next to the Arts Centre at Taigh Chearsabhagh. This was accompanied by a kestrel, hovering above the ground below. These are truly the sights to lift the spirit.

As a mark, of what Nicola and I feel is ‘community acceptance’, our neighbour now shares the odd local folk tale:

 “A man called Angus (what else) left the kitchen to collect a pail of water from the small shallow freshwater loch in front of the house. When he never returned, he was searched for high and low by his family and then by members of the local community. The ensuing rumours described every possible and impossible reason for his sudden disappearance including (reasonably) drowning together with (unreasonably) the sighting of bright lights and consequent possible abduction by aliens. He was never seen again on the islands, although one farmer mentioned seeing someone whom he thought might be him on the boat from Lochboisdale on his way to Mallaig. Possibly in search of a Sainsburys.. so if you are ever referred to as doing an ‘Angus’ – this is what is meant!”

There has been much travelling to and from the garage in Benbecula (Creagorry Motors) as both of our banger fleet have been due for MOT Testing. On a previous visit I went to pay the bill for a recent service and as I forgot to retain the invoice I apologised for my dis-organisation, and asked if it was a problem finding the paperwork, I was told ‘only if your name is MacDonald..’ One of our vehicles has so far passed and we are waiting for our second one to be repaired. It is a pity that there is no discount loyalty scheme. We would prosper. On the cultural front, this week the mighty Newcastle United completed their second ‘back to back’ win. Thank you V.A.R. (How does Steve Bruce do it?)

It has been necessary to perfect the art of circular fire-making. We use household coal with kindling to initiate the process, followed by smokeless fuel. If this is topped up first thing in the morning it keeps the house reasonably warm depending on the strength and direction of the wind. Much of our work is done in the house, and keeping warm has become a preoccupation. It is expensive though. One early November afternoon, escaping the house, we drove to Scolpaig (a favorite coastal walk) to ramble along the coast where the surf was huge, foaming and crashing into the bay there. It wasn’t particularly windy when we arrived although the waves were steadily building, threatening a stormy evening ahead.

With the possible and imminent Brexit looming over us all and whilst doing the ‘weekly’ in the local Co-op I made a note of where the items in our basket were sourced from. In no special order, these included: Pears (Netherlands); Tomatoes (Spain); Apples (Belgium); Lemons (Spain); Garlic (Italy); Oranges (Spain); Walnuts (Muldova?); Olive Oil (Italy); Cheese (France); Halloumi (Greece); Olives (Spain); Wine (Italy and France). Roll on Brexit.. To be fair the shopping basket also contained some Venezuelan (Chocolate) ice cream and some Bolivian quinoa so ever conscious of Brexit, we’re not worrying.

The General Election seems a long way away – even more to do with the tight- knit London media scene than previously and ever more a cause for dismay. Bring back Screaming Lord Such and the Monster Raving Loony party. At least he knows he’s bonkers. The Scottish Nationalists will almost certainly represent these Islands after the forthcoming General Elections, which is sensible, given that Labour are unlikely to attain their pre-eminence and only the SNP will unify the Scottish vote against the Tories.

Too much reliance on social media is quickly depressing, we seem to be continually either burning or drowning and everyone else it seems is to be on the trip of a lifetime..  Perhaps it is just too much information about too many different things. It is sometimes difficult to keep up.

It has been necessary to keep Alice, our still young cat, indoors today as a vast White Tailed Sea Eagle flapped across the loch at the rear of our house. Our other cat, despite his visibility is safe from aerial attack due to his great size. How the local rats do not see him coming remains a mystery to me but the half-rats complete with highly visible internal organs continue to be deposited at the doorstep (as a love token) with impressive regularity.

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