Remoteness in all its guises is one of the themes that Timespan is homing in on during 2014, and this week saw us being interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland’s Mark Stephen of Out of Doors on that very subject. Mark is a fascinating person in his own right and I felt that I should have been interviewing him on Scotland’s great outdoors and its characters. We’ve also had The Herald’s outstanding Highland correspondent David Ross up, as he’s researching a piece on the area. All roads seem to be leading to Helmsdale – Creative Place award winner!
This has made me take a more romantic view of the past few days, particularly as I’ll be heading back to Glasgow for a time.
Before I started work this morning, I went down to what some might call a ‘pop up’ fish shop near the harbour to pick up a dressed crab. The shop is open for a few hours twice a week and I can get haddock, plaice or whatever else has jumped out of the sea. After a few days in Glasgow, I know I’ll again be in the thrall of ready meals.
On my way back home, I got a call from a stage manager from Scottish Opera who has occasionally rented a room in Glasgow from me when up from London, and wants to do so again. As we were trying to work out the logistics of keys, he mentioned that he was travelling down from Orkney at that moment. A few hours later we were able to meet outside the Bridge Hotel in Helmsdale, while the singers feasted at ‘the North’s Premier Restaurant – La Mirage. Hope they come back to do a show.
There’s snowdrops everywhere, even in the most unexpected remote hillsides, while there’s only an ice-cream scoop cluster in the garden. Someone told me that you can make snowdrop wine so that’s a possible explanation for the random clumps.
Roman’s been hanging out in the garden quite a lot, eyeing up Lottie, the rum and coke coloured cat from next door who poses on a post directly in his sightline. Don’t know how he’ll take to returning to apartment living but in spite of his more free spirited lifestyle, he persists in coming in to use his litter tray when there’s acres of good earth outside.
Meanwhile the mama sheep wait patiently and there’s a lot of hay being chomped. I’ll probably miss the lambing, but I’m sure they will cope without me! I love the smell of the hay as I’m passing the fields (and here’s tragic evidence of my urbanite ways) as it reminds me of a press trip in North Tyrol when all the journalists were treated to the ultimate alternative therapy – a hay bath which was the equivalent of being buried alive under a hay stack.
Yesterday when I needed to blow away the cobwebs, I climbed the hill at the back of the house. At one point I made a detour to look at what I hoped was either a burial cairn, ruined longhouse or possible just a fank. The reeds and the bog cotton should have been a warning as my embroidered suede Tom boots, so serviceable on Byres Road, started to disappear in the marshes. And it didn’t help that I couldn’t get the Hound of the Baskervilles out of my mind.
I guested on a Radio Scotland programme on diaries with Tony Benn a few years ago. While it must have been froth on his coffee (except he was a tea head) he was professional, gracious, attentive, engaging – and my dad was so thrilled to hear about it afterwards.