garden days

pots

One of the saddest things I had to do in the months following my stroke was to give up our Edinburgh allotment. I simply did not have the strength and energy to maintain a garden, and since then I have rather missed growing things. Our new home has lots of outdoor space, and happily I have more energy and strength (though I have to leave the digging and hauling stuff about to Tom). This is the first time we have had a garden of our own and we are really enjoying it.

shed

Looking North and West from the top of the garden you can see Ben Lomond. The West Highland Way is just behind us, and you often hear the clink of the gate and the voices of walkers and cyclists as they pass. Away down the garden and past the house to the South there is the loch, and woods, in which, today, the first cuckoo of Spring was singing. It is a grand spot. I am trying not to be too ambitious with the planting this first year, and we are mostly growing things in pots and a couple of raised beds (which Tom is currently digging out). I have also put up a lean-to next to the shed, where I am bringing on the plants I started indoors.

salad

There will be salad leaves and herbs and tomatoes. I am very fond of sweet peas, and have planted several varieties, the shoots of which are currently colonising the bathroom. The other day, I found a few forget-me-nots behind the shed and potted them on.

forgetmenot

. . . and things in other pots are flowering

droplet

cowslip

There is blossom on the exciting spiny shrub that I’ve now been told is an ornamental quince (thanks, Lynn and Miriana!)

crabapple

Time for tea.

bench

basket

How very nice it is to be able to grow a few things and have this space to potter about in.

out walking

dumgoyachbenlomond

One of the very great pleasures of living here is that the West Highland Way is on our doorstep. I walk out of our steading, and about a hundred yards up the way is a glorious landscape, at the far edges of which (on a really clear day) Ben Lomond and the Trossachs and the Arrochar Alps are all visible. I walk here every day, and enjoy these walks tremendously. Today I took my camera so you can see it too.

hawthorn

nosetotheground

bruceinthegrass

dumgoyachincolour

sheepbuddies

flare

g(love)

hiya

Hiya! It is I, Bruce. A while ago, we lived in a tall stone building in a city where there were lots of cars. Now we live here:

welivehere

Where there are lots of these:

trees

And a few of these:

cows

One of the many good things about it round here is that there are many Paths and I get to walk on these Paths with Kate and Tom. Sometimes I get to go swimming, and sometimes I leap about in the long grass, smelling interesting animal smells. But wherever we go, there is generally some water and mud for me to get myself nicely lathered up in. Hurrah!

puddle

This particular Path is known as West Highland Way and is frequented not only by dogs and cows and deer but by many human walkers. Human walkers can be forgetful, and occasionally they discard their belongings along Path. That is OK though, because I sniff out and find these belongings, and then I make them MINE. Without a doubt, the best of these found belongings is GLOVE.

vileobject

Now, I first found GLOVE about three weeks ago by Path. Since then I have played with it many times and it is now sodden and chewed and has a delicious bovine odour. GLOVE seems quite robust though: Kate tells me that it is fashioned from acrylic, and is therefore a sort of plastic which refuses to decay. But though GLOVE is indestructible, and now has a very strong smell about it, sometimes I play with it so hard that I actually manage to lose it in the grass. Tom or Kate will insist that GLOVE is finally lost forever, but then, O joy of joys, a few days later I will always find it again, usually in a completely different location. I suspect the cows to have a hand (or hoof) in its unaccountable movements.

bruceglovecow

Now, there are many fun things to do with GLOVE but probably the most fun to be had is when the humans throw it for you. Kate describes GLOVE as “a vile object” and is sometimes unwilling to join in the game. But, dear friends, let me tell you a good trick I have discovered: If you present Kate with GLOVE often enough, and stare at her for long enough with your most persuasive expression, she will eventually join in.

persuasion

Once Kate has capitulated, and throws GLOVE for you, you can retrieve and prance with GLOVE until you are exhausted.

prancing1

prancing2

prancing3

F U N!

But, eventually, it is time to leave and – sadly – to leave GLOVE beind, as for some unknown reason, Kate will not allow me to bring GLOVE home.

goodbyeglove

This is Gate which leads home off West Highland Way.

gate

Right by Gate there is Old Wall.

oldwall

Kate instructs me to LEAVEIT behind Old Wall. This makes me sad.

mustIdropit

But if I don’t LEAVEIT behind Old Wall we don’t go home.

Well, goodbye, fun GLOVE buddy.

leftbythewall

Probably the only good thing about leaving GLOVE behind Old Wall is that, unlike losing it in the grass, it is always there next time, and I am always surprised and happy to discover it once again!

path

See you soon, love Bruce xx

A walk to Dumgoyach

dumgoyneevening

West of Blanefield, off the West Highland Way . . .

whw

If you look North across the fields . . .

scabious

You’ll see a path through the grass and sheep’s-bit scabious . . .

path

. . . which leads to a field margin, marked by a line of blasted oaks.

fieldmargin

Adjacent, to the West, is the irregular wooded dome of Dumgoyach, and North is Dumgoyne, the volcanic mound that dominates the landscape of the Blane and Endrick valleys.

dumgoyne

And if you look down into the valley, you’ll see Duntreath Castle.

duntreath

Cross into the field and the ground rises and flattens to reveal . . .

stones

. . . these stones.

recumbent

lichen

Four of the five original stones are now recumbent, and the last one standing is a little shorter than me. Analyses of burnt flint and charcoal found at the site dates the structure to 3650 BC, in the middle Neolithic. Aligned with a notch in the hills to the North East, through which the sun rises at the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, this structure is thought to be a short stone row (used to measure solar events), but it has also been suggested that the long cairns are what remains of the facade of a chambered tomb.* The early date, and the proximity of other chambered cairns in this area makes the latter argument reasonably likely, but I am rather tempted to get up to watch the sun rise at Dumgoyach on September 22nd to make my own astronomical observation.

bruceandstones

(what do you think, Bruce? Row or tomb? Tomb, or row?)

*The first interpretation belongs to E.W. Mackie who carbon-dated the site in 1972, and the latter to Aubrey Burl, From Carnac to Callanish: Prehistoric Stone Rows of Britain, Ireland and Brittany (1993). See also the RCAHMS site record.

Boiler suits
Thanks so much for all your wonderful boiler-suit / coverall / onesie-related comments on the last post. That kind of collective discussion is probably what I love most about blogging, and it makes me particularly excited when the discussion concerns the different meanings and usages of a garment. If you haven’t had a look at the comments already, I encourage you to go and read them.

Refurb update

Last week I finished decorating the bathroom, bedroom, and new studio. Yesterday I painted the downstairs chimney breast, and today we hung the over-mantle mirror. For weeks the house has felt like a sort of giant jigsaw puzzle and it is extremely exciting to see the bigger picture finally emerging. But, having been engaged upon this project for a couple of weeks now, I would say that it is without a doubt the most physically challenging thing I’ve done post-stroke. This is not only due to the relentlessness of the stretching, bending, and movement painting involves, but also to my poor balance and generally wonky left leg. I have to take a two hour snooze in the middle of the day to keep going, and there have been a few dicey moments as I teetered over the bath or tripped on a dust sheet. That said, happily, the closest I’ve got to disaster is getting paint in my mouth and hair. Ick. Anyway, I shall be painting downstairs on half-days only next week, and, now the studio is habitable I can at last get back to some knitting, designing, and email-answering.

Field Notes
Most of the swallows have gone, which is rather sad, but I recently put food in the hanging feeders on the porch and have been astounded by the variety of bird-buddies that are dropping by. More of them anon.

settling

dumgoyne

acrossthevalley

softday

changingsky

tea

aftertherain

bracken

raincomingin

melandgordon

Here are a selection of pictures taken (with my phone) over the past few days. Though I’ve been using the camera phone more out of necessity than anything, I have been quite enjoying seeing what I can do with it, and it is particularly useful for capturing fleeting effects of light when I’m out and about on the hill. The light – much like the weather – moves very quickly out here and there is certainly something in the oft-repeated four-seasons-in-one day Scottish stereotype. I met a Dutch couple out on the West Highland Way the other day, and, after enquiring about places to camp the woman asked me rather despondently when it was going to stop raining. I told her that this was Scotland and that it would soon shift. Sure enough, an hour or so later, the landscape was bathed in glorious sunshine.

We are slowly settling in to our new house and its lovely location. We have had our first visitors, and it has been particularly nice to be able to eat outside on these soft end-of-summer days, watching the trees start to turn on the other side of the loch, while the swallows dart about us. Upstairs, I have started decorating (my idea is to turn all of the rooms on the upper floor into one big Hammershøi-inspired interior) while downstairs has a rather temporary and disorganised feel as we await arrival of . . . the components of a new kitchen. Having very recently fitted one in the flat we’ve just left you may think we are totally bonkers to go through it all again . . . but I feel that if we don’t do it now we never shall. Plus, there will be an actual RANGE. I promise there will be pictures when it is all done.

Thankyou so much for all your good wishes and lovely comments, which have really been a joy for us both to read. Now, its time to don my boiler suit again and apply some undercoat. See you soon!

looking forward

halfway

Eight years ago, Tom and I walked the West Highland Way. We had a wonderful time.

conichill
(Tom, on Conic hill, looking over Loch Lomond)

I find that there is a singular sort of clarity about long distance walking. Time slows to the pace of your feet, and is measured in the distance you can cover over six or eight hours. There is nothing for your mind to focus on but the walk ahead, the landscape, and its details. At the end of the day you are exhausted, and, if there is a good meal on offer, food is appreciated in a way it rarely is. You sleep soundly, you get up, and start again. It is a fantastic way of clearing the head. I find that I can recall these walks in unusual detail, fixing particular experiences to specific moments and locales, remembering what the weather was like, what the state of my feet were, what we saw and spoke about. That was the place that you gave the horse the apple; there I devoured a full pack of liquorice allsorts; here, right here, at this curve in the path, was where we saw that incredible rainbow.

lochlomondleaping
(leaping a stream on the Eastern shore of Loch Lomond)

That walk along the West Highland Way was our first encounter with many amazing Highland places with which we have since become very familiar. Rannoch Moor, The Mamores, Glencoe.

beanz
(cooking an obligatory baked-bean supper in Glencoe. There were lots of deer around our tent that night.)

These happy photographs were taken with the disposable camera we took with us, and they make my heart sing. I am posting them here now because, in a couple of weeks time, we shall be moving to a wee house that sits just off the West Highland Way. I love our new home already, and am looking forward to living there immensely. There is a garden! And a loch! An actual studio with an actual window for me to work in! And somehow it is particularly nice to be moving to a spot which already carries some fond memories for the pair of us. I’ll be able to walk Bruce along a lovely stretch of the Way every day, and perhaps living there will inspire me to build up my stamina and ability to complete the full distance once again.

end
(The end of the West Highland Way in Fort William.)

Next week we sell our Edinburgh flat, and we move to our new home the following week. It is very exciting, but there is bound to be a certain amount of disruption. I will have to take a break from trade orders and answering email queries for the next few weeks, but will be sure to let you know how things are going as and when I can.

ONWARD!

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