HIGHLAND IN VIEW
It rained heavily in the night, Chris the mechanic who drove up yesterday from the Midlands had passed through several more heavy belts of rain and storms are forecast in from the south-west.
Starting out I thought again about the old Herefordshire saying of 'rain before seven dry before eleven' and hoped it holds true this far north – it certainly didn’t seem to work in Scotland last time. Another little minor hiccup has arisen. You remember the key in the scooter which let me down in Penrith, well I phoned about it and it seemed that all it needed was a screw to hold the key barrel in place. Chris kindly did that for me last night – but now the wretched thing won't turn at all.
The folk at Croft Ends could not have been more helpful and more pleasant – they deserve ten out of ten both for the site and the excellence of the hosting there. I popped down to the farmhouse once I thought breakfast might be over, to ask for a push on with the scooter, and if someone could drive Thebus back down between the high stone walls again, and sure enough Jonathan was there in no time to help me. There was sad news about the bonny Belgium Blue Calf I photoed - his surrogate mum must have trodden on him and the vet had to be called to operate on his stomach, and though Jonathan stayed outside with him to hold the drip till well gone ten o'clock in the evening it just died.
Its odd when you keep stock one always wants to do one's best for them even if there is no real financial gain, though of course in this case the costs would have been very high. Embryo purchase and implantation, difficult birth by caesarian section, then a long operation with post op care. And all for nothing. But if their young bull gets a good price at the show and sale people will think its money for old rope, forgetting the time effort and money expended to get him to the peak of condition.
So Jonathan and Val got Thebus down to the front courtyard and gave me a hand to empty his tanks before setting off. Jonathan told me it is his intention, when the children are grown and off-hand, to go off with his wife for a tour round Europe in something similar. Mind you, he will need to be determined. Almost every farmer I have ever spoken to told me they would retire at fifty or fifty-five, but I have never yet met one who did. Its a hard life farming. Up at the crack of dawn every day of the year, including Christmas, often up in the middle of the night lambing or calving, or just coping with emergencies. If they worked out their hourly rate I doubt they would get anyone to do it. But most of them wouldn't want to do anything else.
Though I try to push it to the back of my mind I think I am still frightened of driving Thebus because of his size and getting him through the narrow bits we sometimes encounter. And when I am ready to start out I almost rush everything so as not to give myself time to consider it all and get nervous. With the result that when Jonathan kindly took Thebus down to their front courtyard I had to very quickly go through my 'pre-flight' checks. One of which is to make sure my driving glasses are cleaned and polished, as taking them on and off throughout the day makes for a fair number of smudges and fingerprints. Val and Jonathan were there ready to wave me off, so I didn't want to keep them waiting. I grabbed the blue areosol can of spectacle cleaner and a cloth and gave my driving glasses a good polish and was ready to go. Now I must admit the spectacle cleaner has quite a strong smell, though not unpleasant, and that day it seemed even stronger. And later on when I pulled over for a cup of tea and serious talk with Strict Lady who was giving me grief yet again, I opened a drawer and saw that the blue aerosol can I had used was not the blue aerosol can of spectacle cleaner, but the blue areosol can of dog deodorant, specially bought for living in close proximity with a large hairy hound.
I have to say it did an excellent job of polishing my driving glasses! Though the smell lingered with me throughout the day.
It had only rained a bit on and off during the morning, and it was the same once I finally hit the road. I saw my first lambs of the year. A pair of twins close in at the back of a byre. Mine were always there come January. I only had a small flock of Black Welsh Mountain, and let the ram run with them the whole year round. Folk told me I would get lambs at all times, but apart from the fact the first ones were always a surprise it worked well for me. I could have raddled the ram or put on a harness, but I never bothered. The ram stayed with the flock once lambing started as well, and though you might get the occasional greedy one who would push the ewes out most were fine, though I have always chosen to keep polite and well mannered stock as one of my breed selection criteria. Life's to short too fight with animals or birds, same as grape pipping!
The countryside seemed not all that interesting, but perhaps I had been spoilt with the stunning views over the last few days, but at least the weather seemed to be improving and soon we were driving on through a beautiful sunny day, and even better we were driving north so the sun was not in my eyes – so it had worked. Rain before seven – dry before eleven.
On up northwards, past Gretna Green and on toward Glasgow. We passed a sign saying 'Galloway ~ Scenic Route to Ayr', but we were not going to be caught by that one again!
And up and into what I think was the Scottish Borders country. It was exactly as you might imagine it to be. High mountainous hills, covered with snow, acre upon acre of closely packed dark pine forests, and up on the bare hill tops, mechanical plantations of windmills to produce electricity, plus lots of pylons to conduct it southwards. Dark blue-grey fast flowing, shallow, stoney-bedded rivers and streams and small pinpricks of sheep in the distance on the high tops. Reminding me of Father Ted explaining to Dougal on Craggy Island – 'No Dougal. These are small..... but those are far away'. If you haven't seen it there is no point explaining!
Once again I would have like to stop and take some photos, but there didn't seem that many suitable places. Perhaps I will have to do this route another time when I am a better driver. After a while one mountain tends to blend into another. Mum loved this type of landscape and would have been happy to move to Wales, but Dad was not so keen and used to say 'See one big bare, brown mountain and you've seen 'em all' - and he also used to say - 'For ten bob I could buy you one' - and probably back in the early fifties he was not that far wrong. Even in the late sixties you could buy a half timbered cottage with a half acre of land or so in a pretty area for about two hundred and fifty pound. That's one of the annoying things about getting older and having a good memory - I am getting like my father and hear myself expostulating 'How Much!' with exactly the same inflection in my voice.
So on up then, skirting Glasgow, a big city, but not like driving through some of the cities in the Midlands or South, I think it would be a lovely city to live in. Until finally approaching our destination Strict Lady, who had been on her best behaviour all day, took us to the SPCA or Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Not sure how the name and the initials work together there, but fortunately they had a vast custom built brand new unit, with a huge carpark which allowed me to turn easily, and though the very pleasant young lady at the desk obviously wasn't quite sure of which was left and which was right we soon found out resting place for the night.
As I pulled into the gate a small blizzard appeared with almost white out, though it didn’t last long. So I found my way to a suitable pitch, and was soon parked up and plugged in.
When they asked in the office how long I would be staying my answer was, well at least one night, and lets see what tomorrow brings!
Chris still working in the failing light.
He did the last bit by torchlight before heading off back down the motorway to Wolverhampton