The day the clocks went back …

Grape vine looking very autumnal under the shelterI know I said I would write about Na Gearranan this week, but last Sunday was my favourite day of the year, and I could not but feel inspired to write a line or two about it. The reason for this minor, personal celebration – the clocks went back!! I love this day of the year and conversely I’m not so keen on the day on which the clocks go forward again – but that’s another story

Our night’s sleep was somewhat interrupted by our two cats fighting in the bedroom at around about 5.30 new time but I was lucky enough to go back to sleep again – Chris wasn’t! I woke up again in daylight, looked at the clock and it said 6.30 – well, I did think it was somewhat light for that time of the morning even given that the clocks had gone back! It turned out that Chris had inadvertently put the bedroom clock back by two hours instead of one. Not that that mattered a whole hill of beans as we found out what he’d done as soon as he put the radio on, and we had the disappointment of finding out that it was actually time to get up!

Although we are not church going people, we do try to keep Sundays a wee bit special. Although the Spa shop in the village is open on a Sunday during the summer months, and the Costcutter on Sunday mornings all year round, we only go down to the shops in an emergency and for preference, the gate stays closed all day. Chris has for many years done all the cooking and washing up on a Sunday – although I do breakfast every so often – which gives me a chance to do a good morning’s work in the garden or the house – and then in the afternoons we sit down and relax together… Breakfast on a Sunday is my favourite of the week consisting as it most often does of waffles or pancakes, normally taken with maple syrup, and then we have a traditional Sunday roast with a glass of wine at about 2 o’clock. Yup – I like Sundays…

The Sunday when the clocks go back is extra special for me and not just because of the extra hour in the day – or in bed whichever way you look at it. It is also because it heralds the start of winter. “Oh my God, she’s nuts!!” I hear you say, but there are many things to love about winter. Crisp frosty mornings; days when you simply cannot go out because the roads are blocked with snow; the sun sparkling off icicles; and most especially cosy winter evenings spent indoors in front of the fire – well in our case anyway. I love those really short, dark days when the sun struggles to rise at about 9 in the morning and it is just about dark again by 3 in the afternoon. Then one can shut the curtains, light the stove and settle down to a long, pleasant winter’s evening.

Not every evening though, because round here, winter is when the community comes to life for itself again after a summer of caring for visitors in one form or another. Our Dance Club got going again a couple of weeks ago, as did the Bowls Club and I’m sure others I know not what of. There are more performances in the various village halls; Christmas bazaars and such events start putting in an appearance and we all start practicing in earnest for Christmas concerts and the annual Nativity play for the children.

Yes – the Back End is a busy time of year for everyone and it has long been my favourite season. This year, autumn has been a rather a long one but it has also been pretty warm. This has given us gardeners a good chance to be out getting the gardens put to bed for the winter, and to get on with those various projects which one cannot do in the summer months – like changing things around or creating new planting areas, that sort of thing. I have just got the “lazy bed” weeded and dug over – this being our main vegetable growing area. A couple of weeks ago, we put up the bamboo screen around the frame of the shelter at the back of the house to protect the small trees and the more tender of the roses, and we hung the dividing “curtains” in the greenhouse – an ingenious device made of poppy stuff which divides the greenhouse into two sections – one warmer and one colder. This sort of activity at this time of year gives me a lovely feeling of “harvest home” – the feeling of following the traditions of eons as house and home are prepared for the winter months ahead.

The other thing about the Back End is that it is when the preparations for Christmas start in earnest. Last Monday we had occasion to be in Inverness and so we took the opportunity to buy all the fruit needed for mince meat and Christmas puddings. I always make my own because, although I gather that it is in fact more expensive to do it that way, one does at least know what has gone into both pudding and pies! I also love doing it – it is all part of Christmas for me. I have a friend whose husband (unusually) loves Christmas and killing and plucking their turkey is all part of it for him! Well – I’m not sure I would want to go that far…

Thinking about Christmas food has also made me realise that I must lose weight before the Festive Season is upon us! I gained half a stone while away doing Gaelic in August, and it has simply not come off! Going away to the Mòd didn’t help, but now that is over I have time to think more about getting back on to my weight loss régime. I have been getting back into the swing of things, and my weight has slowly but surely started to drop – slowly being of course the best way to lose weight and keep it off. I used to be considerably heavier than I am now and wore clothes 5 sizes bigger! With any luck, the wee ebook I have written about my journey through weight-loss – which is in the design stage just now – will be available on-line around Christmas time. My sincere wish is that it might help other people who are desperate to lose weight as I was, but if nothing else, it’s a good read with nice pictures – at least I think so anyway

The seasonal colours in the strath - seen from our upstairs windowCo-dhiu – we aren’t at Christmas quite yet, although the lights were up over the streets in Inverness ready to be lit when the time comes! The drive over the Diridh was lovely. The woods were heartbreakingly beautiful – especially where there were larches – full of the gold of autumn, and contrasted against the green of the evergreen pine and fir trees, the colours were stunning. I had meant to take my camera with me and forgot, but really I don’t think that any picture would have done justice to the sheer beauty of nature. The garden is also looking quite beautiful just now – to my eyes anyway – and one does have this wonderful feeling that one is actually getting on top of the weeds for once! I have to admit to a feeling of urgency when it comes to the garden just now and I am endeavouring to be out there every minute I possibly can. The reason being the news reports telling of the severe winter weather on the Eastern seaboard of the United States, and this feeling that we will get the tail end of that in a couple of weeks time. I hope I’m wrong – I’m not quite ready for full-blown winter just yet…

My spindle tree looking similarly autumnal under the shelter

[Photos by Clarinda]

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