As the winter solstice drew (though perhaps “blew” might be more appropriate, given the gale currently howling outside) to a close tonight, Yours Truly realised with not a little concern that the annual epistle was still just a faint twinkle in her keyboard’s eye. Of course, the resultant panic could have induced a severe case of writer’s block, but happily this potentially serious state of affairs was averted by the fortuitous discovery of a box of Cadbury’s chocolates left here earlier this evening by a kind tutee. Suitably fortified, I now feel ready to dish the dirt report on the Sparrowholding entourage’s exploits of the past 12 months.
Perhaps one of the disadvantages of the daughterly duo living in the deep south is that news now tends to be scarce; however, when you’re a writer by profession, lack of facts fortunately presents no impediment when it comes to penning a good tale. DD1 (25) appears to be relishing the cut and thrust of the legal world and has decided – possibly more through necessity than by choice – that sleep is a seriously overrated hobby. Consequently, during the wee sma’ hours she is often to be found shunning the decadent delights of her duvet in favour of marginally less alluring missives and memoranda – apparently sleep deprivation is no problem when you’re powered by Matcha powder. [Note to self: must buy some.] On the rare occasions that she sees London in the daylight, DD1 is an enthusiastic defender at a London Hockey Club, having decided to hang up her rugby kit in case her legal clients were put off by black eyes on a Monday morning.
DD2 (23) moved to the capital last year as well, there to pursue the fascinating profession of film music supervision, and has been cutting her teeth on the music for the Channel 4 series Aliens plus a recent Netflix series called Lovesick (previously charmingly titled Scrotal Recall). This season, she also joined the same hockey club as her big sister and, during one match, took it upon herself to explain the rules of the game to an umpire who seemed not to be familiar with them … [Just as well she knows a good lawyer!] DD2’s current residence is an 11th-floor flat, where she spends her leisure time enjoying breathtaking views of the London skyline while lazing in a hot-tub located on the flat’s rooftop balcony. [Yes, it sucks to be living in London, doesn’t it ... ? We console ourselves by imagining how much pollution she must be inhaling!]
In the spring Son&Heir, who turned 21 in April, ventured to the Jungle camp in Calais as a volunteer putting up tents (only discovering en route home that he’d taken the wrong passport …), and in May he left his job at a trendy Edinburgh vegetarian café to go travelling. [NB: Yours Truly may soon be employed by the UN peace-keeping force after acquiring valuable experience while sharing a dinner table with a stubborn hubby who thinks he hasn’t actually eaten unless red meat was involved and a vehemently vegetarian son.] The wanderer duly set off for South America in May and began by volunteering for a month in an orphanage in Cusco, Peru. Prior to his departure, he perfected his juggling skills – primarily to teach the youngsters at the orphanage, but apparently also so he could create a photo opportunity by perching on a wall on one leg high above Machu Picchu while juggling [Warning: do not try this at home.] Our aspiring clown then headed for Honduras to volunteer at an iguana sanctuary on the tiny island of Utila. Rumours that iguanas have since been spotted juggling mangos in the mangroves have not yet been confirmed.
HunterGatherer still spends much of his working life collecting tonnes of soil from fields all across Scotland and depositing it on our garage floor. He claims that it all goes into sample bags, but as the garage seems permanently carpeted in a deep layer of damp Scottish loam, I remain to be convinced! Having been sadly sidelined from many hockey matches this year by a niggling hamstring injury (MRI pending), he has turned his attentions to less physical pursuits, namely agate spotting and gold panning. So far he’s found an assortment of attractive agates but (quelle surprise!) no glittering gold.
The green Astro-pastures of the hockey pitch are still proving irresistible for Yours Truly – even after her recent relegation to the back of the pitch (just possibly owing to the fact that some of the forwards are virtually young enough to be her grandchildren!). Keen to combat the effects of the highly sedentary writerly lifestyle, she has also added a new physical pursuit to her weekly sporting regime: Zumba. How amazing to discover at the ripe old age of 53 that there is, after all, something at which she is even worse than maths. Her street cred dipped even lower (is that possible?) this year during a visit to Laandon when, on being instructed by a daughter to flash her credit card at the underground barrier, she asked anxiously, “But how will the machine know where I want to get off?”
That brings to a conclusion this rapid overview of the year – which only leaves me, in time-honoured tradition, to send you warm festive greetings for Christmas together with every good wish for health and happiness in the New Year ahead.
Slàinte mhath from all of us to all of you, wherever you may be!
Last summer HunterGatherer mentioned in mournful tones that he'd never been to the Edinburgh Tattoo and had always yearned to see it, so for his birthday this year I bought him a ticket (and one for myself, boldly assuming that he'd appreciate having company on the night!).
Knowing that HG loves fireworks, I'd opted for the later performance of the Tattoo, so 9.30pm last Saturday night saw us queuing patiently (some of us more patiently than others...) on the Royal Mile, waiting to have our rucksacks searched en route to the Castle. As I'd not been to the Tattoo since I was 22 years old (to my horror, I realise that's now three decades ago!), I have to confess that I was quite looking forward to the experience myself, and we were both buzzing as we took our seats quite close to the facade of the castle.
It's safe to say that we were not in the least disappointed with any aspect of the evening's entertainment that followed – with the possible exception of the thoughtless people who insisted on departing before the end to avoid the crowds, thereby obscuring other people's view of proceedings as they pushed their way smugly to the end of the rows of seats. It was their loss, as it transpired, as they missed the poignant lone piper playing from the turret of the castle and the joint rendition of Auld Lang Syne by the cast and audience that formed a suitably rousing conclusion to the night.
Anyway, apart from the behaviour of the selfish few, the whole evening was amazing, with a wide variety of impressive acts including entertaining songs and music from the US Army Europe Band, breathtakingly deft footwork from both the Lochiel Marching Drill Team and the Tattoo Highland Dancers, slick drills from military teams including the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces Band and Drill Team, and daring antics by the Imps Motorcycle Display team.
Without a shadow of doubt (no pun intended), the whole performance was enhanced by the spectacular light effects projected on to the historic stone walls of Edinburgh Castle. These ranged from snow on Everest (accompanied by 'real' snow falling simultaneously on to the audience in the stands ) to colourful national flags, and from Star Wars battleships to the profile of Her Majesty the Queen.
All in all, it was a truly memorable experience, and the familiar skirl of the pipes rang in our ears long after we had filed in an orderly fashion out of the Castle Esplanade and made our way back down the Royal Mile to find our car. To give you an idea of the variety on offer, there's a quick photomontage below. The Edinburgh Tattoo is definitely an experience worth having several times in one's life – in fact, we're already planning on going again in five years' time.
PS: As it's almost impossible for Yours Truly not to find a way of engineering food into any of these posts, may I just tell you that The burgers we dined on at Grand Cru before the show were very good, too! Moreover, walking up the Royal Mile to get to the tattoo reminded us of our magical meal three summers ago at The Witchery to mark my 50th birthday! Where has the time gone?
The 'lamb races' are one of our favourite aspects of lambing time here at The Sparrowholding. With a posse of 24 lambs out in the paddock at present, there are inevitably several 'gangs' who regularly race up and down the field for no other reason than... well... who needs a reason when you're young and full of joie de vivre?!
Son&Heir kindly used his techy expertise to add some appropriately energetic music to this video. Hope you enjoy!