At the time when both DD1 and DD2 were born, HunterGatherer was working on a stock farm in Fife (or 'The Kingdom of Fife', as it's often called), looking after a herd of pedigree Hereford cattle.
Those were halcyon days, and I remember with pleasure being blasted on the beach at Elie by a blustery November breeze or heading into Anstruther on a balmy summer's evening to treat ourselves to a golden, crispy fish supper from the world-renowned Anstruther Fish Bar. It was thus with slight nostalgia that I headed recently with my long-suffering gym buddy, P., back to the East Neuk of Fife for a morning of coastal walking followed by a well-earned rest (euphemism for lunch!).
We were extremely fortunate with the weather. The rain that had threatened during our hour-long drive East from Kinross to Crail was considerate enough to restrain itself for the duration of our stroll along the glorious coastal path, and the clouds and sunshine took it in turn to prevail, which made for some tempting photo opportunities.
Of course, the main benefit of going for a nice long walk is that one can then 'refuel the tank' without (too much of) a guilty conscience, so on our return to the picturesque fishing village we rapidly repaired to the Crail Harbour Gallery and Tearoom to replenish our energy levels.
Being tough country girls, we elected to sit in the tiny patio behind the Tearoom so we could overlook the sea while discussing life, the universe and which cake to choose for pudding! The only slight risk factor (as the waitress warned us, with a twinkle in her eye) was that the cream on top of their hot chocolate had been known to fly into the face of its consumers under similarly windy conditions. All the more reason to down the delicious chocolatey concoction at speed, we thought!
Our visit to the Gallery Tearoom proved a perfect way to finish our micro-visit to Fife, and we've already resolved to return next year and walk another part of the Fife coastal path. In the meantime, our photos will serve as a welcome reminder of our 2016 visit to the beautiful East Neuk.
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?
On Saturday morning, I was on a midge-killing mission, having witnessed the distress of FatHorse and the chocolate sheep the previous evening at the hands (or mouths) of the massed midge swarms that were filling every last cm of the night-time air here at the Sparrowholding.
Judging by the number of the wee blighters that were flying around, there must have been heaps of hatchings – possibly due to the one uncharacteristically hot day (also known as ‘summer’ in these parts) earlier in the week. Whatever the reason, the biting beasties were making life extremely uncomfortable for our girls, and I was determined to find something to thwart them.
The slight problem, in the pony’s case, is that she has a huge aversion to the smell of one of the ingredients that seems to be used in almost every insect repellent known to man: the unmistakably lemon scent of citronella. At some point in her past, she’s obviously been sprayed with citronella and it’s given her a fright, because if I even venture to the side of the fence bearing a rag that has the faintest whiff of the substance, our normally placid Highland gentlewoman is transformed into a rearing, runaway wreck.
This being the case, I was desperately seeking a substance that smelt different and worked my way painstakingly along the shelf, sniffing surreptitiously at the nozzle or lid of each bottle or jar – indeed, if I’ve been caught on CCTV, I’ll probably be on my way to an institution for deranged stockwomen as you are reading this.
Eventually, I found a couple of flying-insect repellents that didn’t seem to exude too much lemoniness, and marched purposefully towards the till. However, as I was stomping in my wellies (the one-day summer having giving way to relentless rain) past the sheep and cattle aisle, my eye was caught by an array of showing-related lotions and potions of all colours and persuasions.
I stopped and stared in awe. Lined up for what seemed to be miles along each shelf were a panoply of pampering products with names that promised tantalising transformation.
If I were a Cheviot sheep, I could make my fleece radiant with powders of virtually any shade under the (now non-existent) sun.
Or if my hair was “unmanageable” – which it often is, according to Farmpa – there was a spray that could fix that, too.
The cornucopia of sheep spa and bovine beauty products was simply breath-taking. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the Scottish agricultural show season is currently in full swing, and indeed it’s only a couple of weeks until the wonderful Kinross Show takes place just along the road at the RSPB’s Vane Farm nature reserve. If you live in or around Kinross-shire, hope to see you there. And you can bet my hair is going to be looking gooooood…
PS: Just to whet your appetite for show day, read this blog post about my visit to Kinross Show last year – complete with photographs of ferrets!