Last week was fairly manic for both HunterGatherer and Yours Truly workwise, and the recent weekend has been equally busy, albeit in different ways. HG spent Saturday zapping a range of weed and/or buglife with horrible-sounding sprays at Farmpa’s farm over near Crieff from the comfort of a tractor, while his wee wifie (aka moi!) spent another day baking in a car park at Bellahouston in Glasgow, working in the car and waiting for Son+Heir to complete a 6-hour hockey training session. Said sporting warrior returned from this epic athletic endeavour bearing the dottled imprint of a hockey ball surface on the side of one knee and bemoaning the considerable damage-inflicting properties of a 5cm diameter plastic sphere when it impacts on human flesh at the speed of a bullet.
Sunday saw the much-anticipated “Big Lunch” Jubilee celebration in the local village (see photos).As ever in this fairly traditional neck of the woods, a committee of stalwart locals had done an amazing job of organising a community event that was enjoyed by young and old alike.Tables festooned with flags were set out in the road that runs through the hamlet, and there was a hill-billy band playing music – not to mention a balloon man and a magician wandering around in the audience creating balloon creatures and doing tricks. At one of the tables sat local brothers-in-law adventurer Mark Beaumont and chef Tom Kitchin, enjoying some well earned family time away from the media.
As I surveyed the trestle tables, the bunting, the flags and the smiling faces, I pondered what a lovely and memorable way this was to mark 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. There was something almost surreal about singing the national anthem to the sound of a hill-billy guitar.And not that I would ever want to gloat about the weather (let’s face it, the opportunities to do so up here are rare!), but judging by accounts from London, we definitely had the better deal meteorologically. The sun shone throughout the entire street party, whereas down south it sounds as if they were rained upon fairly relentlessly. Wonder how many inches of rain = a 60-year reign ...?
Meanwhile, back at the Sparrowholding, somebody had to be doing some work, and HG had drawn the short straw (or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that he was handed it!).Sunday was one of his rare days off from bashing fence posts into the farming land of Perthshire and stringing wires between them so tightly you could play them like a violin (though not sure what you’d use as a bow?!), but there was much to be done on the smallholding, so he elected to stay at home.
Consequently, while we’d been scoffing sandwiches enthusiastically at the street party, he had been shovelling compost and firing veggie seeds into the ground with equally great gusto.When we returned, bearing a couple of balloon animals which a helpful street entertainer had kindly taught Daughter No2 to make (another useful life skill for a student), our heroic gardener had already weeded and dug over one section of the outdoor veggie plot and planted two rows of potatoes – one of Charlotte and one of Rooster – plus multifarious rows of carrots, peas, beans, parsnips and beetroot in raised beds (see photo).He’d certainly earned a beer by the time we sat down that night en famille (minus DaughterNo1) to tackle a traditional “British” tea of roast beef, potatoes and veg.
The local hamlet’s extended weekend of festivities was brought to a rousing conclusion on Monday night with a concert by a local folk duo Gaberlunzie.Both well into their 60s, these veteran musicians could teach younger performers a thing or two about holding an audience in the palm of their hands. The music which filled the small but bijou village hall was harmonious and compelling; the jokes were slightly risqué and extremely funny, but without a swear word in sight. Younger comedians take note! Originally DaughterNo2 (the music student) was supposed to have accompanied her mother (HG is working till all hours during these long, clear nights), but a better offer (i.e. sortie to nightclub in Aberdeen) came along. So it was that 17-year-old Son+Heir reluctantly trailed along to keep mum company – the surprise of the evening (to him and to me!) was that he actually really enjoyed it. In fact, as we drove home, he was busy keying some of the jokes on to his iPhone for use at a later date.Funny how things work out...
Living out in the sticks undoubtedly has many advantages: such as the joy of being engulfed in a medley of birdsong and bleating from the moment one opens one’s eyes each morning; or the pleasure of watching a rather fat pheasant strut across the lawn and nod his head politely at the two equally portly pigeons waddling in the opposite direction.
However, there are times when even a country girl has to venture into the Big Smoke, and last Sunday was one of those days.So it was that by 9 a.m., fellow hockey mum, S, and I had dutifully dropped our respective sons off at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow for a 6-hour hockey training session in the blazing, relentless sunshine. Both were wielding sticks and – more importantly – water. A lot of water.
Maternal mission duly accomplished, we set out on foot to the nearest underground station, which happened to be beside Ibrox football stadium.As we passed, I noticed a couple of bouquets of flowers lying in front of the big, blue main gate and wondered, idly, if they had been left there ironically by Celtic supporters to hint at the potential demise of the Rangers club.Although I’m more of a rugby girl myself, it’s difficult not to be aware of the current ongoings at Ibrox, owing to the frenzy of press coverage in recent months.
Having no allegiance to either club, I find it rather sad that a once great club has been so badly mismanaged and every bit as sad how much vitriolic pleasure the other great club is taking in their rival’s suffering. It’s not that I don’t understand the concept of being highly competitive – as you’d know if you saw me take to the hockey pitch of a November morning! However, the feeling that comes out of many exchanges between rival fans is one that verges on hatred rather than healthy competitiveness.Which makes it rather difficult for those outside the sport to buy into the concept of the “beautiful” game.
Anyway, enough footie philosophy.In a matter of minutes we had alighted from the eerily-quiet underground and were back in the sunshine, beetling up the pavement to our intended destination: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This magnificent building is constructed in red Dumfriesshire sandstone and opened in 1901 as the Palace of Fine Arts. Being a tad early, we first fortified ourselves with a cooling glass of lemonade at a conveniently located Beanscene. Then it was time to enter the museum time warp and immerse ourselves in things cultural and cerebral for a few hours. Though it has to be said that even several hours was far from sufficient to take in the gamut of 22 galleries full of fascinating exhibits, which ranged from an ultra-cute (stuffed!) baby fox to a slightly disconcerting display of hanging, disembodied plaster heads.
For S and myself, the most unexpected and memorable exhibit of the day was a large painting that (being a cultural philistine!) I’d not heard of before: the “Christ of Saint John of the Cross” by Salvador Dali. We found ourselves intrigued by this most unusual depiction of the much-painted “Christ on the cross” scene. The lighting in the picture is strangely haunting – as indeed is the fact that the cross seems to be hanging suspended in space above the earth and, unusually, depicts a Jesus with no blood, no nails and no thorns.Yet the overall effect is perhaps more powerful than if those missing elements had been included. It was somehow a very moving image, even for someone who could in no way be considered “devout”.And it felt a million miles away from everyday life at the smallholding.
All too soon, it was time to trot back down to the underground, zip back to Ibrox and walk the mile or so back to the hockey pitch, where two sun-mauled (you try getting a 17-year-old boy to wear sun lotion and a sunhat...) lads were just cooling down after training – although whether “cooling down” was remotely possible in temperatures verging on 30 degrees Celcius was doubtful...
My personal victory for the day was that I bravely sat and watched slimline friend S downing a seriously tempting desert (precise details too painful to commit to paper/screen...) in Kelvingrove Gallery’s airy basement cafe, while I practised the art of abstemiousness. Which means that Day 7 of the dreaded diet has passed without “sin”, and four more weeks of fasting (or, to be more precise, eating horribly healthily!) are left before DaughterNo1's 21st Ceilidh.A wealth of willpower will certainly be required throughout the month of June... Otherwise the only garment Yours Truly will be able to slip into on party night is the generously proportioned hessian bag that is used to store our potatoes each autumn!