Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Small Mysteries...

The dramatic scenery of our new home has captivated me…over and over I write about the beauty, the wild, rugged, gentle, landscape; the tempestuous, glorious weather. A land of contrasts but there is so much more to this country than views and weather; abandoned ruins, enchanting castles, interesting stories, so many small mysteries like the one that I drive past every few days.

If you were to take the winding, single-track road from Otter Ferry over the hills through the hamlet of Kilfinan, you will pass one of the oldest churches in Scotland. This tiny 13th century stone church silently bears witness to centuries of turbulent upheavals that it’s peaceful setting belies; a serene and ancient venue for weddings and worship. Its history dates back to sometime between 1231 and 1241 when the church of St Finan first appeared in official records.

If you cross the bridge over the burn that runs alongside the church grounds you will follow the road as it heads up between old and pristine stone walls behind which sheep graze on deep green pastures. A handful of houses, both old and new, mark the road and as you reach the crest, the stone walls give way to fences, hedges and glimpses of loch. Further on, past holiday homes and old farmhouses, through patches of trees and down another hill and there, at the side of the road, you’ll find this fountain; angled in such a way that it is all but hidden and unnoticed in the sweep of view as the valley unfolds below.

In days gone by, horses would have drunk from the trough below the running water, now a plank provides a shelf for mugs. The water flows day and night, constant, refreshment for any weary traveller…the mugs have been there as long as we have been making the trip toTighnabruaich and probably long before.

The inscription on the stone reads, in memory of Patrick Rankin, of Otter and Auchengray, 1880. This was not Otter Ferry but Otter Estate, at the hamlet of Kilfinan, and who was Patrick Rankin? Is this fountain a living monument to the same Patrick Rankin, whose gravestone in the Kilfinan church yard reveals that he died in his early thirties?

I’ve been told the water from this fountain is full of minerals (unlike our normal water here, which is very soft), and that it has many health benefits. That might explain why an elderly man (word has it he is in his 80’s) cycles some seven or eight miles every few days to replenish his supply. This same robust octogenarian apparently rides many miles more in the opposite direction to his favourite golf course every week for a round or two. I have passed him a few times on the road…tackling the long rises with seeming ease! If only someone reading this can add to the story of the fountain, the cyclist and the water...?

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving...

For all our family, friends and visitors in America.

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

Sae let the Lord be thankit.

~Robert Burns~

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Southern Folk Art Giveaway…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~Naïve painting by unknown Brazilian artist ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

No, not this one...I just had to post a picture and the only Folk Art example I've got, that doesn't infringe someones copyright, is this one. I could've used one of mine but I think everyone's seen those already!

Jessie over at Purple Cucumbers is having a drawing for one of her original Folk Art paintings! If you like Southern Folk Art, go on over and have a gander and you’ve got a bit of time, read about her amazing story!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

So What Was That About A Birdbrain?

Dawn over Otter Ferry and drifting out to greet the day, I discovered how the modern Thrush
warms up for his morning solo.

Up there on the edge of the chimney, he is getting the gentle heat from the Rayburn. Sorry about the picture quality, but it was still quite dark on this side with the hills in the way.

The first shot was taken facing the hills to the north east...see the clouds? When I turned and saw the Thrush, the sky above us was still clear. Ten minutes and a quick shower later, a rainbow appeared over the loch, picked out in the early light...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Rhythms of the Seasons...

~~~ An Allegory of Winter by Ambrogio Lorenzetti ~~~

Wintery weather is here; standing outside Tuesday, the morning frost lay thick right down to the water’s edge. There’s much peace in the profound hush that settles along with the cold – the distant hooting of the Eiders and the occasional baaa of a sheep, the only disturbances to an otherwise perfect silence.

Now that I’m no longer making the daily commute, I’m busier than every. All those things I wanted to do all summer long are clamouring for attention and standing outside admiring the weather can’t last long…a few minutes and my heavy jeans feel like they’re made of tissue, my sweater of lace! A few minutes, maybe ten – to fill the bird feeders – and gaze over the loch and I’m gone; back to the warmth, to coffee and oats, and any one of the myriad things that need to be done. Here in this place now, perhaps for the first time, the order in the rhythms of the seasons begins to make sense.

~~ The view down Loch Fyne from Inveraray Harbour ~~
Time, no longer committed to a “big girl’s job”, has to be used more prudently than ever. My biggest problem is that I can cheerfully spend hours doing some simple task that would take others a few minutes. M grabs big chunks off each day and accomplishes enormous amounts of work; I wander around, like a dormouse at a tea party, a nibble here, a nibble there…never finishing anything. It’s not the way to build a body of work, make those Christmas presents, finish these lavender hearts or replace the missing salary (generally known around here as “keeping the wolf from the door”.

Back in July or August on one of my “thrifting” expeditions, I bought a big, heavy, paper shopping-bag, full of smaller plastic bags, full of buttons; a sack full of treasure! My obsession with buttons goes all the way back to childhood when often, the only “toy” produced to amuse me when visiting an elderly Aunt was the button tin (or box or…). A good button collection is hard to beat…usually collected over years and years, covering several decades and reflecting all the best (and worst) of the fashionable trends of the day, it was something every housewife deemed vital. After all, a shirt missing a button or two was a useless item good only for a rag, or patches or a duster; but produce spare buttons to match and it was a new shirt! No “throw away” mind-set in those days!

So, now that it’s nicer inside than outside, I open my treasure sack for the first time and marvelled at the bounty it contains. An accomplished and prolific needlewoman assembled this collection over four decades and I’ve never seen anything like it! Literally thousands of buttons, all sorted into bags according to colour…hundreds in each bag and two bags of some colours. When I started sorting one bag I quickly realised there are far too many for me to ever use (and many complete sets). So I’m starting with a few, mounting them on plain, brown card hangtags (bought to make gift labels) and see if I can sell them on eBay or on the website because there is no way I will ever be able to use them all…At least I don’t have to wonder what to do next!

Notice how I start with golden ones a Magpie! ...
.............. I hope everyone has a warm and wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


Tuesday evening last week, we said goodbye to Dorothy and Alain (of Oystercatcher fame) and their family. They have left the land of the lochs to head for the Languedoc-Roussillion region of France…it’s always sad to loose good neighbours but especially so when they’ve become good friends. We were fortunate to enjoy the yearly events that they promoted like the Big Beach Clean-up and Bastille Day and will miss their unique combination of French warmth and Yorkshire hospitality!

The last weekend in October saw the end of British Summer Time and the clocks went back an hour. This has given us daybreak earlier…but this hasn’t counted for much ‘cause we had drizzly, grey mornings most of the week. Of course, “what you gain on the swings, you loose on the round about” and our “night” is happening around five in the afternoon! I don’t know where I’ve been; it seems only yesterday we were having these long, long days – now it’s long, long nights!

During the mild days of October, the surrounding countryside turned gold and russet, then November winds began, enticing the leaves from the branches and sending them dancing merrily down slopes and lanes and into the waiting loch. The loch in turn, tumbles them about and scatters them back up on the shoreline, leaving a deep bronze band at water’s edge. The wind brings other benefits; the previously cloudy sky has opened up and sunlight and shadow mark patterns on the leaf strewn grass. Bird feeders are busy, the fat balls, peanuts and suet filled coconut shells have brought dozens of previously unknown guests into the garden. Five minutes in the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee turns into fifteen as I watch their antics from the window all thought of chores forgotten!

I’m off to hang up the laundry…nothing comes close to the fresh smell of wind-dried sheets and towels; a small perk of the simple life!

Editors note: Can't put text next to the pics - 14th Century depiction of The Wind and photo of Loch Fyne and the ruins of McEwan castle - photographer unknown.


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