|Our journey through Scotland so far|
We packed up at the cottage and left to travel right across the country from west to east, taking a leisurely drive not in convoy. We stopped to look at viewpoints while they dashed around filling up with fuel before meeting up for lunch. It doesn't take as long to cross the country as we thought so we arrived at the appointed place at 11.30! Hmm, bit early so we drove round a bit looking for castles, one we couldn't find at all and the other the dog wasn't even allowed in the grounds, but hey, that had filled some time! Back for a much posher lunch than expected, but very nice before we headed off again, stopping in Elgin to buy wine, lots of wine!
|Out walking the dogs with Helen, Ian, Tony, Nicky and Jackie|
|Monty meets his match being persued by Duke the Doberman|
We arrived to the usual warm welcome from Nicky and Tony, though the kettle wasn't put on "we'll be away up to Wilson's, his wife is having a charity tea and cake" so who are we to argue? Wilson is the local farmer who appears most evenings at about 21.30 just for a chat! He does lots for T&N, but equally they do lots for him too!
|Wilsons house on the hill, extended beyond all recognition and designed by his architect daughter Ruth it is now huge!|
|At the Womens Land Army memorial, Wilsons house in the distance|
Tea and cake on Wilson's decking was fabulous, we could see the sea and all sorts! It's odd to realise we are that close to the sea as we are in a little bubble while on the Steading of WORK! It's the third time we've been, the first time we all slept in the big caravan, while T&N stayed in the loft space of the garage, we missed the year when the caravan was moved into the building as the roof had been finished so it was much more sheltered!
|View from the caravan|
Last year we stayed in the now smaller caravan, while H&I were in T&N's normal bed, in the utility room, well the utility, bathroom and kitchen were the only finished rooms, and they hastily constructed a bed in what will be a bedroom, only at the time was one of the rooms we were running cable though before insulating and boarding. This year we were again in the caravan, while the others were in two boarded, but not finished bedrooms, but with the longest trek to the still only one finished bathroom!
|Wilson arrives in his JCB to position stacks of slabs and bricks and to tip out huge quantities of scalpings for hardcore|
|Jackie operates the whacker plate machine to flatten the scalpings|
We were en-suite! I did get to see the sea last year as after a trip to 'bag the bargains' in Tesco Nicky had taken me to see the seals frolicking on the rocks in the evening sun. 'Bagging the bargains' involves hovering around the man doing the mark downs at 19.00, which along with Nicky's staff discount means the three freezers are always full, and we all eat very well. When large chickens are marked down to £1.00 and the BBQ kebabs and marinated chicken are at 50p a packet, and you get the three for two offer knocked off as well, she can almost get paid for taking things away!
|Work begins on the slab laying, Tony in attendance|
|And progresses at a reasonable rate|
Helen had been told there would be a break in tradition, so we hoped this meant we might get a day off or something? No, it meant that Ian who doesn't like heights would be allowed to stay at ground level. We were to be laying the patio.
I had hoped that as no work was to be done on Saturday we might actually get dinner at a 'sensible' time, but no, Helen won the sweepstake as it still ended up as 22.00 after several G&T's and starting on the wine. This pattern continued, as the morning starts got later so did the evening finishes, but that's what we expect.
|This is Duke and Myah, Tony and Nickys two Dobermans. They look fierce - and can be - but they are really quite soft|
|This is a view through the caravan window of Ghengis on our bed|
Sunday Wilson arrived with a bucket of scalpings to be used as a base layer for the gravel yet to be delivered, I say bucket, that's four tons in the bucket of a digger that he positioned beautifully in the right place, while I started levelling it with the whacker plate machine he positioned the crates of tiles strategically about the place with his fork lift truck. Tiles bring a loose description, they were slabs of rock 30cm X 30cm, 30cm X 60cm, 60cm X 60cm and the 'heavy ones' at 60cm X 90cm, all in the region of 2cm thick. To try and be random in size, shape and colour, as although natural they went through grey, lilac, sand, orange, green and purple, with everything in between was incredibly hard. Ian was working with the cement mixer, T&N were working together while Brian and Helen worked together with me being 'sponge lady' as the cement will stain them terribly. Slow progress was made as getting used to the weight and selection, and trying to not make them level, but have a gentle slope in all directions from the central point to encourage the water to run off was quite tricky. Didn't matter though as we ran out of sand well before daylight or energy, so a relatively early finish. The pork had gone in at about 17.00, hurrah, but no, it was still 22.00 before dinner!
|Ian operating the whacker after more scalping deliveries (our car doors open trying to dry the carpet after the wet tent incident in Cannich)|
|Patio looking good. Jackie and Helen on grouting duty|
Tony had tempted us (me) with the suggestion of Tufty, a fluffy orange cat in the van with us overnight, so he had been taken out of the cat pen, where he had been put for safe keeping, along with Smokey and Puss Puss, both 18 years old and Tripod, who unsurprisingly only has three legs (it's how Tony and Nicky met, each in the vets with a three legged cat!) out of the way of Monty dog, who isn't very good with cats! This still left Ghengis, Gummy (who only has one tooth) and Cookie (who has a back leg missing) at large. However somehow between Tufty coming out, and us going to bed Ghengis had been bundled into the van. Slightly nervous, as when they adopted Ghengis it was because the whole village was against him, they thought he stalked the children on their way home from school, we retired to bed. We wanted to make a fuss of him, but as soon as our heads hit the pillow, he went to our feet and we were asleep. I went to the loo at about 04.00 and he decided he had cat things to do so could he go out please. Brian was so upset in the morning when he woke up and Ghengis wasn't there.
|Monty asleep in the car with Helen and Jackie working in the distance|
Monday dawned beautiful and bright, Nicky went off to work, Brian went off with Tony in the landrover and trailer to get more sand, Helen was on chicken, duck and Guinea fowl duty and I was on cat duty. Ian? who knows but he certainly wasn't idle. Tony had a meeting with occupational health so after returning with the sand and getting everyone started, he toddled off, leaving Helen moving bricks and B, Ian and I carrying on with the slabs, proportionately progress was much better as we were old hands by now. We finished the patio and again, lack of sand prevented starting on the many paths. We did have an earlier dinner as we had decided to have a BBQ! In Scotland? Yes. We did manage to eat, in down jackets, before the midges descended, didn't expect them on the east coast! Ghengis had been in the van most of the day, having obviously worked hard on his cat things after going out, but come bedtime he was nowhere to be seen, so again, sad Brian, fortunately I woke up to his miaowing at the door to be let in at 03 something, few biscuits and settled on the bed. Happy Brian in the morning.
|Ghengis on our bed in the caravan with half an eye open|
We thought it had been back breaking hard work up till then, little did we know! Helen and I were on grouting duty, 'I've got a special gun, it'll be easy' Tony said. Pah, it didn't work, despite our best efforts, back to the old fashioned way, on our hands and knees, or bottoms with a little trowel and scraper! All day! Talk about aching backs. The boys didn't fare any better, having had a slight lull in the middle of the day, Tony came back on a mission, half a path to the front door, requiring a lot of level raising so B, N, I and T set to, two wheelbarrows of cement for three slabs! Fast approaching the end of our barrow of grout I sneaked off to get the oven on, came back and washed up some of our tools before dashing off again to get the chickens in, yes two chickens, for five people (Helen doesn't eat meat), should have served 12 according to the packets! All set for a 21.00 dinner, B even in the shower when Wilson arrived, not just with a bucket, but a digger from which came about half a dozen buckets, maybe more, so 20+ tons! Dinner on the table for 21.30! I did my best!
|This is how light it is at nearly 10:00pm. The sun is still shining|
Earlier to bed for us, again, lightweights! This time picking up Ghengis en route to the caravan, there he was, appeared from nowhere and trotted straight in!
We were meant to have another day working hard, but due to one thing and another we had to head off to Arbroath to meet the family and animals at our next Housesit a day early. Sad as we were to leave the gang, the fun, food, wine and laughter we are not sure either of us could have done another full day. But could the others? Not so sure, Helen has sent a picture of them in a pub garden in Lossiemouth! Time off for good behaviour?
|Baby robins in a nest outside the guesthouse in Arbroath|
After a lovely drive we arrived at our next beautiful Housesit to meet Colin who introduced us to Angus the rough collie and Toby the rescue cat (who has just managed to change 'introduced' to nitty, while trying to sit on my lap as I type!) Oscar the Maine coone was unavailable for introductions as he was out doing cat things. Colin then took us round many of the local walks, beaches, parks etc, for when we are walking Angus. I say when as for two of the three weeks we are here, he is in doggy daycare. We then went to check in to our luxurious 4.5 diamond B&B, as although it is a big house, with all the family in residence there is no spare room, so they were putting us up for two nights elsewhere, spoilt or what?
|Dolphins in the sea at Arbroath|
We returned to meet the rest of the family and go out to dinner, so after a very nice Chinese meal and lots of chat it all felt much more 'normal' though very strange that we will not actually meet face to face again as they don't get home till early evening so we will have had to head off before that.
With a day to ourselves we had a leisurely breakfast at the B&B, me enjoying my first Arbroath Smokie, a whole haddock lightly smoked and absolutely delicious, I had another one this morning! The plan was to write the blog, but it was such a beautiful day we had to go out, so we headed off to the coastal path from Victoria park, one of the dog walking areas but also the home to some bolted rock climbs, so just doing a little recce for the future. Setting off up the path we met two Americans saying if we hurried, we'd see the dolphins, I need no more encouragement than that, so dashed off and sure enough we did. Lovely walk/recce before returning to the B&B to do our homework, just got started on the lawn with tea and cake when the lovely Peter came to join us. A most interesting and slightly off the wall guy we passed a lovely afternoon. Blog only half written, we adjourned for the salad we'd bought for dinner, while Peter set up the home cinema for our viewing delectation. Said we were spoilt!
|Afternoon tea and cake at the lovely Willowbank House B&B in Arbroath|
|The clifftop coastal walk in Arbroath|
Up this morning, did a food shop, and came to the house where both cats were in residence, hurrah. Angus has just been delivered from daycare, and so starts what we hope will be a fab three weeks.
We have done something we've not done before, 'simul blogging ' while I've been writing this, B has been writing about the week in Gairloch with Helen, Ian and Monty dog, so scroll backwards as there are actually two blogs to read.
|Scrambling down to look at some of the climbs|
|Theres climbing bolts up those cliffs! Can you see two young seagulls on the left of the depression just right of centre?|