Monday, 4 September 2017

Scotland - August 2017

On Ben Venue with Simon and Diane
Grab a cup of coffee, it's going to be a long one! In the last 10 days, we've walked, climbed, touristed, painted and lived 'the Good Life'.

We were sad to leave Stimpy, she knew something was up despite being told that the whole family would be back tomorrow, this may not have been the right thing to say as apparently most of the family were initially ignored on their return as punishment for having abandoned her!

Edinburgh Castle
We set off for Edinburgh to Simon and Diane, who we met in Vietnam, and since met up with them in Ledbury, Spain and France. South/Central America are amongst their favourite places so we'd picked their brains, and their bookshelves before we went away last year, so it was now time for the debrief! Or lots of chatting anyway! 

At the fringe festival
Living in Scotland and being keen runners, we were slightly scared about embarrassing ourselves on a walk but they were gentle with us, so Saturday we set off for Ben Venue in the Trossachs, good weather, a good walk, and good views, what more could you want? I puffed a bit but nothing too bad! Sunday was the last day of the Edinburgh festival, so we spent the day walking Edinburgh, enjoying the 'buzz' in the sunshine. Lots of people still handing out flyers, and lots of people ignoring them. Before home for Sunday roast, yum. 
The Edinburgh Tattoo stadium outside the castle
Another few miles walked seemed to do the stretching required to not be stiff from Ben Venue, so all good. Monday's forecast was not so good, but we had a nice drive to Melrose for an interesting look round the Abbey and museum. For the final closing of the festival there was a big fireworks display in a park in central Edinburgh, rather than go there though, we headed up a nearby hill after dinner to sit overlooking the city and a great display. 
One of the side shows at the fringe
Having been beautifully looked after we said our farewells to Di, on Monday night, rather than get in the way as she was heading off to work in the morning. Simon was working from home so that was ok and waved us off to Tony and Nicky's near Fochabers. We are already in Scotland, so only another 4 1/2 hours.... big place Scotland, particularly with stopping for outdoor gear on the way, a ski helmet for me, and some new walking boots for him. We hope to catch up with them skiing again, or again in Edinburgh next year if we can't think of a new place, with a new activity in the meantime.

At Melrose Abbey
Last night in Edinburgh on the hill ready to watch the fireworks
We arrived at T&N's to be welcomed not by them, as they were both out at work, but by Helen & Ian, late lunch and then straight to work, B helping Ian with some guttering and tile cleaning in preparation for grouting and bath fitting for me. An easy start.... Wednesday a beautiful day, and T&N's day off, so A good work day, but not in the steading, we headed off to Lossiemouth to paint a lighthouse! 
Fireworks over the silhouetted castle
It's not functioning and has been bought by the community, but sadly not many of them want to get involved in maintenance and upkeep. When this was mentioned the previous week, I hoped it was a job exchange and T&N would get some hours they needed from someone else. It wasn't, it was just voluntary, but we don't mind. It was slightly unusual, and not the tower, though they are looking for quotes... The yellow highlights on the lower level buildings and the gates and doors, along with filling in the black paint in the stone carving above the entrance. Hopefully I read it right and the build information is still correct! Rounded off by a mile and a half along the beach, with Monty dog, to the pub for a pint!

The Lossiemouth lighthouse
Jackie having painted the yellow is painting back in the lettering in black
Thursday H&I and Monty headed back down south and with T&N both at work we played hooky and headed west, to Cummingston, to do some gentle climbing on the beach. Thanks to Alex, our Scottish climbing correspondent, for the route information. It was great rock and an amazing setting, and we both managed a lead before some specks of rain, and realising that as usual, climbing had eaten time! We managed to get back and had just finished making chicken pie and raspberry ripple icecream when Tony got back. 
The finished article. The lighthouse, originally built in 1844 by Alan Stevenson, relative of the famous Stevenson family
The view from the top
Cooking at T&N's is an amazing experience, there are seven freezers, jam packed with bargains from Tesco, where Nicky works and where she knows the exact time of final markdowns. You don't mind rummaging in the freezer and cooking up a storm when everything has a yellow sticker and usually cost under a pound. I say everything, that doesn't include all the raspberries, currants, peaches, and assorted vegetables that have either come from the two veg patches or the poly tunnel!

Into the work clothes and out getting everything ready for our job the following day. We were going to be working on the garage for the second property. I say garage, it's 30' high, will take four cars and have a full utility room down the side with loads of storage. You could live in it! Currently just the steels are up, but he's hoping the blockwork will get done over the winter, so in preparation for this all the steels had to be sanded down with a mixture of angle grinders and drills fitted with wire brushes to get into all the nooks and crannies, then painted with 'rust converter' a magic substance that when painted on a rusty surface turns it black and solid. It goes on white, turns turquoise as it is working (which was slightly unnerving as Tony had described it as peach coloured, so we did wonder if it was the right stuff. Turns out he's colour blind!) and then dries black. 

The view from the top of the caravan park and Lossimouth RAF base
Jackie, Nicky, Tony, Helen and Ian on the beach to the pub at Lossie
It is obviously top secret as there was no contents or information at all on the 1litre carton which cost £100. Don't spill it! Once that had dried, we then covered it with a coat of red iron oxide paint. Despite the work they have done on the house, Tony really doesn't like heights, so we were doing the high level joints. We had a scaffolding tower each, one on the inside, one on the outside and away we went, for the next three days. About 9 hours a day and we've done seven of the eleven and do we ache? I can't tell you, bending, stretching, climbing, painting and power tools out at arms length. A full body workout!

The first climb at Cummingston
We did have a couple of hours off on Saturday, we were taken to meet Frank, the farmer from up the road who was combining and had a very interesting time in the cab with him as it steered itself down the field under satellite control, only requiring intervention from him to turn at the edge of the field. H&I had been out as he was using a borrowed demonstration model, 30' wide and £300,000 to buy. We were in the one he currently has, 25' wide and five years old! We then came home via the seal colony at Port Gordon. Always a pleasure looking at seals, but I was champing at the bit to get back - we had work to do! 

It was lovely finishing last night, Nicky had got the dinner in (and gone bargain hunting in Tesco) we scrubbed each other with white spirit to remove the paint that had come through gloves and clothes, I'd looked at my trousers and realised I probably had paint all over my bottom, and sure enough... showered, twice, before the water ran anything like clear, and then up to the newly installed bath in 'our' bathroom with a glass of wine. Lovely. We knew we had time for all this as dinner is never an early event, and this was one of the latest, I think we sat down to eat just after 21.30! Not a problem for us as we only have the 6 1/2 hour drive to Blackpool today!

Jackie abseiling off the sea stack
The other side to being on the steading is the 'Good Life', not only is there the poly tunnel, the veg patches and the fruit bushes so potatoes come out of the ground, as do carrots and beetroot, tomatoes and courgettes come from the poly tunnel and rhubarb from the ditch, there are the animals. Helen grew up with chickens so she does the birds when she is there and had given us a run through of the morning tasks. Open the goose house, and herd the three geese through the big fence into their holding pen, let the four guinea fowl and their chicken friends out, the two feather footed chickens and their friends and the six ducks and their chicken friends (no one seems to know quite how many chickens there should be!) Once out they all need feeding and watering and their houses checking for eggs. It's like an Easter egg hunt, every day, there is something lovely about sliding your hand under a warm feathery chicken and bringing out two or three warm eggs. Then open the poly tunnel, and check on Smokie, 20 year old little grey cat, in the cat pen where she would really rather not be but where at least she is safe from being run over as she is now deaf. By this time the two Doberman dogs, Duke and Maya know they are next, so get their food and into their pen to be greeted like long lost friends bringing their first meal in a week! Is that it? Just about, except for the rest of the cats, Cookie, the three legged cat (Tony and Nicky met at the vets, each with a three legged cat) who only came back into the house for the first time last night since the departure of Monty dog. 
Ghengis cat with Jackies teddy
Then there is Dougal dog cat, who was in the pen while Monty was in residence but is now contained in the kitchen, utility and bathroom where he mostly resides under the kitchen units being a very fraidy cat. The 'normal' cats are then Ghengis who they rescued from a village where he was going to be put down for terrorising the local kids who is the softest thing. Tufty, who walks like a supermodel was feral for about six months, shredding anyone who stroked him more than twice, who turned soft overnight and finally Gummy who they had from a rescue centre, because he wasn't an attractive cat, with his one tooth sticking out, the only one left after he'd had a good kicking. He has been vying with Ghengis for space on our bed and has probably won overall for night time sleeping though Ghengis has claimed it for his own during the day.

Gummy cat
All in all it's a great experience, Tony and Nicky are the friendliest, kindest people, the animals are a joy and the work is hard, but rewarded with lots of home cooked food (often by me, but as each trip to the freezer is like being a kid in a sweet shop it's fine) and free flowing wine.

Tony and Nickys lovely house. The huge double garage and L shaped house is almost finished, the house on the right without a roof is work in progress
We are now heading to Blackpool in hideous weather, a horrible drive, but the first real rain we have seen in our 10 days in Scotland! Timing or what?
The other house yet to be done
And the other garage we were working on. We ground down, rust proofed and primed seven of the ten upright and roof truss beams. It may not look much but there's three full, hard days work there!

Jackie with power tools cleaning away

Jackie with their two doberman dogs, Duke and Maya

Helen and Jackie attending to the chickens
The three geese in the garden
Brian carrying back the escaped goose
The combine harvester we had a ride in
Combine owner Frank
Tony and Nickies lovely lounge
Tufty cat
The upstairs bedroom we had during our stay
Seals on the beach at Portgordon
End of threedays hard painting. These brushes are ready for the bin!

1 comment:

  1. Blimey- how do you do it- you must be exhausted! One day you'll slow down a bit- can't see it happening anytime soon though! X