January 2016 – Time to quaff copious amounts of whisky & eat haggis………

………because today is Monday 25th January, and tonight is Burns Night. Its the night of The Burns Supper, a celebration of Scotland’s National bard. A night when haggis is scoffed and much whisky is quaffed. For some it will be a night of carousing, for others it’s a time when poems by this great and talented bard are recited with devotion.

When I was a little girl, with a growing love of my Scottish roots and poetry alike, I had a very small book of the bards poems which I bought with my pocket money on a rare trip to Edinburgh. I found them hard to read with their strong, written dialect but my favourite of all time was ‘To a Mouse, on turning her up in her nest with the plough’ and funnily enough, it’s still my favourite today. So whether you are celebrating the great bard or not tonight, reading a few of his poems can only enrich your soul. You know, I don’t remember what happened to that little book, so I really ought to get another.

Talking of haggis, we often get asked by our guests, what haggis consists of. Some are intrigued others are totally put off. Sometimes I simply suggest they try some and then I will tell them the ingredients. Its funny (in a peculiar sort of way) how guests from whatever nationality can ‘absolutely love’ Black Pudding and yet balk at Haggis. Someone tell me please which ingredient is less appetising? Ox blood or sheep’s pluck (offal)? Can’t personally see the difference myself and effectively the only real differences are the flavours added and where they were made. You see here in the Highlands of bonnie Scotland, we prize Stornaway Black Pudding, its lean and it’s flavoursome, whereas in England The Real Lancashire Black Pudding is a little different but equally tasty – so I’m told. As with many foods, its all down to personal taste. Regardless, both haggis and black pudding are great sources of iron, so nice and healthy. Did you know that some bright spark has even hailed black pudding as the new ‘super food’. Well who’d have thought it?

January brought with it a little snow. We always expect January to be cold, colder than December and most definitely colder than November. Snow makes one believe that winter really has finally arrived, but unfortunately it didn’t last very long here on Skye.

Glenbrittle Forest in the snow
Glenbrittle Forest in the snow
The mighty Black Cuillin mountains from Glenbrittle Forest
The mighty Black Cuillin mountains from Glenbrittle Forest

Whether its the dreaded ‘global warming’ or just planet earth going through another of her ‘un-recorded’ cycles, its just not doing it for me. I want frosty mornings like we experienced as children, when we wrapped up warm with layers of wooly hats, scarfs and gloves. I want the snowdrops to appear through the glistening snow, not a glistening puddle in the middle of the lawn.

I have a dozen jobs to do outside and whilst I could probably do them despite the 40mph gusts, there is little point in trimming this and snipping that, if all the clippings end up either in my face or scattered all around the garden. I’ll only have to gather them up another day so – what’s the point? The fact of the matter is, we live on the west coast of Scotland and we’re protected by the gulf stream, so even though the east coast is cold with frozen lochs and feet of snow, we don’t get that here, well not every year and it doesn’t last very long either.

Loch Garten, partly frozen, with a backdrop of the snowy mountains of Cairngorm
Loch Garten, partly frozen, with a backdrop of the snowy mountains of Cairngorm

As I’ve been typing away, I’ve also been watching a pair of Hooded Crows wander around our back garden. They remind me of dour professors, with their black caps and gowns, strutting about all aloof and arrogant with purposeful tread as they search for goodies in the grass and beneath the feeders.

Hooded Crow, like a grumpy professor strutting his stuff in search of goodies on the lawn
Hooded Crow, like a grumpy professor strutting his stuff in search of goodies on the lawn

And as I hear the staccato drum of rain on the roof and glimpse raindrops clinging to the netting on the fruit cage, I notice from our weather station report that, in Crossal, right in the centre of Skye, below the mighty Black Cuillin we have had a massive 87.4mm of rain this month and that is just the droplets that actually made it into the little cup on our weather station, never mind the horizontal rain that flew over the top of it. Now that’s WET! However after all that, I have to say that the reward at the end of today was more than we could have hoped for.

The evening's sunset at Glenbrittle Bay
The evening’s sunset at Glenbrittle Bay

So, whether you are knee deep in snow, or wading through puddles in your wellies, have fun this evening and enjoy your whisky. Slainte!

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