The Doyenne and I are home after a short break on the Morayshire coast. It's a part of Scotland we got to know when our son Robert and his family had a holiday cottage in the fishing village of Portknockie.
Man with two dogs
I looked back to this time last year to see what I had written about and it confirmed what the Doyenne and I suspected. The weather was milder a year ago but, despite the recent cold snap, signs of spring this year seem at least a fortnight earlier.
The lengthening days raise my spirits. I can put up with the dreich mornings knowing that spring is just biding her time to make an entrance. The snowdrops in the woods are in full bloom and the pencil heads of daffodils are showing above ground and will add new colour when the snowdrops die away.
On Monday I did something I had been meaning to do not quite for as long as I can remember, but for a long time. I drove to Stonehaven to walk to the memorial to the dead of the First World War and the Second World War, which sits atop the Black Hill overlooking the town.
Escaping from the winter weather, I took Inka for a walk in the shelter of the woods beside Capo Quarry, lying just off the Lang Stracht, the long, straight road running from the Upper Northwaterbridge to the foot of the Glenesk road. The woods are criss-crossed with roe deer tracks and there’s plenty of interest for dogs.
You may remember what a lovely morning Monday was. Inka and I went out soon after 8.30 and were greeted by a spectacular winter’s scene – the ground iron hard and the grass white with frost.
Three weeks ago I wrote about the difficulties wildlife experiences during what is known as the hungry gap period. Frost and snow make foraging for food difficult, the hedgerow berries and wild seed heads in the ditches and the margins have been stripped and our wild birds need support.
I had to fight my way through a proper bourach of wriggling, tail-wagging dogs to meet Carol Begg, founder and rescue coordinator of Perthshire Gundog Rescue.
Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart – a bit of a mouthful, but that was Bonnie Prince Charlie. I wonder how well he’d have got on in the playground – at least the one I remember – if his school mates had known his full name. But I doubt if the Wee Academy at Montrose was ever graced by royalty.
There are seasons in the Doyenne’s year when her kitchen takes on the steamy atmosphere of the witches’ cave in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. Late summer and early autumn is the season for jams and jellies made from the wild rasps and brambles and other hedgerow glories that I pick for her. January is homemade marmalade season.