The business and social lives of folk in our rural communities is slowly starting to return to some sort of normality, with the country at Coronavirus level zero.
It feels like a massive relief.
Our first store lambs were sold in the second week of August in Lairg with a strong trade.
Masks were still being worn inside, but outdoors, alongside the pens filled with white-faced sheep, the passes had gatherings of friends and acquaintances, getting the craic and catching up on news.
The only words of discontent that I heard all day was there was no bar. The thought of a dry Lairg would have many an old shepherd turning their graves!
The 2014 World Sheepdog trial champion, Michael Shearer and his family, were the hosts at Lythmore Farm, just outside Thurso.
The Shearer family run a tight ship and nothing was left to chance.
An immense amount of work had gone into the preparations during the last couple of years. New flagstone dykes were laid, a gravel car park put in for disabled parking and stone into gateways to reduce gutters.
There have been so many unknowns with the dark shadow of Covid hanging around.
All credit to the organising committee of this year’s Scottish National, for their ability to change their plans at very short notice, adhere to the latest Scottish Government’s advice on gatherings and lay on this event.
Over the three days of competition 150 dogs ran, to find the top 15 partnerships to go forward to represent Scotland at the international in Wales in September.
I was helping the events treasurer, Dennis, taking track and trace details as the competitors and public came onto the field each morning.
We were on the early shift and I was in awe each day as the legends of the Scottish dog scene came in and I had the opportunity to welcome them.
I did smile to myself as each competitor’s vehicle approached, with the occupants displaying various levels of tension. Some were very relaxed, while others tightly gripped their steering wheels and gave their details through gritted teeth.
Dennis, who was running his dog on the second day of the trials, had warned me not to hold up the traffic anymore than was necessary as everyone just wanted to get on with the task at hand; the culmination of years of hard work, training and dog breeding.
The tension in the air felt similar to that I feel on a sale day.
It took me back to a Lairg lamb sale morning, when one of our lorry drivers delivered me the following one liner in a broad Caithness accent: “Joyce, do you think you should try some of that dope stuff, just to take the edge of yourself the morning of a sale?”
I nearly ended myself laughing, which certainly lightened the atmosphere.
Good luck to the Scottish team next month – it takes a lot of guts to stand at the post with your dog.
Just like at sales and shows, everyone’s an expert and everyone has an opinion of what you could do better.
- Joyce Campbell farms at Armadale in Sutherland.