Overnight, the sunny warm weather of the past week or more gave way to wind and rain. My morning rounds of the croft were in wellies and full waterproofs. The sheep didn’t think I’d climb the hill to feed them – I had to go and find them, sheltering from the cold rain driving in from the north-east. Thank heavens that I finished shearing morning!
Heading back to the hill gate and our own croft, the sheep followed me as far as where a stream winds through a little gap in the rocky landscape, and there’s lush grass and shelter. For much of its route, the stream is incised into a slot worn down over hundreds of years, but in the middle of this sheltered dell the stream – swollen by the overnight rain, tumbles over a patch of exposed bare rock. As I lengthened my stride across the slippery rock, I caught sight of something moving below me: an old woody heather stem, carried by the water, I thought ; but heather stems don’t wriggle and writhe and are certainly not 40cm/15in or so long …
As it wriggled, snake-like, upstream towards the security of a patch of overhanging goat willow, I could see that it was in fact an eel on the rocks …
Something in my brain clicked, as a patchwork of memories linked up …
So, last July, in similar weather, what I caught sight of in the corner of my eye – something large and dark disappearing into a (different) thicket of goat willow – in our High Field, in fact, would indeed have been an otter, as I suspected – and not a figment of my imagination. If you’ve never seen an otter trying to eat an eal, then you’ve never properly laughed. Oh my, but they are so strong and wriggly and slimy-slippery!
There is much more to Eriskay than meets the eye. It’s not the devil that’s in the detail, but the delights!
Today was even warmer than yesterday. And it was the day for Wool Grading 2017 – Hebrideans. Yes, black is the new white!
Credit is due to photo-phobic J : he pulled on shades and hat and set to work : but no shorts and sleeveless tops for him!
I did wonder, though, whether there was some kind of hidden agenda : there was a constant stream of comments, from happy-sounding mumblings to gasps of astonishment, all on the theme of these being the best Hebridean fleeces we’d ever produced, the best Hebridean fleeces he’d ever seen, the best quality of fleece known to man, and general expressions of heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the person who had wielded hand-shears with such skill and dedication. I wonder who he’s referring to there.
Jonathan sorting Hebridean wool.
Denise checking the sky for signs of rain. None. Thought not!
Hah! – only joking! To be fair – and strictly accurate, he did mention, a few times, that he thought this was indeed our best ever clip from our own Hebridean sheep. And, for the record, I think he’s right: Quantity up ; Quality up ; No secondary-cuts at all, and most fleeces still in one continuous piece, textbook fashion … I have to say they really are something to feel a wee bit of satisfaction in.
Anyway, he seemed to be doing a good job : so, as yesterday’s stint with the Cheviots was mine alone, I decided to take some time out and watch the sky in case any alto-cirrus drifted by. It didn’t.
Tabatha was enjoying the shade under the grading-bench. The two of us exchanged smiles: a purrfect day.
Denise > I went to the guest bedroom to fetch something or other, and when I went back – just a few moments later – to return it, I found a cat on the counterpane – Princess Pickle ensconced on the royal bed, like a Tudor monarch for an audience with the Privy Council!
My photo didn’t catch her expression when I first saw her: it said, “Oh, do let me stay here a little while!”.
But we didn’t.
Now, hours later, Pickle’s outside in the garden at dusk, still punishing us for the affront to her dignity of being turned out of the guest room. She’s hiding somewhere amongst the bushes, refusing to acknowledge our calls, or the rattle of her favourite biscuits in her special bowl (she can tell the difference!!) and making us worry about her staying out all night. “That’ll teach them”, she’s thinking : spitefulness, J says, is a trait of advanced intelligence. That’s something Pickle’s only ever actually done twice in nine years – so she’ll probably come in anyway, when J comes back from his bedtime walk with Tilly.