Denise: J’s been on a downhill slide for a while, with the fencing work in particular – on top of all his engineering and project management work and routine crofting duties – keeping him on the croft until late evening, and working with very heavy materials and requiring a lot of physical effort. But cuts on his hands have turned septic, with signs of the infection spreading up his arm and neck across his chest. And there’s two on his left forefinger that, since he finished the shearing on Wednesday, have turned especially nasty. Friday morning I sent him off to the doctor’s surgery, and he came back with anti-biotic tablets. But what was quite a surprise for both of us was to learn that the two ugly, discoloured swellings on his finger are infected with Orf, a virus normally confined to sheep who get it around their mouths and sometimes other areas where there is no wool. J certainly has has plenty of red hair on hs arms and back of his hands, but I can’t say I’ve ever noticed wool! Apparently shepherds do from time to time catch it from their sheep. Very unpleasant and painful, but not normally life-threatening, so the virus will just have to run its course. But J has to learn that tiredness from over-working weakens the immune system and disrupts the absorbtion of minerals and vitamins: he needs to take it easy. He says he will … when he’s finished the fencing. Typical! But the Orf is not the worst of it. The doctor prescribed also pain killers – a type J’s not used before (that he can recall): within a few hours of starting with these J was suffering a nauseous headache, raging thirst, dizziness, and so lethargic that he was always either dozing or asleep. Yesterday we had to do our usual Saturday cleaning at the cottages and when it went quiet I found him lying asleep on a bedroom floor, with a duster for a pillow and the vacuum cleaner wand for company! Of course he stopped taking the tablets, but it took a couple of days for him to shake it off, mostly spent asleep or dozing, though not getting any rest!
Jonathan: One day you’re 17 – a juvenile and free of all cares; the next you’re 18 and burdened with all the responsibilities of adulthood. Apparently. Ten years ago right now, heading home from our first visit to the Outer Hebrides (and just two days before that our first visit to the walled garden), Denise and I were camped for the night off a quiet road between Moffat and Lockerbie. It was a still quiet evening, moodily overcast, a moment of stand-still between early summer vigour and the slow decline towards autumn. The following months we tossed and turned, the clamouring hopes and nagging fears held at bay with a mantra of ‘it’s now or never’. But within six months we were here at An Garradh Mor, cast off from almost all the familiar and trusted hold-fasts of life. Ten years on and today’s my 55th birthday, and yesterday’s hopes have become today’s to-do list: The fears? Well, many just melted away; but others persist as worry lines. The ages of man are redefined by each generation to suit itself; but was there ever a generation content to be known as ‘middle aged’ – neither one thing nor another? Yes, Denise and I are growing a bit faded and worn at the edges, but as to being in our middle age, I look around at all the many projects in progress, and the even more numerous daily tasks, and I have to admit we certainly always seem to be in the middle of something! And I expect tomorrow will be just the same.
Jonathan: Yes, at the Big Garden, 1 May is indeed Runrig Day! Since we first got Runrig’s ‘In Search of Angels’ album, every 1 May I’ve plaid Maymorning full volume with all the windows wide open – a celebration of new life rising, an affirmation of everything the song has to say. The words stir the soul, but the music makes the body jump with joy! The other tracks of this album are also especially life-affirming, acknowledging the value of all the conditions we face over the years, from joy to sadness, hope to despair, from love anew to the loss of a loved one. This Maymorning, this May Day, has been a fulfillment of all our winter-cherished hopes for fine weather, warmth and ease. Today has been glorious! Clear blue skies; warming sun with no more than a light cooling breeze, the grass greening and growing so well we can hear it!; the white sands and the many-hued seas and the familar outlines of the islands; fishing boats about their work; lambs skipping and their mothers baa-ing, gannets a-diving … If, to you, life is but years of work and possessons, then come you to Uist in May, and see life afresh, see life as it truly is, with the eyes of angels!