Jonathan: All of Uist seems to have retreated indoors for the past few days, but not to escape the fury of the wind, or to take shelter from driving rain, but to help our minds escape the soul-sapping blight of endless dreich-filled days. Now, for the benefit of those south of the border and therefore not expected to have a proper understanding of what dreich entails, let me explain. The air is still or nearly so ; the cloud is thick, dense, and shuts out most of what little light winter affords us – even on the best of days (if we can actually remember – or even just conjecture – what they were like), and is so low and so saturated with atomised water as to leave everything below it, living and inanimate, infused with its very essence. In short, all of life as we know it, enveloped in a cold, sodden, thick, heavy grey blanket that extends in every direction – even into the ground itself, and from which there can be no escape. Not even sound escapes, for not only does the blanket and suspended moisture muffle (I was going to write dampen, but I need to save your tolerance of puns for later) – yes muffle any utterence exclamation hoot ring or percussion, it also robs us even of the joy (or indeed any desire or motive short of dire emergency) that would give rise to any such sound.There is no escape. Not by car, nor by ferry – and even the flights are cancelled due to lack of visibility!
It’s been like this for days ; but this afternoon – for just a short while before darkness fell – the clouds cleared enough for us to get a visual sighting of Barra, which at least gave us an opportunity to reset our in-built compasses. There is now a significantly improved chance of finding our way home from the co-op without reeled out a rope – a reflectorized yellow rope – on our way there. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for what we actually received, but had the visibility extended just an incy wincy bit further to the sea horizon, we could even have recalibrated our internal spirit levels, and refamilarized ourselves with the concept of up-and-down. Heavens above (ah yes, here’s that pun I warned you of) the iPad even sprung to life to say that it had been able to re-connect with the satellites that enable it to certify that we do indeed conduct use the PayPal Here app and card reader within the territorial extent of the UK and therefore are entitled to do so using UK bank accounts. And thus together with its sophisticated electronics it too can re-establish itself in time, place, orientation and inclination. It does not however – having been conceived in sunnier climes across the Atlantic – come equipped with a dictionary that includes the word dreich! Yet our iPad started its conscious life here in Uist and has never known anywhere else, and so though it might not know the word dreich, it certainly does know exactly what it means to be dreich. It means weather where you stay indoors and surf the internet.
Jonathan: If sheep, too, can be Venus and Mars, then there’s no doubt at all that Tolsta Faolan , aka The Beast of Tolsta Moor lived up to that particular ideal of ram masculinity. It’s certainly true that he was always ready to put up a good fight! Not the easiest of animals to work with, when he arrived in early November; but he was, little by little, getting used to me ; and above all to trust me. Just a few days ago, I was moved with joy that he had let me kneel beside him, my arms around his shoulders and neck, stroking the sides of his face and under his chin: I felt his breathing ease, felt him let go the strain and tension, his heart beat more gently. Even when I let go of him, he just stood still for a while, then slowy turned his head up to me as if to ask: Well … are we done now?
This morning, I held him again in my arms, holding his head up as the vet injected a massive dose of barbiturates into a jugular vein. Just three or four seconds later, and Foalan had let go, once and for all, the stresses of life, all the sadness and pity of the past few days, all the humiliation of his diminshed self. Yet even as his earthly life ebbed away, his spirit lifted free – Mars ascending the southern skies above Eriskay.
Here on Earth, there are forms to fill, tests to run. I’ll have more to report early next week – whether indeed it was Scrapie he had. But at least I already know that the rest of the flock is safe – as I’d only acquired him two months ago, and I decided not to use him for tupping this year.
[Photo of Mars above Eriskay, right, taken this morning as I waited for the vet].
Jonathan: 2013 blogs, before today’s: just two posts in January, and then two more in July – that’s it. The latter part of 2012 wasn’t much better. It wasn’t that there wasn’t time to blog; or rather it wasn’t just that there wasn’t time! Nor that there seemed nothing good to report : quite the reverse – seen in retrospect. True, it wasn’t easy to find time for anything other than slog away at whatever task could least be put off. It’s been a long time since I’ve had leisure enough for anything more than to scan a magazine or snatch a few pages of a novel I started so many months ago I can’t remember when. Blogging. – or at least my kind of blog – is by and large reflective in nature, and though I strive to write with as much immediacy and freshness as possible, my blogs have nothing in common with the supposedly raw, live prattle of social media. (That’s not an apology, by the way.) Without time, space and – above all – freedom from (or at least a suspension of) anxiety, my blogs just don’t get written, and the many threads of thought that could be followed wherever they might lead remain but flotsam and jetsam of thought – carried away on the stream of consciousness. But today – with blogs not just drafted, but published immediately – that’s changed. Or rather, a change that has been in the making for several months, perhaps longer, has now been realized. Workload has eased, yes: many major projects are – if not complete – at least as far advanced as allows an easing off the throttle. But it’s not just a question of facts, but of perception. At last we see not only that the end of the tunnel is in sight, but that we begin to make out the character and detail of the country that lies ahead. The time when we can stop and take time out (by which I mean nothing more than a day off – without work at all other than feeding the livestock) is still some way off, but in the meantime, finding ourselves making good progress after all, we can afford to take things easier, and at least make the most of each moment – whether in work or ease.