NEWS FROM THE NORTH by Bunty Gunn

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Whatever happened to September? August came and went, like the tartan swallows – which is a rather naughty name for the “sporties” who come to Caithness and Sutherland to shoot and fish – August 12th being the date when pheasant shooting can begin. Off they go with their spoils round about the end of the month, closely followed by the real swallows who leave our garage shelter in the first week of September. It is extraordinary that you can almost set your calendar by them.

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Here in the first week of May, gone, as I said, when the leaves start to turn.
Of course, Iain and I spent part of September in Calfornia and what a wonderful time we had! Son John and daughter-in-law Sarah came with us to the Highland Gathering at Pleasanton.

They hired a car beforehand and drove us all down to Monterey and Santa Barbara by way of the Big Sur – which was, Caithness style, robed in fog for most of the way!

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In the Aquarium at Monterey we were given a treat. A young marine biologist took us behind the scenes to show us how they rear jellyfish. Fascinating. They start off about the size of half my little finger nail and grow to these massive – and sometimes very beautiful – objects.

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At the same time we were offered another treat – the possibility of petting a bat ray. Something, I am sure, you have always dreamed of doing.
Suffice it to say that these creatures must be some of the biggest flirts on the planet. They clearly enjoy the attention and are mischievous and funny as sometimes they will let you think that you are going to touch them, then dart away at the last minute. Apparently in the morning when the lights are turned on again, they jump up and Hi-five their attendant. They are, incidentally, soft to the touch, like velvet, but slimy at the same time. I thought you would long to know.

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Clan Gun North American Branch hosted the Chief and Lady Gunn in great style –

The Games were amazing – 30,000 people there, most in kilts. The showground is huge and contains a race-course amongst other attractions, where the heavy events took place. We were astonished to see women tossing the caber and putting the weight over the bar at an unimaginable height. Our feminist granddaughter would be horrified that we were surprised by this!

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In the centre of the racecourse is a nine-hole golf course and we were amused to see players moving stolidly around enjoying the game. Sarah made me laugh. She suggested that the golfers had said “A golfing holiday is what I have booked and a golfing holiday is what I am going to have. Never mind if people are hurling tree trunks around just over the fence”.

We left California in 90 degrees of heat and returned to 14 degrees in Edinburgh. Quite a surprise. Back home after a few days of getting over the jet lag we found a huge amount of excitement in that part of the Netflix serial called “The Crown” was being filmed in Lybster. Yes – Lybster. Our tiny
fishing village. Apparently the harbour could be transformed into a dead ringer for the Falkland Islands which had a part to play in the appalling assassination of Lord Louis Mountbatten.

The Crown – available on Netflix. Some may recognise Prince Philip is played by Outlander’s Tobias Menzies in Season 3

The centre of the county was being used as Iceland, which is apparently where HRH Prince Charles was staying when he heard the news and Keiss harbour was turned into the Irish harbour where the boat was blown up. Waterlines, the coffee shop at Lybster, became very popular with the crew who dropped in for their breakfasts fairly regularly. At the end, they sent a charming card, signed by them all, thanking the staff for making them so comfortable. So now we are all waiting for the film to appear so that we can try and see ‘our’ part of the world in it.

Quite a bit of ploughing has been done and the fields have been well fertilized with very smelly slurry. I think most of the crops have been gathered in with a lot of bales clad in coloured plastic. I was told that if a farmer uses pink, he is supporting the drive to cure breast cancer; if he uses blue, apparently that is to support research into prostate cancer, but some yellow plastics have appeared
and no-one, as yet, seems to know why. I shall look into it.

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David, our resident curator, holding the fort through the summer rush!

Meanwhile the Clan Centre has closed having had a really good year with visitors and sales. Waterlines has closed and is a big miss
because it is so handy for light lunches and a restful sit at the harbour. Our clocks will go back soonFall back, Spring forward, is how I remember which way it goes – and it will be dark in the mornings and even more difficult to get out of bed! But – onwards and ever upwards – family time approaches. Christmas is coming….carols will shortly be played in all the shops and trees will be decorated. Crackers and Christmas puddings will appear on the shelves of the supermarkets – and it’s still only October.

And Brexit looms.

Ah well. Happy Halloween, at least.

Bunty