December came in like a lamb up here. We couldn’t believe that we didn’t have to wear jackets to go out. The sun shone, obviously the globe warmed and we were the lucky recipients. A different tale a bit later, though. High winds, and snow on the higher ground started about a week ago. When I say “higher ground” I actually mean anything over about a rise of ten of twelve feet. The Achavanich road to Thurso is a nightmare if there is even a flake of snow in the air. My poor, bald neighbour was caught out there one year, without either a hat or gloves. He had to dig himself out, but keep getting back into the car in order not to freeze to the road. As I write, sleet and hail are trying to destroy the windows and even the geese that were feeding in the field have departed. They seem to like the salty grass – or whatever creatures live in it – and they are a beautiful sight as they roam the territory.
When I think of the geese, I think of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She always used to have a really private holiday in Caithness during October and at her last visit, when she was at least a hundred years old, she was regretting the fact that she hadn’t seen the geese flying south. On the day she was leaving the Castle of Mey, the oddest thing happened. As she got into her car a perfect skein of geese swooped low over Mey. I don’t think they did a Victory Roll or anything like that, but they did fly over Her Majesty who said “Now I’m content. At last I’ve seen them.” And that was the last time that Caithness saw her.
Of course, other people think of geese as a delicious feast and to all of you who will be celebrating, Iain and I wish you a very happy time with a profitable New Year to come. What is it the newspapers used to say? “And a Merry Christmas to all our readers.” My sentiments exactly.