Blog from the North – August/September 2020

The Covid Files continue …… by Lady Gunn

Caithness weather!  As August is the month when all the “Tartan Swallows” (a not very polite term for the sporting tourists) come north, nobody wants blazing sunshine – it upsets the salmon, you see and gets in the eyes of the ‘guns’ out on the Glorious Twelfth. 

So we are enduring thunderstorms and lightning –  actually quite rare up here – but we are also getting beautiful afternoons and evenings, which calm everyone down after a tiring day on the river or moor.  Hay has been mown and gathered into bales which line the fields, awaiting transport, one by one on a fork-lift, to the farm yard.  There’s been ploughing, sowing  and, sad for them, lambs separated from their mothers – a system known up here as ‘spenning.  Teen-age calves are also out in the fields, overseen by their father  – a great big red bull – who wanders about keeping a careful eye on them all.  The Highland cattle in another field have produced wonderful teddy-bear like babies – adorable in their woolly jumpers – and they are much photographed by visitors who line the roads with their cars in order to get a good view.

There’s a lot more freedom of movement here and more socialising – in bubbles of families. Last week Iain and I got a touch of cabin fever and went out to lunch at the French restaurant in Wick – masked, of course.  It was beautifully organised, with tables set apart from one another and lots of sanitising.  Your menu is a typed sheet of paper which, after you have used it, is destroyed.  Cutlery comes wrapped up and condiments are in little paper bags rather than the dispensers that used to be.  The food was, as ever, outstanding and it was simply lovely to have a meal cooked by someone else!

I must say that lock down has made me look at my recipe books more and experiment.  Iain is very brave, tries everything and is most encouraging. Having someone else shop for you does concentrate the mind, added to which the flood from 2018 destroyed most of my ‘store cupboard’ and I reach for a particular spice, to find that it has gone, washed away with everything else, so have to remember to re-stock. 

I also need to read the labels more carefully.  Making an apple crumble the other day I reached for the ginger jar and couldn’t understand why it was taking so long to sprinkle.  I glanced at the name on the front to discover that I was about to add cumin to the mix.  Now that would have been an experiment and a half.  I have actually experimented properly with a neat little pickle recipe for cucumber – delicious. I also need to try and preserve lemons because they are always hard to get in the winter up here Our apples are ripening daily – you can count on them just as the swallows leave for sunnier climes, having debated over their progression by lining up on the telephone wires and then leaving in a crowd. This year they arrived a week early, by their usual calculations, and left a week early as well.  Odd, isn’t it how they manage their lives?

.  Blackcurrants have been rife, I am told and kind neighbours have dropped in with a jar of jam or jelly for us.  I thought of you all the other day when I read that someone has brought out a modern dictionary of Scottish terms.  It is fascinating.  For example “Cham and Cheely” refer to jam and jelly, but can mean marmalade as well.  A “hairybum” is a bumble bee and if you simply do not believe what someone is telling you, your riposte is “Yer Grannie!”


We have now, mid-month, received the new rules for meeting others – only six at any one time except if you are at a wedding or a funeral.  Useful because we have been invited to a “Renewal of Vows” ceremony next Saturday.  In a garden, unless wet, when inside house, but socially distanced, of course.  There will be seven of us, but the new ‘marshals’- appointed to make sure we are obeying the law –  won’t be able to pin anything on us because of the above-mentioned rules re weddings.  Anyone who has seen “Dad’s Army” may remember the officious air-raid warden and I suspect we have a number of them lined up locally, anxious to take up the job.

Iain and I continue to be hugely well looked-after by shop deliveries and kind friends shopping for us.  We are so thankful to good neighbours and for many kindnesses from so many people.  Caithness continues to be a great place to be locked down in!