During all the years we have lived at Swiney House (nearly thirty), I have heard the cuckoo once. Until this month. We appear to have a desperate bird that starts its song (if you can call it that) at about 5 a.m. and continues during the day at ten minute intervals. It is obviously looking for a mate so that eventually it can drop its alien egg into the unsuspecting nest of Mr and Mrs Blackbird. It is clearly living in our garden and I do hope that it finds someone to love soon as lack of sleep is beginning to take its toll on me. It was the same with the ring doves last year. One call was never enough. Its funny little gargling cry could be heard hourly and then it found a companion and the two of them gave us no rest, either. So far the pheasants seem content to call softly to each other on a twice daily basis – their cry sounds like a cork coming out of a bottle.
Then there are the toads. Unfortunately we have an unplanned water feature in the garden – most of one of the flower beds. We have tried every sort of drainage, but it is still territory for losing wellington boots on a regular basis. Father toad has a naughty habit of hiding and then jumping out at you when you least expect it. Mother toad is busy bringing up a myriad of little toadlets and warning them off the gardening tools that descend on their homeland. Oh it’s a natural paradise, this garden. We only need a few howler monkeys to attract the attention of a budding David Attenborough. At least the toads are quiet.
And those sheep in the field in front of the house? I have never been so deceived. Enormous, ravenous and extremely woolly they are not going to produce lambs after all. They are known as ‘hoggs’ and are the lambs of last year, too young to be mated at a year old. So they enjoy the grassiest of meadows and the most luxurious of bedding. They don’t know it, but they have a lot to learn.
Caithness, at present bathed in pure sunlight, has suffered wind, rain, sleet, fog and, in May, even some snow. The tourists are peeping shyly from their mobile homes, avid to enjoy Visitor Attractions like the Clan Gunn Centre which opened on the first of the month. Already we have had people from Tasmania, Texas, Norway and the Netherlands. It is fascinating to hear their stories of kinship and the way in which they are related to Gunns in their ancestry.
Alas for the tourists, the local Council , deaf to our entreaties, has declined to open the conveniences I referred to in my last notes from the North. Instead a small notice at the entrance to the village announces that the local hotel will offer facilities. But it isn’t always open. So what is the poor visitor to do? Don’t ask!
We are off to pastures new at the weekend. Down to the West Country to meet up with old friends from Caithness who have moved down there. Then we go to Oxford to attend a granddaughter’s graduation, then back to Edinburgh for a while. The packing is horrific because I am afraid a backpack won’t cut the mustard at the various “jollies” we shall be attending. Why would one “cut the mustard” I find myself wondering. Anybody know?