BLOG FROM THE NORTH – Christmas 2021

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From the scorching computer keys of the Chief’s Social Secretary: Cue music. ‘Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh’… I think NOT!

As I write, the snow and sleet is being blown in billows over us by 70 mile an hour gales and anyone in any sort of open transport would be out of their minds to dash anywhere. Usually at this time of year we can count on a quiet and moderate weather pattern – even green Christmases have been known – but the climate surely is changing and it is bitterly cold. Of course we have been snowed in at times during our thirty-something years at Swiney and have had to rely on a friendly farmer to dig us out. Our gate opens directly onto the main road which is regularly snow-ploughed and we tend to get the piled up detritus blocking our exit. I have been told by locals that in days gone by there was so much snow that the piles created by the plough reached the top windows of the houses in the village and that you could walk at bedroom level right down the street.

The harbour road is still great for sledges but although it is a fair slope I don’t know if anyone has used skis on it. I did see a man with snow shoes walking down the A9 one year – they are the things that look like tennis racquets strapped to your feet – I don’t know how far he got but he was whistling happily as he trudged onwards – never a care in the world.

When the children were young the first snow fall was a joyous thing and they were out in their anoraks and wellies making snowmen and snowballs until their gloves got soaking wet, they realised how cold they were and came rushing back inside to be comforted and warmed up. This was before the days of plastic mitts but I hit on the plan of cutting down some rubber gloves to put on over their woollen ones and matters improved a hundred per cent. In my mother’s day when they went skating on a local pond in Stockton where she lived, they took a baked potato with them in a pocket and used it as a sort of hot water bottle. A great idea – one that could be copied nowadays. With a little cheese and pickle in another pocket you could have a handy apres-skate snack.

A couple of years ago on a most uninviting day I dared to go into the village because I had parcels to post. It was icy under foot and I slipped as I neared the door of the post office, slid along the pavement and clutched the nearest object to keep my balance. It was a burly man into whose arms I fell. ‘Heavens! We’re waltzing’ I said. ‘I know,’ he said ‘but the band’s terrible isn’t it?’

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I join with Iain in wishing you all a very happy and trouble free Christmas and a hopeful and healthy New Year. I also hope that we shall see as many of you as possible at the International Gathering next year. I don’t think it will snow in July…

Photos Copyright and Acknowledgment to Merran Gunn & BEAR Scotland