Hundred-Year-Old Eggs

One of those skittish Highland days today, not sure if it wants to shine, sheet it down or blow you over. In the usual compromise that the weather finds on the west coast of Scotland, it proceeded to do all three in random and repetitive order. This is the strange delight of the western British Isles, that you can get four seasons in one day (incidentally one of my favourite Sting songs) and one of the reasons why Scotland and Ireland are so green. One of the consequences of all the recent rain is that the river at the bottom of the garden has risen a couple of feet and is dipping its toes into the lowest part of the paddock. I don’t think there’s much risk to the geese, whose pen is closest to the river, and they’re waterproof anyway. The chooks are several feet further up and higher than the floodplain on the other bank, so they should have no problem. The rivers are flashy in their response to rain; steep catchments and saturated ground.

The good weather pleases the chooks as well, for the several minutes it lasted. The usual routine this morning upon liberation from the pen: straight out onto the lawn for a communal scratch around and then through the fence to next door’s garden, which they seem to prefer to their own. Doubtless this daily expedition will have to come to a halt when the neighbours finish their house and move in. It’s a pleasant change, this new house, from the typical modern bungalow or one-and-a-half storey house which is beloved of the local planners. It has shape, design, a flying roof, curves and – most exciting of all to me – proportion. The local word has it that he’s a McPlod, but that’s no reason to be uncharitable.

This morning took me shopping for a few basics and not much more, with my bank manager taking to writing to me in mildly acerbic tones about my bank account for the first time in many years. Must write back and remind him that I’ve only changed my address and not my name – stray capitals creeping in where they’re not wanted; always a bit of a problem with a surname commencing with “Mac”.

With misleading blue skies manifesting at lunchtime I decided to go up the loch for a walk at one of the Forestry Commission sites. A three-mile circular route running down to the loch-side and back up a steep gully with waterfalls and some of the largest trees on the west coast of Scotland. Not another soul to be seen. The wind was kicking up white horses on the loch and waves were breaking on some of the small beaches. One of the most striking things about the trees in this part of the world are the extent of moss and lichen growth on them. Most deciduous trees will have their trunks completely covered in thick green moss and most the conifers are extensively covered by various grey-green and silvery lichens in great abundance. The most spectacular are the larches, which are deciduous conifers, all bearing false canopies of silvery-green lichens and standing in contrast to the darker green dress of their neighbours. The ground in the woods is covered with extraordinarily-think moss (not even a woodwork GCSE to its name) and locally-abundant wood sorrel among the ferns and rushes.

And so to the hundred year old eggs. Well, I doubt they’re that old, but in clearing out the various pots, pans, bowls and containers that had found their way down to the geese’s pen I found several grubby eggs buried in old litter. Taking no chances, I introduced them to the accommodating river and a surprise for the pike. One broke before I could despatch it to its watery fate and I was glad to be in a well-ventilated part of the country and upwind of it. There was, in the chooks’ coop, one egg of much later provenance and I carried home with a glad heart for tomorrow’s breakfast.


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