Monday, 29 October 2007

Fires and Frustration

Yesterday was excellent! While feeling the effects of my mammoth mug of coffee, I declared myself eager to get out and do something, rather than just park myself in front of the telly and wait for decent footie. After all, what's the point of Sky+ if not to whip TV into a corner and force it to mould itself around your life, rather than vice versa?

The trouble was, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I was quite keen on the idea of popping into Auld Reekie to catch the Warhol exhibition - but discovered, to my chagrin, that it was the end of October and the Warhol was long over. We hit t'internet and scoured What's On in Fife (absolutely bugger all), then searched Dundee. Turns out the McManus is closed for major refurbishment, the DCA is showing sweet FA of interest, and the only other thing to do in Dundee is watch movies (according to The List, anyway) for which neither of us were in the mood. So we turned our attention to the whole of Scotland, and discovered some archaeological park was burning a Wicker Man in a place called Oyne. Thrilled at the thought of watching something - maybe even someone?? - get set on fire, I called the
Archaeolink Prehistory Park and quizzed them about it. Would it just be the burning of a big old bunch of man-shaped twigs, or would there be other stuff as well?

"Ooh, no, we've got everything!" said the cheerful lassie on the other end. "As well as the burning, there's pagan chanting, the dedication of animals to the gods, human sacrifice - oo, and a tombola!"

I agreed that the chance to win a large Celtic sword was too good an opportunity to miss and put the phone down. Turning to Fisher with a look of pleading in my eyes, I found her regarding me with the dubious affection I've come to know and love.

"Can we, can we?" I'm afraid I squealed. When she hesitated I prepared for a small tantrum - then a thought struck me. "Where is Oyne, anyway?"

"Further north than Aberdeen," came the response. "It'll be a two and a half hour drive."

"Oh," I said, relieved, "that's all right then. Can we, can we?"

"Of course dear," she sighed, "I'll get my coat."

So we packed the dogs into the car and headed north.

It was a long drive, only made unpleasant by the discovery that once you get further north than Dundee there isn't a public loo to be found for love nor money. We stopped at a petrol station: loos out of order. We stopped at another: no loo. We turned off in glee when we saw a sign for WC, and groaned in horror as we passed through the entire village without spotting a single one. With more hope than confidence we stopped at a Somerfield, and while Fisher got cash from the machine I asked if they knew where there was a public loo.

"Dinnae ken," came the response, "but ye can use ours."

"Really?" I breathed, and hurried behind the young man as he led me through eons of corridors, up some stairs, and into the staff loos. Callously, I'd abandoned Fisher to her fate, like a soldier bolting from the trenches. I was then embarrassed by the fact I spent ages sampling their rather lovely soaps, only to emerge eventually and discover the young man waiting to guide me back. He must have thought I had the largest bladder in the world.

Come to think of it, he probably wouldn't have been far wrong.

Anyway, I was relieved but Fisher remained in distress, so we had to stop yet again - this time at a large BP garage where - no joke - the ladies was out of order. Luckily Fisher had the common sense to use the gents instead. Considering we were now a mere 6 miles from our destination, you can see how long this search had gone on.

When we arrived at the Archaeolink Park we were disappointed to discover we couldn't take the dogs in, so they had to be content with a short wander around the car park. We then paid £5.50 each and entered the field.

It's quite a lark, actually. There are several reconstructed Iron Age huts, some of which you can go into. We had a peek round these, avoiding the crowd of people being made to sing Bohemian Rhapsody by a man in a robe clutching a shield, as they waited for the torchlight procession to begin. We then made our way to stand beside the very impressive Wicker Man, choosing as our vantage point a small hillock beside a pond, where two press photographers had set up. Because British people are shy of getting near people who look official, we were the only ones to claim the hillock, and had quite the best view of events.

We hadn't too long to wait before we saw the torchlight procession emerging from the standing stones and wandering around the field towards us. Someone was banging a drum, the torches dripped flame in an impressive manner, threatening to set fire to the ground and - more worryingly - the actors' robes, and it was all suitable atmospheric.

When they entered the field, I thought they'd faff about a bit - maybe get us all singing This Thing Called Love, or maybe just work us all the way through Queen's greatest hits - but it was gratifyingly quick. To shrieks, ululations and pagan roars, the torches were set to the Wicker Man and he was ablaze!

"Oh God!" I cried, in best Edward Woodward style, "Oh God, no! Oh Jesus Christ ..."
Torchlight Procession

"Oh shut up!" Fisher muttered, quashing my pretense to humour. And rightly so. It was a true spectacle, and one best appreciated in silence.

We watched the flames consume Eddie, as I'd affectionately named our wicker pal, and away to our left a vast orange moon rose slowly above the hills. To our right, a man with a beard told his son, Brian, that his camera wouldn't work properly because of the light, and then gave a detailed explanation as to why - including a formula. I was about to mock the spod to Fisher, when she turned to me and made pretty much exactly the same speech regarding her own camera troubles. Thankfully she left out the formula, or our July plans would be seriously altered right now.

Anyway, it was lovely and we held hands as the great man blazed itself into oblivion, warming ourselves in his demise. Then we had a final wander round the field before returning to the car for the long trek home, well pleased.

So that was how we spent Sunday.

Today we abandoned the house to our slightly scary cleaners and took the dogs for a 2.5mile walk at Tentsmuir, enjoying the beautifully crisp sunshine and the quietness of the woods (apart from the poxy RAF). We then went into St Andrews to buy a decent air bed. We had lunch at the West Port and discovered it's become rather pleasant - albeit a far cry from the open fired, wood-floored loveliness it was all those years ago. We chatted about this and that, including the fact I've booked myself in to take my CBT on the 7th November and am now bricking it.

We'd planned on going climbing this evening, but I woke this morning with a recurrence of my cricked neck/back - probably brought on by standing in the cold for a couple of hours yesterday, followed by a long drive and finishing Jak 3 on PS2 (very tense). I was very sorry to have to disappoint Fisher, but even though I really wanted to, I wouldn't be doing myself any favours by dangling from walls. I called the centre and cancelled.


Tomorrow is aquafit with Fonda, followed by supper in Dundee. I'm looking forward to hearing all about her travels, her love life, and why her job sucks so badly (well, not 'looking forward' to the latter, but keen to lend an sympathetic ear, anyway). It's been ages since we last saw her, so there's a lot of catching up to do. She wants to join Holly Commune. Hell, maybe she should!

Maybe everybody should.