Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Weekend Away

Just had a divine weekend with the lovely Badger and Janus, and a welcome gate-crasher in the form of Koios.

We kicked off Friday night with gin. There may also have been some tonic involved, but it wasn't quite as noticeable. After my first I was feeling the warm glow of fuzziness - so I had another. So did Koi and Fisher, but Janus and Badger were being sensible. Although, not that sensible. The course of the evening saw wine flow freely. I'd ordered a case of Two Hands shiraz, and we made some impressive headway into it.

With head a-buzzing from gin, I plonked some deliciously delicious smoked salmon down as a starter. It was caught by Shah when he fished up in Helmsdale, and smoked in Dunkeld, and it was devoured in an instant. The plate was then stared at angrily when it yielded no more.

For a main course I cooked a pigeon casserole with cider and apples, which was pleasant but I made some tactical errors. Firstly, I'd managed to get it into my head that we were 4 in number, so I only bought 4 pigeons. There were, of course, 5 of us. This wasn't a catastrophe, as 4 pigeons between 5 are a perfectly acceptable meal. Secondly, I failed to recognise that the sauce would look quite as like vomit as it did. Thirdly, and in my state of fuzziheadedness, I failed to think the plate situation through. Instead of serving the casserole and sloppy sauce in bowls, which would have contained it and made it look far less like someone had thrown up on half a pigeon, I served it on a plate. It was not attractive. Fourthly, I'd forgotten what irritatingly bony bastards pigeons are.The meat is worth the effort, but only just. I'm not sure I'll be repeating the recipe, and pigeons will be safe from my gun (when I buy it).

Pudding was Stewart Tower ice cream, in two flavours: Ferrero Roche and lemon meringue pie. There was also some lemon cake. This was lovely, but very lazy on my part.

We then went through to the sitting room, drank more, talked (there are no donkeys with hind legs in the general vicinity) and eventually retired to bed feeling ... well, drunk, frankly. At 2am Fisher asked whether I thought Koi was all right, as her light was still on in her room. I waved a hand blearily and said I was sure she'd probably just passed out with it on.

'Just' passed out?

I woke with a hangover. Not exactly a surprise. It took me a couple of hours to get myself together enough to get up and dressed, but once I did it was to be greeted with lovely sunshine and everyone else raring to get out there and go - in young, hip and energetic fashion - antiquing!!


So that is what we did. We went off to Abernyte, where Janus and Badger found a new dining table. We had lunch there in leisurely fashion, then moved on to Rait where Koi found an old egg box which will serve her well for storage purposes. I think there's an issue with Protagoras's papers. Anyway, after that it was time to speed back to Perth and put Koi on a train back to Reekie before the rest of us headed north.

Our destination was Kingussie and The Cross restaurant. It's what people are now calling a 'restaurant with rooms' which may, or may not, just be a way of saying 'good restaurant, sub-standard hotel.' When we arrived in Kingussie my heart sank a little as the website does try and make it look very much like The Cross is in deepest countryside. It's actually right in the midst of Kingussie - but surrounded by trees and down in a little dell, which gives it a sense of privacy.

The hotel itself was very basic - all pine wood and white bedding - but perfectly comfortable. We settled in, gave the dogs a quick wander beside the burn, and then went down for supper. The food was good. Very good. The choice is limited, with only two options per course, but there was something there for everyone. I made the mistake of ordering fish when there was wild boar as the second option, but in fact the hake was light, fragrant with spices and truly delicious. I just coveted Janus's and Badger's crackling - a lot.

After our meal we retired upstairs to the lounge and played a game of Scruples. This is a bad idea. There's little more irritating than you telling people how you'd react in a given situation and then being told you wouldn't - unless it's educating someone in the way they actually would react and not being believed. Ptcha! People. What do they know of me, or themselves?

We went to bed at the pathetic hour of midnight, but I was still reeling from the effects of the night before (owing to my aged crapness) and needed to sleeeeep. The pooches weren't allowed in the hotel, so Fisher had to go out and walk them, then tuck them up for a night in the car. This she did while the hotel proprietoress stood and waited. I thought this was so she could lock up after, but Fisher suggested it was actually to make sure we didn't sneak the pooches in behind her back. It never entered my head. I did, however, drop massive hints about how 'cooooold' they would be and how wet and adorable they were, but to no avail. The fact that Janus laughed in my face at my blatantness suggests the proprietoress also saw right through me and found me irksome.

Next day, we partook of a deeply unhealthy breakfast (haggis, good - sausage, good - poached egg, gooood - home made baked beans, booooo! Why bother? Baked beans aren't worth the trouble, especially when everyone just wants Heinz anyway) and headed out to find a suitable walk. This we did in nearby Loch Insh, where there was a sculpture trail.

The sculptures were ... well, outdated is what springs to mind. They were all very worthy an' everything, but we live in a post Band-Aid world and the issues they raised were pretty tired. Also, I was amused by "Inner Man" - which reminded me of Total Recall, and caused me to growl "open your miiiiind" to Badger, who smiled tolerantly. He was more amused by my comment that "Two Patriots" was actually a man doing a charade of "Bangkok".

*Pause for audience applause. Not a sausage.*

At the end of it, Janus turned and said:

"So, what did we learn from this?"

I'd like to point out at this point that she'd been having a real run on Mumsiness, and this was only one in a long line of Mummish phrases - but it raised the question. We thought about it. There really wasn't anything new to bring to the table, but it did make me realise that, since the 1950s when these sculptures were made, the issues remain exactly the same. We've had 50 years of public awareness and nothing has changed.

It was a melancholy start to our walk - but we shook it off admirably, ably helped by the vast breakfast still warming our tums, our warm clothing, our on-hand transport, our physical health and general well-being.

We then embarked on one of the trial walks which claimed to be 4km long. We were advised to leave 2 hours. 2 hours?? For 4km?? An average speed of 2kph????? Look, I'm a fat biffa and everything, but even I can gird my loins to a greater pace than that!

2 hours later, we returned to our car.

Ok, I'd like to point out that we actually went a bit off-piste (as usual), having become confused by the blue posts we were following suddenly appearing in 3 directions at once. We, naturally, chose the wrong ones and ended up taking a detour which put a good couple of miles on the total. We reckon we walked around 4.5 miles, which is still an incredibly slow pace - but it wasn't as if we were on a route march or anything. We breathed the fresh air, nattered and let Baffie wander free (which annoyed Bridie no end). We also got a bit lost, which slows the pace a little. Anyway, it was a lovely walk and left us feeling less guilty about our breakfast.

Next stop was the Highland Chocolatier in Grandtully, where we had lunch in the scarily eccentric coffee shop. It's got a witch's theme, and there are dolls. Need I say more? But we ate pleasant panninis and stuff, then Badge and Janus went and poked the chocolates next door before deciding on a little bag of 6. I'm off chocolate for 3 months so I couldn't have any.

Oh - yes, the chocolate fast. I'm not eating chocolate for 3 months. Or sweets. But there are exceptions. If I go out for a fancy, expensive meal I can have pudding if I have fish for a main course. This stops my dietary restrictions being annoyingly party-pooperish for others. And I'm NOT allowed cheese as a substitute. Cheese is NOT the 'low fat' option. Cheese is fat. Fat is cheese. I love cheese. I am fat. As our American cousins would say: "Go figure."

After the chocolate interlude, there was nothing left to do but return homeward. Janus and Badger wended their weary way back to Edinburgh so they'd have a decent amount of collapse time on a Sunday evening, and we just collapsed. We were tired, but well pleased with a sociable, delightful weekend. We'd consumed much, but also been quite active, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been - and the craik was grand.

I was going to go on a long bike ride yesterday, to further keep the weekend's excesses in check, but to my annoyance I remembered I had a tennis match. This involved a 45 minute drive to Duffus, followed by 2.5 hours on a tennis court. This sounds like good exercise, but it's really not. It's mostly just standing around. It is hugely tiring, but it's not really very beneficial. It doesn't work the muscles, or require any cardiovascualar effort, but it does take up a day's exercise allocation. I can't do exercise before it, otherwise I'm just too tired to play at all, and afterwards I'm zonked so I don't really fancy doing anything the next day. Plus, I get back home after 10pm. Yesterday I was back by 10, but that's the first time it's ever happened. Usually it's closer to 11, sometimes 12. It just wipes me out. And that's playing for the 2nd team! Next Monday I'm with the 1sts, which means a better standard of tennis and therefore more exercise over just as long a time.

I'd also like to point out that I'm 32 years old. The next youngest person in my team last night was 42ish. The other 4 were in their 50s. They bounce around like mountain goats at the end of the night, making vast vats of tea, cutting cake and doling out sandwiches - and then doing all the washing up at the very end. They are all, also, half my size. I mean, literally. If that's not an example of the benefits of staying slim and light, I don't know what is. Those chicas are going to live forever.

And so the diet begins.