Monday, 22 June 2009

Exhausted but Merry

I'm so tired at the moment I'm actually finding it hard to fully depress the keys. Can't ... quite ... push ... hard ... enough ...

This last weekend was a hugely entertaining affair. It kicked off on Friday night, with the arrival of Brother, Janus and Badger, and Chopper. Fortuitously, our neighbour-but-one shot a roe deer that was busy gnawing on their roses. Our neighbour Epona then butchered said roe, and gave us a big fat haunch of the most succulent looking meat ever. This we cooked for our Friday night guests. I fried it to seal it, then cooked it in the oven on a high heat for about 40 minutes. I then mixed Brussels paté with mushrooms and pink peppercorns and covered the half cooked haunch with it. I wrapped it all up in puff pastry, and cooked it for another 20 minutes so it was almost rare in the middle. Fisher roasted potatoes and carrots and fried up some asparagus to accompany, and we had some of Epona's savoury bramble jelly in lieu of gravy. It all went down a treat, with some Two Hands shiraz to accompany.

On Saturday, I'd booked us all in for some clay pigeon shooting in Dunkeld. Because there were 6 of us we got 2 instructors. I was with Brother and Badger, while Chops, Fisher and Janus all went together. It was hugely fun, even though it was pissing it down with rain all the way through, and Fisher bagged the prize for best shooting. She got 20 out of 25 - a very good score. Now, of course, she wants to join the club, buy the gun, and start shooting anything that moves, twitches, or looks at her funny.

After we'd shot all the clays available, we headed up to Loch Tay via a pub for some grub. There, we rented a (very) little boat and a couple of fishing rods and attempted to catch us some trout for supper. 2 hours later and the only thing we'd caught was each other - cue 25 minutes of me trying to unfankle the lines, failing, and having to cut and retie everything. It didn't matter a jot, though, as it was a beautiful afternoon to be out on the water, and stunning scenery. We all caught the sun a little, all enjoyed the fresh air, and all agreed that the best way of topping off the afternoon was to go and get afternoon tea at Kinnaird. This we did, and eventually rolled our way back home feeling stuffed and well exercised.

On Saturday night we were joined by Koios and - very breifly - Protagoras, who'd been working all day and had to return to Reekie the same evening as he had school commitments on Sunday, too. We fed Pro, then started laying out the cold meats and salads for general grazing throughout the evening. Remember, we'd finished afternoon tea at 6ish, and could in no way be hungry before, at the very least, 9 pm.

By 9 pm, almost everything was finished. Pro had returned home, and we'd lit the brazier and begun the 'all night vigil' to see in the start of the Longest Day. This was the (incredibly tenuous) reason behind our barbecue weekend, after all. In fact, it was rather lovely to be sat out in the warm evening air, watching the flames and chatting with a few glasses of vino. We'd provided copious amounts of food, and our lovely guests had brought more nibbles than sticks could be shaken at, but still Brother sat down, looked at the brazier burning away and said indignantly:

"What, no marshmallows?"

Naturally, this was very tongue in cheek, but it gave us the idea to heat up a big pot of hot chocolate and melt one of the bars of dark chocolate Chopper had brought with her. We then dipped fresh cherries and homemade shortbread into the chocolate and were soon feeling very sick indeed.

We managed to make it through to about 1am before flaking. We had some good tunes from Bro on his guitar (no Kum by Ah, or Michael Rowing any Goddam' Boats Ashore, thank the Lord), and a small incident with some yobbos in a car driving up and honking their horn in the road outside. Luckily, they were frightened off by the terrifying spectacle of little blonde Fisher standing in the road and staring at them. They roared off at full tilt and were never seen from again. Well ... so far, anyway. Then, having at least witnessed the arrival of the start of the Longest Day (doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, does it?), we retired to bed and slept like a collection of logs of different shapes and sizes.

Sunday - the day of the barbecue - dawned, contrary to the weather forecast, bright and sunny. And it remained so almost all day. In fact, it remained sunny and seriously hot until people started to feel quite uncomfortable. Then, as if by special delivery, some cloud cover arrived and the astonishingly hot sun (this is Scotland, remember - we never expect heat) was tempered. It remained delightfully warm, but not one of our 20 odd guests (some odder than others) burned, or fainted, or even complained in a very British way about needing rain for the garden. Instead, we ate sausages, lamb burgers, sirloin steaks, copious amounts of salad (potato salad, pasta salad, salad salad), tomatoes, bread, and - for 'afters' - Stewart Tower ice cream (fudge, raspberry and white chocolate, and blood orange flavours). Between the main course and pudding, we bashed the crap out of two piñatas - one of which so stubbornly refused to break we ended up with Lubentina and Minstrel bashing the crap out of it, without blindfolds. I can understand Lu's aggression - after all, it was filled with chocolate - but Minstrel's desire to rend the multicoloured bull limb from limb was slightly surprising. He seems so otherwise calm.

Gradually, the day wound down. People left to deal with dogs, or horses, or both, and eventually it was just me, Fisher, Janus and Badger, and Phid. I for one couldn't face the idea of cooking anything, so, at 7ish, we walked down to the local pub. It was now a grey but still warm evening, and despite the midgies being out in force it was a lovely amble. We spent a very amenable couple of hours drinking some beer, eating some good pub grub and nattering. Then we walked home in the gloaming, trying to convince ourselves that the 2.6 mile walk (in total, there and back) would somehow make a difference to our enormous calory intake.

Back home, we had some hot drinks, read the Sunday papers or watched TV, and gradually drifted off to our beds just after midnight.

And that brings me to today. Badger was the first to leave, having to go to a conference in Aberdeen. Then Brother headed off on his long drive down south. Finally, Janus, Fisher and I went for a walk at Little Glenshee with the pooches before enjoying the final meal of the holiday at Gleneagles. It was delicious, and a very fitting send off for good ol' Janus - first to arrive, last to leave, and eternally enthusiastic throughout. Definitely the sort of buddy worth keeping!

So now I'm delighting in the fact that Fisher and I really do have some time to ourselves - at least for the next few weeks, before heading off to Greece with Ceegar and Meeper. I've got a tennis match to play tomorrow, some work to do for the Blind Soc, but otherwise - it can be all about us! Not, of course, that the barbecue was for anyone else. It was a party for our own sake as well as our friends' pleasure - but it's nice to think we can be by ourselves for a while. We've caught up with everyone we wanted to, including Brave Bird and Minstrel, who'd actually called to cancel a couple of days before. We were very disappointed, but their family had arranged something for Father's Day, so we understood. Then, lo and behold, they actually rearranged it to be a brunch so they could fit us in! It was a terrific surprise and it was lovely to see them. Unfortunately, Spar and Blar haven't learnt how to function on only a few hours sleep yet, so their social life - and that of Baby Belle - remains on hold. None of us expected to see them, so it was no surprise they couldn't face coming up. It was good of Blar to send a text letting us know they weren't coming, though, so we didn't have to save food on the offchance they arrived. Good job, considering how quickly it was wolfed!

Our plans over the next few days may include: a trip to Lunan Bay to see if there's any surf; dinner with the neighbours; lots of exercise; not much food; general relaxation at home; Wimbledon watching in the garden, with the TV facing through the French windows; slow drinking of mint juleps, which I made for the barbecue and which I think we should have permanently on tap; taking the pooches for new and interesting walks; sleeping.

Sounds divine.


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