Sunday, 1 November 2009

Whirl of Gaity

Location: Home alone at last
Mood: Exhausted but happy
Music: Take Me By the Hand

Gracious. I feel like someone's taken me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me backwards through a funfair. It's been a terrific week, but by God am I knackered!

After the Jedburgh half, Fisher and I had Monday to relax and try and throw off the last of our lurgis. I felt much better, but poor Fisher is still hacking away with an irritating little cough. She didn't feel great on Tuesday, but she stuck her chin in the air and insisted on soldiering on. I'm glad she did. It was time for her to give me my birthday surprise.

First stop was Gleneagles, where she'd arranged a day of activity. The day was filthy - teeming down with rain, but not cold, and, luckily, not windy. We drove straight to the fishing school, where she'd booked me a 'taster' lesson in fly fishing. It was only an hour long, so I didn't really have time to get the hang of it, but it was enough time to get me totally hooked (no pun intended). It's hard. Trying to get a rhythm going whilst also remembering to feed the line with your left hand is not particularly intuitive - but I did get a few casts going. Just as I thought I was getting the hang of it, the lesson was over - which left us just enough time to grab a coffee and pastry at Deseo before moving on to the next thing. This was ...

Falconry! Totally cool. We got to handle Harris Hawks - just the most amazing creatures - and seeing them head towards you in a beautiful, swooping glide before alighting on your wrist to gobble up a piece of rabbit is just astounding. Not only are they beautiful to behold, but they're also pack animals, so as we walked around the grounds they followed us, alighting on treetops, tennis court fences, and anything that gave them a good perch. It was incredible.

After this, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Deseo, then set off for our final activity: carriage driving. I've wanted to do this for ages - but, in honesty, it was a bit of a disappointment. I've really always wanted to do proper sporting carriage racing, Ben Hur style, with blades spinning out of chariot wheels ... that kind of thing. I wasn't that fussed about being wheeled along behind a 13 hand pony called Sugar. But hey - it was fun.

Our day of Doing Stuff completed, I was then whisked away to a mystery location, which turned out to be Monachyle Mhor. It's a lovely hotel in the middle of a Glen, beside a loch - very remote, very beautiful. We had a splendid supper, with the only downsides being overcooked halibut for Fisher, and a tepid main course for me. Boozy and tired, we then shared an enooooormous bath before collapsing into bed.

The next day, we'd planned on going for an epic walk with the pooches. Unfortunately, I was overcome by tiredness and general lethargy so we only managed an hour's walk. We saw Rob Roy's grave (whaddever), enjoyed the damp beauty of our surroundings, then headed off to Loch Lomond. In truth, the best part of the day was just spent enjoying driving through spectacular scenery, which I really like doing. Not very active, but very good for the soul. We did manage to get out of the car and find a beautiful waterfall just off the road, but other than that it was an inactive day.

Back at Monachle Mohr we had an even better meal than the previous night, with some seriously spectacular starters, but encountered some rough types in the bar. I'm not averse to rough types, and, in fact, they were quite good fun as we joined their conversation after the meal - but when you're trying to have an elegant meal in the adjoining dining room, listening to ribald chat rather spoils the mood. Anyway, we did have a moment of fun with them. One of them, a chatty, laddish sort, exchanged a few words with us and then asked, in a direct sort of way, whether we had husbands.

"No," I said, "we're together."

"Are ye??" he said, with that sort of surprised, just-seen-a-bearded-lady excitement we Sapphics so often encounter. He then launched into this:

"Are ye? Well, I suppose that means that, if ye roll over in the middle o' the night, ye'll not be mistaking ..."

And then he stopped. The entire bar stared at him, agog as to how he was going to finish this sentence. I racked my brains. What could the end of this joke be? I was agog. I can usually spot a joke coming - but this one was totally elusive.

Unfortunately, so it proved to the laddie as well. Instead of making any attempt at finishing the sentence, he simply swivelled on his stool and buried his face in his beer. Fisher and I had a fit of the giggles, as did the other lads in the bar (several of them shaking their heads in amazement), and the conversation moved on. I'd still love to know what the hell we'd not mistake in the middle of the night.

Following my wonderful treat, we returned home on Thursday afternoon and began to prepare for the following few days. Y'see - I had another mystery treat coming, this time courtesy of Phid, which would take up all of Saturday. And, on Saturday evening, we were having a Hallowe'en party, which needed a lot of preparation. So, on Friday, we spent the day shopping for the festivities. We emptied every joke shop in Perth, bought wheelbarrow loads of pumpkins, bucked under armfulls of booze - and then returned home to decorate.

By the time Phid arrived on Saturday morning, to pick us up for the mystery trip, we had:

* Placed scary baby-dolls, decorated with pentagrams and bloody lips, on doors
* Scattered rubber spiders strategically about
* Mounted a severed hand on a door, so it peeked around the side
* Draped a slanket over a coat stand, with a white face mask glaring out - a ghoulish, death-like figure that greeted you as you came through the door. Strategic lighting illuminated only the face. It was freaky!
* Dangled spiders-webs and hair from door frames in the hopes they'd get in people's faces and freak them out.
* Built a coffin out of cardboard and arranged skeleton bones so it looked like a skeleton was crawling out.
* Arranged a vampire-head mask on a white sheet on the table, with fake blood all round the neck and a garlic clove in its mouth, so it looked like a severed head.
* Dangled a zip-mouth mask upside down from the chimney in the library, complete with freaky white eyes.
* Poked a disembodied, bloody-bandaged arm from out of a cupboard.
* Placed a cauldron full of bones and blood on a little altar, with further 'ingredients' scattered around - severed fingers and eyeballs, to be exact.
* Set a CD of spooky sound effects and music ready to play at the touch of a button.

With all this set up, we were ready to head off with Phid. And where did she take me?

To the SECC, for the Good Food Show. And it was grand! I'm not one for crowds, or hot, jostling, confined spaces - but I didn't even notice. There were around 80 stalls, and not only that but Phid had booked us into a taste session where we got to sample some crowdie, hot and cold smoked salmon, bread, and two whiskies from Balvenie while each producer talked us through.

Looking round the whole place took until 4pm, and not once did I flag. It was brilliant - truly wonderful to see so many national producers, all of whom seem so dedicated to home grown foodstuffs. We sampled a hell of a lot of cheese - that I can assure you. And I bought 3 chef knives for £60, which was a great deal. We also bought a lot of chocolate from the Chocolate Tree, and got a hell of a lot of info about foodie stuff around Scotland. I really hope the Cheese Board & Boys would like to do the Martin Wishart Cookery School, as it sounds fab.

Happy and inspired, we barrelled back home - and then it was all hands to the pump! I had a venison stew to make, the brazier had to be lit, and the lighting had to be arranged before we were ready for guests. It was touch and go for a while, but in the end it was all up and running, looking wonderful, for the first arrivals. Phid, Fisher and I all huddled in the sitting room at the far end of the house while the first guests found their way through the spooky rooms to the 'sanctuary'. There, they were greeted with cheers and glasses of Orc Blood (black wild berry vodka and orange juice). First up was Wheeler, with a very freaked out Dougal-dog in tow. He seemed entertained. Then came Pro, Koi, Janus and Badger, all of whom had driven up together. A considerable time later and Blarney, Baby Belle and The Doc managed to find their way to the house, after Blar managed to get lost. Getting out of Edinburgh. Where she's lived for the last 8 years. Blar's first job was to tell me how much she didn't appreciate plastic babies nailed to doors. But I ignored her, as Baby Belle was dressed in a with outfit, with a teeny tiny witch's hat, and nobody can get irritated with that in front of you.

Last of all was the arrival of The Neighbours. Epona was feeling a bit under the weather so she couldn't make it, but Shah, Ka'ula Kai and Ina all rocked up in good form. In fact, Kai was already pretty wasted from a day's shooting (and drinking), but it was all very entertaining. We ate, drank, went out and chatted beside the brazier, and had a very convivial time. The neighbours departed at around 11, while quite a lot of the Cheese Board called it quits around midnight. In fact, after midnight it was just me, Fisher, Wheeler, Badger and The Doc still up for a party. So we bobbed for apples. The Doc was by far the best, with her dainty teeth picking each apple up by the stalk. Fisher was the boldest, being the only one to properly dunk - and Wheeler was totally shite, and couldn't even get one. I, on the other hand, was damned if I was putting my face in that water after Wheeler had gurgled, spat and gargled in it, so I was not only a failure but a gutless failure. Poor show.

We finished the night, inevitably, with some poker. Well, there was a newbie there in the shape of The Doc, so we had to teach her. At 3.30am I was left chipless, Doc had waltzed off at 3 with a fat profit, and Wheeler was cackling on top of a vast pile of loot. The only consolation is that, in the morning, he was even later rising than I was. And when he did stumble blearily into the kitchen his first words, accompanied by a bloodshot glare in my direction, were:

"I blame YOU!"

Like I forced him to drink that cask strength Caol Isla! Through a straw ...

Yeh, I felt pretty ropy this morning, but shook it off enough to enjoy lunch at Breizh with Pro, Koi, Badge, Janus, Doc, Blar, Baby Belle and Fisher. After that, we went to Waterstones for some book browsing ... and then went our separate ways.

And that, my dears, is that. I feel like I've been On The Go since the beginning of this month, and now there's a little reprieve. Not that it hasn't been brilliant - it really has - but it does wipe you out a bit. I'm ready to get back into a routine of exercise, light food, work, and gentle play. I've got some events on the horizon to look forward to (murder mystery party on the 12th December, which I have to write ... and which, goddammit, may also coincide with a shoot with the neighbours where Fisher and I might act as stuffers. Also a trip to London to celebrate Brother's birthday, and stay for the ATP championships in November with Koi). I've also got a mystery surprise trip with Phid and Wheeler lined up in November, to help Phid keep her SADness at bay - so it's not a long, bleak winter of boredom by any means. But, just for the moment, we're Not Engaged!

And that's wonderful.

For the moment ...


Anonymous said...

"ye'll not be mistaking ..."

This is one of the funniest things I've found in blogosphere :)

I put some thought into what it might be, and feel he must be about to make a reference to naughty bits - male or female - and their respective similarities to..what? alarm clocks? What else might one reach out for?

Then again, perhaps he was refering to an unfortunate incident dating back to the last time he approached a lady, got lucky, and met with an unfortunate accident.

lovely blog - with a hugely sad bit near the end

toodle pip :)