|01/04/2011||Filled under Carradale, Scotland|
Our first week in Carradale was a quiet one, weather-wise, with plenty of sunshine, light winds and almost no rain. This, we realise, is far from the norm for this place. Just one week in and we get our first taster of what the weather can do when it wants to. Overnight we heard the rain pattering against our bedroom window and in the morning we peered from our back window up at where the slopes of Cnoc nan Gabhar disappeared into a swirling mist. Clearly there was a strong wind blowing although we realised, for the first time, how sheltered our house is from the main force of a westerly blast. By late morning the rain had eased and the sun was peeking through for my drive into Campbeltown to stock up with provisions. For the drive home I had full sunshine from a cloudless sky although by now the wind was powerful enough to sway our little car about and to pick up the sea in Kilbrannan Sound and throw it out towards Aran, some three miles away. This little blow was just a teaser though, something to excite us but not to scare us off. We are well aware of what the weather in the west of Scotland can do.
Through all this, our acquaintance with the people of the village continues at some pace, faster than I can easily commit names to memory. We went to register at the doctor’s surgery and our names were passed around the waiting room to those who had not already met us, like we were some sort of celebrities.
“Oh you are the couple who have sailed around Britain and you had the hernia, didn’t you?”
We have to remember to keep our stories straight – any discrepancies are bound to be picked up on. Most of the Carradalians (?) to whom we speak ask us where we are staying (the Scots use this expression as the English might use ‘living’) but often those who have lived here for many years cannot place us easily from our address alone. We have to tell them who we bought the house from before all becomes clear, “Oh I know where you are now… next door to Pat.” The people here are far more important than the houses they live in. We are even getting acquainted with some of the dogs who we meet on our rambles along the local forest tracks. Ailsa and Jess here seemed quite happy with us as we walked along chatting to their owners.
All of this welcoming warmth we sort of expected, or at least hoped for, even though we had no idea it would happen so quickly. Friendships we have made in little more than one week we expected would take many months to develop. And there is another population who seems to like us being here as well. As soon as our bird feeders were unpacked we hung them up in the back garden just to see what would happen, knowing that it can take many days before the birds ‘find’ them and start to feed. How wrong we were. Hardly had we closed the back door when the first chaffinches arrived, swiftly followed by blue tits and a robin. Now they arrive in their hoards and in no less than eleven different varieties, surely something worthy of a list:
Chaffinch; Bullfinch; Greenfinch; Great tit; Blue tit; Coal tit; Robin; Siskin; Blackbird; Thrush; Sparrow.
They flit from perch to perch at amazing speed, sometimes three different types of bird on a feeder at the same time, jostling for space, fighting for dominance. Only the coal tits, of which we have already seen three at once, know their place. They will lurk about watching for the moment when every other bird flies off so they can zoom in for their feed. Quick as a flash they dart in, head down for a mouthful then eyes swivelling about checking for competition before taking another nibble. Our garden has become a circus ring, full of acrobatics and flashing wings, but always with the safety of the cover provided by the shrubbery on the forestry land just beyond our back fence. The birds here seem to have little fear of humans, possibly because there is a greater threat which glides around the sky, something we hear before we see, a high-pitched screech that echoes across the land as the buzzard calls to its mate.