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Connecting things up

A few days ago and we are lounging around the house in our early morning rags, so to speak, when the sound of a large vehicle making a cautious approach down our road reaches our ears and brings us rushing to the window. (Well, we do lead rather dull lives.) A Jewsons lorry is a tight fit in our street so are pleased to see that the driver has missed most of the obstacles, including our car, in reversing to a position outside our front door, but then it dawns on us that this might be a delivery for us so we rapidly don something presentable (something to give protection from the fresh wind outside) and emerge to greet him.

We are delighted to discover him in the process of unloading a pallet on which is balanced our new replacement central heating boiler, something we have been expecting for weeks, and had almost given up on. He has barely finished swinging the heavy load over our fence, by delicate manipulation of the mechanical arm attached to his lorry, when we notice that there is more commotion at the top of the road. WoodstoreThis time it is a large 4×4 towing a trailer full of logs that neatly backs into a parking slot close to our fence so that a ton or so of wood can be thrown over for stacking in the woodstore I have lovingly created for it.

Suddenly, in the space of one hour, our dull lives have been transformed into frenzied activity and creativeness (stacking wood is a satisfyingly creative pastime).

Later in the day it is raining with some gusto when our plumber, Tom, calls round to ensure the boiler is moved into the dry – an operation for which we rope in a neighbour so that lifting the awkward 185 kilo load does not injure anyone’s back – and now all we need is for Tom to return to fit it. And there lies the problem. He turns up early the next day, all prepared for surgical removal of the old and replacement with the new, but soon realises, to his horror, that the wrong model has been delivered to us. If he were to install this particular one he would have to alter radically every pipe in the house, sending water flowing in directions and into places it has never before been, just to make it work. He could either do this, or swap what we now have for a different model, one with more connections that can be plugged in more simply.

So it is that we move one step forward in our project to improve our new home, then take two back. We now have enough wood to last all winter but no stove to burn it on (another delivery we are waiting for) and we have a splendid white central heating boiler which sits just inside the front door, a talking point for visitors but of little practical use.

Whilst all this is going on we artfully arrange plastic sheets and buckets beneath the flat roof of one of our dormer windows as we attempt to catch most of the water that drips through to the floor. We have arranged for a builder to come and repair this but in our part of the world nothing happens quickly. And even if he was able to start the job now, the weather would prevent him from doing so. Days without rain are scarce at this time of year.

Double rainbow

Fortunately things are not as grim as all this sounds. We might have plenty of rain falling on us but combined with this we have freshly scrubbed air and brilliant sunshine. Put rain and sun together and you have rainbows to die for.

We grab our waterproof coats, lace on our boots, throw an apple and some Tunnocks biscuits into a rucksack then march briskly off towards the forest track before the next shower catches up with us. Dark brooding clouds loom over the hill like giant monsters and we can see the rain as it approaches, gradually subtracting pieces of landscape from view, until large blobs are splashing into the puddles around us. Cagoule hoods go up but we don’t stop walking. The pattern of sudden, soon-to-pass showers has been with us for days now so we know what to expect and ten minutes later we are once again in a sunny sparkling world, the trees dripping silver and dazzling rivulets pouring out of the forest nearby.

We head east past Kirnashie Hill towards the Kilbrannan shore where the Eilean Grianain salmon farm lies so that I can show Kate a little used path that descends through the ancient cliff line from which the seatwisted stack retreated many thousands of years ago due to post glacial land rebound. We are in what has been described as a temperate rainforest. Damp and rotting fallen trees are covered with an overgrowth of ferns, fungi and mosses while striated boulders peep through like dark grey teeth. It is rough ground to walk on and we pick up moisture from everything we touch, our clothing gradually becoming wetter, until finally the land drops away steeply. The prehistoric cliff is hard to recognise but as we descend we find ourselves in a strange world. Here ancient sea stacks still point skywards and the twisted strata bend into impossible shapes. The sea is close at hand but it feels more like we are  lost in a jungle; yet so close to home.
We continue at present day sea level now, but still amongst the trees, some of which are wearing boots of soft moss – for which we have no explanation – until we can find a way out onto the shoreline. The tide is quite high and this leaves only a narrow rocky strip for us to walk on, slippery slabs and boulders to balance on or stumble over.

Trees with green skirts

With the breeze behind us now we slowly make our way homewards to complete our circuit. A black cloud slips across Kilbrannan Sound towards Arran, the rain missing us but blotting out everything from view and drenching the fish farm behind us. Shiny rounded pebbles along the shore here come in such amazing variety of colour that we cannot resist picking them up to examine them in detail, turning them over in our hands. Some are translucent white quartz whilst others are deep obsidian black. Pink and orange, green, yellow and red are here, each one having travelled  trapped in ice many thousands of years before but we know from experience that their shiny glamour is an illusion. Once dry they become paler and plainer things. So our pockets stay empty.

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