We hear on the news that Scotland will soon be battered by storms again. But what action to take, this is the problem. When someone shouts “Warning!” or “Look Out!” then we all know to duck down behind the sofa or jump out of the road, whichever is more appropriate. But here we are close to the shortest day, most of Winter still to come, right in the firing line for the latest depression, and it is difficult to know what exactly we should be doing.

Maybe there is some action I should be taking in preparation; a checklist is needed.
Is the house roof fastened on securely? Well it was OK for last week’s storm and the one just before that so it should stay put for this one, shouldn’t it? It survived last winter’s gales too when dozens of our electricity pylons crumpled and fell over.
Will the garden fence survive? Not a problem as we don’t have wooden fences here. They are far too vulnerable, an open invitation to be blown over. A wire mesh fence is what is needed, something that lets the wind pass right through.
Is the wheelie bin tied down? We have always kept it on a leash, tied by a rope to an eye screwed into the wall just by the back door to prevent it from flying around the garden – this is just the way we do things around here – so nothing needs to change there then.
What about preparing for the inevitable power outage, the sort of thing that happens when a spruce tree uproots and topples over onto the power lines close by? Well let’s see now… Candles? Check; Portable gas heater? Check; Camping gas cooker? Check; Freezer full of food? Check; Kindles on charge? Check (a bit of a giveaway this as it shows just how bang up to date we are with technology. We both use Kindles, his and hers, which mean we can read books in total darkness. Strange behaviour really so we don’t brag about it).

By now our excitement levels are right against the stop. Dire warnings of impending doom are broadcast on all the media. The ‘Met Office Amber Alert’ thingy is ringing in my ears and I am running out of preparation-y things to do. There really is little else for it. We just have go out to see what is really going on.

The noise we hear when we step outside the house is of the trees, leafless though they are, growling and whistling as they thrash about. Leaves, or the remains of them, instead of being blown away are collected rather neatly in a small circular pile where the wind has formed a vortex on its path around the garden shed. The burn at the bottom of our road is full, but no more so than normal, although the water is being blown upstream in the gullies beside the forest track and there are pine needles spinning down to form a pale brown layer on the mounds of sphagnum moss. Amidst all the noise from the trees there is something else in the background, like interference on a radio set, a hissing, roaring sound carried to us on the wind from Carradale Bay.Storm at mouth of Carradale Water

The tide is high at the beach, almost at maximum, but this is the sight that we came here for, to watch the white surf pounding in from the south. My glasses fog over with salt spray and white spume floats over my boots, continuing up the beach to the dunes beyond as we stand and admire the power of the sea where it meets the river, a boiling mass of confused water leaping in all directions. All along the tide line where we walk there are bundles of tangled seaweed into which are mixed the delicate shells of heart urchins, hundreds of them, ripped away from their comfortable homes by the storm. Large baulks of timber, some clearly natural, some fashioned by man, are thrown up randomly, the sand and sea having stripped the bark and smoothed the surface like a fine emery. As we walk along the beach the wind is now more on our backs so we barely notice the wave which launches itself at us coming up the beach at speed. If it could it would try to take us back with it, to mix us up with the foam and weed but we make a frantic dash up the beach, which would appear amusing if there were anyone else here to see it. But who else is crazy enough to venture out on a day like this. Very few, it has to be said.

Back home and inside the house things should be much quieter but the plastic sheet which covers the flat roof above our dormer windows has become loose and flaps about madly in the wind. Afraid of losing it completely – it is there to keep the rain from leaking through – last week found me climbing precariously up an extending ladder to try to tame the thing. But how can you control such a wild thing without nailing wooden battens across it, in the process making more holes in the roof for the water to leak through. Perhaps some heavy weights up there might hold it; but then I remember the power of the wind, the weight of it, the way it was throwing the sea about, picking up even wet sand off the beach, the way it bends trees to breaking point and beyond. Nothing I can think of (that I can physically lift up to the roof) would be heavy enough to resist being tossed about, thrown off the roof to the ground. For the moment the plastic sheet stays in place, until the next gale, or the one after.

Ordinarily we might be upset by this but another event has rather overshadowed things.CH boiler delivery Christmas arrives just a few days early when this delivery is dropped into our front garden. It doesn’t stay there long as our plumber, Tom, comes early the next day armed with spanners, blowtorch and determination. The heavyweight parcel contains our new central heating boiler, a modern, super-efficient machine which will give us plenty of warmth for years to come, a fine present from Santa and his elves.

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