It’s been almost 2 months since we entered lock down here in the NE coast of Scotland. The time has just flown by—no doubt helped by the fact that the weather’s been sunny and warm for the most part and we’ve been able to spend a lot of time outdoors in the garden.
This week however, the weather changed dramatically! We had a drop in temperature over Saturday evening followed by snow flurries throughout the day on Sunday. Tuesday seen a mixture of dry and wet spells with a really cold easterly wind; and the weather forecasters predict it will be -1°C in our area with more snow flurries for the rest of this week…. Brrrrr!
I’m reminded of something my mum used to say about this particular time of the year, i.e.
“Button to chin till May be in; don’t cast a clout till May is oot!
When I was a child….
I would plead with my mum to let me go swimming at the first sign of warmth and sunshine in May. Her answer was always the same—a big fat resounding “No!” Sometimes she would point to the snow capped Beinn a’ Bheithir (Gaelic for “Thunderbolt Mountain” and pronounced “Ben-a-Vire”) and add, “wait until all the snow has melted and then it’ll be good to go.”
From June onwards, the River Laroch was a favourite haunt re: swimming for many of the village children. We would spend a good part of summer at a spot called the “Linn-Snámh” (gaelic for “swimming pool” and pronounced “Leen-ga”). To get there, we’d head up the school brae, past Farmer McLauchlan and his wife Joan’s big white house at the top of the brae, past the sheep pens, through a large metal gate and from there we’d continue uphill for another 400 metres or so before descending down a steep hill covered in heather where the pool was situated at the bottom.
I can still recall the excitement I felt spotting other children in the pool from the top of the hill and racing down through the springy wild heather as fast as I could to join them. It’s funny, but the “swimming pool” had its own unique smell—a woody scent mixed with wild heather, bog myrtle and fresh running river water. Anyone familiar with the “swimming pool” will know exactly what I mean.
There we would swim and sunbathe on the rocks, enjoy a picnic lunch and pass a good part of the day. Sometimes we would return again in the early evening for another hour or so and pack up around 7.30pm when the midgies appeared and decided we were on their dinner menu, lol. The “swimming pool” brings back so many fond memories. It’s where I learnt to swim (taught by the older village children) and where a good many others from Ballachulish village learnt to swim also.
We didn’t realise we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun. —Anon
The Linn-Snámh even had its own feature slide—a small waterfall at the top of the pool which we’d take in turns to slide down! There were quite a few frayed swimming cossy bottoms as a result, plus a few bruised behinds from the rocks if you didn’t get your seating position just right! 😁
We didn’t have holidays abroad back in these days and to be honest, such never even crossed our minds. When we did go on holiday, it was to a UK destination. We had our own ‘local’ pool side destination and didn’t need a fancy beach and deckchair somewhere wild and exotic—we had all we needed at home in the village for the most part. How things have changed in the years since, but in those days we were really happy and content with our lot.
Moments rather than possessions are the true treasures of life. —Frank Sonnenburg
Back then, the words “pandemic” and “Covid-19” would have seemed science fictional to us children. Mind, it’s not like a world pandemic hadn’t featured in the memories of the older generations! Throughout the years stories about a terrible plague that had its outbreak in 1665 through 1666 filtered down through the generations….
The Great Plague
I remember my mum talking about “The Great Plague” when I was growing up and recall her speaking about a ship sailing up Loch Leven to visit the owners of the original Callart House on the opposite shores of Caolasnacon, not far from Kinlochleven. Onboard the ship were friends of the family who had been invited to visit. Perhaps these high society folks were visiting from London or some other cosmopolitan town or city; such is not entirely known.
What is known is that both the passengers and crew onboard the ship had already been infected with the plague. These infected souls in turn passed the plague on to members of the household at Callart resulting in every member of the household dying apart from one young woman and her fiance. The young woman was affectionately known as ‘Mairi’ or the ‘Lily of Callart’.
The Great Plague had already brought devastation in its path all across Europe and in an effort to contain it in this new destination, Callart House was burnt to the ground and the plague was prevented from spreading into the local communities, e.g. Onich, Callart, Glencoe, Ballachulish and Kinlochleven.
Mairi later died in an accident, i.e. a landslide en route to Islay; she had apparently been fleeing an arranged marriage to another man after her fiance, Dermaid Cameron was killed in the Battle of Inverlochy.
I visited the ‘new’ Callart House—which is built in the original grounds of the old property—along with a friend back in my teens. I remember peering through a cobweb covered window towards the back of the house; inside was a large tiled hallway where an old stagecoach of all things stood right in the middle of the black and white tiled floor. I’m not sure why a stagecoach was in the middle of a hallway—it seemed a bit strange—but we didn’t fancy hanging around trying to figure out this conundrum. The whole place felt eerie and we wanted to get back to the car – asap! 😅
Florence Nightingale (aka The Lady with the Lamp)
On Tuesday 12th May, at 8.30pm I placed a light (i.e. a battery candle light) in the lounge window and left it burning throughout the night in memory of Florence Nightingale. I did so in response to a request by a leading nurse speaking on GMTV that same morning. I’m not sure if many people in our surrounding area heard the call to do so unfortunately— perhaps it was advertised a little too late—at any rate, there didn’t seem to be a very good response. Did any of you hear the request I wonder?
Miss Nightingale was part of a wealthy family from the UK, but she defied the expectations of her time much to the dismay of her family and pursued what she saw as her God-given calling as a nurse.
Miss Nightingale was an excellent statistician, and a social reformer. She was also a foundational philosopher of modern nursing and is respected as such throughout the nursing profession both at home in the UK and across the world. Tuesday, 12th May 2020 represented 200 years since her birth!
If Florence Nightingale had been around today, she would be advocating good hand hygiene (she practically invented it); plus the statistician in her would have a good many things to teach us regarding accurately collating and recording information in the battle against the spread of Covid-19! Move over Boris Johnston and government health advisors of our day! This girl could teach you all a thing or two! I’m almost certain Mr Johnston would have her ‘right up there’ in his Cabinet of advisers to be sure. ☺
Well, the rest of this week has been pretty uneventful! Tonight is our “Clap for the NHS” night and an excuse for hubby to let his frustration from lock down out on a kitchen pan and lid! I’m sure his clanging can be heard for miles and miles…..e.m.b.a.r.a.s.s.i.n.g! But it’s done with good intent too. We appreciate the NHS and indeed all our front line workers very much – it’s just a shame it takes a crisis to realise it!
What have you been up to this past week? I’d love to hear. Please feel free to leave a note in the comments section below. I’d love to know you dropped by.
In the meantime, count your blessings every day and stay safe and well everyone.