Thursday 15 February 2024

Tartan troos

 Spring is surely in the air, this time of year, even if it is not yet in my step. This year will be the first spring I have not been lambing for many years. Well, that isn’t strictly true as our seven Ryeland ewes will hopefully be going through it but, as yet, we don’t get involved with those as they live at a friend’s farm and hence get lumped in with another 500 or so ewes, all doing the same thing. So, as we don’t have to rush back to France to manage the wooly ones there, we have decided to take a little extra time here in Fife, enjoying the seafront house while it is empty of holiday makers. To be honest, if we weren’t here, it would probably be booked out full by now, as a lot of folks like to come out of season to maybe catch some golf or a shorter queue at the chip shop.

Anyway, I too am enjoying a bit more golf, trying out a few more of the local ‘links’ courses as well as the one in Crail that I am a member of. Generally, as a reciprocal deal with my club, I get good rates on most of them, including Lundin Links, Blairgowrie and even some overseas ones. I still mostly don’t win anything and I don’t think my golf has improved in 30 years, but I get out and enjoy the blustery wind and rain. My wife, however, is rapidly improving since I bought her a course of lessons for Christmas and she is challenging me more and more, which can’t be a bad thing. Even little Haggis has taken up the game, as we sometimes take her round, tied to the trolley. Problem is, we have always encouraged her to chase balls so now she heads off after every shot, taking the trolley with her which usually crashes to the ground spilling clubs all around and scaring her half to death.

Another thing which confuses her is the placement of the beach. I mentioned a few months ago that storm Babbet had rearranged the rocks on our beach to be elsewhere, leaving us with lovely golden sand outside our window. Well since then we have had a couple more storms with stupid names which have brought some more rocks back to the door. Honestly, it’s like a scene-change in a sci-fi movie, where nothing is as it should be. Poor Haggis heads to the sandy part for a wee, only to find she is 3 feet into water and seaweed. For a dog with a small brain, this must be hard to compute!

We also seem to get more invites to Scottish dinners these days. A few weeks ago we were at the splendid Balathie House Hotel near Perth for a Burns Supper and all the haggis that entails. Then this weekend we are at the Dunblane Hydro for a charity do in aid of the Royal Highland Education Trust which will no doubt involve us being encouraged to put our hand in our pockets. Only this one is black tie, which in Scottish is a code word for ‘wear a kilt’. Now that is something I have only done once before, some 20-plus years ago at a wedding in Jamaica, believe it or not. But being an Englishman, etiquette suggests that I shouldn’t wear the tartan skirt for fear of being an imposter, which leaves me in a dilemma. Eventually I have settled for dark suit, with a Stewart tartan bow-tie and waistcoat, and hope I don’t get the p*ss taken out of me too much! The following week, we are at the England vs Scotland rugby match in Murrayfield and I know damn well what I will be wearing to that!   

The remainder of my winter time is taken up with writing books and recording my weekly Toplines and Tales podcast. Just recently I have started a quiz too, specializing in cattle and sheep. It may even be the first of its kind although I am not yet sure how successful it will prove to be. I don’t suppose it will be of interest to anyone reading this unless, of course, you happen to know which animal won the Burke trophy at the Royal Show in 1980!

Being a writer, I am aware that I should read more books. Well thankfully I have found a supplier of antiques who keeps furnishing me with some ancient printed works. To start with it was in the name of research for the history book we are still writing but I am finding myself drawn into some of these old narratives, particularly when they involve old cattle drives and sheep husbandry. Is this a sign of getting old? Asking for a friend.