Disappointment, and How Best to Deal With It

The disappointment of there being no Harvest Home – Voiced by Uncle George and the eight-year-old Janet, 1918

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

“I don’t think there is going to be a Harvest Home this year,” George said.

“That’s foolishness, George Sandison!” I was indignant. “There is always a Harvest Home. Why isn’t there going to be one.”

George leaned on his rake and stared away at the Ben in that searching way, and Tom said: “Well, ye see, since the War things is not the same. Apples and raisins and things is very, very dear, and your father says the Laird kind of feels that he canna afford it like he used to.”

“But we don’t have to have raisin dumpling! We could sing and dance—“

“Listen,” George said. “I don’t think we should be speaking about it. If Sir Torquil feels he canna afford it, to be speaking about it and showing that a person is disappointed will chust make things worse for him. For me, I am just going to go on as usual as if I had never heard o’ such a thing as a Harvest Home.”

“But you are disappointed all the same, George?”

“Och aye, surely. But when a person’s disappointed it’s better to be disappointed in to yourself and not be bawling about it at people. That only makes it worse …. Man, Tom, I wish I had a sweetie! You wouldna have a black-strippit ball about you?”

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The Old Brewery, Cromarty

I have just returned from a Weekend Residential held in the village of Cromarty, the Achcraggan of the My Friend… series of books. For only the second time since I started my Creative Writing course at college last September, I met up with my classmates in a non-virtual fashion, so it was a great chance to catch up. Courses like ours are mainly done online nowadays, with lectures being given via Video Conference. ‘Tis the times, but the weekend was a resounding success so more will follow no doubt.

The centre where we stayed is an old brewery, so what better name for this quite fabulous centre for the arts than, The Old Brewery. I am local-ish, so know the village well, and my husband’s very first job was at the local pottery (it is a very artsy place), but for people who have never visited before, it really is quite something – Almost a time capsule from the 18th century when Cromarty was one of the most prosperous places in Scotland because of trade with Northern Europe, and because of the vast shoals of silver darlings (herring to you and I) that were caught off its shores.

I did say it was almost an 18th century time capsule however, and that would be because if you look west along the firth, the view is something like this. I went out for an evening walk amongst the quaint streets of the old fishertown, but when I joined the shore road, I was quite mesmerised by the scale of the lit-up structures attached to the oil fabrication yard on the north side of the firth.

Drilling rigs are parked up in the Cromarty Firth near Invergordon, Scotland

The Oil Fabrication Yard at Nigg

However, in the morning, I woke up to this – What a weird mix of old and new, but strangely alluring too, as it brings a modern-day sharpness to the quaint and slightly twee village.

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The quaint village of Cromarty

Over the course of the weekend, an invitation went out to give readings of either your own work, or that of a favourite author. Of course for me it was simple, as what better to read when in Cromarty, but a couple of excerpts from My Friends the Miss Boyds. The two I chose have already featured in this blog, The Freedom of the Individual and The Difference between Townsfolk and Countryfolk.

I think they both went down quite well.

Alyson

The Difference between Townsfolk and Countryfolk

Discussing the ineptitude of townsfolk on Red Cross collection day – Voiced by Tom and the eight-year-old Janet, 1918

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

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So down Tom and I went to the village on Friday afternoon, both in very good form behind Dulcie, who was spanking along, as if she thought it a fine thing to be alive and so it was. Everybody knew us, of course, and stopped to speak to us, and Doctor Mackay put a threepenny piece in the box on the shore road “just for luck” he said. The butter, eggs and honey we had with us would be delivered at the houses that had ordered them, and some would be exchanged for our groceries and butcher-meat through accounts that had been going on for years but the wild raspberries I had picked and the pigeons Tom had shot, were for our Red Cross.

“And we have this new call to make the-day, on the Miss Boyds,” said Tom. “Should we be keeping a pair of Red Cross pigeons for them, do you think?”

“Maybe they couldn’t pluck them, Tom,” I said. “They are awful handless-looking, somehow.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Tom agreed. It’s them being from the town, the poor craiturs. People from the town is very inclined to be useless in a lot of ways. They’ll be buying their pigeons from a mannie that plucks them all ready for the pot, so they never get a chance to learn a thing for themselves. Aye. We’ll just chust sell the pigeons as usual and maybe they’ll be putting a penny in the boxie whateffer.”

Pictures of The Old Store

I am very sorry, but I haven’t posted anything new on this blog for over a month. My poor mum is in hospital and won’t be able to go home, so I have to find a care home for her. This has been a massive challenge as there just don’t seem to be enough places for the number of old folk who require them.

The old folk of Reachfar of course would never have had to face that prospect as I doubt if care homes existed in the “Achcraggan” featured in the My Friend series. Families looked after their own and I know Jane Duncan herself looked after Uncle George at her house on the shore, until his death. I would have loved to be able to do the same for my mum but she needs 24 hour care so not really possible for modern day families who still have to work and have grown up children still living at home.

Whatever, all will sort itself out soon I’m sure, but in the meantime here are a few pictures of the house Jane Duncan converted from an old storehouse, down on the shore-line at Jemimaville. The people who live in it now are conscious of its history and we were lucky to be able to visit it a few years ago. I give you The Old Store (renamed Reachfar it seems).

Alyson

 

“Achcraggan” Church

The East Church in “Achcraggan”

Had a lovely visit to Cromarty earlier on this year with a friend who was over from Australia. Amongst other things, we paid a visit to the East Church, which was very probably the inspiration for the Reverend Roderick’s church in the My Friend... novels.

Alyson

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Inside the East Church

The Harvest Moon

I have another blog, a music one, where I write posts about what is commonly known as “the tracks of my years”. I know Janet Sandison loved music too, but the tracks of her years would have been very different from mine, having been born 50 years earlier.

As the September full moon, the Harvest Moon, will appear in our skies tonight, I have just shared the song of the same name by Neil Young over on the other blog. I have a sneaking suspicion that Janet and Twice, who like Neil Young both felt a close bond with nature, might well have enjoyed it too.

All full moons have a name, given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar. The Harvest Moon can occur in either September or October, as it’s the name given to the full moon that lands closest to the autumnal equinox. This year we reached the equinox on Sunday the 23rd Sept, that pivot point in the year after which we can expect more hours of dark than light in our days. Had it not landed that way, it would have been called the Corn Moon.

Harvests were very important to the residents of Reachfar, both their own and the big, onerous harvests supervised by Janet’s father at Poyntdale. At the end of it however there was a celebration, a Harvest Home, to give thanks for the food that would be available for the coming year.

We sometimes forget to give thanks to those who are still responsible for the annual cycle of planting and harvesting, but as I look up at the Harvest Moon tonight, I promise to remember them.

Alyson

Autumnal Equinox

Well, it’s the day of the autumnal equinox, that pivot point in the year when there will now be more hours of darkness, than light. Makes me a bit sad, but on the upside, there will be all those lovely autumn colours to look forward to over the the next couple of months.

A good few years ago I took a picture of something from the natural world every day for a year, and built up a lovely set of 365 shots which documented all four seasons. Lets have a look back and find the photos from around this time.

Alyson

Taken in and around my neck of the woods, September the 21st to 25th, 2010.