Thursday, 10 March 2011


It is not spring. Not yet. The lack of primroses and the hail and snow force this conclusion, not to mention cold nose, cold fingers, cold toes.

At the weekend, we moved down to the shore of Loch Roe, but we've been forced to admit we were premature, and now we're back in the woods again.

Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while, or who have read 'Wildlife on Braighlinne' in the wonderful Wilder Vein anthology, will know that my partner Bill and I life a nomadic life within the 11 hectares of our home. It's a kind of transhumance, similar in spirit to that of herders, hunter-gatherers and other peoples who still live close to nature. We spend the winter in a cabin in the woods, sheltered from the worst storms. In spring we move down to our little caravan on the shore of the sea loch. In summer, when the midgies make cooking inside a steamy caravan unpleasant we take to cooking and eating in another caravan up on the breezy heights of the croft, then wend our way back down to the shore to sleep. In autumn we revert to our spring quarters, until the path down the crag to the shore becomes too icy to navigate by torchlight as the nights draw in, when we retreat to the woods.

The seasons don't obey calendars. Spring on Braighlinne is defined by the opening of the first primrose. Summer comes with the first midgies, or the arrival of the terns from Antartica, whichever come first. When the terns leave, that's autumn. And winter announces itself by the first hard frost.

So what were we doing heading for the shore before the first primrose, you may well ask. Bill had one of those significant birthdays, and his chosen venue was the shore. Over the past 10 years, five of his birthdays have been after the first primrose, and five before. This year, once again, his birthday came early.

Last night we were back in the cosy cabin, fire glowing in the stove, a warming lentil stew on, and snow on the ground outside. It's the seasonal equivalent of having got up, thought better of it and snuggled back into bed for another snooze.

Wake me when the primroses are open.

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