Time takes on a different meaning when one lives in Nature and when building a house! Come December we’ll have been here two years and still don’t have one. Just when we thought it was in the bag, the mortgage lender decided to throw us a few more curve balls. Perhaps naively, we planned on only having a minimal mortgage but inflation and the price of building materials put paid to that. That was once we found a lender willing to lend to build a wooden house. Turns out most aren’t keen on cladding even if it is Black Larch.
If only I were as thin as my patience. Because the last six months have been exasperating, with our patience and pockets stretched transparent. Like an elastic band, one wonders how far it can stretch before it finally snaps. But it didn’t and we are almost there. The builder is in place, we’ve signed off on the mortgage and our solicitor is crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s as we speak...
This year has gone by in the blink of an eye, and despite the hurdles we’ve continued to nurture this place we call home. We extended the garden and once we sussed out how to stop the slugs, the vegetables thrived. September saw the Lovell clan grow by four with the addition of Dougal, Hamish, Wullie and Shaun, our Valais Blacknose sheep. But decided to see the house underway before taking on the Highland Cows. Sadly, we lost one of our chickens, plucky wee Insky, a few months back. We also had to rehome Plonker the Magpie duck because he was an aggressive arsehole. Duck or chicken, like The Krays neither was safe from his thuggery. Such are the joys of small-holding.
I woke this morning to the first hard frost of the year. Blanketing the meadow and reminding how fast the seasons fly once one passes forty. But I don’t write to bemoan the Crone, but rather to celebrate her.
'We are stardust,
We are golden,
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.’
Speaking of sage women, yesterday saw songstress and matriarch of modern music, Joni Mitchell celebrate her eightieth birthday. When I think of Joni, she reminds me of home. Of listening to Simon and Garfunkel, Scott Mackenzie and The Mamas and Papas with my Ma. The music of freedom was her escape and it would become mine. She introduced me counterculture and all things Californian. Six degrees of separation led me to Laurel Canyon. To the sounds of Jim Morrison, The Eagles, Carole King, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and ultimately Joni Mitchell.
It’s rare when I’m lost for words but when it comes to describing my depth of feeling for Joni Mitchell and her music, they fail me. I fear whatever I say would pale in comparison, such is her skill.
She writes in tongues, the spirit conjurer.
The voice of nature, like the geese that bring with them Autumn on their wings.
Or the ravens that have taken up residence in the pines behind our house. They’re strange calls, a sound like no other perhaps except for her’s. As with Frank Sinatra, Joni’s voice is the musical instrument. The unique way she plays guitar, magically coaxing chords as her lyrics lick at your wounds. I keep a small black book by my beside, in it are her lyrics. A song for the asking, each the sound of colour.
Blue; the seagulls stand stark against the granite grey blue of the brooding North Sea. The soundtrack like the tides, pull and tug at my heart strings.
Remembering folks loved and lost.
Of my Granda and days spent oot fishing in Queenie Arab, his wee ripper boat. So named after his birthplace.
Prior to 1800’s, the fishing town of Peterhead was separated by the North and South Harbours. To cross from one to the other, you had to go by boat. Folks who lived on the North side or Keith Inch were said to “bide o’er the Queenie.”
As for the Arab reference it is rather sketchy and certainly not, politically correct. So I’ll skip that. In time, Peterhead grew to become the biggest white fish port Europe, and in response installed a state of the art drawbridge, aptly named the Queenie Bridge.
Early mornings were my favourite. The rhythmic chug of the engine contrasted by the cut of the motor. Rocking slightly as the sea cradled the boat, watching as the petrol made liquid rainbows in the water. A sunrise that reflected back in hues of gold. Or dark blue days when a salt tang on the wind portend storm coming.
Albeit it took a few lessons, but I learned how to handle crab and lobster without losing a finger. To always put the juveniles and small catch back. How to gut and fillet a fish, how their scales stick and stuck glittering on my skin. To use the waste as bait or to feed the dog-headed seals that followed the boat. Bar the seagulls, there was never a soul to be seen, and it felt like the world belonged to us.
Joni’s lyrics are relentless and unapologetic, the waves of emotion and nostalgia crash over me; taking me back to the deep blue where things are more than just a memory.
Songs are like tattoos You know I've been to sea before Crown and anchor me Or let me sail away
-Blue, Joni Mitchell