Diary of a Highland December/January 2004/5
We are in the throws of getting ready for Christmas. Dr June has bought all the Christmas gift vultures (at least I think that's what she said) from Boots and W H Smith and Dr Jeff is busy reassuring Tennyson the Turkey that he is a participant, not an ingrediaent, for the festive season here at Croit Cullach.
The other sure sign that Christmas has almost arrived is when Dr June goes through the annual ritual of rummaging through the cupboards to dispose of last year's Christmas puddings. Why buy them if you don't like them? It's a mystery to me but somehow we always end up with three puddings. No one eats them so they have to be turfed out of the cupboard to make way for the next three that no one will eat this year either. There was an exception a couple of years ago. I remember Dr June snarling: 'It's Christmas, you WILL eat Christmas pudding' and, in an effort to make it more appealing, doused it with brandy and set light to it. The flames got of control and Dr Jeff ended up beating them out with a rolled up copy of the Christmas Radio Times but not before the tray got too hot. Dr June dropped it and the pudding burned a hole in the dinning room carpet necessitating a visit to the January sales to buy a new one. I don't think that will happen again but I still feel uneasy about her feeding unwanted Christmas pudding to the turkey.
Another sign that the year is almost at an end is when the sheep are put into the fields with the ram. I know we were expecting it, but this year it was quite traumatic. I was happily lying in my hammock when Robyn suddenly grabbed me, squealing and gibbering about something horrible in the field. Morgana was rolling around laughing so much that she had to make a quick dash to the litter corner. As most of you know, I'm blind so I couldn't understand what was causing the commotion until Morgana recovered from her 'mild bladder weakness' and her hiccups to tell me what was going on. Apparently Dr June had got fed up of getting cold, wet and kicked about in the sheep field and had bought herself a bright orange padded ski-suit. It was a truly horrible thought, let alone a sight to behold for those less fortunate than I. According to my informants she looks as if she is going out to 'Tango' the sheep.
The other prelude to Christmas is the onset of Christmas Fairs in the village halls. This has had special significance this year as Dr Jeff and Dr June have asked me to help arrange a special Christmas event. Not far from us there is a big wood that local people have bought to run as a conservation project and, to help raise funds, they decided to have a Christmas Fair. They may have sat around and wondered what might attract attention but I knew that the obvious answer was ferrets. I suggested they have a ferret racing afternoon. Tinsel-decorated ferret tubes, ferrets in coloured racing collars (hair scrunchies, actually) and a 'Have your photo taken with a ferret under the Christmas tree' - what could be more appealing? It has generated an enormous amount of interest. Local radio stations and newspapers say they've come to ask about the event but I know it's me they've come to interview really. After all, I am the brains behind the idea, and I'm also acting as trainer for the ferrets who will be racing. The only problem I have is that all the other ferrets have put on an awful lot of winter weight this year, plus an extra thick winter coat. The result is that they look enormous. I'm afraid that with all the blubber that's about, the thing will look more like walrus racing than ferret racing. Still, the positive side is that they are bigger than me so I'll look especially slim and svelt on the day. I shall order a new collar, I think.
Thankfully, the event will not include Dolcie, the Lamb from Hell, or the Royal Scots Raccoon Guards. Dolcie - who is actually no longer a lamb - is somewhat preoccupied with Sherman, the Shetland ram. I'm trying to envisage what that union will bring next Spring, but at least she's far enough away in the hay-field not to be a nuisance for a few weeks. The Royal Scots Raccoon Guards had various ideas about 'fixing' raffles at the Christmas Fair and 'borrowing' credit cards to boost funds (they are expert pick-pockets, as visitors to Croit Cullach can confirm) but, in a rare outburst of sanity, Dr Jeff said they had to stay at home. They've gone off in a mega-sulk but rumour has it that they are going to run an illicit gambling racket around the ferret race results.
I seem to report on new arrivals in all my Diaries. This is no exception. Lettie is a Light Sussex hen rescued by Dr Jeff from an untimely encounter with the oven. He thought she was very pretty so, when he heard that her owner was about to 'dispose of her' as she was no longer laying, he stepped in to offer her a home. Lettie settled in quickly but no one had given any thought to the fact that she was exactly the same colouring as Tennyson the Turkey. Tennyson has been a 'single turkey' for some years so you can imagine his joy when a lovely lady of similar plumage arrived. He immediately went bright purple (equivalent to blushing in turkeys) and started his best chat-up lines. What he expected, no one can reveal. I mean, what would you call the resulting chicks? Henkies? Turkens? Well, no matter, it was all to no avail. Lettie is something of a woman of the world and she knows a handsome cockerel when she sees one. Tennyson now needs extensive counselling for feelings of rejection. Still, at least it takes his mind off Christmas!
So, with that in mind, let me and my companions here in the Highlands wish all readers a very merry Christmas and a happy new year - but please do not forward your unused Christmas puddings to us, we'll have more than enough ourselves!