The sun dipped down behind the forest clothing the hillside about 3pm, heralding the onset of the dark hours. Living at 57° north you expect short winter days and long winter nights in December – there’s nae point grumblin’ about it! – but at least tonight the wee covering of snow made the final stretch of the walk brighter than it would otherwise have been.
As I approached the stone building which was to provide shelter from the northerly wind, I saw a faint glow of candlelight in the un-curtained window. This pale glow was like the rural equivalent of a neon sign, signalling for one to enter. Getting closer I noticed a line of smoke rising from the chimney and blowing away to the south (no mere ‘wisp of smoke curling upwards’ in this wind) and thought of the warmth that would greet me on entering the building.
I wasn’t cold when walking, but any time I had stopped to look for animal prints in the snow or try to catch sight of the birds I heard, I felt the chill. A lovely, hot wood fire would be the business tonight. I swapped the two dead branches I was carrying from hand to hand, hoping that shifting the weight around would somehow lighten the load. Never mind, the extra hassle of lugging the wood would be forgotten once I’d arrived, sawn it with the bow saw and added it to the fire.
I was greeted on my arrival with the best Highland greeting “The kettle’s on. Do you want a cuppa?” (I know some folks would prefer the offer of a whisky, but I don’t touch the stuff) and given a chair in front of the hot stove.
I quickly removed by jacket and hat, but kept my boots on as I knew a visit to the toilet would be a trip into the cold and the dark. In fact, going anywhere ‘ben the hoose’ would involve going into the cold, wearing my headlamp to find the way.
Sound familiar? I know many of my outdoors acquaintances like to experience the above and regularly head off to near or distant bothies, armed with wood or coal and food and drink. For the past couple of days we were lucky(!) and could do the ‘bothy experience’ from the comfort of our own home. Yes, thanks to the delights of the hurricane-force winds and the over-stretched engineers working for Scottish and Southern Electricity we had no power for 40 hours.
Thank goodness for our new Rayburn stove which provided heat in the kitchen (and a reasonably warm-ish room for DS3 directly above) and somewhere to cook. And thank goodness for warm thermal undies for those of us who’s bedrooms were below 10°C.
Now we are finally reconnected to the grid we can charge all the batteries for the torches and headlamps and get these back in rucksacks before we’re ‘caught out’ on the hill. We can scrape the last bits of candle wax from the kitchen table (why do some folks like to play with candles no matter how old they are? 😉 ) and we can return the milk to the fridge instead of keeping it outside the back door in a bucket of water.
Sometimes the simple things make a big difference.