Thursday, 5 May 2011

And a little bit more...with added werewolf

I apologise if I'm harping on about this whole Tigh nam Bodach thing, but I'm genuinely concerned about it, and so I'm keeping a keen eye on developments.

Yesterday BBC Scotland did a piece on the controversy for the regional news, a video of which you should be able to view at the link below. The folklorist Margaret Bennett is interviewed, and there are some good atmospheric shots of the site to go with it. I don't think there are any regional restrictions on videos like this, so you should be able to watch it wherever you are. If you can't watch it, though, there's an article that accompanies it, but the video is more in-depth:

Colin Wilson, of the Glenlyon History Society, said Tigh Nam Bodach was not a protected site.
He said: "What we would like to see happen is a site like this being especially considered in terms of the environmental impact of the scheme.
"Unfortunately it can be overlooked because it is not a scheduled monument.
"It is noted by Historic Scotland but is not scheduled yet."

And that's exactly the problem, really - it's never been investigated so it's not considered significant enough to be protected. As far as I've read, it's thought that the shieling itself is probably no older than the seventeenth or eighteenth century (and that's being generous), but that doesn't mean that the stones or the tradition itself are older.

One thing I turned up to see if anyone else was covering the story is this post by David Clarke, who notes a similar curse associated with the Hexham Heads - a pair of 'Celtic style' heads found in 1972. This story involved claims of a werewolf haunting anyone who possessed them. Funnily enough, Anne Ross is again involved, and once again she had a bad experience when the stones were brought to her house in Wales:
When I interviewed Ross in 1994 she told me the stones brought an “evil presence” with them: “There was no doubt the haunting was that of a werewolf,” she told me. “The thing took form very gradually, and when it actually became not just audible and hinted at but tangible and visible, something had to be done, because it was definitely growing…” (the house was subsequently exorcised, but that’s another story….)

Anne Ross, it seems, had quite the collection. More on the Hexham Heads here, which gives a bit more detail of Dr Ross' experiences.

I'm told that objections or comments may still be considered by the local council, even though the official window for commenting has now closed. Different councils hold different policies on that, so there's no guarantee, and some will consider anything they receive right up until the date. Details about lodging a comment/objection can be found here, with an email address given on the page that you can use to comment. The application number you need to quote is 11/00061/FLL.


Là Bealltainn shona dhuibh!

I hope yours was a good one - or will be, if you haven't celebrated yet.

Before I go on I have a little confession to make: I've never seen The Wicker Man. Not the original, not even the allegedly appalling remake they did a few years or so ago. I've been to stay in Kirkcudbright - where they filmed the original - three times now, and I've still not seen it. And now, having stayed there for Bealltainn, I should probably hang my head thoroughly in shame...

The weather, however, was beautiful in Kirkcudbright - we're on a long run of fantastically sunny weather here in Scotland (this part of it, anyway) and we're making the most of it while it lasts. Thanks to the length of the dry spell - officially record-breaking now - parts of the Highlands, as well as parts of Ireland and England, have been experiencing wildfires. We've seen some ourselves, on the hills around here as well, but today at last the rain has returned, so that should help.

A lot of the time when I celebrate the festivals it seems like I'm celebrating the promise of the season to come - the lengthening days, the first few flowers bringing the promise of Spring and the trees turning green; the colder weather and darker nights promising the frosts and snows of Winter, and so on. This time, it seems that Summer has decided to come early. Considering Winter stayed so late, and Spring doesn't seem to have known what the hell to do about it all, it's a nice change.

I'm in an odd sort of inbetween here, though. While we were in Kirkcudbright I went to the beach in the early evening of Bealltainn eve, as the sun was setting, to make my offerings and devotions, but I've yet to manage finishing things off here at home (for reasons I'll explain in due course).

On Saturday, we had a good long day at a farm near a place called Borgue (which I'm noting for no other reason than the fact that thankfully, we weren't assimilated), which had a creamery and a huge adventure/assault course there. Tom went down this:

In what amounted to a large metal capsule. Rosie was told she was too wee. This did not go down well.

Then there was this:

A 3D maze with lots of slides and so on, and against my better judgment, seeing as children under 10 had to be accompanied by an adult, I took Tom around while Rosie finished her lunch. It was fun, but I didn't last long before my back began to point out that I really shouldn't be doing that sort of thing; it'd been a lot better at this point, so I thought I'd be OK but didn't want to push it, so handed over the adventuring duties to Mr Seren.

We got home quite late, and seeing as there was nothing in the caravan for dinner Mr Seren was duly sent off on a foraging mission to the nearest chippy to procure us a feast of fish supper (for Tom), sausage supper (for Rosie), haggis supper (for me), and black pudding supper (for Mr Seren), while the kids and I eagerly awaited food and Doctor Who.

Down in England you'd simply order whatever it is you want with chips, but here in Scotland you order 'suppers'. In England, the main staple food to accompany chips is either pie (steak and kidney, or chicken and mushroom, and so on), fish, or battered sausage. Here in Scotland, you get a far wider range - steak pie (no kidney - a fact I, personally, lament), mini pizza, sausage, haggis, black pudding, and probably a whole other lot I've forgotten. I remember as a student in Glasgow, I ordered a steak pie supper once, and when I got home I was horrified to find that the pie had been fried along with the chips. I've since learned that they'll fry the pizza, too. Or you can get a 'pizza crunch' (a battered and fried pizza). You can order them non-fried, of course, but deep-fat fried is the standard. Usually you get the option of salt and vinegar to have on them, but over in the east of Scotland (like Bo'ness, where I used to live), you get the option of 'salt 'n' sauce'. The sauce is vinegar with a little brown sauce mixed in, to spice it up.

Generally speaking the haggis or black pudding comes in a sausage shape, about six inches long and battered (of course); as far as I'm aware they're a specifically Scottish thing - I've never seen them in chippys anywhere else, anyway.

And so behold! A haggis supper (no sheep's stomach's involved):

Black pudding (blood pudding, I think some of you might know it better as) supper:

Round where I live the haggis is darker and spicier (and tastier), and you usually get two pieces of whatever meat/fish you've ordered instead of one. As it turned out, Mr Seren preferred the haggis and I preferred the black pudding, so we went halfsies. 

I took some of the feast, and some extras, to the beach with me to make my offerings. The dogs were in tow to give them the chance of a final runaround before we holed up in the caravan for the evening, and I find that they tend to be a good guard and guide for this sort of thing - being out and about at a traditionally dangerous time of the year/season. The beach is right on the mouth of the River Dee, and the tide is amazing - it goes out for miles and miles and then comes right in, and when I got out down to the beach the tide was right out. Mudflats as far as the eye could see until a faint glimpse and glimmer of water lapping around the rocks of the island with the lighthouse on it in the distance.

But it gave ample opportunity for our youngest dog Mungo (mostly sheep dog, so very energetic) to leg it, to run free and frolic without a care in the world. The only problem was, there was a hell of a wind and it was against me so he couldn't hear me calling him (or chose not to, I suspect); he disappeared and our other dog Eddie loyally followed, and I was forced out onto the mud and over the bladderwrack to desparately try and at least find them. Not the most dignified start to my celebratory efforts, and I wasn't wearing the most appropriate footwear either:

Mungo had thoughtfully stomped on me to encourage me to run with him. Thanks Mungo:

Mungo says no problem.

But eventually he came back, with Eddie trotting happily behind him, and Mungo was put on the lead, somewhat chastened. I gingerly made my way over to the rocks, where the ground was less muddy; I was slowly starting to sink out of the flat so figured it was a good idea to get to safety.

At last I was able to concentrate, and I have to give it to the sod of a dog, he'd taken me out far enough to get a beautiful view:

If you like mud, I suppose...

This is the mouth of the Dee - Deva (*Deva, I should say). Blessings were made to her, and I found a good spot in the rocks - a smooth cavity in them, like a small recess - to make my offerings, and then I took time for prayers and further blessings as I took in the view, the salt sea air, the fading sun, the wind in my hair and the mud between my toes. All was peaceful and calm in spite of the wind raging away. A stillness hung in the air as I meditated a little and did my thing.

Eventually the moment was over and it was time to go, and I turned to pick my way through the rocky bits and seaweed. As I'd come into the beach I'd seen something lying on the shoreline, and as I made my way back I found myself picking my way through the rocks towards it. Mungo was leading the way there so I decided to check it out and found it was a child's jacket, Star Wars themed (Tom's latest obsession), apparently recently abandoned or lost. The beach was completely deserted so it had no discernable owner, and seeing as it was Tom's size, it seemed appropriate to pick it up. A Gift for a Gift? A gift from whom? Hmmm.

I went back to the caravan site, where Mr Seren was letting the kids have a final runaround before bed, and we eventually headed back to the caravan. I'd picked up some raspberry wine while we were at the farm earlier in the day (Cairn o' Mhor wine - I've yet to try one I didn't like), so that was cracked open after the kids were asleep, and some of that, along with more offerings were left at the caravan before we made our way home mid-morning on Sunday. When I got up in the morning and let the dogs out, I took in the view to see if there were any signs to be seen. A cow mooed, as if in greeting.

Signs to be heard, then.

Mungo again decided to run off as I was making the last few checks to the caravan, evidently feeling it unfair that one walk that morning wasn't enough. This time he jumped the balcony gate, and I had to leg it after him as he went to find wherever the kids had got to (to the park again, to let me get on with it). And so - after slipping a disc in February and never really recovering - my back is a little knackered again. It didn't like the running. The adventuring the day before probably didn't help either, admittedly.

As such, in between the pain and not being very mobile, I've had to put off my plans to sain the house and finish things off in the way that I'd like. I'm usually in less pain during the day, so while I prefer to do these things in the evening, I've had to admit that it's far more sensible to do things when I'm more able to, rather than when I'd prefer to. I was hoping to do it today, but of course, today is not such a good day. Maybe tomorrow.