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Sunday, 18 January 2015

January: Looking Forwards

It’s half way through January, the days are getting longer, the midwinter festivals are over: Christmas, Hogmanay and, now I know about it, the Old Celtic New Year on January 12th (which happens to be my birthday too). It’s time to stop eating chocolates for breakfast and seize good weather to get some outdoor work done.

Frosty nights find me outside in several fleeces (cold air sinks into valley bottoms on still nights) trying to identify the constellations thanks to my Moonwise calendar and diary (www.moonwise.co.uk) – a Christmas present from my friend Lynne. I’m not sure of the accuracy of my constellation identification but I see shooting stars most nights I go out.

On a theme of Celtic folklore, we recently had a trip to see the wonderful Kelpies sculptures at Falkirk. Kelpies are water spirits which can appear in the form of horses. The sculptures are huge presences which change as you look at them with reflections from the surrounding pools of water. You have to remember that Kelpies may carry you off and drown you, though sometimes they do your housework for you if they feel like it - I wonder if they will they clean toilets if I keep on the right side of them? It’s true that one of the Kelpies looks obliging, whilst the other looks very hard to manage. Falkirk (a 90 minute drive from Ardrossan) has other examples of beautiful engineering, both ancient and modern, including the Falkirk Wheel and the Roman Antonine Wall.

You may be interested in coming to this year’s Arran Mountain Festival, 15th-18th May (www.arranmountainfestival.co.uk), as mentioned last post. As well as guided mountain walks, the programme has speakers including Alan Rowan talking about his book Moonwalker (www.alanrowan.com) in which he describes how he climbed the Munros at night (bet he knows his constellations) and John Murray talking about his book Reading the Gaelic Landscape (www.whittlespublishing.com/Reading_The_Gaelic_Landscape)which is a great resource packed with information about what Gaelic place names can tell us as we wander in wild places. I’m looking forward to hearing both. 

I think that Gaelic isn’t just the language of nature in its vocabulary but in its sounds too...... at this time of year Lochranza is filled with the sound of water running off the hills and the names of the burns sound like flowing water to me. If you say Allt Eadaraith (the burn between hills) for example, you find that you are echoing the sound of water dropping over a stone and rushing over pebbles.

We hope 2015 is a good year for us all and, whenever, however and wherever you celebrated it- Happy New Year!