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Monday, 7 September 2015

So Long Wet Summer

RET (reduced ferry tariff) has meant that we have had a busy summer despite a distinct lack of summery weather until recently. It’s only in the last couple of weeks that I’ve been able to enjoy an outdoor swim or two in Gleann Easan Biorach. A consequence of RET is that it really is important to book your ferry ticket in good time and also to book your camping- we have not been able to guarantee space for anyone who has just turned up this summer. The Arran Farmers’ Show, held at Lamlash on the first Wednesday in August every year, was still a great traditional day out despite rain clouds which kept turning up the volume. There were plenty of kids there running around encased in mud from head to wellies, all looking a lot like Morph, the clay TV animation character. 

Thank you as always to Chris Traill and the Lochranza Geology Field Centre for organising the weekly summer ceilidhs in the village hall. From later on this year the Field Centre is to be managed as a community initiative- an exciting development for the village. If you haven’t been to one before, a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is a traditional Scottish get-together comprising music and dancing. Ceilidhs are welcoming, fun and essential to an understanding of Scottish culture where people in close-knit communities in remote places have always had to be adept at making their own entertainment. Both the music and the dancing can get very fast indeed. At the Lochranza ceilidhs music is provided by the talented Arranach Ceilidh Band. Alistair Paul, a member of the band, has recently compiled a book of music from Arran Gaelic culture: Arainn Nam Beann. “Arran, like other parts of Scotland, and particularly Gaelic Scotland, was a musical place where music was woven into the tapestry of people’s lives”, he explains. You can buy a copy for yourself in various Arran shops. Last year, I took up playing the concertina as something easy to pick up when I had spare minutes to while away and I’m looking forward to learning these Arran tunes.

Northerly winds kept midges away for much of the summer. This was not good news for the swallows which nest in our sheds. They produced two broods this year, compared to three last year. So, if you’ve suffered a few bites lately, console yourself with the thought that you’re contributing to biodiversity and saving swallows! When the weather finally warmed up in August we experienced midges that were very hungry indeed! When Nigel and I went camping our midge defences involved keeping the inner tent firmly zipped, going to the pub for the evening, and when we returned to the tent to get in it and have it zipped up again in less than two seconds.

For an amazing wildlife picture from this summer, have a look at the Arran Natural History Society page on facebook. My friend Sue Archer has posted a terrific photo she took of a basking shark breaching in Brodick Bay on August 31st. The ANHS is now on Twitter (Arran Nature). Another friend, Hilary, who runs a B and B in Lamlash told me how she sent some of her guests to see the wild red deer of Lochranza and they returned saying they’d only seen the pet ones behind the fence.! As you know if you’ve stayed here before, the wild deer are free spirits who jump over the golf course fences as they please in order to enjoy the juicy green golf course grass. I take it as a compliment that the wildlife round here (red deer, squirrels, rabbits) doesn’t regard us as a threat and seems happy to share the space with us all.

You don’t tend to find the hooded crow on wildlife-spotting wishlists but we have plenty of them round here and I have come to recognise their intelligence. One day whilst I was washing up I spotted a hoodie eyeing up a large crust under the window. I watched the crow and it watched me. It was determined to get that crust but I was a bit too close for comfort.  It decided to go a circuitous route round Nigel’s boat which would bring it within snatching distance of the crust. I had to laugh because it wasn’t clever enough to realise that I could see its legs under the boat all the time. Still, it got its reward.

Time to enjoy the sunshine- better late than never.