Saturday, 24 November 2012

A Glimpse of Sunshine, Forest Tales, Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto, and no Regrets!

Last weekend I arrived in Scotland amidst storms and some of the highest tides of the year for a 10 day autumn break in my favourite costal village of Kippford. I love coming here at any time of the year, but late autumn is wonderful. The weather is what I call emotional. The wind blowing off the sea can howl one day and the next gently whisper. The rain can be monsoon like but can also provide the autumnal colours with a shiny gloss, and the sky can be transformed in an instant as the suns rises, shines and sets.

Likewise, the surroundings meet other needs. The tide comes in and goes out, leaving pristine beaches to walk upon, the forests and hills are deserted, open and full of life and excitement. On one walk I came across Ginger, a highland cow wandering through the woods. Not sure who was the most surprised. This trip I discovered the craft and art of dyke building. These are low stone walls, made without mortar, that mark out property boundaries. Neither fences nor gates are used to contain or confine, just the dykes. 

Kevin, a bike riding Master Carpenter with a disturbingly large number of missing fingers, introduced me to one such craftsman called Alan. He had just seen a group of wild boars in Dalbettie Forest and was very excited. I found it interesting that long after the last bacon buttie has been eaten his handiwork will be seen in and around the village for a long time to come.

Unlike perhaps those Kippford folk who continue to smoke cigarettes. Unbelievably, while having a glass of real ale in the local pub (The Anchor – more of which later), one of the bar room conversations was about Speedboat Norm (aka Norman who is married to Fifi). Norm is recovering from a recent triple heart bypass surgery following a major coronary. It appeared that on the day of his coronary when Norm first starting feeling unwell, he first mowed his front lawn, and then went on a bike ride to see if that would make him feel any better! He smoked for much of his adult life.

So it was good to hear, last week, that the supermarket Sainsbury announce that it would stop selling tobacco from a further 6 of their supermarkets in Scotland. Sensibly, the Scottish government has introduced a health levy on the business rates paid by large stores selling cigarettes and alcohol. Sainsbury's already operates 3 supermarkets and 1 convenience store in Scotland which do not sell tobacco. The public health levy will contribute towards the costs of preventative programmes that are being taken forward jointly with the Scottish government, local authorities, the NHS and the third sector to tackle smoking and alcohol related health problems. I cannot understand why we still sell cigarettes to our students from a shop located in the College of Health and Social Care – but I have an appointment to discuss this with the VC on the 4th Dec, so watch this space.

Back in Kippford and the local village pub, The Anchor, has often been an oasis in times of emotional weather - offering a warm welcome, real ale, roaring log fires, and good gastro pub food. The Anchor serves a wonderful Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto, one of my favourite choices when eating out. This week, despite it being on the menu, there wasn’t a chef in the kitchen to prepare it until yesterday. The risotto was delightful, as were the tales of the deer seen grazing in the fields surrounding the village, and of the Red Kite seen soaring on the thermals. There were stories about Lindsey’s dilemma over making house building plans or holiday taking plans, and of Emma, described as a single generation hippie, now working in the Krueger National Park in South Africa, and whether she would be coming back to Kippford.

Finally, huge thanks to the Blackwater Bistro in near by Castle Douglas, whose free WiFi has made sending this post possible. Kind of ironic, that last week Dr T, (after Miss Otis regrets she is unable to dine tonight) is at last, now able to connect to the web in a fine dining establishment. So this posting is a little early this week, but better an early blog than no blog at all. Things will be back to normal next Sunday morning.