Monthly Archives: August 2012

Raised a Roof!


The peoples of old used to be finely aware of the ghosts of the departed that lingered in deserted spaces. Departed meaning just that, of course: not necessarily dead ‘uns. And that was a bit like us at Coldhome for a couple of days after the end of our Work Week, otherwise known as Raising the Roof – which, unbelievably, is already more than a week into the past.

Yes, it was quite strange how we moved disconsolately amongst the secured roof-timbers or picked up offcuts, or gathered lost tools from the floors, and could practically hear with our physical ears snatches of conversations, laughter, short technical dialogues, and of course expressions of the simple wishes of the volunteers – time for coffee? beer? any food? beer? A little more beer?….
Actually, the picture – they are all empties (though not quite all the empties), and exclusively the home-brew empties, ie matched by similar quantities of shop-bought brew – doesn’t to my mind speak of overindulgence when you consider they’re the intake of well over twenty adults over a total of six days’ good-going labour: I took it out of a sense of satisfaction that I could now re-claim my bottles for other brews, as I’m slowly learning the arts of making beer from scratch.

Arty number with Dru

Mealtime shot with the tumbledown shed

I believe there are various pictures of the week on Facebook, so (apart from some pics in a pending “technical” page) I’m just including an arty number with Dru – and a mealtime snapshot with the Tumbledown shed, mainly because it (the shed) reminds me of a decrepit pet (dog? bear? dragon?) presiding benignly over proceedings, and probably not long for this world.

Anyway, we’re over the work, we’re over the excitement of such a large and joyous crowd of people, we’re even getting over the silence and the come-down and the exhaustion and the minor squabbles and the colds and related bugs, and we can look up and say, hey, we’ve got a roof! Or half a roof, rather. Or half a roof on the first of the three buildings that need a roof….. Well, that means we can do it all five times over again. Hooray. That should take another seven to ten years. I hope the crowd will still be young and fit enough. Maybe they’ll have an army of children of their own by then who can be cajoled into a fresh wave of activity.

What can I say? Some time ago CharlieR mooted the idea of a Coldhome Role of Honour, which we were all quite enthusiastic about, at least until someone anxiously mentioned the possibility of forgetting someone, so we all fell into a sombre consideration of Sleeping Beauty and the thirteenth Fairy. One day we’ll risk it. For the moment, and with our memories still fresh, we gratefully salute all who took part: Eileen and Sally and Kevin and Alex and Steve and Sally and Callum and Simon and Ella and Ellie and Bill and Eleanor and Dan and Mark and John and Rosie, not to mention the semi-residents, Abi and Will and Ben and Anna and of course Dru and Rebecca. This tally falls one short of the twenty-three workers that Rachel said had passed through: I fear we shall fall into a hundred-years’ sleep…..

Last night of the work week coincided with Rachel, Annie and me doing a slot at a ceilidh in Huntly which we’d agreed to earlier in the year and all felt we could have happily done without just on that particular evening. However – probably not unusually for such events – the original twenty minutes required was slashed to ten at the last minute, which was probably quite a relief, though it meant that the last-minute scramble to re-arrange our set meant we finished up well short even of the ten minutes, and as none of us were in very talkative mode we didn’t even fill up the time with introductions and bad jokes. We managed to rise above throat infections (and, as I say, exhaustion) for just long enough to thump out our three non-solo numbers and decided that we were rather glad of PA system, too, though I do believe we “popped” more than you’re supposed to, being but wet-eared amateurs in front of a mike.

The pressure, man, the pressure – isn’t over yet, as I (and Paul K, though separately) unwisely agreed to parade ourselves as Authors at two events during the Huntly Hairst celebrations. Why unwisely? Well, in my case when poor Fiona Wilson was trying to get me to write something down about what I’d be talking about so she could get it into the events catalogue (programme? notes? – doofer: doofers always do) I inadvertently jotted something down about having travelled in many foreign countries and, for want of a better thing to do, sent it to her. So now I’m in trouble. I never go anywhere foreign, or indeed anywhere at all, unless Annie drags me, and then only if there’s a bar and a hot bath nearby. Hell, Huntly seems like a metropolis. While I was waiting for our chips in the Dragon Garden (ha, maybe I do go to some exotic places) after the ceilidh the other night, I was accosted by a chap who seemed to be having some problems with his balance and said he liked my hairdo – well, he addressed me as Snow-white and started looking around for my seven dwarves, to his own great hilarity. That’s the sort of thing that happens in a metropolis, though, isn’t it. Anyway, Saturday coming will just have to see me telling a heap of lies and maybe I shall manage to preserve a shred of dignity. My ancient mentor Jock Paton used to say hawf the lees I tell arena true; and I think I might try and confuse them with something like that. Maddy says I shall also have to sign at least a hundred copies of Dragon Fire for sale.

Don’t know about Paul though: he’s at another venue, presumably talking about Gaia’s Children. They didn’t ask him if he would be requiring a crêche, which makes me really wish I’d spent more time writing adult stuff.

I’ve just realised: Paul – he was the twenty-third fairy…. Now I really am for it.

By the way: last blog I included a couple of pictures by CharlieR; I couldn’t download them, it seemed, without entering the unholy portals of Facebook, and by the time I’d decided the whole kerfuffle of registering etc wasn’t worth it and had gone off to retrieve a copy mechanically, it was too late: I was on, I was caught, a worm wriggling on a hook. So thank you everyone who sent Friend requests: my reluctance to get on and take you all to my bosom is not a personal reluctance but a reluctance about finally confronting the Beast 666, Ahriman-the-Great, He-who-rises-in-the-last-Days (alias Facebook), at my own writing-desk. I’ll get round to it, I know I must, it is my Destiny…..

One last PS. Got your funny little hammer, Mark. Also there’s a natty little black sports glove left behind: any claimants?

A solution for the accommodation Challenge. The erecting and fabricating of the yurt was Abby and Will’s work. A bit of a Tardis experience, a canvas yurt space – definitely one of those more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts phenomena, a satisfying combination of shape and light and space which makes me prepared (almost) to revise my opinion of camping.


Filed under Coldhome

Pictures and Exhibitions

The above isn’t a photo, it’s Charlie R‘s latest picture, “Zeb’s World”, in which he’s finally got round to doing a piece of dedicated Photo-Realism, warts and all – and we have many warts at Coldhome, especially just outside the Ashtons’ temporary main door, where many things get ejected and then sink down in the weeds to have a little rest for a year or two. I’m glad there’s now a fairly permanent record of these things – so lovingly recorded, too. I wonder whose wall it’ll finish up on, though: because such detail of Coldhome rubbish and weeds don’t come cheap.

We don’t know what’s distracted Zeb’s attention: normally he’s a considerable poser, and Charlie R encourages him quite a bit seeing he’s so pretty (Zeb, that is). At the front end at least. Zeb’s world would normally consist of several half-chewed tin cans and yoghurt cartons (cat food and evaporated milk, not tomatoes) and half a dozen egg-shells, well licked out – but his little horde isn’t in as scenic a spot, from Charlie R’s point of view – and it’s part of his photo-real ethic that pictures shouldn’t be set up at all.

Some of Zeb’s eggs would have been Maddy’s rejects, after the dismal failure of her attempts to organise a chicken-hatching this year. Strong (the hen) behaved herself fairly well, but it turned out the cock hadn’t. King Fluffy (the name comes from the days when he was hand-reared and far from kingly) has, when I think of it, has had a fairly long term of office and probably has no more to give. The younger cock, Angel, had an almost equally long shadow-existence as king-in-waiting – a lot like Prince Charles, I suppose – but unfortunately keeled over in April, unable to wait any longer. So between that and multiple mortality among the baby guinea-pigs, it’s been a fairly miserable spring for the livestock, as well as the carrots and peas and brassicas; and now the kids’ latest hopeful, Sox the youngest cat, has gone and thrown two kittens about a week early, and they didn’t survive either, though there’s still a lone one inside her apparently alive and kicking. I blame the Recession. Everyone’s waiting for something called Growth to start, and it just goes on raining. The last summer I remember like this was 1985, when one of the local farmers put an ad into the local paper requesting coolies to work in his paddy fields. Mary’s probably right that farmers are always grumpy (not, as I may have seemed to suggest in my last blog, just at hay-time); but she’ll admit that a bit of creative grumpiness is entertaining for everyone. The coolie-chap got into a spot of trouble over his advert, as various people tried to explain the concept of PC to him while he gazed back baffled as only a farmer can.

I’m writing this in the Kelvingrove Museum on Glasgow, where Annie and her mum have come to visit an exhibition about 500 years of Italian art, or Italian Beauty – Italian something anyway, though not ice cream. It seems quite a long trip to have made to honour two free tickets, but we discovered a new B & B that’s cheaper than our usual hostel, and it so happened that Anna had turned up that same day having just bidden a last long farewell to London to become a True Scot again, so that was something to celebrate, which we did. It’s always nice to visit the Kelvingrove though, and I always say hello to old friends, Roger the Elephant and the Baron of Buchlyvie and Saint Elvis with his spindly legs and enormous belly, and go upstairs to see how Gerald Moira’s Highland picnickers are getting on and whether the midges have found their bare feet yet. I also pay my respects to the Silver-Washed Fritillary butterfly on its stick, whose card states that it’s been extinct since nineteen-thirty-something: it’s a particular favourite, because the first time I saw it I’d just discovered one two months previously on a thistle-flower at Coldhome. No evidence, and I never saw it again, so I can’t get famous as its re-discoverer.

– Ha, coffee-time; Annie and Eileen have emerged from Italian beauty but need to go back again later because there’s too much of it to view in one hour; but Ben is tearing himself away from work to come and meet us for coffee, and possibly Dru too. So Kelvingrove is getting a sort of coffee-time air of Coldhamers Anonymous. And of course there’s no escape till Ellie’s visited the gift shop. Why is it called a gift shop? We’d be able to get the same stuff at half the price when Keith Show happens next week. I suppose we don’t grudge making a contribution to our Glasgow home-from-home, but I think they should engineer a more ingenious way of getting our money off us – specially hired muggers, for example – a little taste of Glasgow street life. Maddy would like that, the Kelvingrove doesn’t have quite the grip on her soul that it did five years ago, a bit of violence might bring back a bit of the old spice. Though we might all try and wait for the organ recital and be reminded of Ben’s old quip about the organist’s feet, which a CCTV screen reveals bouncing away on the pedals: “look – the Thunderbirds,” he told us.

Home again. Sox’s last kitten was removed by the vet after its paw appeared but no more of it. Not waving but drowning, I fear. The vet said they “had to” spay her as well as remove the dead kitten, but we’re a bit sceptical considering vets’ usual spay-happiness. Maddy is now hatching plots to abduct someone else’s orphan (naturally – she reads too many animal stories) kittens which Sox will naturally accept and love and bring up as her own.

I was going to try and get poems nine and ten of “Second Ten” put in, but Annie’s been reorganising the Bedroom Block and the second page of one of them has mysteriously disappeared (no, I’m not blaming her – it’s a Complete mystery). So I’ve added nothing to the literary store of this site this time. Now that Anna’s back north she’ll soon be on my tail with her big stick, and things will change. I have finished my little paean in praise of slugs though, which can be found in the “about” section/page.

Exibitions are not confined to Kelvingrove: there’s also one in Deeside – Aboyne to be exact. “Zeb’s World” has been there for the last few weeks. Below is one of Zeb’s companions at that location – Tardis, we call it (can’t think why) an older favourite, but which we won’t see again because it disappeared. Who can fathom the mysteries of time and space? And who cares anyway, if the punter paid up properly?

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