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Cuckoo Time

Looking among my notes and jottings for stuff I might be putting into this blog I see such diverse items as Paul and Amber’s Dream Workshop at Cottarton, the kids’ Mindfulness Day at Corgarff (where among other things they were given the sensible advice that they should chew each mouthful of food at least ten times – which when I think about it would be an advance on our Robin’s pack-and-swallow method when a youngster), the Scottish Independence issue, an uncompleted letter to the Guardian complaining about a rather stupid article on “alternative” medicine in their weekend mag, various garden bemoanings, like our ongoing difficulties with growing carrots, and various expressions of incomprehension about why the weather can’t accommodate itself better to our haymaking requirements.

Mainly complaints, when it comes to our practical activities in building and gardening, not to mention the practical aspects of writing and how to find a vehicle for getting our writing and artistic efforts in front of a wider public; so clearly I should be making some Midsummer resolutions about having a more positive attitude.

When I think about it, the period around Midsummer has always been one of high stress and anxiety, so I daresay the whole thing’s got a lot to do with the Earth’s rotational wobble, and I’m also going to set that down as the main reason for some of the bad behaviour at our twice-yearly home-education jamboree at Badaguish Outdoor Centre, where (among other things) we nearly came to blows over a game of Jeopardy which poor Dorena had put together and gallantly tried to control as the mood grew ever more ugly, barely stopping short of a brawl. What can I say? Here’s to many more of them, that’s what – until the time comes when the youngsters (who spent their three days in harmonious togetherness) start to pack the adults off to Badaguish by themselves so they can get some peace and quiet at home.

I’ll go back to the Mindfulness Day at Corgarff, seeing how Mindfulness is clearly the key to both better behaviour and less complaining and less anxiety. It was a day enlivened, for me, by hearing a cuckoo’s voice echoing among the hills, which is a magical sound we don’t hear so much these days, though last year I did actually hear one, even here at Coldhome. “Listen!” I exhorted the kids – “there it is again!” as they glanced at me for a moment with distinctly so-whattish faces. When I think about it, a cuckoo wasn’t such a big deal when I was young, and it’s only since it became a sort of symbol of how the world is changing, how the natural world around us is dying into something less rich than it once was, that its call started to gain in significance for us old fogies. Should I mention the Radio 4 item where an American scientist was predicting total environmental collapse within the next fifty to a hundred years? There, I just did – I suppose I could delete that last sentence, but maybe I won’t.

Photo: Zephyr Liddell

Photo: Zephyr Liddell

Anyway, the Mindfulness Day also gave me an opportunity to do a little spot of live Storytelling, which is a direction I’d probably most like to go in if I were to follow my heart. Writing stories is all right, but it’s a weirdly isolated sort of activity where you get far too wound up into irrelevances like The Market, The Target Audience, and other obscenities of our current era, whereas the simple act of live storytelling – eye contact, pauses, jokes that you hadn’t realised were jokes till someone laughs, forgettings, mistakes and hurried patchings-up – always leaves you with a feeling of, ah, that’s actually how it ought to be. Of course, one needs a forgiving audience, which I certainly had. And a hat – one needs a hat….

Cuckoo season being over (in June I change my tune, in July I fly away), along with full-moon midsummer and its associated stress syndromes, and it being all downhill from here to Christmas, I should report that my doom-laden assertions about our trees in the last blog seem to have been proven wrong: even the most blasted pines and junipers are showing signs of life, and the even the gorse-bushes along the roadside are rallying. So all is not lost.

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