I have just spent a long weekend with an old friend, a sometime Glasgow GP and now Professor of Rural Medicine, who owns an improbable acreage of wooded land and pasture just west of Inverness on the Beauly Firth. Phil is a remarkable and large-spirited man, with an unfortunate taste for outdoors activities. In his fifties, for example, he ran the West Highland Way ultramarathon (that is, 95 miles from Milngavie to Fort William), not once, but twice. Now that he owns a large chunk of Highland Scotland, tree-felling, log-chopping, and sheep-raising have been added to his repertoire. Few other people that I know will have enthusiastically received a new axe for Christmas. Must be a tough one to wrap, that.
Naturally, I was drawn into this outdoorsy regime, and found myself hauling logs up a hill and chasing sheep around a field, neither of which fall within my customary definition of leisure activities, but turned out to be a lot of fun. The sheep especially: my Scottish ancestors did a lot of shepherding, and some sleeping pastoral abilities were re-awakened, as I helped Phil and Susan round up and "spot" their forty sheep and lambs with an anti-tick treatment, and held each one steady while the filthy fleece was trimmed from around their backsides. The lamb casserole we had that evening tasted particularly good, I have to say.
More about Scotland once I've recovered, not so much from my exertions as from the travelling, including a flight in an aircraft with noise and vibration levels exceeding those of an airborne MRI machine. At least I didn't have to keep completely still, though some M.R.I. Bach would have been welcome.
Your blogger in shepherding mode