Bent Spoons

On a rip-roaring Saturday night, Spook and I were stymied when our internet provider would not provide Netflix.  At 9pm it seemed a bit early to turn in, even though we were already slumped by the fire in a state of sleepiness.  How has this happened???? (not the lack of internet - the lack of energy for a high jinx Saturday night.) I suggested we take a wander up the croft to check out Finn and his mate Aiden's igloo, which they had toiled over all afternoon with Meg 'cementing' in the gaps. We grabbed head torches, some candles and a small rug - it is a sad sign of the times that we didn't grab a wine bottle and some glasses, but there you have it.


20171209-25114941_10215152904244281_1767168411_n (1).jpg

We were a wee bit lack-lustre as we trudged up the hill in the freezing temperatures, and planned a quick photo opportunity and then maybe a game of Snap back home.


This was all very well and impressive, but a wee glass of something would have added to the ambience.  At this sad realisation (about 5 minutes after we'd got the candles lit) Meg phoned to say that a couple of scary guys with a big stick had appeared at the door.  Thankfully it turned out to be The Big G and Mr B'Dass - neighbours, and the big stick was to inspire me in my much talked about stick-making efforts as Mr B'Dass won Best Stick at the Agricultural Show.  Meg provided them with croft-suitable footwear and pointed them up the hill where they were welcomed into the hold, especially as they brought copious amounts of whisky......and the big stick.  


That' s a prize-winner, right there!!

The Big G was clutching a bottle of Dutch whisky presented to him by a very kind Dutch man and worth a penny or two.  He was celebrating the on-set of his birthday - that's probably why we risked hypothermia in order to make it past midnight to reach his birthday at the other side.


Spook and The Big G discussed the possible merits of Dutch whisky while Mr B'Dass wielded a bottle of 12 year old Highland Park and the remains of a Glenlivet as he nostalgically remembered games of shinty played out in the village of the latter.


I helped out with the Highland Park which was my mother's favourite but got a row for taking such a 'girlie' sip.  I'm already wondering if there might be too many photo's of me slugging out of bottle's of whisky - girlie fashion or not.


We did get a bit excited about the Netherlands role in the igloo party and couldn't wait for a wee taste.  Smooth and caramelly, I thought - while I was still able to.  Mr B'Dass was full of nostalgia for the big win at the Agricultural Show and keen to see if he could retain the title.  After a few drams I was pretty sure I could give him a run for his money as the croft is full of hazel trees just waiting to be transformed.

But time nor tide waits for no man, and the hour approached when butts and feet were undeniably chilled, so a stagger down the croft and back to the warmth of the kitchen for a few tunes was the wisest move.  I'm not saying the transition happened very smoothly or without a couple of tumbles (that was just me,) but once the feeling had come back into our guests hands, we had The Big G on the mandolin and B'Dass on the spoons.  He did make a bit of a fuss about the quality of the spoons, but was able to ease them into the shapes required.  Unfortunately, the soup wont stay on them any longer but it was worth it for the performance.


Good sense finally prevailed and our visitors supported each other off home.  The Big G snuggled into bed with his sleepy wife who yelped "Where have you been?  The bloody North Pole?  "No" he replied "I've been in Mo and Spooks igloo."  Oh my god, she thought, how much of that Dutch whisky has he drunk??

Meanwhile I went back up the next day to make sure there was no evidence of shenanigans in our son's igloo.


Oh thank goodness.  He'll hardly even know we've been there........



I had to call in help and got Mrs B'Dass to call in on her way over the hill today to check that everything was back in order.




Scottish Trad Awards - Gaelic Singer of the Year

When my friend Roberto came over from Dundee for a few days in October (he originally comes from near Algeciras in Southern Spain), we took a road trip out to Mallaig, calling in at Glenfinnan to watch the steam train pass by and to watch the waves when we hit the west coast at the smaller viaduct that you drive under.  A trip out west isn't complete without a wander through the sand dunes to Camusdarroch beach and on the way home we put some music on and sang at the top of our voices.




As Roberto and I can't sing in Gaelic, we chose the Robert Robertson song in the link below. It seemed a good idea to introduce Roberto to Scottish music via his Scottish name sake and as he is a bit of a romantic,  the rather cheesy video is right up his adopted Scottish street, as dancing with a Highland girl where the skies reach out for miles was all he wanted to do after our trip........

The Devil's in the Detail

You're never too old to go back to school - science was never a subject that made any sense to me, but like so many of the subjects that stumped me, a bit of practical application would have worked wonders. 

So I signed up to try out the new Gin School at The Loch Leven Hotel in Ballachulish, with Craig Innes of Pixel Spirits Ltd in their new Craft Distillery.  Practical application and an opportunity to take home the product of your day sounded like a good all round learning experience - and it's even on the bus route back to Fort William.....



You get your own mini still.......well - not THAT mini.



This is big enough to get you a whole bottle full of your very own bespoke brew.  But you don't just chuck a load of berries in and hope for a quality product.  This is school, and this is science......



There must be juniper berries for it to become gin.  And there's some coriander that apparently has to go in.  We're talking very specific measurements, and for the botanicals which will give your gin it's unique flavour, there's a tiny wee set of scales for the tiniest amount of hibiscus or citrus or cinnamon.  Too much of anything and any subtlety of aroma is gone and your precious bottle isn't going to be very precious.



Once you are supplied (by Craig) with your very high content alcohol which is your base, you must check the temperature


There's no messing around and no setting fire to your mates with the Bunsen Burners here.



Your wee still has to get up to correct heat for the gin to start flowing gently into your glass jar below the table and before you know it your bottling it.



And then you're naming and labelling it



The only test involved here is to test the product.  This is my kind of school - but it's off to the bar for a little ambience and an opportunity to try out Craig's carefully crafter creations.........



 There was a choice between Neptune's Staircase which was tempting as I live close by to that staircase on The Caledonian Canal, and The Devil's Staircase which is on the edge of Rannoch Moor.  Over 20 years ago I remember trying to extricate my husband from this very bar and I always promised him that some day he would have the pleasure of returning the favour - so I opted for a taste of the Devil to see if it would bring out the best and worst in me.



Depending on which gin you choose there are delicious additives to complement the flavours.



Craig's passion for his craft is contagious - rattling up a quick bottle of gin at his school is fun and satisfying, but creating a whole distillery requires drive and dedication, therefore hitching up at the cosy bar or taking the air on the balcony with a refreshing drink is a little more relaxing.



Woops!  Getting a wee bit wobbly.



For a night out or  making a weekend of it, don't think you have to rush off to Edinburgh, Glasgow or destinations further afield.  I found myself extricated from my bar stool far too early by my sober driver and I realised that my husband might not bother coming to get me anyway and with no bus timetable to hand - well, I cut my losses.  But it's the kind of place you could be drawn in to..........