Argyll Diary

Dateline April 30th 2000

Spring progresses. The gorse is ablaze, and the stark winter silhouette of the trees is becoming softened by buds and pubescent leaves. More lambs are appearing, most already splashed with the bright blue or red of an owner's mark. Some wet weather has halted the fall of loch levels, but this should be only temporary

Dateline April 20th 2000

The dry weather continues. Spring progresses. There seem to be fewer lambs this year. Is this a reflection on the state of the market for lambs? The woodland areas are speckled with the yellow of wild primroses, but the bluebells have yet to appear.

Down in Glasgow, Great Western Road has its annual glory of daffodils defining the grassy strip between to two carriageways, and one or two of the flowering cherries are already in tentative bloom.

Dateline April 16th 2000

The end of another dry week - wonderful after a winter of rain. The gorse is amaze with colour, and the scent hangs heavy in the air. Cloud is scattered carelessly across the sky, and transatlantic jets play hide and seek above it. Most leave only a short contrail, but one leaves a careless streak from horizon to horizon. It moves downwind, still arrow straight, until lost to view behind the clouds to the north. Last year's bracken is scattered across hillsides and flops over old walls, like pom poms discarded after a cheerleaders convention. Buds are sprouting on most of the trees, blurring the stark winter look of bare branches. The larches are now pale green with new growth, and little yellow flowers punctuate the woodland floor. A flock of seagulls, apparently feasted on the landfill site over the hill, glide down towards a steep hillside, catch the updraught and soar upwards, peeling off at the top to head back towards town.

Dateline April 12th 2000

Tiree is windy. The breeze scours the island constantly, but that creates excellent conditions for sailboarding. The island is quiet. Many of the houses are dark and empty - holiday homes or rental cottages which will spring into life for the short season, but lie cold and dormant for the winter. The ferry comes again tomorrow. With the Easter holidays coming, its expected to be busy in both directions.

Dateline April 11th 2000

En route to Tiree.

The ferry leaves in the grey light of dawn, when the sun is awake and stirring, but hasn't quite managed to get out of bed. The ship creeps out of the bay, and then works up to cruising speed, generating an ever more impressive trail to mark our course. Past the Lismore lighthouse and the sentinel of Duart Castle and on up towards Tobermory, which we pass with hardly a sideways glance. Ardnamurchan is a bleak ragged finger of rock, and the most westerly place on the UK mainland. It is so unwelcoming that one can imagine mariners averting their gaze as they pass, seeking out more sheltered waters beyond.

The north end of Mull is bare, but not as bare as Coll. The ferry reverses alongside a slim jetty whose bare concrete is reminiscent of the island from which it springs. There is fertile land on Coll, but from the sea it appears no more verdant than an overgrown carpark. A couple of lines of electricity poles march over the hillside, suggesting life beyond, but only one house and a caravan are visible from the pier. The vehicles leaving the ferry include a small van laden with fence poles, coils of wire, and netting, a small sports car which seems unlikely to get beyond second gear on this island, and a couple of electricity utility trucks, kitted out as though for a transcontinental expedition.

The run to Tiree is short, and the sea is flat but wind ruffled. An occasional swell reminds me of the ocean beyond. I can look down to the Treshnish Isles, and the lower hump of Staffa. The ship has a forward observation lounge, occupied by some tourists, and a few truck drivers, sprawled out their length and dead to the world. The more discerning passengers are on the reclining seats, and many of them are asleep too. Most have seen all this before. One couple have not. They wander the ship, finding new vistas to wonder at, but running out of adjectives to describe them.

Dateline April 10th 2000

The silage bags have all gone now. On the hill behind the house is a large forestry area. Up there the spring is a week or so behind, and the birds were in full song as I wandered along the forestry tracks and fire breaks this afternoon. During the week the river levels had fallen to reveal a hemline of acid-bleached rocks, but Friday night's rain rescued riparian modesty. The larches are transforming, with fresh green growth gradually replacing the russet colours of the winter.

Dateline April 4th 2000

Flew back into Scotland yesterday to see snow capped hills gleaming in the sunshine. Winter is off for his holidays but has sent a late postcard to remind us that he hasn't entirely left. Daffodils and bluebells bring a splash of colour to the countryside, and the grass in the garden is ready for the first cut of the year. A few bushes have sprouted leaves, and a handful of brave trees have followed suit, but the rest need more convincing. In a field nearby, only 3 bags of silage remain of the 120 or so that were stored there for the winter. Doubtless the cattle will be glad to turn to succulent fresh grass at last.

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