The fingers that type these words last fell on the very same typewriter George Orwell used to type his novel 1984 – crikey, you’re in for a treat now …you see if it doesn’t make a difference.
Barnhill – which is the remote house on the Hebridean Island of Jura made famous because G.O. wrote his classic book in it – isn’t far from where I live; and when I’ve been very good I get invited to spend a few days there. I shan’t repeat how the place remains unchanged since his day, being beyond the reach of all mains services, and the catchment areas of all painting and decorating firms because I ran through that in a blog about this time last year, and it remains posted below. But I did want to mention the Buzzard’s nest, and the Otter.
Being the second to last house thirty miles along a single track road from the ferry; then four miles along a stone track which isn’t open to the highway motorist, the country around Barnhill sees very few visitors: away from that straggling stone track, none. Even if you were allowed to drive along it, you wouldn’t risk it …not unless your ‘off road’ vehicle is already a source of acute family embarrassment. Like mine.
Receiving so few visitors makes the area a haven for timid and shy wildlife. I watched an otter swim ashore – it had probably never seen a human being in it’s life because it padded up the beach to eat its fish without ever noticing me, or my dog, or even wondering what danger was lurking there. Speaking for myself I would never harm an Otter – not only have they never done me any harm (well, they’ve eaten 15 of my chickens) but excluding a slight interest I have in owning an Otter skin Sporran to go with my new Kilt – a Ruthven – I have no interest in taking the life of an Otter.
I can’t speak for Scooter, though – he can be a bit unpredictable around wildlife and has been known to take on a Bull …though he probably won’t do so again. Scooter was standing on one rock which elevated him a few feet above the head of the Otter; and I stood on the next rock to it. The Otter was oblivious to the presence of either of us and we watched it go through some weird contortions to eat a huge Pollock it’d caught – like it was being sick, backwards …his whole body was convulsed in a kind of retching motion, and with every heave another inch of the fish disappeared.
By way of warning Scooter off the Otter I kept growling at him under my breath: ‘Scooter? …leave it!” I wasn’t afraid for the Otter – Otters have got the dentition of a Cheetah and at the very least a scrap between the two would have landed me with a big Vet’s bill …at worst, it would have been Scooters last battle and I’ve grown quite fond of the chap – even though he does climb under our Duvet every time he wants to break wind.
The Otter was so engrossed in the Pollack that not only did he not notice us above his head, but he didn’t hear me growling at the dog either. Suddenly the Otter froze; then looked cautiously about him – as though warned by a sixth sense. Looking up and seeing us, he jumped so that all four feet left the ground, and realising he was outnumbered and might be turned into a Sporran, ran down the beach and dived into the water without even challenging us – though he didn’t forget to take his fish.
The next treat came in the tatty shape of a Buzzards nest. In it were three chicks already the size of Bantams. They didn’t fly away – so I assumed they couldn’t, and began climbing the tree to get a photo.
Seeing me shin up the trunk, the chicks – as they peered down at me – were not in the least alarmed; they could see that I was out of practice with tree climbing; a bit too old for that kind of thing, anyway; and that the branch on which their nest had been built wouldn’t bear my weight. Someone else’s weight, perhaps – but not mine. The chicks simply assembled themselves at the nest’s edge, wing to wing, looking slightly bored, and waited to augment the interest of a dull day with the sight of a middle-aged man falling from a tree. Fortunately for me, I didn’t – but their disappointment was almost heart-breaking to watch. They wandered away to continue the long wait to fledging.
We’re back home now, but after a trip to Jura we’re always left wondering if we might move there, one day.
Any other business: the sequel to Phoenix from the Ashes is finished, and needs a title. Being modest you will wonder if the title which instantly comes into your mind is ‘good enough’ to suggest – so, by way of encouragement, let me tell you that my suggestion was ‘Linda catches Crabs’ which went down like a lead feather – so you could scarcely do worse than that. The suggestion still drifting around in lieu of a better one is ‘Are we aground again?’ If you can help out with another idea for a title I shall be forever in your debt.
Secondly, if ever you have half-thought you’d offer your own review of Phoenix by posting it on Amazon – now would be a splendid time to do it. Phoenix, if it is anything at all, is a summer holiday read. Fresh reviews are always extremely welcome: they’re very influential to people considering whether to invest six or seven quid and a fortnight of their spare time into the title; and not only that but I’m always eager to read what stands out in your memory, having read it.
Next Blog?: I’ve got a fourteen minute radio play that nearly-but-not-quite made it to broadcast on Radio 4…would it be at all interesting if I posted it here?… as a sort of fingerpost of the sort of thing that will nearly, but-not-quite make it?
Thank you for following my blog; thanks, as always for your feedback – it’s always great to hear from you; and thanks for the reviews you’ve given Phoenix from the Ashes.