Friday, 24 April 2009

The Gang of Five Picnic on the Traigh

It was a truly beautiful morning. The sun shone bright and warm, with only a few wisps of cloud to be seen in the blue above the horizon. The view from the door of the old "taigh dubh" at No.4 was as beautiful as anyone could imagine. Your eyes took in the "feannaigan" (strip fields) of corn and potatoes, and were inexorably drawn to the golden sands of Dalmore beach. There was a very light breeze and the waves in the bay were shallow, and barely audible as they reached shore. It was not always like this. In winter huge waves could be seen to break through the cemetery wall, and tidal floods would rush all the way up the "allt"(small river).
But today was different. The house animals of "taigh Shoudie" were sitting or lying on the grassy "leathad" (slope) in front of the house. It was going to be a glorious day, and one did not need the BBC to confirm this forecast. You just had to study the wave activity out at "Rudha 'an Trilleachain" (oyster catchers'point) to determine the weather for that day. Iain Shoudie sat beside his three friends,smoking a roll-up and drinking strong tea from a mug. Cigarettes bought in packets,he called "ready mades" They were like smoking a page of the Gazette, he would say. But when he ran out of Rizla papers, then a page of the "Cassette" it would have to be. So-Sally, Rupie and Stowlia would occasionally turn round to look at Iain, who guessed what might be in their minds.
Iain: "What a beautiful morning, ladies. All the chores are done, and it would be a shame to waste the day up here, when a picnic down at the "traigh" (beach) would be just the thing". Notwithstanding the weather, the animals could picnic any day they liked, as there never were any chores to do in "Taigh 'houdie", not even for the the "boys".
So-Sally: "That's a grand idea, Iain, and it would be even better if Filax and Fancy were invited. They are so nice and such good company. Rupie,would you mind nipping over to "taigh Glass" at No.5 and letting them know about the picnic this afternoon.
"Right away",said wee Rupie.
Filax and Fancy were the cat and dog who stayed with Shonnie and Dollag in the beautiful "taigh dubh" on the opposite side of the glen. They (ie.the animals) were an easy going pair, on whom you could always rely. The Glass and Shoudie animals had historically been close friends. Filax was a well-fed brown and white tabby cat who generally stuck close to the house, but she was delighted at the thought of a picnic with her good friends, the Shoudies. Fancy, the dog, had gone up to the shop in Carloway riding pillion behind Shonnie on the motorbike. Dollag expected them back soon.
Back soon, they were. Fancy jumped off the pillion seat, and the Shoudie trio did well to stifle their laughter at Fancy's new get-up. She greeted them all with a smile on that bonnie sonsie face of hers.Over her head with the ears tucked in, Fancy was wearing a brown leather flying helmet and some snazzy aviator's glasses.
"Well,what do you think ?" enquired Fancy.
" O, A'Ghraidh, you look the part!", said Stowlia, her face frozen in the rictus of a smile.
Filax: "Annie in Renfrew got a job lot of American airforce surplus in a large store in Glasgow. What her boys can't (or won't ) wear, she sent home here to Dalmore. Don't you think Fancy looks the bees' knees in that get-up?. She will be the talk of the district"
Rupie: "Se sinn a'firinn." ( that's for sure!)
The "Gang" would be well provided with victuals. There were some saithe and cuddies left over from lunch at the "boys" table. Iain had caught them at Banderberie and they had been fried in this morning's bacon fat. Milk and cream,boiled potatoes and some "grey" soup completed their picnic "hamper".
Down at the "traigh", Fancy and Stowlia played their usual game of "Pursuits", in and out of the small waves, making sure they stepped over every little roller which approached (bad luck if you didn't) . After that, they made their way out to where the waves were taller, and diving in,they allowed the surf to carry them back to shore. It was great sport and one which just might catch on here in time.
Soho and Rupie were encouraging Filax to dip her spogs in the allt (river). Although this is normally anathaema to cats, there are circumstances when a cat must brave the waters, and if they were to dam the river, then they would have to take onboard a little water. But surfing the waves like Stowlia and Fancy was a no-no, of course. In the end, more than their spogs were wet,but that didn't dampen their spirits.
After a tasty repast, they all decided to go up river to where Allt Dhail a' Mor emerges from "Lot a' Bhoer", in order to start the Boat Race. This would be the highlight of the afternoon, when Mrs.Tunnag and her brood of ducklings would play such an important part in the proceedings. In times past the boats were simply small pieces of driftwood, but oft times in the course of a race, boats would maroon themselves on the bank or behind some obstacle. Now, of course, five little ducklings, with Mother Tunnag's blessing, presented themselves at the start line as self propelled river jockeys, each bearing the favour of one of the "Gang of Five". As the race progressed, the excitement was palpable, and more than once a bit of shoving, ducking and diving was observed. Fancy stated that it was the taking part that was important, but the dishevelled wee bundle of feathers that crossed the line ahead of the rest was having none of that Olympic nonsense.
After a celebratory dinner, everyone made their way home, very tired but very happy. They resolved to do the same again, some other day.

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