Sandy Bawn and The Giant Redwood

The “tall tales” told by people who had emigrated to America – Voiced by Uncle George and Tom, 1918

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

thQOT1LZRW
Usually, if George, Tom and I went to the moor we had a riotously happy time, out of the hearing of my grandmother, with George and Tom clowning about telling yarns about old Sandy Bawn who had gone to America in the long ago, had come back and told fearful stories of the size of the trees there.

“And he would tell them as solemn as if it was the God’s truth he was telling you, man!” Tom would say.

“Aye, yon one about the redwood tree – was that the name if it? That he said was as big around as the steeple o’ Achcraggan Church!” George would add. “What a danged liar the man was, Tom, when you think on it.”

“Och, something terrible, man. And him swearing on his Bible oath it was the truth. Av coorse, there was always a soft bittie in Sandy Bawn, George – he was for ever thinking he was far cleverer than others, and a man has to be gey soft to be thinking like that.”

Recipe for Cranachan

Yesterday I posted an extract from My Friends the Miss Boyds. Like most fans of the My Friend… series of books, I have a great fondness for the character Uncle George and admired his playfulness, his innate ability to read people and his understanding of the balanced path we need to tread through life. As he said in the extract, his illicit still was something employed for pleasure, in a quiet way, amongst cronies. They never got ambitious or made money from it, so although essentially illegal, not a crime that was ever likely to get him into bother.

Talking of illicit stills (and thus whisky), here is a recipe which I very much doubt would have ever appeared on the supper table at Reachfar, as Janet’s grandmother would never have allowed such a thing. I do suspect however, that this traditional Scottish dessert of oats, cream, honey, whisky and raspberries, might have appeared on the dining table at Poyntdale, the Big House. I made some recently for English friends who had come for dinner, as part of a Scottish themed menu, and very nice it was too.

cb486817-1319-474c-8f29-74c3328dfbbf

Cranachan

3 oz oatmeal
1 pint double cream
7 tbsps whisky
3 tbsps runny honey
1 lb raspberries

Toast the oatmeal (different from porridge oats) in a frying pan, taking care none of it burns. Keep some back for decoration.

Lightly whip the cream until it reaches the peak stage then fold in the whisky, honey, oatmeal and raspberries. Again keep some raspberries back.

Serve in glasses garnished with a few raspberries, a sprig of mint (optional) and a sprinkling of the toasted oatmeal.

Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Serve and enjoy!

Alyson

The Dangers of Becoming Over-Ambitious

Remembering the time Janet discovered George and Tom’s illicit still – Voiced by Uncle George, 1947

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

“Why you were never caught, I don’t know,” I told them.

“Och,” said George modestly, “Tom and me were never the ambeetious kind to go in for anything in a big commercial way, to be making money at it, like. Any jobbies that him and me ever went in for – like taking a bit fish out of the river at night or the like o’ that – we aye did it chust for pleasure, in a quiet way, among ourselves and our cronies. Tom and me was never clever enough to get ambeetious. It’s when people will get ambeetious to be making money at a thing that the bother comes in – that’s what I always think whatever.”

museum - illegal distillery

Cromarty Bridge

A short poem by Alyson

1563406_d58768be

Making out of town on the ancient lie
of a General Wade road

Looking down towards the pale blue ribbon
that is the shallow firth

Muted, mauve, autumnal willowherb
fringes the grey macadam

A curved causeway, chain-like in the distance,
appears to guide me home

Recipe for Girdle Scones

A few years ago I was in MacDonald’s Hardware in Dingwall (an excellent store for those of us who enjoy all things of an ironmongery nature) and spotted an old fashioned girdle, just like the one my granny used to have. Most mornings, especially during the long summer holidays when her grandchildren were around, she would mix together a few ingredients and make some pancakes or girdle scones. I absolutely had to buy one for myself, and soon found the perfect recipe, ironically on a website set up by a lady in Dunedin, New Zealand. Considering Dunedin (Dùn Èideann) is the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, and considering the fact that New Zealand is awash with the offspring of former Scottish immigrants, I thought it was quite fitting.

I know that in the kitchen at Reachfar, girdle scones would have been made daily. No doubt the young Janet would have helped out with the making of the  dough. In case you want to try them out for yourself (a heavy pan can be substituted for a girdle), here is the recipe. Very easy indeed, and quick to make. I took some pictures last time I made some and you must admit, they do look tasty, especially if spread with some homemade strawberry jam.

fdbe4399-014d-4c76-98f6-9b79c509097d

Girdle scones

1 cup plain flour
2 tspns baking powder
1/2 oz butter
pinch of salt
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup milk

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl.

Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in the currants (or sultanas if you prefer) and then add just enough milk to make a soft dough. Don’t add all the milk at once though, in case you don’t need all of it. If your dough looks a little sticky don’t be afraid to add a little more flour.

Roll out to roughly 1/2 an inch thick and cut into six wedges.

Grease the girdle then place on a hob until hot. Carefully transfer the “snuggled up” wedges onto the girdle and wait until golden brown and cooked in the middle. Takes roughly 5 minutes on either side. When turning your wedges, be careful to place them gently on the hot surface, and try to turn them only once.

Transfer to a cooling rack and enjoy!

Alyson

Different Kinds of Foolishness

When folk have no idea what’s expected o’ them – Voiced by Uncle George, Tom and the eight-year-old Janet, 1918

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

thPNI2EM34

“Man, George, yon was terrible,” said Tom soberly when they had finished mimicking the Miss Boyds’ performance of “Huntingtower.”

“It was like as if you and me had set ourselves up to sing the Psalm like John-the-Smith, Tom. It is an awful thing when folk has no idea what’s expected o’ them.”

“How does folk know, George?” I asked.

“Ach if a person has any sense they can see for theirselves what they should do and what they leave alone. You wouldna be dancing your Sword Dance if Sir Torquil wasna asking your father. And Tom and me wouldna be at that capers o’ the reel if folk wasna at us to be doing it. It is chust common sense. But when Sir Torquil has all that fancy visitors there, he’s not needing people to be making fools of theirselves, except the like o’ Tom and me. People knows we canna dance or sing good, and they know we are being foolish at it on purpose. There’s a-all the difference in the world between being foolish on purpose and being foolish because you are too foolish to know you are being foolish, like.”

The Foolishness of Grown-Ups

Eavesdropping on a hitherto dull, adult conversation – Voiced by the eight-year-old Janet, 1918

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

9781841582085

My grandmother said something which I could not hear and Miss Tulloch spoke again. “Och, the bairn is busy choosing the buns, Mrs Sandison, although I’ll give you that she’s a lively little clip.” They were talking about me, and I thought how foolish grown-up people were, for now that my granny had been to see the Miss Boyds I was not interested in them, or would not have been if they had not talked about me in between. But, now that they had brought me into it, where, before, I had been hearing without attending, I now began to listen hard to their low-pitched conversation.

The Dying Art of Good Stacking

The realisation that people in one’s family are mortal – Voiced by the eight-year-old Janet, 1918

(Extracted from My Friends the Miss Boyds by Jane Duncan)

Along the gable of the barn were nine front stacks and woven into the thatch of each stack in dark-green broom, which showed black in the moonlight, was a letter, so that the front row of stacks spelled “Poyntdale”.

“Who did it?” some man’s voice asked.

“Duncan Reachfar, the grieve,” said Sir Torquil. “He and his brother and Tom, their man, are the only men left about here that I know who can do it now. Old Reachfar taught them. But the very art of good stacking is dying out. That’s only the finishing touch to a high-class job, but it’s bonnie.”

I thought Sir Torquil’s voice was unduly sad when he said that only the men of my family, in our district, could thatch and mark his stacks like that, for what was he worrying about? Even if my father got sick (a thing I had never known to happen) at harvest-time, Tom or George would come down and thatch his stacks for him, for it was impossible that they could all be sick at once. “Dying out,” he had said. Dying. Did he mean that when my father, George and Tom died there would be nobody left who could –? But that was not possible! These men were not mortal! They had always been there, they were never sick, people like a person’s father and a person’s friends did not die! Only old, old people died – people like old Granny Macintosh, maybe….But everyone was getting older all the time. Even I was Big Enough now to come to the Harvest Home! And if I was a year older, my father was a year older, everybody was a year older than last year – a year more like old Granny Macintosh….

20161014_211759