Rain is part and parcel of the west coast. It defines everything here. Someone landed on my blog the other day by googling: ‘What to do on the west coast of Scotland on a rainy day’. I’d say get out and experience its sodden glory. It’s a beautiful place in the rain: pungent, moist and dripping. The landscape is even more mysterious and magical on a misty, wet dawn. You can feel its history, its essence.
The rain can stop as quickly as it started. And that’s when the west coast is at its most exquisite. After a downpour, when dampness is still in the air, everything looks brighter, more vivid – like it’s been freshly washed. Take yesterday evening when the clouds, which had poured soaking rain all day, suddenly cleared. I sat out on the blue bench at the front of the cottage and looked over to the land across the loch. Every small mound, hollow and feature was clear and defined. I had to blink to believe it. It was as if my eyes had become better at seeing. Smells, too, are more intense in the aftermath of rain, and the thick perfume of clover and honeysuckle, as sweet as melting sugar, wrapped around me in the still, warm air. Rain is the west coast’s beauty secret.
I wasn’t the only one out enjoying this lovely post-rain evening. Crackles and buzzes and chirrups filled the undergrowth and hedges. The hens tottered over and settled under the bench clucking softly. The daisies opened their petals to the sun, yellow faces soaking up the warmth. Two ganets, black-tipped wings set wide, circled higher and higher above the sea until they dived, as straight and fast as arrows, into the glittering water below. Little birds sat chattering and jittering with nervous energy in the brittle old hawthorn tree. Larks – I think – bounced low over the waving amber grasses of the field in front, rising and falling like carousel horses. The field used to be kept clipped and neat by sheep until the farmer sold the land. Now the sheep have gone and the bracken advances relentlessly – nature is reclaiming its space. One scraggy ram remains, seemingly forgotten. He wanders the shore on his skinny legs looking lonely and bad tempered, his bedraggled pelt half hanging off. Like the hawthorn tree, I’d be surprised if he survives another winter.
The chickens have provided me with endless amusement this week. On Saturday they’d served their time being ‘homed’ and I set them free. Led by big ginger Minn they roamed the garden like a trio of trouble makers. My neighbour called over the fence ‘I’m going to get an ASBO put on those three’. They squawked and carried on pecking. They’ve actually being very good. They don’t really go beyond the garden and they always go into their hen house at night. There’s something soothing about watching them go off to bed. It’s at dusk, a time when everything feels still and hushed. They bustle around, and then Minn hops up into the hen house followed by Martha followed by Marilyn, who pauses at the doorway to give her fluffy derriere a final shake and a swish before disappearing in to roost. They all lay one egg a day each. It’s an incredible thing to lift open the nest box and see three speckled eggs there among the oak chips. When you pick them up they’re still warm, like sea-smoothed pebbles soaked in morning sunshine. Of course I’m completely over-run with eggs. Egg recipes anyone? Delightful as they are the hens have developed one bad habit. They sit at the back door, which is very sweet. They also shit at the back door, which isn’t so sweet. And believe me – they shit a lot.