A last Hurrah to Raasay BC . Part 2

In the land Before Coronavirus when folks were free to roam where ere they wished we had planned a trip to visit Sue on Raasay.

But as ever for us things did not run quite as smoothly as we wished. I am never sure when we encounter several obstacles, delays and impediments to our plans whether they should be viewed as a warning from the fates or the powers that be of impending doom if we continue on our chosen path or as a challenge to prove our mettle and our ability to overcome the aforementioned difficulties. In general I feel we tend towards the latter view and commend ourselves upon our resilience! I am sure that others see it more as a measure of our foolishness as we blindly press ahead.

The fates….busy plotting our downfall…

So we planned to leave on Thursday after Gary’s medical appointment. As we were about to complete a round trip of almost a thousand miles we deemed it sensible to bring the Van’s MOT forward and have the engine fully serviced beforehand. The only date the garage could give us was on the Tuesday. Well that seemed to give us a bit of leeway, if even more than a days work emerged from the MOT.

In addition we needed a trip to Autogas near Thirsk, both to have some gas put in the tank but also to check out the size of our tank. We had last had the gas tank checked 6 years ago and in the intervening times regulations had changed such that gas tanks must be replaced every 10 years….well ours must be at least 20 and so a new tank of the right size needed ordering. Autogas could only offer us an appointment on Thursday afternoon. Well that seemed to fit, we could call in on the way to the A66 as we trundled northwards.

In the meantime rumblings about the coronavirus and our governments lack of response to its perceived threat had continued to appear in the media. Should we be travelling at such times? Sue was very keen for us to still visit her. She actually suggested we should go and live with her on Raasay as both Gary and I have the dreaded “underlying health conditions”. However, with Laura due to give birth in early May this could not be countenanced. Her pregnancy also added to our feeling that this visit to Sue was either now or, if not exactly never, then at least not for a very long time due to our forthcoming grandparent duties.

We checked with Sue, as we always do when visiting her, if there was anything she needed us to bring up for her. There usually is. In this case it was a lamp she had left at her daughter’s in Howden …oh and the Britishers predilection for that eternal essential……some toilet rolls!!!

Elsa very kindly diverted to our house one day with Sue’s lamp. Now I had been imagining a sort of table lamp and was a bit non plussed when Elsa said she couldn’t carry it from her car to our house all in one go!!!

Elsa, outside her mum’s house on Raasay

The lamp was in 3 parts. A box about one and a half foot square and two 3 foot long packages carefully wrapped in brown paper and bubble wrap. The mind boggled at what sort of lamp it could be once all 3 came together….where on earth could Sue put it in her tiny house? Never mind where we would stow all 3 packages on our journey in the van. In addition, they all seemed to be delicate in nature. Indeed the stuff in the box already tinkled like broken glass but Elsa was quick to assure me that it had always sounded like that.

So despite our coronavirus concerns we were set to continue with our trip to Raasay complete with the oversized mystery lamp. I managed to stow this encumberance in our Van’s bathroom in such a way that the toilet and sink were still available for use.

Of course things did not go to plan! The MOT and service took far longer than expected so we couldn’t depart until almost Friday lunchtime calling in at Autogas on our way. But at least we had a Van fit for a long journey, including 4 brand new and expensive tyres…..

….To be continued…

Arran Daffodils.

Spring has sprung!

The daffodil bulbs we brought back from Arran have flowered beautifully on our Leeds doorstep.

And……all being well…….the van just has to pass its MOT…. we should set off for Raasay and the land of Auntie Sue by this afternoon!!!

Fingers crossed.

Bluebell Memories

Spring is definitely my favourite season and this part of spring when the bluebells are in full bloom is the best. Our garden shimmers with a haze of misty blue and in doing so recalls memories.

A haze of bluebells on The Ridge yesterday

Unlike the usual stereotypes of a cosily married couple it is Gary who remembers our special dates and anniversaries. He is the memory man. I tend to have a more vague memory for such occasions pinned to the back of my mind more by a slight flavour or essence of the original event.

So indeed, I do remember our wedding day. It happened at this time in spring when the bluebells were in full dance and the smell of the May flowers hung in the air. It happened on the Friday of the May Day bank holiday and, so Gary tells me, it happened 30 years ago yesterday. Perhaps if I write the date out here, the numbers will stick to the front of my mind and not disappear in the clouds of remembrances which clutter my mind and fill up my memory bank. April 28th 1989!

….signing the register with our lovely Laura

With Gary’s Mum and Dad
The three Lovelace siblings

Bob was our best man and I remember him leading everyone in a fit of the giggles during the wedding vows due to the pompous nature of the male registrar. I also remember him lewdly sticking Laura’s posy down the front of his trousers in this photograph….until we insisted he removed it!

The very special French gateau ordered as a surprise wedding cake by our good friends Jeff and Neil
A picture for Elsa……of her Mum, Dad and Uncle Alan in different times!

We don’t usually celebrate our wedding anniversary but as it was a special one we thought we would, after all our kids had made the effort earlier in the week for us.

So, in the late afternoon we wandered down through the wooded Ridge breathing in the heavenly scents of the May flowers, past the haze of bluebells and wild garlic to a small Italian restaurant/cafe in Meanwood- Culto.

Now as you cannot book a table in advance and as it had been very busy the last time we were there we were a little concerned that we might not be able to get a table. But the restaurant section was empty and we had our pick of where to sit. This situation did not last long as within half an hour the place was completely packed , mostly with young families seeking an early evening meal. And no wonder, great value, high quality eating !

Food was delicious, Gary had a great pizza Diavola with spicy sausage and a nicely risen crust and I had a fabulous Mille Folle- layers of aubergine, courgette, tomato mozzarella and ricotta.

Later we met Laura and Maggie and went to the Meanwood Institute to watch a friend’s band, The Hollow Men previously Full English Breakfast perform a gig they called A song for Europe and other English Tunes.

The institute is a very small and intimate venue, not much bigger than our sitting room.

We have seen the band play many times before, they are all very talented musicians who can play a wide variety of instruments.One of their specialities however are the beautiful and at times haunting songs which they sing A Cappella.

Most of the music they play are covers of fairly well known songs but all done in the bands own style.In last nights selection the most famous items included Bus Stop by the Hollies, Cliff Richards’ The Young Ones, Debris by Ronnie Lane and Michelle by the Beatles. They also played two songs especially in honour of our imminent departure for Arran….a very tongue in cheek Donald Where’s Your Troosers and a moving song by Robert Burns about a happily married old couple called John Anderson, My Jo.

Yet another brilliant musical evening, this time to raise money for Leeds Refugee Forum and also for those affected by cyclone Idai in Malawi. And at a mere £5 per person what a bargain!

Fun and goodwill all in one event!

Nowrooz mobarak!

A beautiful Persian celebration of spring and New Year.

Hyacinths are popular flowers used in Nowrooz celebrations in Iran.

Today, Wednesday 20th March is the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere. It is also the first day of the Persian New Year festival, Nowrooz, which has been celebrated in many countries throughout the world for over 3,000 years.

The word Nowrooz is a combination of 2 Persian words now (new) and rooz (day) and can be spelled in several slightly different ways so please forgive me if I haven’t used the one you are most used to you.

In Iran the festival lasts for 13 days and marks the first day of the month of Favardin. During Nowrooz holidays people visit the homes of family, friends and neighbours.

So yesterday we all gathered at Laura and Arya’s house where we had been invited to celebrate Nowrooz with a sumptuous feast prepared by Arya.

Spring cleaning or shaking the house is usual before the arrival of Nowrooz. So Arya and Laura had spent several days getting their lovely home ready including painting and staining doors, re- covering their dining chairs and putting up fairy lights so that everything looked beautiful. In fact Arya had re-stained the bathroom door only hours before our arrival!! Luckily, that wasn’t too tricky or sticky to negotiate.

Sorry for camera shake…..special prosecco camera effect!

They had also prepared a Haft-sin table. Traditionally, the Haft-sin table has seven foods on it that all begin with the letter s- sin in the Persian alphabet

  • Sabze– wheat or lentil sprouts grown in a dish – cleansing
  • Samanu– sweet pudding made from wheatgerm – food
  • Senjed– olives – love and affection
  • Serke– vinegar – immortality
  • Sib– apple – rebirth and good health
  • Sir– garlic – spirituality
  • Sumac – deep red spice – nature and weather especially rain
Sabze, which Laura and Arya had grown for Noorwuz…they thought it a weedy failure but I thought it looks great in their copper bowl

As you can see there are other things on the table and these can include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, a bowl of water, goldfish, coins, a hyacinth, poetry (Shahnameh- long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi about the history of the Persian Empire or poems by the Persian poet Hafez). Can you spot any of these on Laura and Arya’s table?

On the thirteenth day of the New Year Iranians go out together to enjoy nature and have picnics outdoors. This is part of the Sizdebedar ceremony and the greenery grown for Haft -Sin is thrown away into running water….as is the goldfish. But I don’t think Bobby, their goldfish would survive being chucked into Meanwood Beck!

Sangak

As ever Arya produced a fantastic banquet. For starters we had yoghurt and silken aubergine dips with traditional Iranian bread made in a pebbled clay oven – Sangak. Followed by baked Sea Bream, jewelled saffron rice, mixed salad, Laura’s personal favourite- Ghorme Sabzi- a gorgeous lamb stew. Arya also made a spicy lentil and tomato stew for Jamie, the only vegetarian guest.

Many apologies but there are no photos of the first two courses……think I had had too much prosecco and was too excited by the food and company!

Pudding!

For pudding there was a huge variety of Iranian chick pea sweets, Iranian pistachio nougat (Gaz) and to top it all a refreshing tea which Arya had personally brewed from camomile flowers, rose petals, black tea and saffron. As ever I was entranced by the crystallized, jewel like, strings of saffron sugar which were there for us to sweeten our teas to our taste. For once, I did not follow the English practice of adding milk to the tea and can declare it was all the better for that omission!

What a happy Nowrooz celebration!