Monday 9 July 2018

Hot Fun in the Summertime

There is obviously no great shakes in me noting that time speeds on, and all the quicker the older, or as I prefer it, more interestingly grizzled one gets. Yet here on the island, as spring has rushed headlong into summer, and apparently with barely an intake of breath between flowers bursting to bloom and the comings and goings of squadrons of marauding cuckoos, there have been a couple of properly jarring occurrences, one elemental and the other more personal.

In the first instance, the sun did not only sit high in the sky for most of May, but was still present to greet June and has barely been absent during daytime hours ever since. Or for a healthy chunk of night-time too for that matter, since our sunsets have consistently extended to eleven o'clock and sometimes later on these long and lovely evenings. In my experience at least, this is not the usual state of affairs up here. A couple of balmy weeks if you're lucky, yes. Anything even approaching an unbroken wave of fine weather, no, no, and furthermore, no.

So, it's been something of a shock to be woken daily at four-thirty am by the burst of a brilliant sunrise and with the land about bathed in many golden hues, the sea below utterly still, but full of latent drama and evocative as an oil painting, and the heavens above piercing blue and cloudless. One morning we watched rapt for four, five minutes as three Sea Eagles, parents and chick, soared in ever-widening, ovoid patterns high up over the local sea-loch, and along which neighbours of ours have recently spotted the passing of pods of porpoise and dolphin and three Minke Whale.

On another luminous day, a pair of Roe Deer skipped down our drive and across our plot which in a matter of weeks has erupted into a seductive tangle of vivid green, yellow and purple grasses and wildflowers. Altogether, it is almost perfectly blissful and especially with the air so becalmed that the ever-present chatter of birdsong is accompanied now by yet more sonorous background notes - and these the sounds of the sea lapping on the rock-dashed shoreline of Ficavaig Bay. Almost, and but for a brace of scourges, both of them species of insect.

In the blue corner, we have the monumentally irritating Scottish Midge. In the red, the even more repulsive, blood-sucking Common Tick. The former are present in their millions from early June through August, most notably on still, humid days and so incessant in their buzzing-biting persecutions they would have made a raging, swearing madman of, say, St Francis of Assisi. The latter are simply disgusting, burrowing into exposed skin to find a vein and from where they gorge themselves to bursting point.

As everyone hereabouts knows, the trick upon discovering protruding from oneself the bloated miniature rear-end of a Tick - and after resisting the urge to projectile vomit, or else pass out - is to extract it with the utmost care. This is done by prising it gently between thumb and forefinger out from its feasting and so that no part of it breaks off and is left embedded in your flesh. Since: a/ Tick's in rare instances can carry Lime Disease which is relentlessly unpleasant; and b/ No-one, but no-one in any case wants a vampiric parasite stuck in them for any longer than absolutely necessary.

This being the case and having found one of the little beasts feeding in my right thigh during an otherwise happy afternoon playing football with the boys in the Carbost play-park, it would have been an act of utter lunacy to allow my youngest to try out his until-then nascent Tick-removal skills. Except that is just what I did. And with the inevitable result that I was left with a decapitated Tick's head inside of me. In no way was this the unfortunate Charlie's fault and nor did he merit being on the wrong end of the barrage of expletives I inadvertently shrieked out, but then my ever-fertile imagination had conjured up a stomach-churning, bowel-evacuating image of the body-less horror as it carried on gnashing away at me like a rabid Pac Man.

Charlie took this in his stride, bless him. Whereas I went right ahead piling on the shame. For what it's worth, a few, and perhaps unnecessary words of advice for any fellow male readers who may in the future find themselves similarly blighted. Yes, you will have to endure a degree of discomfort in such circumstances and when a loved one is minded to dig the offending bit out of you with a sewing needle. But however long this process takes and no matter the depth of your pain threshold, trust me in this one thing... It will be manifestly for the better that you refrain from hysterically informing someone who has birthed children that, and tragically I quote here: "You have absolutely no idea how much this hurts!"

The other unexpected aspect of recent months has come with the regular influx of guests to our B&B annex room. Speaking as someone predisposed to take a dim, cynical and some would say thoroughly miserable view of the human race, I have been knocked sideways by the sheer friendliness, niceness and many kindnesses of folk in general. Most particularly when confronted first thing in the morning by a red-eyed, unshaven grouch brandishing a basket of food prepared for them by someone much more appealing. For sure, this much has done, and will continue to do my soul nothing but good.

In respect of me providing any kind of public service, I am operating here veritable continents outside of my comfort zone. Though having worked for more than twenty years on the fringes of the madhouse they call the music industry, it is a feeling I am well used to. An example to illustrate the point. Soon after Lady Gaga ascended to becoming a cast-iron all-singing, all-dancing phenomenon, we determined to put her on the cover of Q. In double-quick time an interview and photo session were arranged through her 'people' and from there things proceeded like clock-work right up to the very moment the former Stefani Germanotta arrived at the appointed location.

The Lady, you see, had come armed with a plan. She had with her a large cardboard box. Opening it with a flourish, she extracted from this box what can only be described as a strap-on dildo the size, and shape of a baseball bat, since that's precisely what it was. "You are going to put me on your cover in this," Gaga announced, or at least words to that effect. Furthermore, she stated, and but for the aforesaid dildo, she meant to be photographed naked from the waist down.

It had doubtless occurred to her that Britain's magazine retail collective might take a dim view of parading before their shoppers a bottomless woman, who also happened to be thrusting out at them a great big sex aid. All the more so since the issue in question would be going on sale smack bang in the middle of a school holiday. About that she did not care one jot, since she was a pop star and not at home to such trifles as the innate conservatism of Tesco, WH Smith et al. Very much unlike me, she would not be on the wrong end of a P45 should they deem not to stock the offending organ.

Since Gaga wasn't for getting her perfectly manicured hands dirty and I had stayed put at the Q office, there ensued a drawn-out battle of wills waged by phone and email between a handful of Gaga's minions (and yea Gods, an 'image consultant' was among them) and me. One after a-tiresome other, they relayed to me the fact that 'The Star' was not for diluting her art, or something equally ludicrous. Whilst I attempted to negotiate a compromise and not tear what was left of my hair out from my skull by the roots.

In the end, Gaga was cajoled into believing that secreting the dildo down a pair of leather trousers would be an even more subversive act and we got our shot. And it was quite literally just the one picture. For no sooner had Q's photographer snapped his camera than Gaga took a phone call that left her shaking and on the verge of tears. We never did find out who was on the other end of the line, much less what ill tidings they imparted to her. But upon hanging up, she scooped up her things, dildo among them, and flounced out of the room without so much as a goodbye or by your leave, and never to return.

Now, I'm not really anticipating that anyone will turn up at The Passing Place brandishing an enormous phallus. But should they ever, I will be ready.

This Week I Have Mostly Been Listening To:

The Elephant Sessions - Summer

Based just across the country in the Black Isle and currently on repeat play, this band's all-round wonderful second album All We Have Is Now might have been made just for days such as these.

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