Bliadhna mhath ùr! Happy new year! No, you’re not going mad, for it is the 12th of January and the new year; the old new year, that is. In Gaelic tradition, the New Year begins now, with candles lit in each window the night before to welcome in the new year. It’s not a tradition much observed any more, but I make a quiet note of it to myself each year. Oidhche Challain – Hogmanay – would see ceilidhs and first footing undertaken, tales told and songs sung. Different areas would have their own particular traditions to see out the old year; this article mentions some Uist specialities.
As my dad always reminds me, it is from this point onwards in the year that each day lengthens by a cockerel’s step:’ceum coileach air an latha’. It’s a good thought to bear in mind when the weather is unforgiving and the darkness rarely lifts.
The photos in this post are (top – bottom) from Blair Atholl, the East Neuk, North Uist and Islay. Each one reminds me of how beautiful a change in light can make a scene, whether Winter or Summer.
Bliadhna mhath ùr dhuibh uile – happy new year to you all.
A few snaps from Summer so far.
Suddenly it’s June and we’re running headfirst into Summer. The open moorland has tipped over into green after shades of brown dominated Winter. Verges and lochans are ready to burst into a song of yellow with the first flag iris in bloom. Elsewhere, silverweed lies low on the roadsides, shimmering in whatever sun it catches. It’s an unassuming plant but I’m fond of it and it has a revealing history.
In Gaelic, many things have more than one name and silverweed is no exception. It’s common name in brisgean (breesh-kun) but it’s ’poetic’ name is An Seachdamh Aran, literally meaning ‘the 7th bread’. It has been, in the recent past, relied on in times of famine to provide much needed sustenance. The root can be ground into a kind of flour from which bread can be made.
In the days before tatties, it was reputedly used extensively as a foodstuff, not just as a last resort. I’m not going to be digging up the verges to try it anytime soon but I’d be interested to hear if anyone has tried some.
More here by Ruaraidh MacLean for SNH.
Uibhist a Tuath. North Uist.
I’ve been here a month now,on and off. Each day I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to live, for however long, in a place so astonishingly beautiful. I worry my photos make the island look desolate and empty of people, but it is not so. There is always something happening, something on and the community here is really strong. It always takes a while to settle into a new place; I’m looking forward to exploring more as I find my feet.
In suffering the well-documented problems of lack of internet here, and with the prohibitive costs of getting it set up (>£350!!!) it looks like updates here will be less regular then they even were before. At least my knitting is benefitting from a lack of distractions. Hopefully more soon.