It’s getting into summer proper, so that means more time in the hills and more time staring at what’s beneath my feet. Last weekend I spent a good day walking in Argyll (more on that soon), taking great pleasure in the biastagan and flùraichean that popped out to say hello.
A cloudy and drizzly start to the day soon cleared up, leaving blue skies, few clouds and just enough of a breeze. Of the flùraichean that were about, I spotted moss campion and bog cotton with almost entirely dead heads – a sign of how dry things have been the past few weeks.Moss campion is called Coirean Coinnich in Gaelic, which if you pick apart, becomes a meeting (coinnich) in a little hollow (coire, like the anglicised ‘corrie’)
Of the biastagan spotted, my favourites was this daolag and many losgannan, in fact the place was positively losgannach – abounding in frogs. I know so little about beetles that I can’t even begin to know where to name this one – online ID guides have lost me. Can anyone help? That’s a 1:25,000 map it’s on, so a perfect scale. I’m quite taken by the colour; we all were. The less said about the poor thing scrabbling about on the plastic surface the better, though. We didn’t keep it for long.
Daolag – beetle
Duh-luck. The -ao here is not easily replicated, as it’s just not a sound that exists in English. It’s somewhere between the sounds duh and doo.
Losgannan – frogs
Coirean Coinnich – moss campion
Biastagan – beasties
Flùraichean – flowers
It is a’ Chèitean – May – the beginning of Summer. It’s warm, the sun is out, it’s pouring rain and there’s hail against the window. A Scottish Summer. I missed the chance to wash my face in the dew yesterday morning – perhaps not a bad thing given my current urban setting – so the chance of eternal youth will evade me for another year. I love this time of year. Despite the utterly bonkers weather we’ve got at the moment – snow on May day?? – the promise of what is to come is tantalising. A swallow flew above me today; surely not long now ’til the cuckoo sings and the skylark soars. I doubt I’ll come across either of the latter here in Edinburgh, but they for me are the ultimate sign of Summer arriving. Long days in the hills, no matter the weather, are just around the corner.
There have been some good days already and I like to remember back to this time in other years. There is bounty to be found in the hedgerows and hillsides and the promise of flowers still to come.
Là Buidhe Bealltainn dhuibh uile, as we Gaels say, – a very happy May day to you all, albeit a day late. You may notice the word Bealltainn there – the traditional way of referring to May Day. Edinburgh has a massive party up Calton Hill at this time of year to celebrate ‘Beltane’ as it’s called but the apparent traditions celebrated there with fire, drumming and lots of nudity doesn’t speak to me at all. I’ll stick with the morning dew of May Day instead.
Là Buidhe Bealltainn
Prounounced: laa boo-yih byal-tain. Always place your emphasis on the first syllable in the word.
Buidhe is the Gaelic word for yellow; imagine grasssy hillsides, verdant in the summer. It’s also used in sayings to express thanks and fortune.
The walk home from work is a dull one. For all the grandeur Edinburgh has in her city centre, there are as many outlying areas of anonymous suburbia. My walk passes through some of these areas, with little of interest save a small section of the Water of Leith. There on the banks, last week, I spotted a tall plant showing off its purple flowers. I didn’t recognise it and without having my plant book to hand, a quick text to my mum tells me it’s Honesty (thanks mum!).
Excuse the terrible quality of the photo; with thanks to Wikimedia for a better quality one…
Despite Honesty’s apparent ubiquity I don’t recall noticing it before. It’s the first flower I’ve seen in bloom this year, with only the earliest of blossoming trees being out so far. As I always do, I looked it up, intrigued by any other names it goes by. I found a solitary reference to it called gealach-lus in Gaelic, meaning ‘moon plant’. I can’t find any other reference to it by that name so I presume it’s simply to correspond with the latin name, Lunaria annua. Either way, I’m quite taken by it and am looking forward, as the seasons progress, to do as my mum says: collect the dried seedheads and decorate the house with those little moons.
The air has changed. Autumn is creeping ever closer. The sun sets not long after 9pm and the rain is starting to make a reappearance, more regularly by the day. The wind is gusty and more determined; the plants all around looking tired and drawn. I arrived on Islay at the tail end of Autumn last year, and with Autumn making her presence felt, I’m reminded that my time here is beginning to draw to a close.
When I’m ignoring the pressing issue of What To Do Next (well underway but really, a daunting task) I like to read. I go through fits and spurts in reading. Either I’ll be utterly addicted, every spare second with my nose in books, devouring every word in front of me, or I’ll be quiet, not reading or trying to and perhaps struggling to manage more than a few paragraphs a day. I’m in the midst of the former at the moment, happily. It does make me feel like something of a recluse, though, rejecting company to instead keep reading.
I live by the mantra my parents set out for me: “money spent on books is never money wasted”. To that end, I frequently don’t have much spare money, but do have an ever-increasing book pile.
Images: some books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.
As winter takes a stronger hold, the light changes more and more. When I first moved to the island there was still hours of light in the evening, now there are barely any hours during the day. It’s felt like a very rapid change in a very short space of time. I’ve enjoyed watching the changing light as time passes and noticing how the wildlife changes with it.
First, there were ever moving clouds
The skies were awash with geese though they’ve quietened down now.
The weather is making itself known and there are still some geese making themselves heard
Some remnants of summer are still clinging on.
I’ve been spotting about half a dozen snow geese here and there which is a nice treat. For anyone with a birdy interest, the Islay birds blog is an interesting read. Also worth a look is the blog belonging to the Islay Natural History Trust. An even greater treat is sitting in the evenings with the window open, smelling the neighbours’ peat fires and hearing the waves lap on the shore. Faladh na moine air oir na mara.