What a treat catching up with these old friends and staying over in their attic room, which was neither a dumping ground nor bedroom, it was both!
The headboard was below the best view in the house, the gable end view of Ullapool. There are two other skylights in the attic, they are wrought iron, heavily rusted and smothered in cobwebs.
The large expanse of the double bed was disguised with an elderly and faded patchwork quilt that must have been a family heirloom. There was no heating up there although at least you were above the kitchen. The bed was very old and the mattress had seen better days; the dip in the middle meant that two of you in the bed roll together.
I was visiting two weeks before Christmas, there was a slight dusting of snow on the ground, and the air was very still, hardly a breath of wind. The windows had ice both on the outside and inside. I felt that my nose was blue and I could blow “smoke” rings from an exhaled breath. Needless to say my pyjamas were paired with socks a wooly hat and a dressing gown. The host had kindly handed me a large dram to warm me up in my night-time retreat.
With children in the house there was much excitement and beautifully wrapped presents were starting to appear under the tree.
My dog (a mongrel with some border collie) is the most delightful companion. Well trained and exceedingly patient, she drops everything to pay attention to a command. Ages with the children (at this point she’d be 10); the kids had created a bed for her in the kitchen beside the Aga, perfect for the residual heat.
My dear friends, being traditionalists don’t have tinsel or lights on their Christmas tree. They have hand made baubles and small holders for candles, thankfully not something that’s easy to find now. Candles although very pretty and romantic, on a tree are bloody dangerous.
Unknown to the family or I someone had wrapped a large chocolate bar and it had been placed under the tree, Jess had worked this out but had waited for her moment. Janey (one of the daughters) had tied a large ribbon bow to Jess’s collar.
The inevitable happened, Jess got into the presents beneath the tree when no one was looking and set fire to the ribbon on her neck! She started yelping and running round the house. My night-time dram was grabbed from my hand and thrown at Jess, thankfully the child missed completely. It just created loud spitting from the wood-burning stove in the lounge. In a flash, I managed to wrap my dressing gown round Jess and dampen the flames. Thankfully no permanent damage was done. Needless to say that was the last year they used candles on the Christmas tree!
Colin Gilchrist (whisky enthusiast), guest blogger.
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