The sublime and the ridiculous

Eighteen months after that dreadful day we still miss them, our pair of vizslas. Always will. The other day we did one of their / our favourite lunchtime walks from the bridge over the Gruinard river down through a regiment of dunes on to what we call beach four. We cross a wide expanse of red gold sand before scrambling high on to a heathery, rocky promontory projecting out into the waters of Gruinard Bay.

This day was cold, windless, sunny; perfect. Sitting right at the tip of the promontory eating our usual picnic lunches we spoke now and then of days and dogs gone by. Out in the bay a raft of eider ducks called to each other with those funny 'oo-aah's' of theirs. And although we couldn't actually see him or her we could certainly hear the calls of a great northern diver, the bird called a 'loon' in the States. Remember the movie, 'On Golden Pond?'. The loon's is the loneliest, most wilderness, most wistful sound I know - and how well it travels over water.

On the walk back we stopped to watch a white tailed sea eagle as he (yes, an adult male) quartered the beach and an adjacent hillside looking for something to eat. For five minutes we stood quite still until, right over our heads, he must have spotted us. He banked away and without apparent effort, those great wings  beating ever so slowly, he proceeded directly upriver and was gone.

Sublime. Food for future paintings

Back at home we found a letter from someone somewhere enclosing a laminated Notice designed to be affixed to our wall. No doubt the entire area had been similarly favoured, for we have NATO fuel oil tanks built into a seaside hill near by. This Notice told us what to do if the tanks should perchance explode. We put it carefully into the drawer where we keep our Navy issue iodine pills. Yes, every few years a couple of young Royal Navy lads come round to collect the old pills and deliver a new packet. You see, out in the loch there is something called a Z buoy. It is reserved for the exclusive use of nuclear submarines although we haven't actually seen one of those in the loch during our eight years of looking out over the waters of Loch Ewe. Apparently, should there be a 'nuclear accident' we are to swallow the pills which will block off our thyroid glands, thus preventing radiation from killing us. Seems a bit like calling for the aspirins having been run over by a steamroller but who are we .... Oh, and by the by, you, mister or mrs taxpayer, have just shelled out six million quid on renovating our local Nato refuelling pier. We hardly ever see a warship using it other than the annual 'exercise' and no wonder, for as far as I understand it, Al Quaeda is land locked and bears but small arms.

We're so worried about the nation's finances? Really?


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