Monday 26 March 2012

Limpet Games

summer icebergI learned a valuable lesson from my wee nephew this sunny weekend: It is possible to push a skewer through an inflated balloon without bursting it. The fact that he took off half way down the garden as I started to push the skewer in didn't inspire confidence but, despite the fact that he had only 'seen it on telly' it did, in fact, work.

My wife and I were feeling surprisingly fresh after a superb 'galloping gourmet' evening of tapas, Kir Royale, hot-smoked salmon, Moroccan lamb and more sumptuous desserts than you could shake an eager spoon at.

After toast, coffee, outdoor-sofa-lazing and balloon shenanigans we packed a rucksack with flask of elderflower cordial, packet of nuts and some salami, then took off over the rocky shore at, approximately, dog-whelk pace. Trekking sandals were the business for splashing through the perishing-cold sea and not-quite-so-perishing rock-pools. My nephew only had trainers (complete with built-in flashing LED lights) and Sonic the Hedgehog socks. But he too splashed around regardless.

An enormous chunk of polystyrene was pressed into service as a ship, complete with stick mast and complement of sailors: Captain Limpet and his trusty whelk crew. The inshore breeze didn't make for ideal sailing conditions. I slip-slided out through the water to a kelp-covered island to launch the vessel, only to see it deposited straight back on the rocks; Captain Limpet entirely failing to live up to his name.

After late-lunch break we continued on along the shore, taking in the beautiful hazy view in between repeated backtracking to share our nephew's latest (and, of course, most important) discovery. We made it as far as the 'cave' (really an arch) at the point. There was what looked like a bat-box lodged high up at the apex and, when I pointed this out to my nephew, he was keen to know how the bats had managed to get their house up there.

He marveled at a smooth indent and groove in the rock where the waves continually splashed in and ran back down to the sea. I explained about the endless action of the sea wearing away the rock. He seemed to take the notion of geological timescales in his small stride. And, probably because it was time to return home, he really didn't want to leave that place. The trip back slowed from dog-whelk to limpet pace and the backtracking requests multiplied. We must have covered miles of that same stretch of shoreline.

Gastrobeach looks just as inviting today as sunlight glistens on the smooth water. The mountains are, once again, hazy blue; like some far-off and enchanted mythical realm.

I am too grown up to believe in mythical realms but I can, at least, rejoice in the magic of reality: an amazing world where skewers can be pushed through inflated balloons and water can wear away solid rock.

Monday 5 March 2012

A Walk to Radio Rock

A walk to the point last weekend, in the chill March wind, was a welcome antidote to 'morning after' fuzziness. We headed out, along with a friend who was staying with us for a short break, scrambling over progressively larger stones until we reached the sharply-spiked rocks at the eastern tip.

There's a small cove just round the headland, where the waves ebb and flow through rounded pebbles. Our friend noticed that a rock to the side of the pebbles was making a strange noise, not unlike radio static. The sound was created by the sea, bubbling away through a crack in the rock.

We scrambled up the hill from the shore, hauling ourselves up through the sturdy heather. The view was worth the effort: a sweep of grandeur - all snow-capped peaks, blazing low sun, scudding clouds and steely sea. We followed a sheep track until we were heading back in the direction of home, facing west. The Cuillins rose ahead of us, way beyond the russet moor, before the view was swallowed by an incoming hail cloud.

Five minutes from home the hail shower hit us: a freezing deluge, mixed with sleet and cold rain.

Steaming bowls of thick lamb broth, back at the house, revived us soon enough. We sat and watched the weather close in, warming up and looking forward to another evening of good wine and good company.