We came back home to discouraging weather, grey and cold. After a quick flash of London spring it looked even worse than usual. We’ve been somewhat down since we came back, but today, we had scheduled a day out with a friend, meeting at Charlestown on the Spey, then going up into the highlands to Kingussie and across to Cromarty. The day started rather grey and rainy, but not absolutely set in, and indeed, once we’d met up, put together our picnic at the deli and got on the road for Kingussie, it began to clear. The reason for Kingussie was to visit the carpet shop, which is always a pleasure, though by dint of great self-restraint, we came away without any more rugs. Still, we had the fun of looking at them. I love the names, Belouch, Turkoman, Quashquai, the soberly intense colours, the way a rug’ll suddenly change half way along because someone’s run out of a particular batch of dyed wool, the inventive ways the weavers have of integrating these accidents into a harmonious whole. They hang rugs on the wall at Kingussie which lets you look at them like paintings, and after all that Art last week, that’s what I found I was doing. After that, we went up the almost impossibly scenic A9, running between ridges of indigo mountains, to the Black Isle and to Cromarty. Even on not the brightest of days, the light in Cromarty is like nowhere else I know in the world, a shimmering, delicate crystalline clarity brought about by a combination of being sandwiched between two gentle firths, with the water reflecting the sky, and absolutely clean, pellucid air. Venice has the water-light, but not the air. We saw our dear friend the Queen of Cracked China, who was in famous form, walked about, admired the somewhat Moominish lighthouse (which is in the Egyptian taste, and rather curiously, an outpost of the University), and I bought a dish with a savage looking slipware cockyolly bird from the woman who made it. She had a very fine bowl too with a fanged fantod on it, but I wasn’t feeling in need of a bowl … I rather wish I’d bought it, though, you don’t see fanged fantods every day. By the time we were heading home, the sun had come out and the Deveron was a ribbon of blue in its deep valley, like the Glory of the Snow field in Kew. We had the usual re-entry problems (though Honey the Hamster Loving Hippie had been in all day), but the animals have forgiven us for this cruel neglect. As I type, Miss Kit is lying up my left arm, snuffling into my ear and intermittently attempting to do my hair. Miss Best Friend, who was rather low and mumpish when we got back from London, has cheered up, and is looking quite jolly again. So that’s all right. We should get out more often. Every time we go up the Spey we say that, but it’s still true.
I forgot to mention something else wonderful in Cromarty. There’s a quite large field, or garden, surrounded by stone walls, which is a mass of rampant weeds, willowherb and what have you. Just at the moment, it is a sea of golden daffodils, absolutely solid with them, flowering sturdily while the withered brown canes of last year’s weeds arch over their nodding heads. I get bored with daffodils quite easily, but it looks such a triumph over adversity, it’s very touching.