A friend of ours wanted trusty native guides to Auldearn, so, since we didn’t have to go in today, we agreed a trip up Speyside. We left the general zone of Turriff in grey dribbling rain, which slackened as we went west and morphed into into a pellucid, clean-rinsed autumn day, the sort of day where you can see twice as far as usual. There is gold and bronze still on the trees, and it was astonishingly mild. It was particularly lovely because we generally reckon to have our last day-out in October — this is extraordinarily clement and open weather for the third week of November. We met at Aberlour, where the deli produces a most satisfactory picnic, and headed west, stopping only to visit Sueno’s Stone, which is a vast Pictish monument to a famous victory — wonderful, but imbued with the intrinsic sadness of such things, that the famousness of the victory, the heroes and the horses, is beyond doubting but nobody knows who it was over, or when, or why, or what the heroes were called. We went up to Auldearn via a road with orange snow-gates at either end; when the weather gets horrible beyond a certain point, the pass is shut. Today it stood open, with the gold coins of late birch-leaves scattered on the tarmac, and after last winter, it felt just a bit unreal. We came home to find a strong smell of glue and that Barry the Great had re-ceiled the drawing room. We left before he arrived because he said he was going to Inverurie to get some piece of kit: this turned out to be a sort of ingenious giant hand which allowed Barry, working alone, to press glued sections of plasterboard to the ceiling and keep them pressed (nb. before architecture mavens write in, the sections of plasterboard are also screwed to the joists). We may even get the room back to functional before the second coming of Gambrinus, you never know.