We went up into the hills this afternoon; we have an Italian Guest, and since the weather had temporarily cleared, we thought, Speyside and up into the hills, for whatever this country’s deficiencies from an Italian perspective, there is no denying that it can be very beautiful. We ended up visiting Scalan; a haunted place for anyone either Catholic or gifted by a sense of history. Scalan was Scotland’s seminary in penal times, a tiny remote farmhouse in the extreme wilds of Glenlivet –– only one functional approach road so if necessary the students could take to the heather, which on occasion, they did. We took the brave little car as far off-road as it would go, and walked the rest of the way; soft summer air with peewits circling restlessly overhead and wheeping; they are charcoal grey and white birds, with soft, blunt wings which make them look as if they are boxing the air; the odd oystercatcher seems a visitor from a swifter world. Trudging up the glen, one comes gradually upon a little limewashed house clinging to a fold in the hills. Back in the sixth century, Christianity essentially came through St Columba’s Iona. The processes of history created a situation in which this unpretentious farmhouse was, so to say, a second Iona; absolutely everything which was continuous about the Catholic faith in Scotland passed through it. Brave men, living on oatmeal, nettles and salt herring. Even if you personally feel you can take religion or leave it, a place like Scalon is a reminder that although ‘fanaticism’ is a dirty word, people can go to extraordinary lengths of personal heroism for a religion – without, moreover, feeling the need to blow anybody else up. We tried to make reasonable speed homewards, without great success, since we anticipate Dr Biswell in the course of the night: there was a faint urban rumour that we might have had him home by dinner time but alas, not; current updates suggest 2 AM. Meanwhile, I found a new way to miss Miss Cat. I don’t think I have been away from the house since her sad demise. I had just about trained myself out of a sort of idiotic, illusory hope that somehow I would find her on the spare room bed. But coming back to the house after many hours of absence, I found I was looking for her; emerging from a long sleep in the attic or, more crossly, from the garden. It’s as though there is a bit of my mind which cannot really quite believe that she is not there.