This summer we went back to Bella's, the matriarch of the Mackays, the nearest neighbors to the croft. It is, every year, one of the very best things about being there, to be welcomed by Bella and her endlessly revolving queue of visitors and family who usher us in to have cups of tea and whiskey any time of the day. This year, unfortunately, we wound up all too often visiting to use their phone (long story short: if you rent a car in Europe it might be a good idea to just buy yourself a puncture repair kit as they are no longer allowed to leave spare tires in the trunk (or rather, tyres in the boot).
The dogs were especially feisty this year. They have two herding dogs who are almost disturbingly intense. The younger one, Tide, literally herds anything and anyone that moves ALL the time. I really started to feel sorry for the chickens. The elder statesman, Boss, mostly lies at Bella's feet in the kitchen and guards her. This summer in an attempt to wind up Boss, Tide would herd Princess Neptune, the pet sheep, into the kitchen. Boss was not amused about having a full grown sheep in the house and would freak out and the sheep would run upstairs, causing total mayhem. Tide has quite the sense of humor, doesn't he?
Boss followed me around when I went out by myself with Roan, shuffling from one side of me to the other, actually physically herding me. I am sure he was thinking, "This one's from the city, I can smell it. She's going to fall in a hole!" so he kept an eye on me.
Roan had an absolute blast running around with Uisdean, who let him play on the giant dump truck that was parked at the top of their hill, and let him chase the chickens and feed the lambs. Sam raced him around in a wheelbarrow full of straw.
Bella, ever tinier and deafer and older, still has an immeasurable fierceness and biting sense of humor. It is a testament to the life up there, in one of the most remote, desolate places possible, so desolate that you have to drive 3 hours to get a flat tire replaced, that she is always surrounded by her family and friends. And no one makes a big deal of it, either. Everyone just takes the time to pop in with a tin of cookies and maybe a bit of news or gossip. There was one house nearby that a family had lived in for over a decade but no one like them because they never visited with anyone. Why would you live up there if you don't want to visit?
The last thing we do when we leave the croft on the way back to civilization is pop in to Bella's. We always say we are just going to quickly say our goodbyes and then hit the road, but we always wind up staying for tea and biscuits way longer than we should, magnetized, not wanting to draw ourselves away from these people or this way of life.
|View from Bellas|
|Tide and Neptune|
|Bella in the sun|
|Roan and Uisdean feeding a sickly lamb|
|He was OK in the kitchen because he was so wee|
|Uisdean, Tide, Roan, and Sam|
|Uisdean and Tide|
|Princess Neptune, causing trouble|
|Sheep on the 2nd floor|
|Boss and Roan|
|Roan and the tractor|