It was great to see so many readers of this blog over the weekend at the Scottish Game Fair at Scone – thanks to all who came in to the Heather Trust stand to say hello. I have dithered this way and that about the direction of this blog over the past few months, but I find my resolve to continue and keep it going has been renewed by some kinds words of support over the course of the weekend.
I’ve returned to a smirry, overcast Galloway to lick my financial wounds after an extravagant shopping spree. Chief amongst my purchases were a new pair of black islander boots, complete with a set of “deluxe” gaiters. I’ve worn black islanders for the past few years and have covered many hundreds of miles of moorland and hill without a single complaint to make. My old pair finally fell foul of my own laziness and thoughtlessness, and I hope that I will look after my new boots with a little more care so that they last longer than the last, which were cracked, dried and abused during many nights by the stove without treatment or the merest whiff of dubbin.
I also can’t resist heaping praise on the artwork of Justin Prigmore, who (as far as I’m concerned) is a star attraction at Scone. His paintings of capercaillie are staggeringly evocative, and I was stunned by his extraordinary picture of ptarmigan in the snow which hung in his tent this year. Not only do I aspire to buy one of his paintings some day, but I get a great deal of pleasure from attempting to imitate his style with my newly acquired oil paints (of which more to come).
At the risk of getting marginally political, it was also good to see Dr Aileen McLeod MSP presenting the SGA award for the Young Gamekeeper of the Year on Friday. During her speech (from which a video extract here), gamekeepers (and, later, private estates) were praised for their contribution to the Scottish landscape, and it was an excellent recognition of the hard work that goes in to managing the hills by keepers, stalkers, rangers and all manner of other trades associated with country sports. It’s easy to paint the current political picture in clumsy black and white brushstrokes, and the fact that Aileen McLeod presented the award has made feathers fly in some circles, but from my perspective it was excellent moment of progress and dialogue in an easily polarised conflict. More please.
In the meantime, it’s back to work, both on the hill and in the office.