Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Hot Sand at Coldbackie

There is more than enough cold to go around in Scotland, so even if Coldbackie has no particular claim on cold, the name is still apt. Thus, when Fred said "Once it was so hot that the sand in Coldbackie was hot," I knew that must have been extraordinarily warm. The comment is prompted by the glorious sun pouring down on us at an outdoor eating area at a local cafe.

I had been hoping for a quiet lunch, but Morris ran into people that he knew and so I listened to stories about people and places that have still very little to do with me. I answered the obligatory questions: How are you adjusting to the weather? Whereabouts in the States do you come from? and Did you come from a farming background? And then mostly I am set aside in the swirl of conversation except to be warned again how other people may talk about me.

When bureaucrats could not do something for me, they invariably told me that someone else could--another office, a different branch, a different organization. I am convinced that it was a mixture of motives--a genuine desire to be helpful, an eagerness to be rid of me, and perhaps a sense that everyone else had more power than they did. It began to sadden me more than make me angry. And now Mary, the amiable wife of Fred, both former Caithnessians, tells me what other Caithnessians will think or say about me. I wonder about her motives but then realize that, like Morris, she tends to say just what comes to her mind and not to think too deeply about it.

And so when Mary talks about how she heard about me, "the new wife," from Denise, whom we had visited on Saturday, I try not to let my heart sink. I had thought it was a good visit and there had been a real connection with Denise and her mother. I had not felt like an artifact or a curiosity. I stare into my soup and Morris says, "How long do you think you'll have to be called 'new wife?'" I think it will be forever. I wonder if I will ever have a name here.

The conversation moves easily with Morris and Mary. Fred and I both are quiet. He has written a book to be published in two weeks. A technical book. I think some of his quiet is a preference and some a well-practiced habit. I wonder how long it takes to develop those habits. A nephew is getting married in October. He and his fiance had been acting like an old married couple for some months before they made the announcement. They have the same stride and even though she is from Australia, they think and talk very much in synch. Not alike, but closely meshing one with the other.

I am called back to the conversation by a new question: "What about porridge?" "In the States we call it 'oatmeal' and make it without salt," I reply thinking I have covered the standard comments.
"Well, let me give you a little advice. Try it with coconut milk. It is delicious."

For an instant we are joined in the pleasure of something shared. I will try it and remember Mary and the conversation in the sun.


At 1:50 PM, Anonymous youvebeenswained said...

They put salt in their oatmeal? Yuck. I miss you, Highland Girl.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

I miss you, too. How's the new job?

Yeah, salt on oatmeal is too weird for me on cereal. But oats used as stuffing are a different category.


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