Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lady Barbara is an American

Even when you know that cultural influences include dress and manners, you can be taken aback. When Lady Barbara, a carefully coifed woman in pearls and archetypal British slender coat, began her speech, I asked the woman next to me, "Is she American?" She nodded and then I laughed. "That's why she sounds so funny." Her presentation was good and well received but I was preoccupied by trying to decide just what it was that made her look so British. Of course I wondered if I would ever come to look so different from the way I sounded? I don't think I will ever lose my accent although I have lost some American words at least temporarily. Perhaps that is what really happens when people kiss the earth of their homeland upon returning; they are collecting the words they left behind there.

We were at the annual Dounreay cocktail party. Friends and not so friends of Dounreay have been invited to share in a little celebration of another year's worth of activity. Lady Barbara had come all the way to Thurso to share the good news. It was a high level view and no details or distractions which is always how good news messages come packaged. I was just a little discomfited by being referred to as "the local supply chain."

I think Scots have a long history of good news messages in which one way or the other they have played the role of local supply chain. The words have changed no doubt over the years but the message seemed remarkably all too familiar. Perhaps the first step in my Scotification is to adopt the political sensitivities of my new country.

Morris and I had our photo taken with some of our other neighbors. I imagine we'll see ourselves in an upcoming newsletter or perhaps on the web site. If we are named, then perhaps I'll have my first foray onto virtual celebrity with my new name.

I talked about cats with one neighbor. It seems that Old Blackcoat has quite a territory and may have several feeding stations along the way. She referred to him as dusky grey but the tell tale gimpy hind leg identified him without a whisker of a doubt. Another neighbor has offered me a fleece from her Jacobs fleece in exchange for some veg from my garden. The woman with her says she would have given me hers if she had only known, but they went to a woman in Betty Hill who spins. She offers to put me in touch with her. I am glad to find all the women up here who knit and spin and weave because it seems so important to hold on to those skills as well as to just be able to share an enthusiasm.

On the way home I think about what I might knit from the Jacobs fleece, so called because an individual fleece has cream and caramel and brown and black all in a motley assortment. For people like me who often struggle to make up my mind about things, especially design decisions, I look forward to carding it and spinning it just as it comes so that the end result will look something like an ice cream sundae with swirls of toffee and chocolate.

The heavy clouds and damp air have given way to a lighter sky and still water as we watch the ocean on our right as we head home. The water is silvered and the air above the water has so much moisture that the whole horizon takes on a powdery blue glimmer. The farm road now has cow parsley--tall, white, umbrella shaped compound flowers--and grasses along both sides. The cow parsley has a soft, pale luster against the grey of the stone dykes and one or two cattle here and there pop their heads over the parsley and the dyke to welcome us home.


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