Have no idea from whence that folksy saying comes, but it must have been one of those conditional-on-the-weather places. Who knew we lived in such a place? Our train into Glasgow from Stirling took an hour and twenty minutes last week; what is usually about a thirty minute ride (thirty-three – forty-four, depending on if you’re on an express, and what time of day it is) stretched onward into hideous eternity. T. fell asleep in self defense. D. played endless games of Klondike on his phone. The high winds had again slowed the trains to 50 mph, and then late trains were piled up on the tracks… so we mostly sat. And sat. If it weren’t for the fact that we had to attend our last rehearsal before a big concert, we would have stayed home. The temps hovered in the mid-thirties and the wind was in the 65 mph range, and — brrr! But that wasn’t even the most fun part.
Our burn flooded!
Our mills-turned-homes border a long, light-less rural road, lined with open fields where sheep placidly munch and ignore the wind, snow, sleet, rain, and dark of night. (Really, they’re amazing, but as we were told, with some asperity, “Well, an’ they’re Scottish sheep, aren’t they?” Yes. Well.) A stream, or burn runs along the road and under a bridge to a smaller field used as a playground for the neighborhood and a football pitch. We were riding home with our friend R., who kindly drops us off on Tuesdays, and we skidded for a bit coming off the freeway. This didn’t slow him down, och, noo. He lives in an area just up the pike from us – even more rural, so he’s fearless. We fishtailed down the road, hitting puddles, sheets of water rising in silvery wings on either side of the car. T. gripped the upholstery.
“Er, Rol, mind the turn at the bottom of the road,” she said. “It floods. You might want to slow down.”
Aaaand just at that moment, we hit one massive puddle and R. gripped the steering wheel as the car went slightly out of control. Fortunately, the road is single-track (one lane) and no one was coming the other way. He slowed a bit as we saw the lights on the first of the mills, and it’s a good thing he did — because the road was completely under water from that point on!
It’s an entirely eerie feeling to feel sloshing under your feet as a car is driving. It is not a feeling we want to feel again. R. said, “Um, I think I’ll have to take the high road back through town. Wouldn’t fancy driving that again.”
Sometimes it freezes after the burn floods. Fortunately, not this time. Next time it goes, we’ll have to take pictures. Meanwhile, our upstairs deck is somehow flooded… we have to wade out and pry up the paving stones that line the floor and see what is plugging up the pipe. Unfortunately, it’s thirty-two degrees at present, and it’s not a job either of us wants, though T. took a stab at it once already. Meh. It’ll keep.
Well, greetings of the winter holiday to one and all. The winter holidays are always odd for us – our first year, we’d just arrived, so didn’t plan to go home, and had a miserably cold and lonely time, fighting homesickness. Our second year, we gave up and went home, housesitting but not enjoying the whole experience because we both had the ‘flu to end all influenza. The third year we were home, and brought work with us, and last year we gave up and went to Iceland for a few days. Through all of this, T. either didn’t have access to her creché or didn’t unpack it… and hasn’t now for four years. Quite a change from the girl who badgered friends and family to sculpt her a new piece each year after Thanksgiving dinner. We don’t decorate anymore, because we never plan on being here… and this year was going to be the same. Except, we’ve found a stray American who had no plans. And we can’t let someone sit at home in a dark city with no one, when we have two perfectly good guest rooms and a mattress warmer.
And once one guest was invited, well. The floodgates. They opened.
So, out comes the Sculpey, and the clay creché figurines, and the paint, and thus begins the decoration and the fussing and the cookie baking and general making-an-effort-ness of it all. And you know? It’s probably not a bad thing. This is supposed to be a celebration of light over darkness, after all…
Somewhere, in the midst of all of our moves, we’ve managed to lose something tiny and precious – our candy thermometer. It’s horrible! We have had to go all old-school and use a glass of ice water and a shrewd eye to tell when our sugar syrups are boiled enough. Fortunately, you can’t really ruin much once sugar’s gotten past the soft-ball stage – either you’ll have individual sugared nuts, or brittle, right? We were aiming for brittle – and got some, but boy, we’ll have to perfect it. For one thing, the combination of cinnamon and cayenne pepper, while lovely, maybe should have gone into the syrup itself. Using a fine grater and grating cinnamon into the nuts meant it all fell to the bottom, as did the pepper. This made for some entertainment as people sampled — spots completely free of cayenne, other spots causing gasps and choked requests for water.
(Sadly, this caused us more amusement than it should have. Maybe we won’t change a thing.)
Secondly, the nuts probably shouldn’t have been mixed into the syrup, but laid out on the Silpat… and the syrup poured over them. Working with hot sugar brings on some sort of atavistic Lava Terror, and it’s hard to spread that stuff out fast enough – your hands and arms just chant, “Run away!” repeatedly. However, mixing the nuts into the syrup ensures much better coverage, so a heavier spatula and a fiercer attitude next time will have to work. Or something.
Either way, it’s good fun to get into the kitchen, and we’re expecting to bake carrot macaroons, Fauxreo “Coal” cookies, ABC gingerbread men, and a whole host of other fun stuff. Hope your holiday plans a.) do not find you with ice, unless it is in an iced drink or ice skates, b.) do not contain high water, unless you’re kayaking or surfing, and c.) do include exceptional cider and the best cookies you’ve ever had. Rest and peace and loved ones; hands to hold and babies to cuddle, and people with whom to watch bad movies, color, and squabble with over games and scores. Hot baths. Soft blankets. Sweet smells. Frosty air, experienced from a toasty warm distance. Gratitude, pure and deep: This we wish you.
Namaste. Pax. And Heavenly Peace.