Monday, 12 January 2009

A Well Kept Secret

Gartocharn Farmers Market

I heard a rumour that the small village of Gartoharm held a farmers market every Friday. I had passed through the village many times on Fridays and caught no sign of life, but last week I was determined to seek out and find. I drove over at 9.30am. No homemade signs hammered into the verge alerting passers by to this fabled event, nothing. The car in front signalled right and tuned off the main road so I followed. Some police cones lined the pavement, things were looking hopeful. I spotted two elderly men leaving the Village Hall car park carrying shopping bags, but the Village Hall door was open; something was going down in there.

'Where is the farmers market? I shouted out the car at a passing women. She pointed down the road to where droves of people now headed, where did they come from? 'It's just along that lane, follow the crowd.

Result! I parked and headed along a tree lined avenue reminiscent of the boulevards of France. White farm buildings dominated the skyline almost hiding the stunning backdrop of Loch Lomond. Rows of fresh local and imported fruit and vegetables burst from trestle tables. It was indeed just like the French market I stumble upon whenever I visit Paris (but without the fish and cheese). I jostled with the crowds, tripped over pushchairs and rummaged for the best of the fine selection. I loaded my bag with as much as I could carry and went into a shed to pay. Inside the shed there was more to choose from, including at least eight varieties of potatoes.

The other customers greeted each other like old friend and I suspected that the market is not advertised because the locals prefer it that way. Well I am a local too (almost) and I felt privileged to be able to shop here.

I envied the wee woman who trundled her trolley bag back up the avenue. Next week I would be sure to be better prepared.

I didn't have my camera with me on Friday - the craft market is held in the same hall as my Pilate's class

But what was happening in the hall? A weekly craft market, thats what. I enjoyed the luxury of sauntering round the hall, taking a 25p shot at the tombola and not winning, then paying £1.40 for a mug of (not bad) coffee and an indulgent chocolate brownie. I sat and enjoyed the view from the hall window and reflected on life in the country. It is a bit like being thrown into the set of the Archers and realising that it is an enjoyable experience. I can't wait until next week.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Goodbye 2008 - Hello 2009


This Christmas, with the economic recession foremost in all our minds, I decided consumable home made goods would be a good bet as presents. I was a bit worried about the reaction but was amazed that everyone loved the idea and the gifts. The gifts ranged from small goodie bags to large hampers. I filled these with a selection of home made country wines, sloe gin, rowanberry liqueur, ginger wine, chutney, marmalade, pecan and maple tablet, rum and raisin fudge, brandy truffles, shortbread and cake. The best thing about these hampers is that everything in them can be recycled!

Glen Affric - Above the clouds

My year of firsts finished with a visit to a new Hostel just outside Drumnadrochit where I celebrated the arrival of 2009 with friends. The Loch Ness Hostel at Bearnock was luxurious compared to some of the places I have visited in the past. Warm, clean and accessible to the many nearby hills is just what is needed for a winter break.

I have not made a definitive list of first but know that I have surpassed the fifty mark. The highlights for me was my fabulous birthday treat to the Three Chimneys in Skye, the Connect Festival and reading out my poetry in public. It was a memorable way to celebrate my fiftieth birthday year and I know that I will continue to celebrate each new experience in 2009.

A spooky Glen Affric below the clouds


For me every New Year starts with bags of enthusiasm for my over ambitious plans. This year is going to be particularly special for me because I am due to become a grandmother for the first time in May. I also have loads of projects planned.

Here are a few;


I plan to finish my second novel, working title THE OOTLINS. I have been nibbling away at this story for the past year and although I know what needs to be written I find it hard to motivate myself whilst searching for a publisher for my first novel Torque. No more procrastination. The book will be finished this year.

Community Courses

I have recently been developing two courses to deliver into the community. The one that is attracting most interest is Surviving the Credit Crunch for Families. This can be tailored to any group. I use my past life experience of surviving the Miners Strike in 1984 but I also use day to day home crafts and all round canny practices.

The second course is the Guide to Successful Living which covers all aspects of health, wealth and happiness.

To find out more about these courses visit the website at

Carbon Footprint

My personal project for 2009 is to reduce my carbon footprint. Last year I made a good start on this but I think that with all this financial gloom around just now the time is ripe to push further to reduce the air miles on food and live on local produce.

I had a first stab at this yesterday.


As threatened last year I bought a cheese making kit. This first batch of cheese was produced from one litre of locally produced milk. It took ages but it is good fun.