A twelvemonth of images
At the end of the year, the newspapers are always in reflective mood, looking back at events over the past twelve months. Personally I rarely find time for reflection at this moment in the calendar. On the last day of the year, we host a football (soccer) match for several families. It is now in its twenty-ninth year, having been started by my husband’s mother, and many of the original teenage players are now fielding their own children as participants. It is usually played in the snow and can be anything up to thirty a side. Our oldest player was a decorated hero of World War II who was still playing in goal into his late seventies: our youngest – not counting babies in slings – about two years old. It is chaotic, friendly and a great way to see out the old year. But it doesn’t leave much time for reflection.
This evening, however, I have a few spare moments while the boys are playing Pirates (the result of Santa giving one of them the DVD of ‘Treasure Island’ for Christmas). One son has a blunderbuss and a round Viking shield, the other has an orange plastic revolver and a wooden sword, and they are fighting each other around the sofa. Boys, eh. While they are occupied, I can take a few minutes just to pick some favourite photos to share with you, one for each month of Dancing Beastie over the past year. They are only snapshots, illustrating aspects of our lives here, but I hope you enjoy them.
This is one of my favourite photos of the year. I travelled alone in horrendous road conditions to attend the funeral of a friend on Skye. Even in these saddest of circumstances, the beauty of this special corner of the isles could soothe the soul.
February for me brought the fleeting excitement of having my blog ‘Freshly Pressed’ on WordPress. A huge spike in visitors led to some lasting friendships in the blogosphere,which have immeasurably increased the pleasure of writing. The post in question was just a typical Dancing Beastie one about walking in the woods, observing the forest floor.
Like every old house in a damp climate, Castle Beastie suffers occasionally from dry rot. Last winter we were battling an awful outbreak of the stuff in some of our most historic rooms. By March, however, we had turned the corner: having successfully killed off the fungus, we were starting on restoration of the interiors. The team dealing with all of this did a tremendous job, enabling us to look forward to spring and to get our wedding season underway as scheduled.
In a year of flat-lining temperatures and indifferent-to-rubbish weather, April stood out as a memorably wonderful month. Weeks of warm sunshine brought us an early spring, with trees in leaf well before their usual time, blossom bursting on the trees and brilliant green everywhere. Our family spent a happy – and hot! – long weekend in the beautiful medieval city of York. To round off a lovely month we had the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate, an excuse for happy celebrations for all but the most cynical. (And what place is there for cynicism in April?)
May is usually about bluebell woods as far as I’m concerned. For 2011, however, this photo which I chose to illustrate a post on brain injury is most characteristic. Reading that post, I see that my recovery has progressed at a glacial pace since then. This year has been a quiet one, resting after 2010’s struggle to reach ‘normal’ again after the accident. In autumn this year I suppose I did a fair bit of psychological work, coming to terms with the fact that ‘normal’ may in fact never be quite the same as it was before the accident. But flowers always help – as do bluebell woods.
Midsummer is always beautiful, even if it is as wet as this year’s was. We had only the occasional sunny day this summer but we enjoyed it anyway, with barbeques at the river and days out in the Highlands. June also brought the surprise gift of a beautiful picture (see right hand column), which has become my talisman and symbol of Dancing Beastie. It is worth more than any blogging award: I treasure it. Linda, eternal thanks!
A few days of sunshine while we were on holiday in Brittany kept us happy through the rest of the wet summer in Scotland. Finistère (‘World’s End’)in Brittany was perfect for a family holiday, with beaches for playing on, historic monuments to get us thinking and crepes to eat at every meal, given half the chance. Much as I love our rather extraordinary home, it is good to get away sometimes.
Whatever the weather, one constant of my life is motherhood. The long summer holidays bring one’s parenting skills into sharp relief, where the scuff marks show. August gave us rain, hedgehogs, the beginnings of autumn, more rain and our annual Highland Games, all experienced together with our two boys.
September was a reflective month after the end-of-summer rush. The tenth anniversary of 9/11 gave pause for thought. On a personal level, I found myself taking a step or two backwards in my recovery from brain injury, and needing time to come to terms with it all. The quiet domestic chores of early autumn brought some sense of order and comfort.
In a typical year, October brings crisp mornings and a sense of new beginnings. This year it was as damp and insipid as every other month (April being the honourable exception). A fleeting half-term trip to Skye was a lovely break, but I failed to find the inspiration to write about it properly. The eerie autumnal mists crept in as always, however, and I had fun at Hallowe’en with the idea of haunted castles.
Much as I love photographing wide woods and hills, the details that make up this rich wildscape fascinate me just as much. In November, which was dark in every way for me, it was these minutiae that kept me enthused. The variety of toadstools that appear in the autumn, in all sizes and colours, never fail to appeal.
And here we are back at December, which brought, at last, a return of optimism despite the destruction of storm-force winds. Christmas never fails to cheer me with its promise of hope renewed. We have even had a little more snow today to round off the season.
My few minutes of reflection have stretched into many indulgent ‘few minutes’ snatched here and there through the evening. The young pirates went to bed hours ago: it is time I followed their example. The football match awaits, and the Hogmanay celebrations marking the passing of the old year and the arrival of the new. However this old year went for you, I wish you a better one in 2012, with good health and happiness for you and yours.