We’ve all had it, the disappointment of a much anticipated lunch being cancelled at short notice. Things happen; diaries get mixed up. But how many have had a dizzy because of a hair appointment? I ask you. It must be at least 35 years since such an event featured on my calendar, but we’ll let that lie, for now.
Having cleared a few hours in the diary, and with the weather not unkind, it would have been foolish to waste that time at the desk, in front of a screen. Motherwell called, no not to gaze in the window of the hair stylist, but to wander round the bird hides and the muddy paths of Baron’s Haugh, which I had neglected for far too long.
On reaching the riverside path I stopped by a trio with camera and glasses focussed on the far bank. The otters had been out, and of course I’d missed them, sleeping now after feasting on fish earlier. But I know where to stop next time.
The Clyde ran swiftly, levels high, thick with silt, which surprised me till I remembered that the footie had been aff these past two weeks. It had been wet. The path along the bank was thick with mud, puddled wide and deep, and I had inappropriate footwear, unprepared, in my haste to make good the time gifted by the hairdresser. Though I’d picked up the camera, the binoculars had escaped, and remained on the kitchen window.
A blether in a bird hide resulted in a pair of old gits hirpling by the river, helping each other where the quagmire made it difficult for one with a heart condition, t’other a dodgy knee, amongst other things. Nostalgia took over, days gone by; times before the nature reserve existed. Tony had grown up by Keanie Park, back when Johnstone Burgh could pull a crowd. From sharing days in those Junior parks across Ayrshire I recalled a picture my erstwhile lunch companion had found, of twenty-odd thousand crammed into Lesmahagow for a game, post war. I can’t imagine those numbers in the town far less at the game, save for the days when ten thousand cars an hour passed through on the old A74, heading for Blackpool on Fair Saturday.
But Tony had much more to share. We wandered the banks to where he expected to find his first sand martin of the season, a good six weeks before I expected their house cousins to appear around the house. By the bridge, where the troll might hide for the children, the kingfisher should be resting, darting across the river, out for food, back to fill empty beaks. But the sandy stayed hidden, and there was no flash of blue across the waters. We saw nothing, but what a grand time we had.
Time passed, a train missed, and as I was going his way I was delighted to help Tony on the travel front. We blethered on. The far bank hosted half a dozen Canada geese, enjoying the sun. A score or so rose from behind the shrubbery; the skein gained height, took up their formation, and headed north, following the river. The seasons were changing.
Clumps of daffodils were springing to life. Back home it was snowdrops, with the crocuses, as usual, being battered by the wind; the daffodils were still some weeks away. The primroses had been doing well, until a rogue, fence-jumping sheep, enhanced her diet. Dangerous thing to do, be a sheep in my garden when spring is coming and I’m thinking of rosemary or harissa.
There had been yellow wagtails around, and tree-creepers, as we discovered when returning to the car to find the otter spotter packing his camera away in the next bay.
What an unexpectedly fine day, even if all I have to show is a picture of dirty water. Lunch can wait till next week, unless Bill happens to having a manicure or something, in which case soup and sandwiches in the bird hide with Tony would be no hardship at all. To be fair Bill does have hair that needs a certain attention, the poodle parlour might do it. But at our age hair care is something we’re both just thrilled still to need. Others are insanely jealous, even if they have more time for lunch.