Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Surprise - gotcha!

About 3 weeks after we had moved into Castlehill I was looking at my passport and found that mine said that I was to register with the police within 7 days of arrival. Failure to comply would be punished by 6 months in jail or a 200 pound fine. Eeeeek. We went into Ullapool and talked to Constable Wiley who said there wouldn't be a problem but they would need 2 passport-type pictures of ourselves which of course we didn't have. There being no photographer in Ullapool they had to find someone with a poloroid and have us come in the next week - an inconvenience but definitely better than 6 months in the pokey!

Another government presence in our lives took the form of periodic fly-overs by the RAF fighter training jets. The pilots were learning the ins and outs of GFR - ground following radar - and they would roar up over the hill behind our house at about 50 ft. off the deck - so close we could see the whites of their eyes. They had plenty of time to look around because they weren't using their hands to fly. The sound of it was quite a shock to the system - and those hummers are BIG at that height! Guess they used that area because it was sparsely populated - and what the heck, it's only highlanders.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wildness still exists

Stac Polly is one of the Coigach signature peaks and climbing it is the most famous of the Coigach hill walks. There is a car park at the bottom and there are almost always a few cars parked there while their occupants scramble up the steep path to Polly's rocky top.

One beautiful day Jack and I thought we'd nip over and do the climb. The air was warm and fresh with blue sky and fluffy white clouds. The climb is fairly steep but technically easy so even I had no real trouble reaching the top. One end of the mountain is fairly smooth - the other consists of a ridge of rock teeth and pinacles. Jack had done some rock climbing so he headed off to do the scramble over the ridge while I just sat in the sun and drank in the incredible view.

The whole of Coigach was spread out below like a map. It was possible to identify all the villages and each individual mountain and loch. It was amazing how much of the land was uninhabited - beautiful lochs and beaches without a road anywhere near them. The view was glorious and it was heartening to know that not every beautiful spot in the world had a chain hotel or McDonalds spoiling the wildness of it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Creatures not so great

The Egyptian plagues have nothing on Scotland when the weather's warm and the wind dies down. Then they come - the midges - in their clouds. They settle in your hair and chew on your neck - or any other exposed part - and they're tiny and composed completely of tooth. Minnesota mosquitoes are nasty - big and noisy and bloodthirsty. But at least they walk around and kick your hair follicles and announce their presence so you can squash them, making a satisfying splat of blood so you know revenge is yours. But midges are too small and numerous to swat. The only defense is a hasty retreat.

One night as we sat by the fire reading I caught movement from the corner of my eye and there was a huge beetle - more than an inch long sashaying across the carpet. Unfortunately for him he became an unwilling volunteer for immediate cremation. Going into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, I encountered a very large stripey slug reared up in the middle of the floor. It was about 6 inches long and was fast aquiring dragonesque proportions when I summoned my St. George - namely Jack - to come and rescue me - I was definitely in distress. I had noticed a silvery trail going across the rug the day before but hadn't realized what it was. Now I felt them lurking in every corner.

After Jack invited our guest outside, I stuffed plastic bags under the kitchen door. Later I learned from local experts that if you leave a line of salt along the threshold it tends to dampen their enthusiasm and keeps out bugs and slugs and things that go squish in the night.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Separated by a common language

It took me a while to decipher the Scottish equivalents of American words. After living there for three years some became so ingrained that they still come to me as first choice - I still think bonnet, boot, windscreen and petrol instead of hood, trunk, windshield and gas. I still say "bloody awful". We still toast eachother with "slainte mhath" and "slainte mhor". But most other Scottish words and phrases have been left behind.

Joanie used to say "I have to go up to the store for some messages". I wondered for quite a while why people would leave messages at the store when they could call her on the phone. Turns out she meant she needed to get some groceries. I'm glad I never asked - I'd have seemed a real twit.

People would ask us for tea - and it would turn out to be a full-fledged roast beef and Yorkshire pudding Sunday dinner. A "fork supper" was one that didn't include a piece of meat that needed slicing. Casseroles or "hot dishes" were unknown. A "pudding" was the dessert course. Biscuits weren't baking powder buns but came in packages and were as close to cookies as one could get. Sweeties were any kind of candy. Tatties and neeps were potatoes and turnips (swedes as they were known there - the closest veg we have to them are rutabagas - but those aren't as good). Bangers are what purport to be sausages. Chips are french fries, crisps are potato chips all of which were flavored.

We would go to the surgery on Wed. afternoons if we needed to - not to have an operation but to wait in the village hall for a turn to see the doctor who was making his weekly rounds. If a guy was "pissed" he was more likely to pass out than to punch somebody out. "Knickers" would have looked funny on a golfer (at least in public). A jumper was a sweater - not a style of dress. Football was soccer.

And "God Save the Queen" stole its tune from "My Country 'Tis of Thee". (I can too say that - its my blog!!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Creatures great and small

It was obvious that we were going to spend a lot of time walking in the hills and along the road - so Jack decided it was time to get a walking stick/shepherds crook. He found a lovely one in the local shop, a crook carved of ram's horn ending in the shape of a Scottish thistle. Murdo had one by the same craftsman that had been carved to order in the likeness of his old dog. Jack is still using his staff - cut down to a more useful height now that he no longer works with sheep.

Our walks across the moors and hills brought us in contact with some of the local wildlife. We would kick up an occasional grouse or spot a herd of red deer with the stags posed proudly against the sky - looking just like the Hartford logo! Wild geese were migrating south, and the loch and sea beaches abounded with shore birds - shags, cormorants, oyster catchers, ringed plovers, curlews, sandpipers, rock pipits and always the ubiquitous gulls. We learned that buzzards there were not bald headed black scavengers but beautiful large hawks. Often we'd see hoodie crows - large gray crows with black heads - birds heartily hated by the locals. These gulls could kill new-born lambs or peck out the eyes of a sheep that was down.

Our seed wall brought coal and blue tits, chafinches, robins, and wrens, and sometimes walking along the road, a lark would rise high into the sky pouring out her amazing song - then come plummeting back to earth settling back on a fence post. I was so glad I'd bought a book on Birds of Britain because I was seeing many birds that were entirely new to me.

And then there were the seals - we would see them in a bay that we passed driving up the Wee Mad Road, or basking on the islands when we went out fishing or touring. One night walking back from having tea at Murdo's we heard them singing - a truly unearthly sound - sent shivers down our backs. Shades of the Kelpie's song!

Monday, July 21, 2008

But is it "art"

Jack had his desk and typewriter set up in one of the downstairs sitting rooms and now it was time for me to set up a studio. I had chosen one of the upstairs bedrooms - slanted walls under the eaves and painted pink with bright red geraniums on the windowsills. I never had a studio before and it sounded daunting actually - but we had the room so why not call it that?

Over the years I had done a few oils and an acrylic painting or two - but never took any art classes so I really didn't know what I was doing. However, I had never let that stop me (I usually do one of something - quilt making, petit pointe etc. and then stop while I'm ahead). So this time it was water color. I had the paint and a book on technique that I'd bought in Edinburgh so I was ready.(?) I started out just playing with color and value, then did the Tanera painting in sepia. By this time I'd decided that what I really wanted to do was to draw people in the village doing things - working mostly. So I started to do sketches using photographs - and found that it was possible to draw people who were recognizable as themselves so it would be fun to hang the paintings in the cottage and see what the reaction would be. Definitely not art - but interesting as illustration. Besides I was having great fun doing something I'd always dreamed of doing.

I worked at the paintings and some pen and ink sketches off and on over the three years we spent in Coigach. The problem was that I never wanted to part with those pictures. I believe that even then, I was thinking just maybe, they could be used as book illustrations some day. Lucky thing - both because that's exactly what we've done so many years later - and because much of what I recorded then of the life in the village is now long gone. But the memories are still bright.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The heat is on (not)

We got to Coigach and set up housekeeping in the autumn - a time of beauty and a time of impending cold. Heating in Castlehill was a whole new bag for us - accustomed as we were to central heating and thermostat control. There was no source of heat in the kitchen so we knew we would need to get a calor-gas heater. The nice thing about that was that heat was instantaneous as soon as it was turned on.

The other rooms had fireplaces as the sole source of heat. Some crofters in the village still cut peats for fuel but we burned a soft Polish coal (it was cheaper and more reliable to get the coal from Poland than to be subject to the strikes etc. that plagued the Scottish coal supply). It took a long time to warm the room, the walls being stone and 2 feet thick with no insulation. Warm sweaters (jumpers) were a must and Jack almost always wore a wool cap in the house. I usually sat on the hearth in the evening while we read or played music. Sometimes the best warmth came from a certain cat (large and solid and comfy) who lived next door but had adopted us early on.

In the bedroom we had a wee electric heater which we turned on about 1/2 hour before we went to bed - along with an electric underblanket to warm the bed and chase away the damp. When the electricity went out - an all too common occurance - we wore all our clothes to bed. And lay still to warm a spot to conserve heat.

The bathroom had neither heat nor electricity. The water heater had to be turned on in the kitchen for each use and had to be turned off again when no longer needed. If we ran the hot water at full bore it made the bathroom tolerable for long enough to wash - but there were no long soaking baths when the wind was up. Bathroom duties on winter mornings were accomplished at amazing speed.

Not what we were used to - but oddly enough we didn't mind!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On the beach

There are two beaches of note in Coigach. One is at Achnahaird on the northern side of the peninsula, the other at Badentarbet on the south side. Achnahaird is a lovely half-moon of white sand curving around to cliffs on one side and a spattering of cottages on the other. Behind the sand is a great semi-circle machair - dunes and grass with little streams meandering down to join the sea. The mountains stand out in all their individuality viewed across the expanse of sea and sand. In the summer the sand is littered with tourists and caravans but for most of the year it is lovely and wild - most beautiful with a dusting of snow on the mountaintops. On the west side, above the beach, is the sheep fank - a series of stone enclosures with a little green in front of the pens where we spent many a sweaty but glorious day working with neighbors at the shearing.

Badentarbet beach stretches between the eastern end of Polbain and the western end of Achiltibuie. Here lie the remains of its fishing past - huge floats and anchors collect rust and form a picturesque centerpiece for artists and photographers. When we lived there, salmon nets stretched drying on the grass above the beach. At the Badentarbet pier "The Captain" ushered tourists aboard his lovely wooden fishing-cum-touring boat, Hectoria, heading for a day out among the islands to view seals and sea birds and the beauties of the rugged island shores. There would be a stop for a picnic on Tanera with time to clamber up through the heather to the high point of the island for a view of the Summer Isles stretched out below. Now it has changed as all things must -"The Captain" and the Hectoria are gone - and the salmon are grown in cages. But the islands still lie there in the changing light of clouds and sea and there is still a boat to get you out there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Julia Child I'm not

We began to meet our neighbors. Joy, who taught in the Achilitibuie school, and Ian, a retired Edinburgh solicitor, had the house just to our east. They had a lovely modern house called "Mullagrach" - named after the small island Ian owned just west of Isle Ristol. They also owned a beautiful, elegant labrador bitch named "Mac" who I thought was the most perfect example of her breed I'd ever seen. She had a sweet and elegant nature too.

Joy became my mentor in the art of bread baking (a necessity if one wanted anything but the wonder-bread type packaged white stuff). I had produced several examples of abstract sculpture using the "plain" flour I thought was closest to our "all purpose" flour in the States. Horrible! Joy invited me over for a bread making session in which she produced several fragrant, nutty loaves that smelled divine and looked a treat. And she used "strong" flour. So it was "strong" flour for bread and rolls, "plain" flour for "pudding" - "pudding" being anything dessertish like cake or pie - or sometimes actual pudding.

Speaking of pudding, I had tried to make my favorite custardy bread pudding in the usual way, baking it in a mold sitting in a shallow pan of water. In the States it took an hour or so to bake to a lovely crusty golden brown.
After 1 1/2 hours the current attempt was still liquid. Two hours. At 2 1/2 I began to worry. Wilf and Wendy were coming for supper and the "pudding" was still in drinkable state. When I asked Wendy what could possibly be wrong she went off into gales of laughter - thought the water bath technique was the daftest thing she'd ever heard. That was when I realized that the elements in my present oven were on the sides instead of on top and bottom as they are in American stoves. No wonder mothers here didn't bake cookies! After I took the poor pudding out of its bath it cooked up beautifully in no time.

Obviously I had a lot to learn.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Getting around

Now's the time to add a map of the Coigach Peninsula - our little world. Polbain, our village, sits on the edge of a one-lane road that circles the peninsula, and branches off in several directions. One road leads to the village of Achiltibuie and then on to where a dear friend owns the very last house before the road ends. From there a tiny path, the old mail carrier track, leads off along the flank of Ben Mor Coigach and ultimately to Ullapool. One road goes off to dead-end at Reiff. And one road (the one going off the map at the upper right) branches in one direction to connect with the main motorway route to Ullapool - the other branch is the "Wee Mad Road", winding through spectacular scenery to Lochinver. All these roads are one lane with pull-outs every so often for passing.

Jack got to know these roads so well he could have driven them blindfolded. He loves to drive little twisty roads (we had belonged to a sports car club previously and had done quite well in rally competition). So when he got his hands on our little red Mini he was in hog heaven. The car became known affectionately as "Ho Chi Mini - the Red Terror".
Jack never had a problem driving on either side of the road - he can do mirror writing, and driving on what always seemed to me to be the wrong side of the road came easily to him. I am directionally challenged and never really got used to it - though I could happily drive on the one-laners because they didn't have a "side". But I was always nervous on the motorway or in town.
Whatever the roads - a car was a necessity, for distances were large and settlement sparse.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

At home

It seemed strange to us at first that we could leave our house in Minnesota without a backward glance. There was never a moment's regret - we never missed or even thought about it. We missed friends - we missed family - but not our house, even though we had loved it dearly while we lived there. We were learning that for us, home was any place we were together.

When I was packing to come to Scotland I slipped a few family photos, along with a favorite tiny Eskimo carving (from my gallery) and a little china gnome I'd gotten as a gift from my daughter, into our suitcases (the gnome had become a kitchen companion and talisman). When I set these few things up in Castlehill, all of a sudden it was home.

We found that it is possible to travel light through life - that it is those we love and friends we treasure that are the only truly important possessions.

Everything else is just stuff.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


There is a chapter in our book called "Elec-Centricities" describing our misadventures with the impenetrable (literally) plethora of plugs and sockets and fuses etc. that comprised the electrical set-up in our cottage. The insanity of dealing with an unfamiliar system along with the unpredictable - often diabolical - habit the electricity had of disappearing altogether made life interesting.

The problem became all too evident a week after we moved in when the first real wind and rain blew in from the sea and we lost our electric connection for the first time. Of course it was at 5:00 p.m. - just in time for supper. Ok - now what? We called in our local expert (Wilf) who explained that there was no way to know when the power would come back on - so he came to the rescue as usual, and loaned us a lantern and a one-burner camp stove so that at least we could cook a simple meal and be able to see when it got dark. Luckily that night it came back on at 10:00 so that our little electric heater that chased the cold and damp from our bedroom could do its job before we went to bed. We would not always be so lucky - there were winter nights when we went to bed in all our clothes, heavy socks and wool hats and lay in one spot all night in order to preserve body heat.

But at that time we were relatively innocent and had not experienced the full virulence of true elec-centricity.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Castle Hill

As we were finally getting the house in order we could get away once in a while and explore our surroundings. We climbed over the fence in our back yard and through the purple heather to the top of Castle Hill which rose right behind our house (thus the name of our cottage). Behind our hill was another higher one with a radio mast on it's summit. On top of our hill was a huge square rock that looked like a castle and provided a comfortable roost from which to view the glorious vista of sea and mountains. We could see the villages of Polbain and Achiltibuie and as far as Ullapool anchorage to the east. To the west were the islands of Lewis and Harris, with the tip of Skye to the south. In front lay the Summer Isles with Loch Broom and the distant Dundonell Mountains. When the wind was high the clouds raced over the landscape making it an ever-changing kaleidoscope. The wild geese were flying overhead, crying to each other - heading south from summer breeding grounds.

Lower down through the village was the path called The Peat Road which led up into the hills and provided beautiful views of the mountains. It led to an area where crofters had traditionally gone to cut peat for winter fires. There were still people in the village who cut, stacked and burned peat - but it was hard work and most had switched to coal to burn in fireplaces that were still the main source of heat in most homes - including Castlehill.

How could the heart not rejoice in such rich surroundings.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My kingdom for a cookie

We had been settled in for a few weeks and it was time to get serious about food. I thought it would be nice to return some of the hospitality we'd been given since we arrived - so it would be nice to serve tea and cookies to guests. And what kind of cookies come immediately to mind to a midwestern American? Chocolate chip cookies of course! Every mother makes chocolate chip cookies - people in America when they're trying to sell a house will bake chocolate chip cookies just before prospective buyers come to look - just to make it smell like home.

I had already determined that the local shops didn't carry chocolate chips. So we went to the much larger store in Ullapool. No chocolate chips. We went over the mountains to Inverness - a fairly good sized city. Nope. No luck. What? How can one live without chocolate chip cookies? In fact, how do mothers survive without baking cookies at all - which is what I finally discovered was the case there. You could buy "biscuits" in packages in the stores - but that's not the same. They also had no unsweetened chocolate - milk and semi-sweet but no unsweetened. So my favorite recipe for devils food cake was impossible since there was no Crisco either (at that time an indispensible baking staple for me). I could see I'd have to ask for a care package to be sent from home.

I was crying the cookie deprivation blues.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


There was a fishman's van that came around the village every week selling everything from prawns to kippers. We bought kippers for our breakfast and Joan brought us prawns, which I had never cooked - in fact had never seen before. But I figured they'd be the same as shrimp so shouldn't be a problem.

Our new freezer was delivered and Wilf said he was going to order half a deer and would we like to do that too. It seemed really strange to be able to buy venison that way. In the states Jack would go hunting and we'd have venison that he'd shot and we'd butchered ourselves. Here the meat does not belong to the hunter, who has to pay for the priviledge of shooting a deer - so it can be butchered and sold. We ordered half a deer. We also ordered half a pig and half a lamb from the butcher in Lochinver - we figured that these, along with fish we'd caught, would do us for the winter.

I had little experience in cooking fish and seafood so I bought a fish cookbook at Inverkirkaig and found another book that looked really good and helpful - the first volume of Delia Smith's Cookery Course. Armed with these books I was now ready to produce fine cuisine - or so I thought.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tea and tradition

Murdo and Joan, the owners of Castlehill, had been some of the last people to leave Tanera when at the end there were not enough fisherman left on the island to man a boat. They lived in a small cottage close to the end of the village.

Even in the first few weeks we lived in Polbain we had started what became a tradition - going down every few days to have tea with Joan and Murdo and telling them all the happenings and mishaps of our days. Murdo had suffered a stroke several years before and hadn't the strength to get out and about any more, so he sat by the fire with his dog and I think it brightened his day to get news from outside. His mind was still sharp. He was well-read and listened to the news on the radio every day so he had opinions about everything. But what we most loved were the stories he wove about the old days living and working on Tanera and the early days in Polbain. Joan would bustle about supplying cups of tea and biscuits or sometimes a wee dram and it was lovely. They became like surrogate parents to us.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tanera Mor

The largest of the Summer Isles - the one lying right in front of our cottage - is named Tanera Mor (in Gaelic mor is large - beag is small - there is also a Tanera Beag). It is a beautiful island, one of the few with a source of fresh water. The island had been used as a harbor by norsemen in the 8th - 13th centuries and as a burial ground since medieval times. In the late 18th and during the 19th centuries there was a thriving herring fishery and packing industry on the island (the painting is a copy in sepia tones of a 1820 print by Daniell showing the pier and harbor). There were homes and a school as well as large numbers of boats coming and going from the pier unloading fish for processing. There was also an active but illicit whisky still operating there. When the herring schools moved away the fishery died out and in the early 1900's the last of the island families moved to the mainland.

In 1939 Fraser Darling bought Tanera Mor and attempted to make it a going farm - but in the end he had to admit defeat and sold the island. He recounts the story in his book "Island Farm" - a book that Wilf had in his library and we had read on our first trip to Coigach. Now the island boasts a post office where they print their own stamps, a salmon farm and a few houses for the few permanent residents and some rental chalets for tourists. Most of the other houses and buildings from earlier years have crumbled to dust - but the old pier still stands as a reminder of former glory (see photo).

The island now is a tourist destination and last year a group of artists held a two week workshop there. Even some luxury cruise ships land in the fine harbor for people to come ashore for a few hours to buy stamps and do some walking around the island. For us it was part of the beautiful and familiar view from our front garden. Lucky us.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The first weeks

That week we met Donnie Post - a ruggedly handsome man who delivered the village mail in a bright red van and brought us news of the outside world. We had a coal delivery - soft Polish coal delivered into our little shed next to the kitchen at the side of the house. I grew to love that shed. It was sheltered by a lovely rowen tree and formed a handy platform for feeding birds. I loved the robins - very different from American robins. They are tiny, round, and have a very sweet song. The other common visitor is the chaffinch - not a bird we have at home either, but very pretty.

We had a washing machine of sorts in the kitchen with a spin dryer. It was the same machine my mother had when I was a teenager - we thought it was pretty fancy at the time. Unfortunately when we got there we found that the machine didn't work so we had to wash our clothes by hand. The iron did work though so that was good.

In between the work of getting our lives in order (?) we took some time to revel in the beauty of our surroundings - walking on the hills and exploring the beautiful beach at Achnahaird. Or just standing in our front garden looking over the sea, islands and mountains. (Enlarge the photo for the view from our front steps). To the west we could see the outlines of the Outer Hebrides - Lewis and Harris. To the south we could just make out the northern tip of Skye, and across Loch Broom were the snow-capped Dundonnels with the high peak of An Teallach looming over all. There were croft fields across the road running down to the sea where the Summer Isles lay in constantly changing light. We couldn't believe we were actually here to live with this beauty every day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Settling in

Those first weeks were taken up with unpacking and settling into the house. We scrubbed mildew off the walls and ceilings, cleaned and polished and dusted until it felt just right. We chose which of the three bedrooms upstairs was to be ours, which we'd use as a guest room and I chose one in the front looking over the sea and mountains for my studio. All the beds were too short for Jack but we switched mattresses until we found one that was at least marginal. Jack got materials from Wilf to make a desk for his typewriter in one of the front parlors - now his office.

We were terribly lucky because the weather all that time was sunny and warm and beautiful. We took some time off from our labors and walked in the hills and went fishing with Wilf in his boat Annabelle. Sometimes porpoises would come and play around the boat, riding the bow wave - I was thrilled. We caught mackerel (it was impossible NOT to catch mackerel) which we ate fresh from the sea with mustard sauce, whiting ("will you walk a little faster said the whiting to the snail..."), and crab which were delicious hot from the shell or in a salad. Jack started helping the neighbors work sheep - a process fraught with greenhorn mishaps (see our book for details).

Wilf and Wendy Bell were our mentors and helped us in every way to settle in and feel at home. Bless them.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Shopping is us

So now we were heading toward our new life adventure - and as usual, our eyes teared up as we crossed the border into Scotland. I don't know why - it just affects us that way. I won't describe our homecoming - that's in our book - but it was wonderful to be back and know that we wouldn't have to leave again for a long time.

The myriad projects for setting up a new household in an old stone cottage kept us busy for the first few weeks. We went over the mountains to Ullapool and set up a bank account at the Royal Bank of Scotland. We drove up the Wee Mad Road to Lochinver to find wellies (high rubber boots) - a truly necessary item, to be kept by the door and stepped into every time we left the house. It wasn't easy finding boots to fit Jack's size 13 feet - but we went to the fisherman's store (Lochinver is a fishing port) and found just the right pairs. We drove our rented car across to the east coast and bought a used red Mini in Dingwall so we'd have transportation - a necessity since all real sources of provisions were over the hills and far away. We also stocked up on the best haggis in Scotland (a prize awarded every year) at the butcher shop in Dingwall.

We went grocery shopping in Inverness - the only super market available within a two hour drive. Here I learned that the old adage that says that Britain & America are two countries separated by a common language, is indeed true. I asked for eggplant and zucchini - and got only blank stares and regrets that they didn't carry anything like that and didn't even know what they were. (I found out later they are aubergines and marrows in Scotland - and they were available there.) The choices of sugars and flours were truly staggering and all I could do was guess, since none of them were familiar. There were items you couldn't get at all at that time - baking chocolate (unsweetened was unheard of), chocolate chips (no one baked cookies - any kind of cookies), pumpkin, corn, cranberries, popcorn, pickles as we know them (pickle there was closer to a chutney - a dark brown mix of veg and fruit & vinigar), real smoked ham, edible sausages, and any kind of good packaged bread (I would have to bake my own). Cooking was going to be a challenge for a while.

There was no freezer space in the two small refrigerators in our kitchen so we also bought a small freezer in Inverness. It could be delivered in a few weeks. So far, so good!