Wednesday 28 December 2011

Daisies, Ice & Mice; Canoes, Reindeer & Flaming Torches: An Unusual Christmas

 So Christmas has come and gone. Warm weather, no snow, green countryside – it has not felt like winter, other than the short days and long nights. Christmas here in Strathspey began with the arrival of stepdaughter Hazel and boyfriend James up from Edinburgh until early January to the delight of Hazel’s mum Denise and me.

The day before Xmas Eve we ventured into the woods and finding a pine brought down in recent storms acquired some branches for Hazel to bind together into a thick, bushy and aromatic ‘Christmas tree’. Back home we brought out the box of Xmas decorations for its annual emergence into the light only to find that mice had been nesting in it and had ruined many of the decorations. The result was an austere minimalist tree, though still attractive with glass stars and silvery lights. And a resetting of the mouse trap – a metal box they can enter but not escape from (except for some damn clever ones that have managed it somehow). Since obtaining this new trap a month ago well over 30 mice have been caught and released into the woods. Maybe some are the same ones returning. Or maybe there are just masses of them, far more than in previous years.

The day also saw a first visit from our new neighbours, who I expect we’ll be seeing again as they run the company Backcountry Survival. Their visit also explained the presence of a large canoe in a ditch near our house. They’d moved in during the recent stormy and wintry weather and it had blown away and then frozen into place.

The Christmas feeling continued that evening with the Grantown-on-Spey Torchlight Procession with flaming brands and Santa in a sledge pulled by reindeer from the Aviemore Reindeer Centre and led by a pipe band, followed by carol singing in the town square. The air wasn’t as frosty as usual but the bright torches and the reindeer did create a sense of midwinter celebration.

Xmas Day we always go for a short walk after opening presents (outdoors stuff – well, I did get a calendar with pictures of bears!). Often it’s in the snow; usually it’s in frosty, wintry conditions. This year the mild weather that had swept away the snow in one huge thaw a few days earlier meant it felt more like September than December even though there was a brisk wind. The fields were green and in one we even found daisies in flower, an astonishing first for Xmas. Surprisingly there was still ice on some of the puddles, though most of the ground was soggy and muddy, released from frost and snow back into the saturated state it’s been in much of the year.

Dinner, Dr Who, charades, friends round on Boxing Day, cutting wood for the fire, mince pies, Xmas cake, Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather DVD – Christmas continued as a mix of excitement, entertainment, eating, conversation and overall satisfaction. Now for New Year, and maybe snow.


  1. Chris, apropos your mice experiences, you might find this amusing:

    I can't claim credit for finding this; I came to it via a link on Alan Sloman's blog.

    I have 'A year in the life...'. All I need now is a quiet corner and a few hours...

    Happy new year.

  2. Lilo took half a dozen mousetraps into Maol-bhuidhe on the Challenge.
    Result was no catches and my food bag nibbled.
    Have a good new year, Chris.

  3. Happy New Year to you all, when it arrives shortly :-)

  4. All the best for the year ahead Chris.