Thursday, 13 August 2009

Clarity In Dingwall

Well, last week, as anyone who has approached my company will well know, I had laser surgery to my eyes. Obviously having major surgery to a vital organ is a traumatising experience for even the burliest of men and so I was laid low for over two hours following the five-minute operation, but I can happily report that I have recovered and am in full and magnificent health. Plus, my eyesight is now sharp and clear, and I am seeing the world in a clarity not experienced for over half my life. I have spent the last week making numerous wisecracks about my new eyes (laser beams, zoom-ins, one eye blinded, Superman II, that guy from X-Men) so I will spare the reader having to smile patiently and will skip these jokes, which I imagine have been made by everyone who has ever had laser surgery.

To celebrate my astonishing vision I have spent the last week visiting loved ones, to see their faces clearly for the first time in a decade-and-a-half without artifical aid. This took the form of an extended trip back home to Dingwall, where all kinds of changes and upheavals are taking place. Mainly this is my mother, going wild in her advancing years by quitting her job, selling her house, buying a new house, and forcing her poor manfriend to completely rebuild the new house, seemingly from scratch. Poor manfriend.

In fact, as my ever-young mother claims, the manfriend has been the main instigator of the start-from-scratch attack on her new home. With his five lovely but boisterous Labradors, who spend their time jumping gleefully and crapping on the lawn, he has ripped out absolutely everything from the new house, leaving it a shell, and my mother in a perpetual state of panic. The new house is a charming little house just next to a railway crossing in Dingwall, and historically was inhabited by a railwayman who, four times a day, would manually close the gates by the track to allow the train to pass. More recently it was inhabited by an old and (according to my brother - "Staff Nurse Christie" - who witnessed her in the old folks' hospital) extremely irascible lady, who finally died after a long and ill-tempered life. Her legacy was a house of leaks and breaks and grotesque decor: "rip it out" was the only option. The manfriend has also elected to build a garage, from scratch, in the garden.

So a fair amount of my time back in Dingwall was spent labouring in this new house, and tackling rowdy dogs. I ripped out all the skirting boards, pulled up and moved a hell of a lot of paving slabs, and dug three ditches for the garage foundations. Digging ditches, I have discovered, is not altogether easy, and I don't recommend it as a gentle pastime. Instead, you may prefer my mother's dainty tasks: choose bathroom suites, find nice taps, and worry about stuff. And cook me food, of course.

All this manly labour filled much of my time - last Wednesday to the Monday just passed - but I managed to successfully find time each evening to get quite drunk. The Wednesday was the pub quiz in Dingwall's favourite pub, the Mallard. With my sister(unemployed) and her friend (between employment), we sunk some hefty pints and entered the pub quiz, team name "Morag Is Still Unemployed". My hopes weren't high, to be honest, as girls, despite their many qualities, don't usually seem to be too handy at pub quizzes, but to our astonishment we won the whole thing - £60, not bad at all. It was a good effort by all, but in fairness the marking system, which involved swapping papers with the neighbouring team, helped us somewhat as our neighbouring team were really, really drunk and generous (having two girls in the team paid off after all). And our opponents were just drunk Dingwall locals and "youths".

The following evening was a barbecue at my uncle's, which I expected to be drunken but was only tipsy, perhaps because a day of labour had fatigued me. Or perhaps because I ate far, far too much.

On Friday, I visited Inverness and met up with Varwell and his fiancee Nicole, with Green joining us a little later. Varwell is getting married in November, and rather wildly has chosen myself, Green and Kitchen Mark as co-best men, which in addition to us having to remember to important stuff, also means we have to arrange Varwell's stag night. Because Varwell sometimes scours these pages looking for mentions of his name I won't reveal to you the stag night we are preparing for this good Christian boy, but I wil just drop a few subtle hints: Europe, party hats, multi-entry Bertha, arrest, trauma, slideshow for best man speech.

I took a break from ditch-digging on Saturday, to climb a hill in tribute to an old friend, alongside Green and another from back-in-the-day, Martin. I went woefully unprepared, with just a pair of shoes and a jacket (and other clothes, obviously), but it was still the fully-prepared and booted Green who got stuck up to his knees in mud and needed to be helped out. Apart from a half hour spell when a cloud descended and soaked everything, the weather was pretty clear, and afforded us great views from the top, of which photos can never possibly do justice to the magnificent panorama, but Green took a few which came close. I would attach them here, but I just can't be bothered.

I had been invited to my aunt's new and large country house that evening, for a debut dinner, with her own manfriend (manfriends are very in vogue), my mother, their neighbour and another chap with a book just out and published by my aunt's manfriend. This was very enjoyable, and loads of wine and whisky seemed to disappear, as tales and opinions were belted out, and I pretended to be frightfully intellectual, which is quite easy when everyone has had bottles of wine and whisky.

Ok, I'm getting bored now, I've been sitting here for about an hour writing this stuff. I'm off to Australia on holiday in a couple of days, to see the legendary and mythical Handsome Matt (photos will be posted, I promise) and then for a couple of days in Korea to see some pretty girls (and see if they've aged well in the four years since I last them).

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