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Midsummer with midges [Jun. 24th, 2016|05:45 pm]

We are in the Islay Hotel, in Port Ellen, and for the first time in four days I have wi-fi. Ferryman's Cottage, our house on the Kintyre peninsula, is one of a group of Landmark Trust properties strung along a private road round Saddell Bay. It is resolutely without internet access, making an old-fashioned virtue of it, and of its lack of television - we even had to bring our own radio on which to hear - and curse - the result of the referendum this morning. So there is catching up to do, about our four days at Saddell and about the weekend we spent on Arran en route. but first, the important thing, the solstice:

Almost the first thing we did when we arrived at Ferryman's Cottage was to walk back along the bay, past the Antony Gormley figure who stands alone gazing across the sea to Arran, as far as the bridge that crosses the stream by the little beach. Nowhere cried out demanding that we observe the sunrise there, right there, so there seemed no reason to do anything but step out of our front gate and cross the track to the shingle beach.

By the time we went to bed the sunny evening had clouded over, and we had little hope of seeing the sun clear the horizon, but we set the alarm anyway. Here in the very south of Scotland we were south of Lindisfarne, so the day is shorter, and west of just about everywhere, so the day is later - also west of Arran, so the horizon is higher, but you can't calculate for everything. If it comes to that, we may have been a day late, too: we were observing the dawn of the day after the longest day, but it couldn't be helped, and it was at least the dawn nearest to the moment of solstice...


Regardless. We got up, we dressed, we went out into the dawn. The sky was echoing with the shrill whistling of the oystercatchers, the air was still and the midges were malevolent. I walked up and down, but couldn't escape them. The moment of the dawn ticked over, and I could see a few faint streaks of light in the sky opposite the sunrise. My face was stinging with midges. Was I going to wait until the sun had failed to appear above the hills of Arran? I was not. The ritual had been observed, the sun had failed to appear, the days were getting shorter. I went inside, combed the midges out of my hair and went back to bed, leaving the curtains open so I could see across to Arran, and the sun still not rising - Until I fell asleep for several hours and was woken by the sun hot on my feet, ready for another day.