John is a paint box of violet hued bruises...

Just as John has weaned himself off painkillers following his fall,

he is back on the bottle. Of co-codamol that is.

The reason? The mother of a newborn calf did not appreciate him sticking a tag in her baby’s lug, and dead legged him. Once more he is a paint box of violet hued bruises.

On holiday, without the pressure of real physical work, his cracked ribs were beginning not to bother him so much and he felt able to do without painkillers. Walking and fishing, did not exert him as much as heavy day to day farm work does.

We ended up one afternoon in a garden. Not John’s usual sort of haunt, but this garden is rather special.

On a previous holiday we had stopped at Scourie Lodge for a couple of night and had been very taken with the tropical nature of the plants within it’s sheltered walls.

Infact, the garden houses the most northerly palm trees in the world which are over one hundred and fifty years old.

But of greater interest to John were the bumble bees. They were enormous. Numerous.

Tremendous. Zipping and sipping around the flowers and creating a sleep inducing buzzy background to the sunny afternoon.

The hills surrounding the garden are covered in gorse bushes so there

is plenty of nectar on tap for the bees. Apparently across the range of gorse species, one or another type is always in flower; “When gorse is out of blossom, kissings out of fashion.”

So, along with the warmth and shelter of the walled garden, there was plenty of food available to them in the area.

At home, despite Geoff bringing hives to the farm, we have noticed a marked decline in bee numbers in our fields.

The newly introduced ban on neonicitinoids, an insect nerve agent, is expected to reverse this decline.

We shall see. The jury is out.

It was not only the sound of the bees we noticed.

The drumming of snipe, high up in the evening sky outside our fishing lodge was a thrilling, eery background to most of our after dinner walks.

The sound is produced by the snipes tail feathers, held out an an angle to their body, vibrating when they go into a power dive to impress the ladies. Men just have it so easy.

I struggled to see the little birds high up in the sky. They dived so fast, dots in the dusk.

But the sound that we all heard, all through the night as well, was the cuckoo. The cuckoo comes in April, she sings her song in May, she lays her eggs in June and in July she flies away. A couple of friends

on the first trip with us to this part of Scotland, staggered down to breakfast with bleary eyes on the first morning. “Did you sleep well”, we queried. “Would have done if that *...*...* cuckoo hadn’t kept us awake all night” they groaned.*

Mrs Downs Diary