Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Oh bloody hell

Unconfirmed as yet, but we've just heard that Ivor Cutler may have died at the weekend. UPDATE: Times obituary

"Come, lads, what shall we play at today?" whispered Grandpa, busily dandling us.

"The seaside! The seaside!" we shouted.

"Down the River Clyde," I added, for which impertinence I received a mighty buffet, bleeding my tender nose with his vast white knuckle. How was I to know that I was mouthing obscenity?

But the blood soon dried and I had the pleasure of picking the clots.

He rose and we slid over the edge of his kilt. Out the cupboard came the tin lid of Troon sand, sadly depleted, and two milk jugs with decent spouts.

We stood in a rough quadrant, holding forth our left hands according to custom. But I didn't mind, as I was left-handed, even though my co-ordination was poor, owing to the Myelin shortage.

Grandpa moved round, placing a grain of sand in every hand. Then he started a second round. And a third. And I held the big quartz grain, almost twice the size. He spotted the envy on other faces.

"I bled his neb," he grunted.

We went off the play.

Each girl chose a boy to sit cross-legged before as she knitted. Her job was to blow into his face and hair like a breeze. Grandma came round with a lump of coarse sand and scraped a few grains onto every girl's tongue. If a fleck of spit hit you, the illusion was complete.

Then she filled a milk jug with treacle and poured it back and forward from jug to jug, spilling barely a dribble. It sounded like estuary waves, which was the only kind we knew.

There are many sorts of games to play with three grains of sand. Juggling, building castles, digging holes, making faces, reflecting light to dazzle Grandpa as he sat muttering and picking at his sporran, knocking them together to see if they would fetch the stone chap from his bush in the garden. I used to be able to sniff them up one nostril, tilt my head, and catch them out the other.

When it was too dark to see, the sand was collected in. Grandpa never counted. We were "on our honour." The first to hand in his sand got sucking spilled treacle out the tufts of the carpet. I am convinced the girls enjoyed the day's outing as much as we did, in a placid way.

Then we had tea.


(from Life In A Scotch Sitting Room Vol.II)

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