And I'll huff & I'll puff.........the arrival of Hurricane Bawbag.
8th December 2011.
You'll recall, perhaps, the day back in 1987 when the BBC weatherman, Michael Fish famously said that, as far as he was aware, the rumours of hurricane force winds were unlikely to come to fruition.
How wrong he was!! I was out jogging that morning and at one or two points on my route, was physically stopped in my tracks by a gust of wind. Further south, the devastation was immense, whole forests down, buildings damaged, roads & rail lines blocked, cars & lorries pulverised and landscapes changed forever.
This all came to mind again on 8th December 2011, when storm force winds were forecast for our part of Scotland. Forecast they were and arrive they did – with a vengeance.
We regularly get strong winds here at Crubenbeg, occasionally bringing down branches, blowing out a fence paling and dislodging the odd roof tile or two.
Nothing prepared us for that day, though. We'd "battened down the hatches, made everything in the grounds as secure as it can be and settled back in the house to hear the winds, ever increasing, whistling round the house.
There was a clatter from the back patio as a couple of roof tiles dropped and became jigsaw puzzles, there was a loud crash from above Stag, our 4-Poster room, which we found out later had been a flying branch re-arranging the roof tiles on the dormer.
The fence line outside the dining room windows began to resemble a mouth full of broken & missing teeth and, with a groan, the double gate gave way and flew off toward Newtonmore.
Stronger & stronger the gales huffed & puffed until at about noon Sian, our neighbour, rang to tell us to get out of the house. There had been an almighty flash, illuminating the sombre green grey of the day and some of our lovely old Scots pines were dropping like flies!!
Outside, it was mayhem. The bank behind us resembled a scene from a Spielberg war movie set. The flash had been from a power cable severed by a falling tree, the cable thrashing about in the wind. A total of 9 trees had come down, either fallen flat on the ground or leaning drunkenly against more resolute neighbours. The root boles were immense, pointing starkly skywards above the large holes they'd vacated.
Finlay our electrician was working nest door – he came to ensure that the contact breakers had done their job and that the cable was made safe. Tommy, our Tree Surgeon, battled his way down to assess whether any trees represented a threat to life & limb – they didn't. Walking round the grounds we must have resembled characters from a cartoon, leaning into the teeth of the storm and staggering forwards in jerky, puppet-like movements, always keeping an eye out for flying branches.
Rajah was having a great time, with all the fallen sticks to play with – at least until he got thrown over by a sudden gust, at which point he decided that his usual place under my desk was a safer place to be.
Then the power went out. The house was inert. Like tens of thousands of others - no light, no heat, no phones, no Facebook, no E-bay (actually they're no loss!). We sat, Irene, Rajah & I, eating our cheese by candlelight and reading by the light of our head-torches.
Unlike many, many other, including half of Newtonmore, which stayed powerless for most of the next day, after just four hours in the dark, the house flickered back into life and, apart from a couple of short outages over the next couple of days, the power stayed on.
Over the next 3 days, Tommy & his lads worked like Trojans, sawing, chipping, roping and dragging to make the trees safe and begin the process of producing 10 years worth or so of firewood.
With the loss of so many trees, our landscape has changed quite a bit, as you'll see when next you're here. We've not decided what we're going to do with the bank at the back, it will just need to carry on looking sorry for itself for a wee while yet.
It was a Weather Bomb, that's been named Hurricane Bawbag here in Scotland, which brought the winds. Those winds huffed & they puffed with all their might, but they didn't manage to blow our house down.
Visit the image gallery to see pictures of Hurricane Bawbag