Saturday, May 19, 2012

Peat digging on Lewis

Having spent the first ten weeks of this year down under in Western Australia coping remarkably well with temperatures in the mid to high thirties I was now prepared for a taste of winter before headfing into another summer. The most pressing job at this time of year is to cut peat and while expected to be quite likely doing this in the rain I did not expect hail and near freezing conditionsin mid May. A bitter North Westerly made life uncomfortable but then again anything is possible with five layer of clothing plus thermal underware apart from sex.
Last Sunday gale force winds were at least to unexpected as I spent most of the day close tio the Rayburn working on the next batch of feather bird pictures. Radio 4 had given no real warning but as I ventured upstairs I was unprepared for the racket from the roof. The timber interior of the house was creeking a it physically changed shape being squeezed like a pair of bellows before the relentless winds that hit the back of the house and sucked at the front in a rippling Mexican wave of clattering tiles. I opened the curtains and peered into the darkness, rain lashed at the windows but no water showed within so I assumed the tiles were still in place. I climbed into bed pulled the covers over my head, forced my finger into my ears and drept a fitful sleep of flying houses and a dog called Toto.

Lifting peat is a seriously strenuous job gurenteed to keep you young or kill you. Normally this is done by two people, one cutting while the other throw the peat out onto the heath to dry flat. I find a rhythm of work and it becomes like a massive art installation of fresh smooth peat that hasn't seen the light of day in thousands of years. In this far flug place my body has become acclimatised to the cold and I find myself grinning with the pleasure of simply being here, an island suits me well feeling insulated against the wider world even though I know that is only a feeling.

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