Well it’s been a while that’s for sure, not my record of ten days without blogging but a fair ‘runner up’ at nine. Not lack of enthusiasm or even boredom with it as I approach its sixth anniversary, I’ve just been plain wrecked If only it had been the good ‘wrecked’ induced by Sue’s case of fine red wines who’s names included, The black stump, Le XV du President, Cabalie, Pillastro and an Argentinian number who’s monica had something to do with a waxed bat Nope, it was none of those it was simple tiredness induced by hard labour and late nights.
The three wise men
It all started on Friday the 13th of all days, when I arose early to prepare for the slaughter of the two Tamworth boars we’d been fattening for some friends. This past five or so years it’s become a bit of a ritual every Christmas, I kill them or get them killed and they turn up from the ‘deep sowf’ and beyond to do the butchery. It’s a ‘grey area’ for you’re only allowed to do ‘home kills’ for yourself and immediate family but I figure a stress free bullet in the head is far better than a 100 mile trip in a trailer. It’s their pigs, I’ve only just been feeding them, so if they want to chop them up into all manner of porky delights for their own consumption then that’s fine by me.
To be honest, as I have to take pigs through to Dingwall anyway it’s actually easier for me to do it that way. However the ‘surgeon, art dealer and film director’ want all the ‘pluck’ (lungs, trachea, heart etc.) and blood for the black pudding, cotechino, chorizo, salami and sausage that they delight in creating.
Expecting them late morning or early afternoon I prepared by putting Ellie and seven wains out on the hill for the day as I didn’t want them nearby when I shot number 1.
The .22 bolt action Anchutz would be the ‘weapon of choice’ but I had the Hatsan shotgun on standby just in case. The shotgun at ‘point blank’ is certainly guaranteed but it leaves the head fit for nothing afterwards. A single shot with the .22 to the imaginary centre of a cross drawn between the eyes and ears will dispatch any six month old pig if delivered properly. However, having recently heard the harrowing story of a sow that was ‘professionally killed’ with a captive bolt on a friends croft I had the big gun ready just in case.
A Burco 3kW tea urn was filled with water ready for the labourious task of ‘de hairing’ and an insulated box made ready to keep the water hot.
The chain and ‘glocken’ that had mysteriously arrived from Germany https://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/a-four-legged-visitor/ were made ready, as was the cast iron bath. The purpose of these ‘instruments’ that I received through the post in November became clear a few weeks ago when this link arrived by email.
And don’t go watching that video if you’re squeamish
Of course it all went completely ‘pear shaped’ when my mates arrived at Inverness on the overnight sleeper from London to discover their hire car wasn’t there so they never actually arrived at Arnish until 16:00.
As I had to be back at work on Saturday we just got straight on with it, dispatching pig number 1 as soon as they arrived, draining off his blood for the black pudding and putting him in the cast iron bath.
De Hairing a pig
Now if you’ve watched that video then you’ll see how easy it is, aye right, the one in the vid is a ‘skinhead’ compared to the Tamworth and it took three and a half hours of constantly scraping and pouring boiling water over Mr pig to remove his hair. The Calor gas burner under the cast iron bath helped but more hot water is the key.
The reason these images are small is because they’re a bit gruesome if you’re one of these types that doesn’t associate their bacon sandwich with that lovely intelligent creature with a curly tail. So don’t click on them if you think your black pudding comes from Tesco’s and not a cute living and breathing animal.
After the Swiss surgeon had finished his work the film director invited us over to supper and the Russian art dealer cooked us some fresh liver
Fresh liver and pigs brains on toast, washed down with a fine red wine takes some beating after a hard days graft that’s for sure.
The offal gets much bad press and derision in society these days but fresh and lightly cooked it takes some beating I can tell you.
Back to work
After ‘wobbling home’ drunk with no headlights on my quad I collapsed in bed and arose early on Saturday to yet another gale. A gale of biblical proportions accompanied with rain the likes of which I’ve NEVER seen. We had to move the bath behind the barn for shelter, abandon the gas burner and rely on more water heated in the kitchen but pig number two was dehaired in around two and a half hours.
At this point in time I’m feeling really guilty, for my ‘back to back’ is covering for me and the wind is storm force southerly with just about every ferry in Scotland cancelled or severely disrupted. I’m thinking he’s not going to get home and it’s all my fault,
but I head down for the 14:30 ferry anyway to let him away.
In 25 years I have honestly never seen so much water
and that’s not blue sky, it’s the windscreen tint.
I did get to the Hallaig before 14:30 and it didn’t sail until 15:30 but my mate got away and I took over in the engine room.
With no 20:30 sailing I headed over to Torran for yet more ‘piggy delights’ and wine, this time
kidney and cream, kale and mashed potato care of the Russian art dealer.
Sunday once more dawned with a gale the likes of which I’ve not seen in years,
with the power intermittent on the rest of the island the MV Hallaig took a little coaxing into life. The grid fluctuations had tripped the ships supply, the UPS (uninterrupted power supplies ) had gone flat and ‘all hell had broken loose’ on our ‘hi tech’ ship. Me, I don’t agree with all this chip and computer pish, I’m more of an agricultural ‘old grey Fergie’ tractor type but unfortunately that’s the ‘way of the world’ these days days.
Now don’t go getting all sanctimonious about this for we’re all driving about in cars that don’t have spare wheels, need a tow truck for everything other than running out of fuel and can’t be fixed without plugging into a fecking computer. All of which is fine if you live in Milton Keynes or 90% of the ‘first world’ but here on Raasay the phones don’t always work, the power fails regular (unless you live at http://www.greenshifters.co.uk/for_sale/1394_3_4_Bed_Croft_House_with_Land_Available ) and the internet aint always functioning.
Sadly the people who design and build cars, ferries, networks or anything in fact don’t appreciate this and a good spell of ‘west coast weather’ can mess things up spectacularly.
Our new ship is very capable, fit for purpose, can sail in weather that would keep the trusty old ‘loch class’ tied to the pier and is very comfortable. Sadly it has had a few glitches that have resulted in the odd disruption, but the weather has been exceptional and there would be precious few sailings from the old pier this last few days anyway. However it has given ‘yours truly’ a few sleepless nights and I’ve not had a lunch break in almost two weeks but I’ve every confidence in her and I’m sure she’ll be a valuable asset to Raasay.
It may have taken a little while to fully restore all the systems to Hallaig on Sunday but I made sure that the cooker was working for the ‘big breakfast’
Wednesday we had a total blackout on the island and had to press MV Loch Linnhe into service as Hallaig another ‘wee glitch’. It was nothing serious but caution prevailed and I have to say it was very reassuring to press a proper rubber starter button, listen to the Volvo roar and watch the shaft turn The old ‘loch class’ is definitely the ‘grey Fergie’ of the ferry world
I’ve lost track of the rest of the week, my camera is in the Land Rover, it’s after 23:00
and I’m off to bed.