At this time of year, when the spring blooms are well under way in Scotland, the delightful assistants particularly enjoy totting out and about amongst the bonnie bluebells.
Their bluebell rambles began last week in Galloway, in the south-west of Scotland, where they were biding in a self-catering house for a week’s holiday.
Here they are, tiny, but steadily making their way along a small road near Gatehouse of Fleet one afternoon last week.
The following day, while Delightful Assistant no.2 was taking an afternoon nap in the house, his wife toddled off into nearby Ardwell House Gardens, to admire the enormous number of bluebells growing in the garden’s woods.
In places, the forest floor was thick with them.
Back home in Perthshire, three days ago on a beautiful sunny morning, the flower-loving duo took themselves off to look at their local bluebell spectacular, Blairgowrie’s Darroch Wood.
Being a bit further north than Galloway, the bluebells in Perthshire weren’t quite yet at their best, but they certainly weren’t a disappointment.
Not far into the wood the assistants came upon a seat looking out to the west across fields, with a small loch to one side. Keen to take advantage of any opportunity for a little recumbence in a pleasant place, they sat down and admired the view.
Suitably revived for the next leg of the journey, they set off once more along the woodland path, pausing now and then to admire the floral splendour.
In the south-eastern corner of the wood, the assistants stopped to study an information board. They had to queue to get up close to it, having arrived at the spot just after a group of walkers bearing rucksacks and clad in stout footwear.
Having drunk their fill of information, the delightful assistants carried on along attractively winding paths through swathes more bluebells, accompanied by the twitterings of small birds in the trees.
As they neared the end of their walk, they found a second seat encouraging them to rest awhile and enjoy the view.
They were very ready for their lunch by this time, but being the ever gracious pair they are, they courteously agreed to pause for a picture with a wee chap perched atop a gatepost near the entrance to the wood.
Last week, on a cool but beautifully sunny day, the delightful assistants headed off to Balmakewan, near Laurencekirk in Aberdeenshire, for lunch.
Having made their choices from the menu, they sat at a quiet table looking forward to their food.
Delightful assistant no.1 had been struggling with her appetite for a while, but it had started to show signs of coming back.
It was this state of affairs that prompted the visit to Balmakewan, because their fish and chips had proved especially appetising on a past visit and different sizes of portion were available.
She sensibly opted for a small portion of fish and chips, while her greedy chauffeur went for the full-size job.
Delightful assistant no.2 bypassed the fish temptation and plumped instead for a mushroom and brie burger, which turned out to be a burger bun containing a little lettuce and tomato topped with an enormous mushroom and melting brie. He particularly enjoyed the red cabbage coleslaw that came on the side.
Satisfyingly filled, the merry threesome trooped off into the grounds of Balmakewan House for a pleasant stroll amongst the daffodils.
Although the air was chilly, the sunlight through the trees was beautiful.
There were several varieties of daffodil on display, white as well as yellow, and some splendid bi-coloured doublers.
Some of the all-yellow ones had double blooms as well.
After enjoying the daffodil woods the slightly chilled trio were glad to get back into the car, which had deliciously warm seats, thanks to the sunshine.
It was such a lovely afternoon that they took a circuitous route home via interesting small roads, stopping off for another pleasant walk on the way.
Over the weekend, delightful assistant no.1 and her new knee had their first proper outing.
She and her dear spouse hopped into the car and their chauffeur drove them the half hour or so to Dunkeld and Birnam, two small towns separated by a bridge over the River Tay.
Their destination was the Birnam Institute, a fine establishment hosting all manner of artistic and creative endeavours as well as rather a good cafe.
They settled themselves in by some potted plants, delighted to be out and about again.
The menu provided sufficient temptations to whet their appetites and it wasn’t long before their choices were put down in front of them.
Delightful assistant no.1 opted for a baked potato with tuna and cheese,
while her spouse went for one of the day’s specials: smoked haddock and spring onion fishcakes with mixed leaves.
Their chauffeur chose a falafel burger with potato wedges.
When they had scoffed their food, and subsequent hot drinks, they went out into the afternoon sunshine for a knee stretch.
A recently opened bookshop and cafe had appeared across the road from the Birnam Institute, and they went to take a look. The patient didn’t feel up to a browse, but they logged the possibility for another day.
By the time she’d walked for a good fifteen minutes, delightful assistant no.1 was feeling well exercised and ready to drive home for a small sleep, but not before admiring some white heather in a garden, and the wooden silhouette of a rabbit on a step.
The following day saw outing no.2 for the new knee. This time their chauffeur took the two assistants to nearby Davie Park, a wide expanse of grass with a pond and playpark, and suitably flat, well-made paths for easy progress with sticks.
They enjoyed looking at the spring flowers starting to emerge from the undergrowth. Snowdrops were already out in profusion and there was a small patch of lilac crocuses. The daffodils were still green spears, awaiting their moment of glory.
They walked as far as the pond, which was being used by a number of gulls, as well as ducks, before turning round to head back to the car park.
By the end of the walk, the new knee had done half an hour’s continuous walking. The patient was tired, but pleased with her progress. Back home, after a well-earned luncheon, she lay down in bed for a nice restful sleep, happily recalling the joys of the day.
Towards the end of January 2017, delightful assistant no.1 was on track to check into the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, near Glasgow. Having suffered for many years with arthritis in her right knee, her leg had become very bent and painful. A total knee replacement had been advised and a date made for the the surgery.
Two days before she was due to go into the Golden Jubilee, her chauffeur took her and her spouse off for an outing before the big procedure. Since the weather forecast looked promising to the north, they left behind the thick fog of Perthshire and scooted off into the bright sunshine of Aberdeenshire.
They arrived in the small town of Ballater at the right time for a spot of luncheon at The Bothy on the main street.
After queueing for a table, they ordered some food and sat down with hot drinks, glad to be in out of the cold.
Delightful assistant no.1 fancied the roast beef sandwiches, her spouse went for a brie and cranberry toastie and their chauffeur opted for a cheese and tomato toastie. The meals, which were accompanied by salad items, were pleasingly colourful.
Brie and cranberry toastie
Roast beef sandwiches
Cheese and tomato toastie
Meals for three at The Bothy
They all enjoyed their food, but unfortunately had no room for any of the enticing sweet treats showing themselves off through a glass-fronted cabinet.
Outside, the air was extremely chilly, but not wanting to miss the chance of fresh air and sunshine, the well-filled threesome decided on a short walk.
Feeling chilled to the bone, they tried to hurry along. This unfortunately had a disastrous consequence for one of their little team. Delightful assistant no.1, walking a few steps behind her spouse at one point, somehow took a tumble and ended up on the ground. Kind onlookers clustered round to help her up, but she was badly shaken and feeling pained in the ribs. Carefully inserting her into the car, the rather sober trio made their way home and got her into the house as gently as possible.
Her condition worsened as the day wore on and she ended up being taken by ambulance to Perth Royal Infirmary’s Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department. Her spouse and chauffeur followed on a little later in their car, driving slowly through extremely thick fog. The unusually adverse weather conditions had the benefit of teaching the chauffeur how to find and use her fog lights, but it wasn’t the most relaxing of journeys.
They discovered their dear one perched in a wheelchair in A&E, waiting to be seen by a medic. Saturday nights are notoriously busy times in A&E and the staff were run off their feet. It was some time before delightful assistant no.1 was seen but, following examination by a doctor, she was eventually taken away for chest and face x-rays. The scans, when they were analysed, luckily showed nothing broken and she was sent on her way with a bundle of strong painkillers.
When Monday morning came round it was time to head off to Clydebank for her next hospital visit, this time for the much-anticipated knee replacement operation. The poor delightful assistant wasn’t in the best of states, but her rib pain had eased a bit and the chaps at the Golden Jubilee declared her fit enough for the operation.
She underwent surgery the following day and was moved into a high dependency unit afterwards. When they were permitted to visit, delightful assistant no.2, their chauffeur and the chauffeur’s sister sped off to Clydebank to see how the invalid was doing. They found her tired and rather sore, but glad to see familiar faces, and grateful for the companionship of Sandy, her faithful little rescue donkey. (Finding him sodden and full of sand on a beach a few years ago, she took him home and washed the sand out of him, and the two have been firm friends ever since).
Regular visits were made by delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur over the following days. During these times, while delightful assistant no.1 was being given her lunch in her room, the visitors usually ate lunch in the hospital canteen, which provided a surprisingly cheap and varied menu of hot and cold food. On a couple of occasions, when they fancied something a little more upmarket, they took a wander into the adjoining hotel bar area.
One day they arrived on the ward to find the patient not only awake and clothed, but walking slowly along a corridor with two sticks. They couldn’t have been more pleased.
Ten days after admission, complete with brand new knee, delightful assistant no.1 was released from hospital and taken home for further recovery.
If things go according to plan she should be walking more confidently in a few months’ time, possibly without any sticks at all, and with considerably less pain than she’s currently experiencing. An 80 year old limb takes time to mend, but with grit and determination, a positive attitude and the will to succeed great things are possible. Delightful assistant no.1 is very much looking forward to being out and about again, having more gentle adventures in the Scottish countryside, and enjoying the warmer weather when it comes.
It was a chilly Sunday morning when the delightful assistants ventured out before lunch, taking advantage of a bit of sunshine and calm conditions to get some exercise outdoors.
They set off in good spirits, looking forward to the delights of the countryside at Bamff, near Alyth in Perthshire.
They passed a good many tree trunks thickly swathed in moss and lichen.
The moss was in particular abundance, creeping over stone walls
and clustering in rocky crevices.
Bright yellow gorse flowers, offering a welcome burst of cheerful colour, caught the eyes of the walkers as they strolled along a small road.
The assistants often stop during a walk to look at something. This not only enhances the interest of their outing, but provides the opportunity for a little rest. There were numerous stops during this walk, on one occasion caused by the unusual sight of exposed tree roots.
On another, a long driveway with dozens, possibly even hundreds, of square tiles laid into the ground arrested their attention.
Further on, a beech leaf on the tarmac was sufficiently engaging to stop them in their tracks.
Towards the end of their walk they reached the Scottish Woodlands Skills Centre, which runs a range of courses, such as wood carving, chainsaw use and willow weaving.
Not being in the market for woodland skills, they walked on past a copse of Scots Pines into a patch of precarious sunshine.
As a few flakes of sleet began to fall, their chauffeur dashed back along the road to get the car. The assistants hopped aboard and sped homewards to much appreciated bowls of soup followed by hot mince pies.
Yesterday, the delightful assistants took their first bracing walk of the new year, when they toddled along a quiet road a couple of miles from their home.
The air was cold but the day was practically windless, and they were cheered by various points of interest.
There were no sheep or cows around, but they enjoyed seeing patches of blue sky and sunshine over the fields and forests.
At a bend in the road they came upon two creatively constructed Christmas trees, made from pallets painted green and festively decorated with tinsel and baubles.
They went to take a closer look and were delighted by what they saw.
Something else in a field nearby caught their eyes. A large piece of farm machinery was nesting in a little pen that appeared to have been specially constructed to house it.
They strolled on, admiring the scenery and appreciating the peacefulness of their surroundings.
After 40 minutes or so, faces tingling with the cold, their thoughts turned to the prospect of bowls of chunky vegetable soup and hot crusty bread with butter. Luncheon, and a warm house, were calling. They heeded the call and zipped back home, feeling nicely exercised and healthily boosted by the fresh air.
Yesterday was the delightful assistants’ 56th wedding anniversary and they celebrated it with a delicious luncheon at their favourite restaurant, the Strathmore Arms in Glamis.
Delightful assistant no.1 at the Strathmore Arms
Delightful assistant no.2 at the Strathmore Arms
The whole place was looking very festive, with table decorations, Christmas trees and various other seasonal ornaments.
Delightful assistant no.1 opted for a main course she often has at the Strathmore Arms: breast of chicken in a mango and coconut sauce with rice. Her spouse went for venison casserole with mashed potatoes and vegetables, and their chauffeur had haddock and chips. All of these meals were ordered as small portions to leave room for pudding.
Haddock and chips.
Chicken in a mango and coconut sauce.
When it came time for puddings, delightful assistant no.1 decided she didn’t have room to squeeze one in, but she asked for an extra spoon and agreed to help her dining companions with their choices.
Both delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur verged on ordering something they wouldn’t normally have, but in the end each slid into their own comfort zone and plumped for blueberry pavlova and sticky toffee pudding, respectively.
With coffee and After Eight mints rounding off the meal perfectly, the three diners got up and took themselves off for a circuitous drive home.
Despite feeling quite capable of napping after their food, they stopped at the Loch of Lintrathen to get a little leg stretch in the fresh air. Parking near a bird hide located on the lochside, they ambled down to have a look for winged creatures. Some creative person had hung a heart-shaped decoration made of wood on one of the trees next to the hide.
They had the hide to themselves, with plenty of bench seats to choose from.
Settling themselves at one of the windows, they had a good look out to see what was floating about on the water.
To get the best possible view, they opened the hatch window and peeped out of the gap. Delightful assistant no.1, being very small, could only just see out over the window frame.
She stood up to get a better view.
There were many birds out on the loch, mostly swans and ducks of various types, although they were all some distance away. It was a fairly dull afternoon but the subtle winter colours were rather beautiful.
After enjoying the hide, the assistants trotted off along the road encircling the loch.
The air was cold but, going by the bushy growths of lichen on the trees, nice and fresh.
Dusk was falling as they finished their walk, delighted to have celebrated 56 years of marriage in such pleasant surroundings.