When I think of grouse, three definitions spring to mind.
The first is the wild bird, the second, the verb to grouse and the third is a brand of whisky.
These past few days have drawn me to the verb version after the snow returned and the cold wind slapped at your face like a cold, dead fish.
Back to being wrapped up in anything which would keep the cold out and mutterations under breath (which became visible to all.)
The words of Robert Burns rang in my ear -
"We don't think of the long Scots miles,
The marshes, waters, steps and stiles,
That lie between us and our home,
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame (wife),
Gathering her brows like a gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath, to keep it warm."
This winter was now a joke. It had long outstayed it's welcome and there were Things to Do, for heavens sake. It was turning me into a hag from a Brothers' Grimm tale.
Then a strange thing happened.
Not the end of winter, unfortunately.
We were crossing the moor in a mini blizzard and came across an entire flock of black grouse. It was such an extraordinary sight as they are fairly rare. It is unusual to see one or two, yet I counted roughly twenty three. They were just mooching about and quite unperturbed at our stopping to stare.
They are much larger than I imagined - about the size of a big, sturdy hen but fatter. (I think they had puffed up their feathers to keep warm).
"It's a sign, isn't it?" I asked The Farmer.
"It's a sign that I am seeing what I am turning into - a grouse collective".
Diplomatically, he said nothing but I knew he smiled wryly without my having to look at him.
We were only a couple of miles from home and I took a photo of the road and all our neighbours.
Except, there are no neighbours. Only the grouse.
I will invite them over and we can all grouse about the winter together.