Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Down dressed and out

I owe a gentleman a humble apology.

Our family had been haking around the farm, tidying up, shifting things, digging up potatoes (by hand) and we ended up looking 'like something off a country flitting'.
You dress for warmth and comfort, no two socks match, spots with stripes, tartan with polka dot. It does not matter as nobody sees you and anything does for your work.

Being a Black Isle lass, potato picking was a big part of our childhood. The tattie holidays were set aside for just that, picking potatoes. Squads of us would be picked up early in the morning (with our sandwiches and a wee tartan flask with soup) then taken to a farm which needed their tatties picked.
The transport was an open trailer so you held on tight in case you fell off. Sometimes a square bale of straw was added for the ultimate in comfort.

You dressed in 'tattie clothes', your oldest, raggiest clothes as it was muddy work. Wellies were obligatory.
It being the 1970s, most people owned a nylon anorak, usually brown, with a criss cross of stitching that always fell apart exposing the thin white stuffing in the lining.

The clothes did not matter, what mattered was that you could keep up with the potato digger-uppy machine, pick your dreel and avoid any rotten potatoes which were flung out of other peoples dreels.

You were allowed a boiling of potatoes for tea. They were stuffed into pockets or in to the plastic bag which you carried your 'piece'.(sandwiches)

I digress.

Our family were really hungry so we went to the nearest chip shop which is actually miles away. As we travelled, I was discussing one of the books I am reading just now. It is an excellent book, very thought provoking and guaranteed to compel you to go out and set the heather on fire.
For reasons that I cannot divulge, I cannot name the author except that he is a highly respected gentleman who has done an awful lot for the advancement of Scotland.

I raved to the Farmer about aspects of the book; of the angst and statistics and how harsh life was not so long ago.
I don't know if he was listening as he was wolfing in to a forbidden fish supper, his first since his heart attack. He was a million miles away yet memorising each bite. Fish suppers were banned food.

As I blethered away about the book and author one of those coincidences happened; the author was right there in front of our car; he too was going for a chip supper.

So my deep apologies go to the author. The last thing he expected to see was a wild haired wifie in tattie clothes, hurtle out of a car to ask him questions.
The 'just been howkin' tatties and clearing out middens look' was the last thing on my mind as this author writes some of the finest work I have read in many years and his writing has truthfully given ourselves and others, a glimmer of hope in the daily battle against certain echelons of Scottish society.

My apologies if I startled you (although I am kidding myself at the thought of him reading this blog...) but at that precise moment, you were the very person that I needed to speak to.

Thank you for being so patient and polite on a very wet evening in Perthshire with a wifie who could have stepped out from one of the pages of your books.....


  1. Oh, now I am intrigued. Who was the author, and what was the book?