A strange year seen from two different view points. Thérèse sees it as a year of change which she found difficult, Peter sees it as a year of progress in the slow down towards retirement. It’s like two people describe an event, and the descriptions are so different, that one wonders if they are describing the same event. Sadly Thérèse has had a very difficult year with bad anxiety and depression which started in March, lifted a bit in June, and sunk again until recently. Thérèse thinks the turning point came on 24th November, the day she and Sam climbed Beinn a’Bhuird in a gale with snow showers, ice, drifting snow and wading a burn. It was extreme and scary for her except that she had complete trust in Sam. The final 4 miles were cycled in the dark, along a rough track, with one torch between them. So this letter starts with good news.

Beinn a'Bhuird 1197m - the wind died and the sun came out for a while.

Second largest (by girth) Scot's Pine in Scotland
Sam on Beinn a'Bhuird - Nov.
Peter on Meall an Lundain - Sep.

P&T had two other visits to Mar Lodge, a favoured destination due to the warm apartment in the Lodge, endless walks and a chance to catch up with friends in the village. Thérèse’s birthday visit in March visit was delayed until May due to Covid. They enjoyed the brighter longer days compared with the usual winter visits, but still had a day of snow! Thérèse did one of her mega walks up past the Chest of Dee to the start of the Lairig Ghru and then east down Glen Lui. Sam joined them at the end of the week when they visited the huge Scot’s Pine on the estate. In September P&T cycled and camped up The Quoich when Peter climbed Meall an Lundain, a hill overlooking the Derry and central Cairngorms, with the help of sherpa Thérèse.

The 198 Wwoofers over 25 years are not forgotten, some are still good friends - bottom right corner are family members

This year has been the first without Wwoofers since 1995. Their interesting ideas and friendships are missed. Last year the unexpected arrival of Scott, Alice & Isabella just before Christmas was described. They survived the winter in a rather cold caravan while erecting a yurt ready for when holiday bookings started. Scott worked like a Trojan outside while Alice earned income with online teaching, and Isabella helped with household chores around her schooling. However they did not have long to enjoy their warm nest before illnesses in Alice’s family meant new responsibilities and constant journeys down to England. This made their life here impossible and sadly they have relocated to a canal boat in England.

Last year it was Sam’s dream to “climb really tall trees”. With much online research and perseverance he obtained a 2yr Canadian work visa. He is now living the dream in Squamish, a town midway between Vancouver and Whistler ski centre. He lives in a large luxurious home with 5 other young folk, works part time for two employers, and skis on Fridays – well that is the plan. All is going very well, but having only been there three weeks it is too soon to say more.

Sam at a favourite swimming hole and jump
Sam all kitted out
Ash die back at Laikenbuie

The Laikenbuie community has one new resident with 8 of us living in 5 homes. The new guy is Neil, Tabi’s partner from Forres. They upgraded from the Loft to Kestrel’s Lodge which was going on a long let. The Loft has been relet to an older couple who want to visit the area regularly to help with grandchildren, they are not included in the 8. HorseBox Sue is semi retired, but works when she’s offered a high wage due to the dearth of pharmacists! Alex is still in his Tiny Home, but spending more time in Aberfeldy due to a romantic connection, and training part time with an upmarket joinery business in Dunkeld – a change from gardening for Lady Cawdor.

Duncan & Piper are getting more settled having brightened up the Farmhouse with fresh paint plus new flooring and curtains. It is looking more modern and very nice. Pisces Caravan is now over 30yrs old and soon to go. They will still run Rowantree Chalet and help Thérèse with Treetops Lodge as Marion has retired after 27yrs part time work here. She will be missed as she has become a good friend and been very reliable. However she maybe jumping from the frying pan into the fire with more grandchildren responsibilities looming!

This community meal, the first for a long time due to Covid, was to celebrate Peter’s seventieth. 
Working clockwise from Peter’s sister Anni is Duncan & Piper, Tabi, Sam, Alex, Neil, Thérèse, Tony (Anni’s Husband) and Jo.

All homegrown, vegetables by Thérèse, pork by others

A bonus of living on a croft during a pandemic has been the chance to host dancing outside when forbidden inside – yes parties at Laikenbuie are as good as any in Downing Street, especially since all food, alcohol and party games can now be claimed as a business expense! A sprung wooden floor was put together near the camping circle and dancers came each dry Sunday afternoon from mid June until the end of September. A dance for seven dancers was written for Peter’s birthday, and is now aptly renamed Senile at Seventy!

Scenes on the croft

Jo & Owen are enjoying their life together in Bristol. Jo is very involved with her work at Desana, a fast growing internet startup. This keeps Jo under pressure (maybe too much) to find new workspaces in cities around the world to keep up with growing demand. Two of the world’s biggest companies, with many thousands of employees, now use Desana to provide hot desks and meeting rooms. Owen works for a film production company part time and has been busy renovating a flat to let. The pandemic has not dented Jo’s love of travel. She has flown to Lisbon, Berlin, Lanzarote, Edinburgh and Inverness since flights started again. Jo is to be at Laikenbuie for Christmas while Owen joins his mum in Wales.

The main news about the Ecolodge (that has been 10yrs in the building) is that Anni & Tony are selling their house and moving in. Now pressure to finish! A garage was added this year and final decorations have been started. The main focus at the moment is the heat recovery ventilation system.

Peter is always happy when on a roof installing a chimney
Duncan, Peter with Isla, Piper, Sam
Early morning light


Doric is the traditional dialect of the NE of Scotland which Peter had to understand quite quickly when he joined a class of agricultural students at Aberdeen Uni. He needed it even more during his practical experience on Aberdeenshire farms! The interest is in his blood, his mother’s maiden name of Still has been traced back to Easter Ardoe Farm in Banchory-Devenick. Nairnshire is not a Doric speaking area, but Doric has been revisited this year.
Lorraine, a dancing friend who hails from Aberdeen, devised the PerioDoric Table for a retiring chemistry teacher, and Peter received a copy for his birthday. Lorraine’s art is on Instagram
The book of Doric Nursery Rhymes was recently published by a friend from University days. Now retired Gordon spends much of his time promoting the dialect. The book is available from Gordon (01779 821206) or Peter. A review in Doric.

The Bar, no not the one you maybe thinking of, but Culbin sand bar that forms a two mile lagoon beside Nairn has been visited several times this year. It is a good place for Thérèse to collect the clam and razor shells for mandalas. Peter is not keen to walk so far, especially if it interrupts building jobs, so a direct trip was made for his birthday by swimming the 10m channel at low tide. It is a wonderful place on a warm day, wild in the sense that man has no control over it, but not remote yet rarely visited. So Peter had the beach to himself!
More recently Duncan instigated a walk to the east wing of the Bar for the Winter Solstice, a day of almost constant sunshine.

The Bar is deserted on a warm September day
Winter Solstice - Thérèse, Neil & Duncan - by Alex
Salt marsh connects The Bar to the shore

COP 26 was a big event in Scotland and a demo was held in Nairn. P&T support the young activists who are pushing for meaningful change, but meanwhile they are enjoying the effect that global warming is having in the Highlands of Scotland. A little warming here is a good thing while the more extreme events have not been a problem YET! Peter lives each day with a positive happy mood, but believes the longer term future is dire. He thinks by the time world governments are ready for meaningful change it will be too late, and if they did make the changes now, right wing rednecks would riot and destroy our society. It seems a lose, lose situation, so he enjoys today! Thérèse prefers not to think about the future, but concentrates on the here and now with acts of kindness to those around her.

With best wishes for a safe and happy Christmas and a healthy New Year. The second without a Hogmanay ceilidh!

With love to you all from
Thérèse, Peter, Jo & Sam.