Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Outdoors

Wild Haggis and Dangerous Perygls 

Today I read a Tweet from QI Quite Interesting @qikipedia, that told a fascinating fact about the humble Haggis.

Apparently, in a 2003 poll 1/3 of American visitors to Scotland thought the Haggis ran wild around the Scottish moors. When I looked through the comments thread below the original tweet, it became quite clear that this is obviously complete nonsense.

  1. Many found it hard to believe that only 1/3 of Americans believed this fact.
  2. The Haggis’s (or Hagi) roamed the Highlands, not the moors.
  3. Haggis no longer roam freely at all and are now only found on private farms and bred exclusively in captivity.

Fascinating fact number 2 about the Haggis – as it lives on the sides of mountains the legs perygl--danger--welsh-english-sign-on one side of its body are shorter than on the other, so they don’t fall down the hillside. Then they will forever travel around the mountains either clockwise or counter-clockwise, depending on their legs. To mate, there needs to be a breeding pair with opposite short legs so they don’t fall over, and in order to catch a Haggis you need to get them to change direction so they fall and roll down the hill, where the hunter can then easily scoop them up.

Several years ago, a friend of mine took a French colleague to Scotland on a research trip. He had never been before so, my friend packed a picnic, they went for a boat ride and he told his colleague all about the Haggis.

Whilst they ate their picnic, he handed across a scotch egg. The French visitor had never seen one before and asked what they were. He was told that they were in fact, Haggis testicles. The skipper confirmed this fact. Our French visitor who is used to eating such delicacies as frog’s legs and foie gras, (no stereo-typing here at all) declared “That is disgusting!” and refused to touch it. Weeks later when they were re-telling the story to everyone at work, he was adamant, he would never, EVER touch a scotch egg in his life. He’d be no good in a Bush Tucker Trial, that’s for sure.

The story of the Haggis reminds me of a similar tale from a Celtic nation not too far from downloadScotland. In Wales there lurks the dreaded Perygl. On cliff edges, mountains and at the edges of bodies of water, you often find signs warning of the dangers of the Perygl. Schoolchildren and city slicker’s on adventurous holidays are shown these signs and told to keep a look out for the Perygl, particularly at night if sleeping in a tent, whilst also staying away from cliff edges, looking out for trip hazards and other dangers, of course. No one really knows what they look like, but they are rumoured to be small and ferocious creatures, and they populate the whole of the Welsh nation. None have ever been seen in neighbouring England, though warning signs can be found on the border.

Original tweet https://twitter.com/qikipedia/status/1087016907759185920

Posted in Life, Love and Laughter

Winter’s Coming – Game of Cards?

I know I’ve been a bad blogger of late. In my defence I have moved house and Christmas is coming, but even so, it’s about time I posted again, if only to get back into the swing of it.

So today I took a break from the stresses of the circus that is Christmas and had a quiet afternoon playing cards.

Hands up who plays Solitaire on their pc, laptop, tablet, or phone? How many of you own and play with an actual deck of cards?

When we were kids, I vaguely remember one of our teachers suggesting to my parents that playing games like dominoes and cards when we were little can help with maths, numbers in general and even telling the time. Likewise, Scrabble and Hangman were good for learning vocabulary and spelling.

I remember playing various versions of Patience – aka Solitaire – taught to us by my dad, and my favourite was the Clock game.

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Clock Patience

It is such a simple game to learn and is completely dependant on chance. Hence the name – Patience. There is no skill involved whatsoever, and so anyone who knows, or is learning, their numbers can play.

  1. Shuffle a deck of cards and then deal piles of 4 cards face down into a circle of 12 to represent a clock face. See picture above
  2. The Jack represents 11 and the Queen 12
  3. Place the final 4 cards face down in the centre of the circle, and this is where the King’s go.
  4. Take a card from the centre pile and place it next to the corresponding pile in the circle. For example if it’s a 6 place it next to the bottom stack.
  5. Take one card from the pile where you just placed your card – ie if it’s a 6 take a card from the pile representing the 6 on the clock.20181216_153802261275009.jpg
  6. Keep doing this with the remaining cards. If you turn up a King, it goes into the centre of the clock and you take the next card from the centre pile.
  7. To win you need to turn over all of the cards before you turn up 4 Kings. And that is it.

To some, this may seem a pointless exercise. I hear the word “Boring” shouted from every teenager engrossed in a game of Call of Duty right now. But in a world where mental health issues and stressed out kids who are feeling lonely and isolated are becoming more and more prevalent, perhaps a game away from a screen, something that is calm and requires no thinking, could be a balm to a troubled mind. Heck, card games can even be played with other people, in real life, in your own actual living room! Too sarcastic? Hmmm maybe.

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I despair sometimes of all the time people spend in front of screens. Something I am guilty of to, I am writing an online blog for goodness sake. So something as simple as a game of cards, dominoes or board games can be a great family bonding time. Or if your family is like mine – temper tantrums from the bad losers and gloating from the bad winners. Both of which are then ridiculed mercilessly and for all eternity. But it’s all a learning experience. Learning patience, learning to try and try again, and learning to slow down the pace. Finding time to breathe and relax and maybe even have some fun in the process.  It can also be a great way to while away a cold and dark winter’s evening.

The deck of cards I’ve used are Pirates of the Carribean cards we picked up on a family holiday to Disneyland Florida years ago. There are some great packs of cards out there and are worth collecting in their own right. But for the cash strapped, you can pick a simple plain deck up for just a pound or two. You might even find a pack in a charity shop – just make sure there are 52 playing cards and maybe a Joker or 2 in the deck. I remember scribbling numbers on Jokers to represent cards that were lost, but you can only do this once or twice with a single deck.

Cards are also small, lightweight and portable enough to take anywhere. Pack them in your bag for a long flight or train journey. Great for a camping or caravan holiday too. When you have no signal, or your battery has run down, you can turn to the cards to ease the boredom.

If you’re looking for other card games to play, don’t Google it. Instead, walk to your local underused library and see if you can find a book on the subject.

And cards and dominoes are not just for playing games. You can also build a tower with cards and who doesn’t love tumbling dominoes?

Posted in Outdoors, pembrokeshire

Grizzly Adams in wet West Wales

Over the last few years, there has been a push towards teaching Bushcraft, partly as a way to get back to learning about the natural world around us, but also for stag and hen do’s, birthday parties and team building events.  Bushcraft is a great escape from the mad, mad, world most of us live in, and a few years back I trained as a Bushcraft Instructor.  But before I did, I had to first learn it for myself.

If you don’t know, bushcraft is basically learning to survive and live in the wilds without the everyday trappings of life.  This could be in a jungle, on a mountain top or on the coast.  In the UK it usually means setting up camp near a water source, building a shelter and providing your own food and clean drinking water.  It is different to survival training, where you are taught to use whatever you can find in order to survive.  Bushcraft is where you use only the natural landscape around you.  I went to my first class with my teenage boys.

After finishing work on a Friday night, packing the car and ferrying younger kids about, we had a 5 minute turn-around before we had to leave the house again. Finally, after almost throwing the satnav and the phones onto the M4, we managed to find the place.  We were half an hour late.

woodland stream
Photo by Fabian Reitmeier on Pexels.com

Bushcraft courses are often held in ‘out-of-the-way’ places, on private land and away from main roads if possible, so you can really get back to nature.   Therefore, they don’t necessarily have an address and can be difficult to find with an outdated sat-nav and a 3-year-old atlas of Great Britain.  Good directions, plenty of time and extreme amounts of patience are therefore a must.

We had none of those things.

As we’re late, the instructors had already taken the rest of the group down to the camp site.  We arrived in the dark to find an old farmer with a massive torch who showed us where to park and guided us down the hill through the mud.  He chatted away genially as we lugged rucksacks through the quagmire, over stones and through pony guarded gates until we reached the first of our instructors.

He took our names, gave us the obligatory health questionnaires and briefed us on health and safety.  Then he showed us to our camp site.  Everyone is sitting under a massive tarpaulin next to a camp fire with a kettle on it.  That’s a good sign.  We were warmly welcomed by the other instructors and students alike.  They seemed a friendly bunch, and after a brew and a chat we were asked to collect firewood.

Keep the home fires burning.

bonfire burning camp campfire
Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com

It’s useful to forage for firewood constantly.  The welcoming heat and light from a fire is a godsend and keeping a pot / kettle of water on it for a brew is a must, especially on a cold and wet evening.  The fire will provide you with food and drinking water as well as warmth and it’s also an amazing boost to morale if all else goes wrong.

After being introduced to the tools of our new trade, i.e. a knife and a saw, one of the first lessons we are given is designed to tune us in to what is going on around us.  We were taken, in the dark, away from the camp and told to sit in the hedges at various points.  Weird right?  We sat there, in silence, for about 20 minutes watching, listening, smelling, feeling, tasting and becoming generally aware of our surroundings.

gray and black folding pocket knife
A good bushcraft knife is an essential part of your tool kit. Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

This was by far my most favourite part of the weekend and we practised it each evening at dusk.  It is the most simple of things to try.  You can’t move a muscle,  you can’t make a sound and you can’t have any light.  You need to become invisible.  So you sit and you ‘hone-in’.  It takes a few minutes for the wildlife around you to forget that you’re there, but gradually they start to re-emerge.

Afterwards you gather together and discuss what you noticed.  The smell of the crushed bracken you were sitting on; the yip of a fox in the distance; a bug crawling across your hand; traffic on a road somewhere off over the hill;  owl’s hooting in the woods behind; tiny sounds of scurrying in the undergrowth; the guy next to you breathing; and, best of all, the bat landing a foot in front of you, oblivious to your presence.  Beautiful.

Then it was back to camp for a cuppa and, for one night only, we all sleep under the tarpaulin next to the fire.  Tomorrow we’ll be building and sleeping in shelters of our own.

woodland
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com