The Curious Incident of the Bog in the Night

With apologies to Mark Haddon and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

‘ Twas but two weeks ago that Hickey, the Scottish Sunday Mail diarist, queried – somewhat pretentiously, given his own, limited, knowledge of English and grammar – what a “Hen Night” was, although he had no difficulty with the concept of what a “Stag Night” was. With Carnethy – the concept – like the participants – remains simple. It’s an excuse for another jovial jaunt out into the hills with people conversational and convivial.

As Jon and Lorna sat mid-run with the assembled company sipping champagne, in the lee of a drystane dyke, it was all too easy to reflect back to another special Carnethy Hen/Stag night…

With a huge swell of Boys (ooer) the Girls were seriously outnumbered and only a dozen people or so blamed our current President who had advertised the run as the precursor to the wedding of Jon and Linda … I dropped several work commitments to see the fight, when both Lorna and Linda turned up with what I thought was going to be a huge “run off”, as they say, or dictate, in Zimbabwe, but like Hue and Cry we were left “looking for Linda” … well, at least before we actually did run off, with at least our current President apparently still in charge.

Of course, none of the proceedings took place in the normal order, or usual way—group photographs took place first; not on Church or Chapel steps but on the garden steps at the back of the Steading. The traditional wedding breakfast/meal didn’t happen either (we were back five minutes late, so again not the normal order, in fact as we were told quite forcefully, “no orders”). Steading, not wedding, note. The toasts happened in the middle although the “advice” was before and the prospective groom saw the bride in her dress before the ceremony.

So the run itself: Superb as usual. Some turned up for a serious hill run – in fleeces, four layers and four season gear; nonplussed but not quite four plussed. The rest of us were more (OK, much less) suitably attired in suits, evening wear (kilts, dinner suits, tails, dress shirts, a Top Hat, recently acquired from Armstrong’s, and bow ties, oh aye, and a tea towel/handkerchief hat); and (the girls) in bonny bonnets and resplendent in a mix of short skirts and dresses that would have had Tam O’Shanter crying out all over again; although it was to be more than an instant before all was dark, or that anyone could say … well done.

The Boys headed off in the, now, traditional clockwise route—Steading-Boghall-Castlelaw-meeting point-Allermuir-Caerketton-Hillend-Steading. The Girls took the shorter “Swanston” route (hopefully observing the new thatching on the cottages).

It is a tradition that those of the Boys who are/were long married give the prospective husband a few hints and tips on how to remain in the same sort of happy domestic bliss that they live in. Stopping at the top of the first climb we almost had to resort to taking our shoes and socks off to count of the collected number of years of married bliss there was amongst us. Given that there were around a dozen of us, with a third not married, we came to what we thought was an impressive tally of 145 married years, although I’m not sure if that included Shane’s less than helpful “minus three years”.

With lots of oh, so, secret sage advice passed on, we headed over to Boghall briefly joining the traditional handicap route before dropping down to cross the stream and to make the long ascent up Woodhouselee kicking up ash from the recent and extensive moor burning. Some catastrophe had befallen the two earthenware sinks which have lain for a long time on the summit as they were in bits, though filled with a bag of Moi’s bottles of Bucks Fizz; carried up there by Willie G just before the run.

Whilst the assembled male company headed off for the summit of Castlelaw, Colin P headed over to the traditional meeting point with a bit more fizz than he’d had before. On the final climb, we looked back to see the Girls heading towards the same hill. At the “Sentry’s Hut” above the firing range, there was a barrage but luckily of hip flasks only, being offered and proffered around A gentle but brisk descent brought us to the Girls and a very cold Colin P. before we headed back over some of their route to the cattle grid. At this grid reference the real ceremony took place and the assembled company huddled behind a crumbling dry stane dyke; not to get out of the cold but to enter the warmth of the occasion … aye, ok, it was Baltic up there.

A couple of bottles of champagne appeared from a secret stash and champagne flutes were passed round as I popped the first cork and charged Jon and Lorna’s glasses. After a hearty toast to the bride and groom from all assembled, strange words of wisdom were imparted for Jon and Lorna to consider. “Marriage is what confirms that you love someone although and not because” … A cynic in the background said shouldn’t that be despite. After further banter and a glass or two of bubbly, it was off up Allermuir and across to Caerketton before the descent in the increasing darkness down to the Steading for ale and anecdote. A fine way to celebrate the future nuptials and perhaps appropriately World Autism Day.

Oh, and you still probably want to know what the curious incident was … Well the bog was dry, the dog didn’t bark, although it ran with us all the way; the only silver blaze was one lone and pointless headtorch beam as we climbed and descended Allermuir, Caerketton and Hillend in glorious twilight and like both books , a truly, successful ending was achieved, with a gamble left in the air and some horsing around too…

Now as Holmes himself said in Silver blaze “…“I am afraid, Watson that I shall have to go”.
Nick Macdonald

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