This is always hectic time of year for us. The clans begin to gather as the day of the highland games approaches. The entire family is here – both nieces, and all four of us brothers and sisters together, which is a very rare occurrence, especially as The Younger Brother lives in Bali. We also have visitors from abroad, which is rather thrilling: one from Australia and one from Thailand. Scotland puts on her pomp for them, as the sun dazzles and dances, and they go off this morning to see the glory that is Glen Muick. I feel happy that they shall see the mighty glen at its finest.
Last night, very tired after a long week, I attempted, as graciously as I could, to refuse a kind dinner invitation. The Brother-in-Law was having none of it. ‘But I’m speechless with exhaustion,’ I said. ‘No matter,’ he said. ‘You can just sit there and say nothing.’
Two hours later, I WAS SINGING.
Yes, my darlings, there was singing. Various humans actually played the tambourine. I may have picked up a pair of maracas. The Older Niece has the voice of an angel, a proper voice, which can send shivers up your spine. The rest of us can just about carry a tune. The Brother-in-Law and The Man in the Hat (husband of Older Niece) both whack merry hell out of a guitar. There is even a Gibson in the house.
So, we have a musical evening. I perk up amazingly when it turns out we are having Friday night wine on a Thursday. Nothing like a bit of Margaux, miraculously produced by the kind guest from Thailand, to put a spring back in a tired step.
I sang, I laughed, I shouted. It was one of the best evenings of my life. I used to be a bit cynical about family. Blood was certainly not thicker, in my rather jaded view of things. Now I think that there is nothing like it. There is nothing like being surrounded by the people who have known you since you were born, and whom you have known since they were born. They don’t mind if you sing and shout, because they’ve seen it all before. There are all the old jokes and the collective memories and the stories of childhood. It is a thing of enchantment.
Despite an excess of the good claret, I have no hangover. I run about in the dancing sunshine, doing the horse, going to HorseBack, writing my book, having two astonishingly successful bets at Goodwood, thanks to the mighty combination of Hughes and Hannon, who can do no wrong just now. Stanley the Dog has a ball and is in seventh heaven. I never saw him so happy.
There is a lot of joy in these hours.
Most of the time, I am pretty cheerful. I have a lot of delight in my life and a lot of great good fortune. I have animals I adore and a job I love and some voluntary things to keep my conscience reasonably clear. I live in a place of beauty. I have the trees. But there are the daily worries and stresses which fall into any life, however lucky. This sheer, soaring happiness which comes with the family around me is actually quite rare, I realise. It pushes everything else out. It lifts me up and sends me out into the day thinking that nothing else matters.
I like to record it too, so that when life returns to normal and I am assailed by doubts and frets, I can look back and remember. It’s important, I think. Write it down; write it down. Record the joy.
Scotland, this morning:
Stanley the Dog, in canine heaven:
Best Beloved, who was of such goodness and sweetness today that I run out of adjectives. She did three amazing pieces of work, two for strangers she had never met before, and was greeted with cries of joy and disbelief. She is making up into a horse that dreams are made on:
The hill, almost lost in the dazzle:
As I write this, the wizard that is Dermot Weld sends out Unaccompanied to win at the Galway Festival he makes his own. It completes a very happy little treble. I shall have some cash to spend at the games tomorrow. And I end the day as I started it, with a smile on my face.