Thursday, March 15, 2007


One morning at Bag End while Bilbo was sitting on his doorstep, Gandalf came by.

No, it began differently. I woke to the sight of a serpentine mist in our valley, the trail left by the Sidhe on their nocturnal ride. The day would have its surprises. In case I doubted it, Amber explained it -- in writing, and asked that pick up "a person" at the railway station at 11 AM. She had been cleaning house for ten days because, she said it needed it. Sunday she had wanted Charles, Annie & Co to stop by for dinner, then assured me in a choking voice that they couldn't come. We'd be en deux. As I sat writing, I heard her clanking about the kitchen. Not unusual. What was unusual were stacks of cups and plates that appeared. Also the two baked aubergine dishes. Maths has never been Amber's strong suit, but she's not that far off. She also started leaving chocolate eggs in various parts of the house. I asked what it was about and received mumbled replies not intended to be understood. Yes, a surprise birthday party was in the air.

I'm not one for birthday parties. When I was about eight, Mama organized one for me and invited all my friends. After a few minutes if it, I grabbed a book and climbed a nearby tree from where I could watch the proceedings. The party looked just fine from high above. I guessed that Amber had invited various friends from our Celeidh dancing class. Last Wednesday she'd disappear with this and that person, making sure I didn't hear the furtive conversation. That set me thinking, but like Agatha Christie Amber is adept at covering her trail.

At the railway station, I ran into my nephew Adam, the last person I expected. Ready with his guitar. He said that MI5 called him and gave him his assignment. Arriving home, I saw people arriving, including David Bracegirdle (there's a hobbit name) with guitar and amplifier. The table filled up with dishes brought by guests. Jenny and Phil were there, followed by Barbara and Heinz. At class they often demonstrate a classical waltz. I'm always delighted to see the kids -- Sian and Conrad, about to get married. Kids poured out of cars and immediately appropriated the house as their palace. A big surprise were June and Nick. June works in our office and is an avid gardener. Makes sure I don't lack for seeds or catalogs. And then the Ashton clan appeared. I was surprised, though by now I'd come to recognize that Amber, theatrically trained can lie with a straight face. As at Bag End, the drink poured like a river, and the cakes and pies representing many European corners, flew off the table. David's guitar music played in the background, listened to most by the smallest partyers. Sitting at the outdoor table and warmed by the outdoor brazier they spread chocolate on their pancakes and stuffed them away like hobbit children.

I didn't vanish up a tree, but to my greenhouse, which I showed off to all the gardeners. Their raised brows, made me wonder if I hadn't started tomatoes and peppers too early. But why not try and jump the season? Unlike Bilbo, I didn't receive an assignment to slay a dragon, only good wishes.

After most guests left, we sat with fellow hobbits Charles, Annie, Rachel & Co, and Adam. Separated bythe Atlantic for more than thirty years we have a lot of catching up. No intellectual discussions today, other than what do Lou, John and Jake have in common. Well, and the answer is…. Kids wandered around, exploring the nooks and crannies of our hobbit hole and piddling in our burn.

A perfect March 11 at Gairn Park.

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