A stag is roaring on the hills across the loch. He is very late in throwing out his challenge, but last month there were nights when you could not sleep for the noise of stags roaring; it was like being beside a lion's den.
I have been putting off a routine job that I dislike: the job of sweeping the chimney. If you wanted a professional sweep to come here, you would have to pay ten and twopence in fares alone, and either put him up and feed him, or pay for a hotel for the night, so naturally we are our own chimney sweeps. I have the usual sweep's outfit, but take the added precaution of attaching a rope to the ring brush before I push it up, in case the thing gets stuck in the uneven surface of the chimney, for then I would have to be without a fire till I could stop a lorry driver who likes diversion on his job.
These are indeed days when one needs a good fire, for there is hard frost at night, frost and a full moon. The hills look as if they were cut out of black metal. The crisp stillness is awesome. The grass is furry white and the sky wide with stars except where the moon will brook no rival and sails noiselessly, remote and cold, drawing the great tides in her skirt and causing the farm dog to cry its suddenly remembered wildness to the echoing hilltops.
Life has changed almost beyond recognition in the last fifty years here in the Highlands, yet it is still possible to feel that connection to something bigger than oneself, standing at the back door on a dark, still night, with the sound of owls in the pine tree and the Milky Way overhead. Not bad!