The Life of John Lorne Campbell of Canna by Ray Perman

‘There is even a raincoat over the end of the piano’

Before the hurricane struck, I was looking for words to end the old year or, since the clock was ticking, start the new one.  I found Margaret’s letter typewritten late at night during another storm-tossed Christmas.  At almost the same time I came across the December West Word, an action packed newsletter written by gas and candle light as the western highlands and islands recovered from a battering which felled trees, flattened outbuildings, lifted roofs and wrecked power and water supplies.

Now the west winds have struck again this time launching a particularly vicious attack on Glasgow, plunging chimneys into parked cars, while a wheelie bin careering down Edinburgh’s Leith Walk looks set to become a YouTube successor to Fenton the dog.

Margaret might have wondered at the wheelie bin (and Fenton the dog) but she would have known all about the power of the wind.  You can imagine her, sitting in her room late at night, typing letters to friends on the mainland or across the world, cigarette and dram close to hand while the gale howled round Canna House. Her words, written in January 1984, could be describing the storms we are going through now.  As she says: “Such is winter in the Hebrides”.

I flourish today except for chilblains on all my fingers which explain the rough typing. The weather here is DREADFUL.  As I write I am afraid our trees will come down. We have had nothing but violent storms since Christmas Eve so slates have blown off and the house has buckets and basins to catch the leaks that flow like taps. There is even a raincoat over the end of the piano.  We have had snow and hard frost which meant the leaks paused for a time but they have started again.  Such is winter in the Hebrides…the only warm and comfortable place is bed where I have an electric blanket and three to four cats for heat. I can also close the shutters to close out the roar which I find dismal.  A good book that cheers is necessary.

And it is comforting to remember that winter does eventually come to an end.