The first Saturday in September is a significant one for our family; it is the day of the Dalmally Show, which I have written about before here. We travel up to Argyll for the weekend, attend the show during the day, and in the evening, have a multi-generational ceilidh at my uncle's house, or more specifically in an enormous wind and watertight gazebo in his garden, specially erected for the occasion. Wonderful food, lots of wine, and good scots whisky (and of course non alcoholic drinks for the under 18's and drivers!), stories, songs and music. Everyone who can, sings (and one or two who probably shouldn't do too!). This year Jacob sang and Isaac accompanied him on the guitar, singing their version of 'Time of Your Life' by Green Day; a proud moment for me.
My nana, 96 and still going strong, loves the Show and ceilidh. She is such a sociable person, and every person present loves and respects her quite intensely.
When I was growing up, we were a highly mobile family, who moved frequently, yet in many ways I still regard Dalmally as my true home. The family connections are strong, and so many of my maternal relations still live there. I also have a dream of living once more in our old home, which still exerts a strong pull on my heart. I believe that our family would have had a good life in this house, which we lived in for a few years when I was young. I have so many memories attached to this house, which sits beside the river, on a quiet, single track road that forms a winding loop away from the main village of Dalmally, eventually re-joining the main road some two miles later. This house was originally the general store and bakery for the people living along this beautiful stretch of countryside, and at the front of the house, there are still the huge, wooden double doors leading in to what was the shop. They are never opened now.
I dream daily of living here again. In my imagination I regularly mentally renovate, restore, furnish and decorate this house. I reinstate the scullery off the big kitchen; I once again access the back stairs which lead to what would have been servants' quarters; I rebuild the big fireplace in the sitting room, and renovate to full functional glory those massive oak double doors at the front of the house. I imagine knocking through walls to create beautiful bathrooms leading off the large front bedrooms. I visualise a snug self-contained suite of rooms for house guests comprising bedrooms, a sitting room under the eaves, and a pretty shower room (I would want lots of visitors, this is a house made for company). Our old sitting room becomes my office/sewing room, just between the kitchen and the back door. The huge front room (once the shop) becomes a massive multi-purpose room; there is space there for all sorts of wonderful activities and events to take place.
This is the home I imagine my boys eventually bringing their families to, where their children could run wild in the garden, or take the short path down the garden to the river, to play on the pebbly spit, throw stones, or just sit and watch the water. In short, this is the house I want to live in again. However, in reality, it would take a great deal more money than I am ever likely to have to buy it, and renovate it to the standard it deserves, nor is it currently for sale. I can't shake the dream though.
Combine the house of my dreams, with views like this, and it is little wonder I feel so pulled to the north.
Apart from stirring up memories and daydreams, the purpose of our annual trip to Dalmally is of course to attend the Dalmally Show. Much of the fun is entering our jams, bakes, makes and crafts in to the competitions in the Home Industries tent. For Mum and me, this is the highlight of our crafting year, and something we love to discuss and plan for in great detail (much to the amusement of my 'townie' husband). The lists of the various competitions are sent out in April each year, and can also be found on line here (pages 14, 15 and 16 are those which interest Mum and me).
The schedule generates much discussion about which competitions or 'classes' to enter; Mum and I both love to make jams and preserves, so lots of ticks on that page. The knitting/sewing/crafting page has several fixed items which appear every year, such as a knitted baby garment, also a cross stitch picture, and piece of embroidery. This is where we diverge slightly, as Mum is a marvellous knitter (she can whip up kilt stockings with cables and complicated tops with ease), whereas I am not, though I do attempt an occasional knit for the Show. Then on to the all important Baking classes; it is difficult to enter bakes which are best eaten 'same day' like scones and pancakes, as of course our bakes are by necessity made in advance and transported north with care the night before the Show, so we tend to stick to larger cakes and bakes, or items which will still taste good a day or two after baking.
After the decisions regarding classes comes the preparation. Crafts first, in April and May, all completed items carefully wrapped in tissue and put away, then preserves are made in June and July, and then in the days prior to the Show, baking is completed.
This year was a particularly good year for us both, with quite a few prizes, and even a Trophy for mum (the Tullich Trophy, for most points in the Preserves section) as well as a Special Prize for her fruit tart (a particularly delicious apricot and almond one, which was devoured at the family ceilidh in the evening).
I was also very lucky with my entries this year, and won quite a few prizes.
In the Preserves section, I won a 1st for my Fruits of the Forest jelly; a 1st for my Lemon Curd, a 3rd for my Raspberry jam, and a Highly Commended for my Strawberry Jam.
In the Home Baking section, a 1st for my Meat Loaf, a 1st for my Tear and Share Loaf, a 2nd for my Jar of Pasta Sauce (not pictured), a 2nd for my Empire Biscuits, and a 2nd for my Rocky Road Squares.
In the Home Industries Section, a 1st for my Advent Calendar (I entered a box of numbered, decorated gingerbread biscuits, each one threaded with string, to hang on the christmas tree; I may replicate this 'for real' at Christmas!), a 1st and Special Prize for Isaac's quilt (Any Other Handcraft) a 2nd for my Machine Sewn Shopping Bag, a 2nd for my Crochet Purse (Best Use 50g yarn. (not pictured), and a Highly Commended for my Patchwork Cushion Cover.
Not all my entries were winners however; no prizes for my chocolate cake; coffee and walnut loaf, crocheted brooch, banana loaf, or my ladies knitted scarf. However, I was delighted with my prizes and Mum and I are already looking forward to next year's competitions.
The whole Damally Show weekend is a very happy one for our family. It provides a touchstone for collective family memories. When family sands eventually shift, and when the generations and people of the current times are no longer here, I dearly hope my boys will say, in years to come 'Do you remember those great weekends at the Dalmally Show....?'
As for my dream of living in my old home, it will undoubtedly persist, and be once again stirred up to the point of painful longing when we return to Dalmally next year, and I see it once again, but that is the price I am prepared to pay for my beautiful, comforting day dream.