Sunday morning in a sunny Braemar is rather lovely. We don’t have to head off up to Stan & Bill’s (Callater Lodge, but it will always be Stan & Bill’s) until quite late in the afternoon to get there in time for the party, as it’s only 9km. So that means breakfast and lunch in the Old Bakery for the “Challenge Specials” writing postcards and then a leisurely afternoon in the Fife Arms sitting in the window in the sunshine.
[PHIL, DAVID & ANDY, FIFE ARMS – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
In this picture Andy is busily writing away, but at this point I had no idea what he was up to. But pints of lager seemed to increase the speed of his scribblings. We shall see what he was penning a little later on today. Phil is busily scanning the paper for the latest on ladies’ high heeled shoes and David is pretending he didn’t really buy the Daily Mail.
[PHIL'S PIC: ME, MARTIN, PHILIP, GERRY, MORPETH, DAVID & VICKY – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
Denis surfaced, looking remarkably chipper for a chap who had been almost carried back to his bed – the man has the constitution of an ox! He was on a mission this afternoon to repeat the performance. But, all good things come to an end and we had to leave for the stroll out of town. Andy & I had a good scout about, but couldn’t find Phil anywhere. He wasn’t in his room, hadn’t checked out, wasn’t in the bar or the shop. So we left a note at reception for him to let him know we were on our way and then strolled out into the sunshine.
[TGO2013 DAY 10 – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
I must have passed the Church of Scotland over a dozen times over the years and had never visited. But with time on our side this time we dropped the packs almost as soon as we had put them on and had a peek inside. It’s a little gem.
[CHURCH OF SCOTLAND, BRAEMAR – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
Then we strolled up through the golf course having a little rest in the shelter of a wood and then strolling on to the footbridge over Clunie Water. At this point, Phil caught us up, looking remarkably dapper in his shades.
[PHIL, CLUNIE WATER: CLICK TO ENLARGE]
As it was so sunny and gorgeous hereabouts I called a halt and we had half an hour’s snooze in the sunshine. Quite blissful.
[ANDY'S PIC: CLUNIE WATER SNOOZE: CLICK TO ENLARGE]
Then we strolled along the long track up to the lodge, to be welcomed by Bill. Now here’s a really lovely man. Knowing that I wasn’t in the best of shape, he had very kindly reserved me a bed upstairs, and Phil and Andy were also allocated berths. Luxury!
Before too long were were tucking into a hearty meal, with beers and whiskies and singing. Andy popped outside for a short while to take some pictures; Here’s my favourite.
[ANDY'S PIC: EVENING, LOCH CALLATER – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The quaich was passed around the room and we remembered Challengers who had passed on and those currently having difficulties.
Then it was on to the entertainment. We missed Doha Jim’s wonderful renditions this year, but in his place Andy stepped up to the plate. Here he is (recorded back at home) re-reading his excellent account of our Challenge Crossing so far. Quite brilliant!
It went down like a house on fire and there were calls for encores. Click on the “forward” button to hear it. Croydon & Stormin seemed to like it too.
[CROYDON & STORMIN, CALLATER LODGE]
Then, as the evening was quite late, Bill produced some cheese, my bottle of port and some wine for an impromptu third Cheese & Wine party.
[SURPRISE CHEESE & WINE NIBBLES]
Over the years Callater Lodge, Stan & Bill’s, has become quite an extraordinary institution. The love and care that goes into making everyone welcome and feel at home is really quite a beautiful thing. Next year is a big one, an important anniversary for Bill, so there is no way I will miss that.
We got to bed quite late, but deliriously happy.