Saturday, 27 August 2011

Raise your glass(es) to this!

The other morning I heard the mail land on the hall carpet with a soft thud. It would be a large envelope for sure and before I could make my way there ..

... I heard a scuffle and ripping and lots of oohs and aaahs ....

my hares and squirrels had gotten to the package before me!
and the envelope lay in shreds at the bottom of the Parker Knoll and innocent faces greeted me all round!

and up on the chair was Seramr, my own hare, with a shred of envelope stuck to her lower lip

not that anyone noticed me mind you!
as all my nameless baby hares were too interested in reading my article that was just published in the latest edition of Scottish Islands Explorer magazine about how I give my hares their names!

There were lots of exclamations as they avidly read on ..... 'Island Incidents' by Annette Tait

One quiet evening in a tiny Edinburgh flat a mousy brown hare with a bright determined expression came into the world. He was definitely a boy with his masculine shape. The glint in his eye said he wanted a purposeful life with a name to reflect it. I’m Annette, a Scottish textile artist and I make soft-sculpture hares in the still of the night. Each one gets a name and an individual story.

We searched the stars and ancient mythology before we came upon a map of Scotland, with its many islands along the jagged coastline. "How fascinating. Just imagine the names!" the hare exclaimed. So we chose a few and began to explore their significance..

Inchtavannach is a tiny island filled with oaks. Long ago there were roe deer here. Well, hare wasn’t keen about huge trees and wanted company so we moved on. But he did love the soft ending. "Say it again," he cried. So I put my tongue near the roof of my mouth and produced a very soft sawing noise. "Hikh," I whispered , explaining that the ‘ch’ at the end of a word is, in Scotland, nearly always pronounced ‘hikh’.

Perhaps Mousa? It's from the Norse meaning ‘moss’. So hare would have a comfy bed every night, plus the world’s smallest sea-birds, the weak-limbed storm petrels which come to land to breed, nest there in a colony that get special protection. Well, hare thought, these tiny birds could cause him worry all day long struggling about on their feeble legs. So, no thanks.

Maybe the unpronounceable Sgeotasaigh? It had some rather fetching rocks and small trees and in Gaelic you say ‘scotsay’ instead of my ‘ss-gee-oh-ta-say-gi-hikh’. However, hare wasn’t keen on the Gaelic pronunciation, he much preferred my convoluted version instead.

Oxna comes from the Norse for ox island. Hare was terrified of being trodden upon, so no. How about rhythmic Trondra with Shetland ponies, seals and porpoises and an annual event called Da Peerie Neep -‘The Wee Turnip’ - with activities like ‘Toss the Neep’? Hare felt it could be dangerous and so he took a rain-check on this one.

Hare liked Papa Little - a peat covered place meaning ‘little island of the priests’ in Old Norse. On hearing that hare threw a small pout and said he would much prefer to live with papas instead. "Oh, and don’t forget the mamas too!"

The Shiant Isles are three privately owned islets, with sheep and sea birds. There is apparently a sizeable colony of black rats. Hare gulped and pressed his little body against me and gave a shiver. It was a no go!

Hare liked the sound of Fetlar, it had purpose. I thought so too. It’s known as ‘the Garden of Shetland’ and hare licked his furred lips, thinking of all those carrots and kale. It happens to be the most important breeding site in the UK for the red-necked phalarope, with over 50% of its population. That is from only about 30 - 50 breeding pairs. Hare’s face lit up.

"I have red too," he cried, opening his amber eyes wide. The plain-coloured papa phalarope does the nest-sitting and the mama is the pretty one. " Well, that's decided said hare. I shall be called Fetlar and it will be my job to help the papas on the nests safeguard the eggs and make sure all the babies grow up well. The mamas will then have time to preen and look beautiful, as mamas do!"

and this is Baby Hare Fetlar, who already has his forever home with a mama who loves the Scottish Islands and mountain climbing, so Fetlar has a very happy life! and this is his story -

Fetlar loves to spend time down by the beach, though not actually on the sand. He much prefers the coarse wind whipped grasses up on the dune edges instead.
None of the other hares like to play there and mama was wondering what he does all day long. Well, Fetlar said that he had a very important job to do and as long as mama didn’t tell anyone else he would let her know. Mama patted his head and said ofcourse she wouldn’t be telling anyone, wondering what the big secret was.
Fetlar grew a little glum and said that he was a very bad boy a while ago and since then he has been trying to make things right. Goodness! thought mama, but he went on, he said that one day he was running around with not a care in the world, careering thru the spiky grasses when suddenly he tripped and landed on a nest with three eggs. In his fall he disturbed one of the eggs, knocking it out of the nest. But thankfully it was undamaged.
There was a huge commotion and the next thing he knew he was lying in a nest of his own fur! and he had two angry parents staring down their beaks at him! Fetlar had disturbed papa and mama phalarope’s nest and the papa was not happy and had called the mama to come and sort the intruder out. After they had ruffled him up a bit, he got a good talking to.
Fetlar learned that there were not many phalaropes nesting here on the island, they were really rather rare, so every egg was as precious as gold. He would have to pull his socks up if he insisted on playing by the beach.
Fetlar was not proud of his impulsive behavior and said to mama and papa phalarope that he would love to help protect the eggs then, all the phalarope eggs, to make it up to them, and that he would start straight away. By straight away he meant the next morning after he had cleaned up his dishevelled fur ofcourse. They thought that was decent of him so the very next day Fetlar started on his nest egg duties.
He helps to patrol the filled nests, making sure there are no hungry big egg-eating seabirds about and keeps any egg removers in check. That’s the hard bit, those egg-removers. Usually they are humans and he has to be careful as he is only a small hare, but if he sees any humans he makes a loud thump with his hind foot and all the sea birds come flying in, ready to attack, even the egg-eaters too, as the humans are indiscriminate as to which eggs they steal. When the attacks happen Fetlar makes sure to hide otherwise he is covered in small presents from the air and mind those sharp beaks and claws, plus he’s not wanting any more disheveled fur thanks!

Fetlar is looking forward to a comfy spot on your shelf, he doesn’t mind if it isn’t too comfy though as he is used to the spiky sharp grasses prodding him every day. Plus he will need the window open so he can go about his daily duties of watching the nests. He rather likes doing it and now that things are back to right he still wants to keep watch. Plus he’s looking forward to meeting all the babies that he’s been watching over. He rather sees himself as a phalarope-uncle-hare.
Would you like to come and help him infact? He could use another set of eyes on the beach. Ofcourse he will have to tell all the mamas and papas about you, plus the egg-eaters and the other birds because as soon as they see you they will most probably cover you in presents from the air and give you a piece of their beaks. After all, we do have babies at risk here.

well, well, Seramr was very impressed! and after the fray abated she took the magazine aside to read it again in peace.
She was awfully proud of me and asked if I had ever been to any of the Islands?
I had indeed, I said to her, I had been to Skye and maybe one day I may make it to Fetlar (if the seas are calm as I'm not a very good water traveller).

Seramr borrowed my new spectacles that came in the mail the other day, as my eyesight is getting a little fuzzy. Infact until I started wearing my glasses I had no idea how unfocused my world had actually become!
'cripes! the writing is awfy blurry!' she exclaimed, peering thru them ...

I got my glasses for the whopping cost of £13 - no joke! These are prescription glasses and were made to my specific and uneven eye measurements (one is a lot worse than the other!) and I took 3 months of faffing around before finding and ordering the pair I wanted. (I was rather put off that the high street stores all boasted of getting 2 pairs for only £80 ... and being a 'canny Scot' I wanted to see the money I could save :)

so I bought them from GlassesDirect. Normally this pair is £39, but I bought a £9 buy-it-now deal from Groupon, the special voucher discount UK company, and I only had to pay £4 in postage extra!
and voila! clear sight restored!

(if you would like me to email you via groupon so I can get £6 in my kitty for a referral please let me know :)
(and the fine print ... you have to purchase their deal within 72hrs of me recommending you for the £6 to go thru)
well - I did say 'fine print' and it took me ages to find that disclaimer in their site ...
(and now that I have my wonderful glasses I can read the fine print :) ~small gloat~

so I can raise my glass(es) to my canny purchasing and the lovely people at Glasses Direct and Groupon and to John the editor of Scottish Islands Explorer for very kindly publishing my article in his magazine!!
thank you John!
shall treat you to a dram if we ever meet!

I have some new mamas and babies going into my shop very soon,
tailes being written now for Mama KissAndTell and babies Fomalhaut and Regulus ...
and Mama Always and her baby Satevis are already on their way to their forever home

and pretty Mama Hare Heart will be in my shop soon too .....

just let me find my glasses ....

... now where I did put them? ....


  1. Great story Annette! Congratulations on the article. Having been out the islands this summer I can really 'see' the places you and Fetlar are describing. All the best with your brood of hares. They are all so individual (and beautiful)and quite obviously have different personalities : )

  2. Congrats Annette and happy to hear that your world is back in focus.xo

  3. thanks Aileen! I will have to try and get over my sea-sickness to visit these places too, I love the seas and beaches out there - incredibly beautiful!

    thanks Pey, yes it is good to 'see' again!

  4. ... and .... Scottish Islands Explorer has a blog -
    - the hares stopped by :)

  5. Glass raised! Excellent and congrats to you!

  6. Oh I was a wreck on the way out lol. I was standing in the queue for food with my daughter when I suddenly went white and nearly keeled over! Did not manage to eat my baked potato. I found a seat facing the direction we were going in and reclined with my eyes closed for the rest of the journey. On the way back I procured a seat by the window and sat there nearly the whole time and was fine. As soon as I tried moving about, especially in the enclosed space of the loo, the nausea returned. Mum used to always give me 'sea legs' tablets when we went to Ireland so I'm going to try them again next time I have to endure a ferry : )

  7. WONDERFUL story! Informative and entertaining as always.

    Love the new glasses; I have had to begin buying cheap magnifying glasses for reading or detail work. I already wear contacts as is (I am nearsighted and have very bad astigmatism), but as I've gotten older, I need more light in order to see things like tiny print clearly--even though my vision prescription hasn't changed. Since I don't always have the best of light sources, I use the magnifying glasses instead.

  8. Congrats on the press! :)

  9. ha ha Aileen - that sounded dicey! you are very brave!

    thanks Jade! yes, magnifying glasses have played a big part in my life lately!

    thanks Jen :)

  10. How wonderful Annette! Congrats to you & baby Fetlar on the feature ;-) Would definitely like to visit more of the Scottish Islands someday. Have been to Aran & Skye but would love to go off the beaten track a bit & visit some of the smaller ones like Tiree or Colonsay - think the dogs would love to have a run along those white sandy beaches...


thanks for leaving your lovely comment and taking the time to read my post, appreciated