On the first Friday of each month, Clan Macquarrie Community Centre opens its doors to Alzheimer Scotland to host a group for carers of people living with dementia in the Ness area.
I took Chris Hammacott along this time, to deliver some crafting kits of worry dolls and stencilled, quilted cushions and to talk about what we might do next time we meet.
Seven of us gathered for tea and home baked cakes, while enjoying Chris’s examples of her work.
We looked at silk painting, floristry, patchwork, worry dolls, stencilling, and some brooches. We decided to have a go at floristry nearer Christmas, to create natural decorations for our homes.
The conversation also led to the session we are planning at the library in Stornoway to have a Duff Day. We thought we could do that near Ness as well, plus other areas, to get a complete flavour of the art of duffery. We talked about the trepidation of the peeling of the cloot or cloth from the dumpling, taking care not to damage the much loved skin. It’s not a crust, mind. The mortification of a collapse – made worse if somebody saw! And how the peat stacks were herringboned beautifully with the best pieces but only the side facing the road. Family pride in all things.
To make a duff or clootie dumpling, oh yes.
Recipe? No! No need for that.
Handfuls of flour, spoonfuls of fat.
Never apples, tut, but treacle, oh aye.
And sugar and dried fruits and spices we buy.
You tell it by touch, bind it by hand,
Wrap in a cloth with room to expand.
You tie it all up and set on a plate
In a roomy old pot on the Rayburn hotplate.
Don’t let it boil dry, don’t leave it alone,
It boils for three hours and steams out your home.
At last, when it’s ready, it’s lifted all hot
to the table, uncovered, success or a flop?
The cloot cloth is peeled delicately pried
from this golden orb, privately, safe from eyes
Judgemental to collapse, oh the shame if it slid
But it tastes just the same on the plate if it did.
Covered in custard, demolished in a second
The skin, dried by the fire, is the best bit, we reckon.
Recycled for breakfast, in thick slices with bacon
No better aroma on a dark morning to waken
The family once again round the table
With steaming hot tea in our bellies we’re able
To stack up our cruachs, best side to the fore
To stoke up the fires to make us some more.
(a playful rhyme constructed from conversations at this gathering).