My job at the PA offers insights into people you don’t normally get. For an article to mark Father’s Day, I asked our MSP, John Swinney about life with his 20 month-old son. It was refreshing to glimpse the dad instead of the politician. He described making Sunday breakfast and cycling to the park with baby Matthew on the back of his bike.
In another interview, I asked a retiring police sergeant to tell me about his early days as an officer around Aberfeldy. Up to this point he’d seemed a bit intimidating; he had an MBE and 30 years of law enforcement under his belt. Then he described how he nearly drowned in the Tay at Keltneyburn, trying to single-handedly retrieve a body from the water. The ‘body’ turned out to be an abandoned pair of chest waders. Hearing him chortle as he told the tale transformed him into a normal person.
Ever realised that you've just happened on the perfect exchange? A group of dry stone dykers offered to rebuild the walls around my house in return for some hospitality. I agreed without hesitation. People pay to go on courses to learn this skill and here were folk willing to turn my heap of rocks into a bit of heritage.
A weekend in June seemed a good bet for event. My anticipation turned to fear as torrential rain set in on the Friday evening. It was going to be very soggy camping. My ever-positive husband went out and bought a gazebo, an impressive quantity of beer and calmly concentrated on making filling food for the forty or so visitors.
The highland gloom of Glenlyon proved to be an ideal setting to trial midge repellent. The visiting army of dykers considered the new one, Smidge, to be supreme, but I suspect mainly due to its nice packaging. Avon's product, which strangely has never been given a name to reflect its powerful anti-midge powers, still had a considerable number of fans. The weekend was a great success and before it was through, plans for a ‘Dykefest II’ in September were hatched.
 Over the last year I’ve been experimented with keeping chilli pepper plants. Usually people treat them as an annual. I thought if I looked after the plants over the winter, they’d fruit again months ahead of new ones. Last summer, after a visit to Shepherd’s Bush market in London, I saved the seed from a punnet of shiny Scotch Bonnet beauties. The seeds grew well in my greenhouse. In November I brought the plants into the house. The chilli plants, with their fiery red 'bonnets' made good Christmas decorations.
It's always what you don't do that you regret. The chilli plants unexpectedly took a battering from aphids, but I held back from spraying them for fear of eating chemical tainted chilli peppers. The result was, by spring the bug population had gained the upper hand and the plants looked sad. My husband didn’t comment, he just went out and bought a year's supply of hot pepper sauce, effectively voting for reliability over the Good Life.

Melanie Bonn


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