I thought for a wee change I’d write a bit about one of the most important parts of the reindeer company, without which we could not function as a business and place of many a giggle and frustrated sigh. It is… The Office.
Reindeer herding is an unparalleled job for variety and us herders cover the whole job, we serve visitors in the shop, take visits, cover the paperwork, walk reindeer, train reindeer as well as heading out on tour with reindeer over the festive period. All in all there’s a lot to be done on a daily basis and the office is no exception and we all have our little niche that we’re responsible for. Myself, it’s adoption renewals and advertising, some of you may have come across Hen who is the lady to speak to if you’re buying antlers, or this blog itself which is under the firm control of Imogen.
The office is often a hive of activity and the festive period is no exception, over a period of two months we made over 500 adoption packs. That means over 500 handwritten certificates, ID cards, letters (lots of letters), special requests and addresses… all in all a lot of writing. The calligraphy pens become very coveted at this time of year, woe betide you if you blunt a nib! All in all, we do industriously enjoy our office time and our wee nook is the epicentre of everything reindeer. In one tiny room all adopt records are filed, reindeer movements are noted alongside vet records, locations and family trees.
Our trusty computers must every day wake up and download the day’s queries and requests and today the great delight of an email informing us that our order of replacement mop heads has been dispatched which was a triumphant feeling as it took a surprising amount of online mop education to finally locate just what type of mop head was required. Has anyone else heard of the Kentucky mop…?
There’s always a new something in the office too whether it’s my mound of weird snacks (chia pudding being my current favourite), Hen on her ball, there have been around 5 ‘on the ball’ puns per minute since the appearance of said green sphere! After a trip away on yoga teacher training I’ve been attempting to share some of the cool wee things I’ve learned including myofascial release with a tennis ball.
Here’s Andi working on her back!
All in all it’s a pretty weird place to be in at times… as i write this I’m being serenaded by Boyz 2 Men (& Imogen) singing ‘I’ll make love to you’…. need anymore be said…
In January, we are closed to the public, and it’s the time of the year when we all take the opportunity to take holidays and have a bit of a break. There’s still plenty to get on with though at the Centre – the reindeer are all free-ranging but we still feed them daily, if of course we can find them! At this time of the year their appetite is greatly reduced and the weather doesn’t always permit us to walk out onto the mountainside. If we can’t feed them, it doesn’t matter as they’re perfectly capable of finding enough food themselves, but its always nice to check them over and see that they’re all fine. On snowy days, this can take two or three of us two or three hours, as we’re often breaking a track through deep snow, whilst carrying feed, to get to where the reindeer are.
Aside from feeding the reindeer, there is plenty of maintenance to do at the Centre, which we can’t really do whilst we’re open. Painting the exhibition shed floor is a big job each January – it gets very worn over the course of the year so needs three coats of garage floor paint to smarten it up in preparation for all of our visitors over the coming year! It’s always entertaining reading the instructions on the paint can “Ensure the temperature is over 10*C”, then looking out of the window at the snow – anyone who’s visited will know that our exhibition shed is unheated, so it’s unfortunate that we have to do the floor in the coldest month of the year, when the temperature is mostly sub-zero. Our solution is to block off the doors and get a fan heater on, which helps, but I still wear a hat and gloves and take a cup of tea to help keep me warm!
The other big job for me is to oil all of our Christmas harness and make any necessary repairs before it is popped into storage for the year. If you’ve met me, you may realise that I absolutely love order and lists, so organising harness is one of my favourite jobs. It’s also a little warmer sitting oiling harness in the shop than most of the other tasks. The shop is the only place large enough to do this really, which is another reason that its done whilst we’re closed, along with the fact that we’d never get round to it if we left it until before Christmas!
There’s still also plenty of office work to get on with: making up adoption packs, answering emails, planning what gifts we’ll order to go in next year’s adoption packs, counting and reordering shop stock (again a delight for me as I get to make lists!). So whilst we may be a little quieter, don’t imagine we’re just sat around with our feet up!
Perhaps the most important purpose of being closed to the public in January is that after a hectic Christmas season (in fact all of 2016 was hectic…) it gives both us herders and the reindeer a proper break and change in routine, which means that when we reopen in February we’ll be bright and bushy tailed, and actually look forward to meeting our visitors and introducing everyone to the beautiful reindeer!
Here at the reindeer centre, unsurprisingly, requests for some modelling reindeer are not uncommon, particularly around the Christmas season. Of course a change of scenery is always exciting for both reindeer and herders, most of the photo shoots and filming sets can be of a similar ilk. However, when we got a call from Land Rover, asking if a few members of our herd could star in a photo shoot up in the hills on the banks of Loch Ordie, we felt that this was something neither us, nor the reindeer, should miss out on.
And so on a beautiful, frosty and cold morning, off we set with four Christmas boys, two herders and two dogs, with a very optimistic, yet slightly unrealistic hope of coming away with a brand spanking new Land Rover.
Two hours south on the A9 and 6 miles of forest track later in Land Rover convoy, we arrived on set to find a wee flat-pack log cabin (much like a tent, yet wooden making it slightly more cumbersome, and a little more painful if you sat up quickly whilst in bed), two small children in reindeer onesies, an incredibly tall elf and a very sparkly (and reflective) Land Rover sport.
After the reindeer experienced several hours of tempting handfuls of lichen, reflection admiring/ suspicious glances, manoeuvring and a lot of snapping, darkness began to set in and it was time to head from one hill and back to another.
We were careful to make sure we loaded the actual reindeer as opposed to the imposters.
Our hairy team shone out as being the most patient of all the models there, captivating everyone on set, especially the two antler-less ones, who were over the moon when they got to charge down some of the forest track.
So at the end of the day, alas no new Land Rover, but two very proud reindeer herders!
Over the summer during a rather (tipsy) evening, us herders got on to the topic of which reindeer would make good plumbers, friends, travel companions etc… It turned out to be illuminating and hilarious, so here are four of us giving our thoughts – hopefully it’ll be an entertaining insight into our beloved reindeer characters!
…go on a round the world trip with?
Hen: It would have to be a northern hemisphere trip because they’d get too hot otherwise.
Abby: I would take a Swede because they’d know the country so you’d get to see local sights.
Hen: Maybe Bovril, but he might get lost. He gets lost on the Cromdales now…
Abby: Maybe Hook. He’s quite sweet but I think he feels quite worldly. I like Hook.
Hen: I like Hook. I think maybe Strudel, he loves to see new places!
Abby: You might have a fun holiday with Magnus but he’s a bit lazy.
Hen: It’d be more like a beach holiday with Magnus.
Andi: I think I’d take Gloriana, because she’d friendly, and attractive, and looks a bit different, so you’d meet lots of new people and have interesting conversations.
…be trapped on a desert island with?
Abby: Puddock! No, Strudel. Puddock would be good fun. Wapiti would tell you a lot of tales.
Hen: Somebody fat who I could eat…
Andi: I wonder about somebody ingenious… Houdini, escape artist 🙂
Sarah: Somebody older and sensible who would be entertaining but not annoying… maybe Bumble.
Hen: But you’d have to eat your dinner before her as she’s so greedy…
Sarah: Oh yeah…
…get to be your interior designer?
Abby: Yea, definitely Gandi!
Hen: If any reindeer is going to know about wallpaper, it’s Gandi.
Andi: Yep, Gandi. Fashion, it’d be Bajaan because he’s very concerned about his appearance.
Hen: Yes he is!
Andi: When Emily took him out on Christmas tour, he got some mud on him and really didn’t like it so Emily had to brush him, which he really enjoyed!
…go camping with?
Hen: I reckon it would have to be a female reindeer. The males are too lazy, they’d expect the tent to be put up, and their dinner made.
Abby: Wapiti. She just likes to wander. I think she’d be quite quiet, maybe too sombre. Merida! She’d be good banter, and useful.
Andi: Lilac, because she’d know all of the best spots to go to.
Sarah: Anster. He’s chilled out and not as lazy as the other males so he’d be useful. He’d also be the sort to enjoy a good ale with.
…least like to get in a fight with?
Abby: Yep Lulu. Even if you didn’t want to fight, she’d be like, ‘fight.’
Sarah: Parmesan. I just don’t think she’d give up.
Abby: She’d use words.
Andi: Bovril, because he’s just massive.
…like to be your heart surgeon?
Hen: I think the lack of opposable thumbs would worry me.
Andi: Dragonfly, because he’s a thinker. He’s very clever, he thinks things through.
Abby: I think Dragonfly for me might be liable to have a hissy fit halfway through; maybe Topi.
Hen: He’s a bit of a joker at times though…
Abby: I’m really not sure on this one. I think Ryvita and Cheese could be the heart surgeon team, because they’re so in sync with each other. Cheese would be the anaesthetist.
Sarah: I think Spider.
Abby: I’d forgotten about Spider!
Sarah: I think he’d be focused with a flourish.
…trust with a dark secret?
Abby: Shinty because he shies away from other people so he’d be too scared to tell anyone.
Hen: I was going to say an old reliable girl like Cailin but I suspect she’d gossip actually.
Sarah: Maybe Fern, I’m not sure she’d join in with the gossiping.
Abby: I think she’d gossip.
Andi: I’d say maybe Duke, he’s like a loyal hound, eager to please.
…elect as prime minister?
Abby: Who’s got a good ministerial name… need someone a bit wise.
Hen: Need someone with a bit more sense than our current government!
Andi: Fly. Sensible. A good leader.
Hen: I’d agree, a good leader.
Abby: I’d say maybe Lilac. She’s been around long enough, she’s stern, and she’d get stuff done.
Hen: But does she speak to the people?
Abby: I don’t know. Probably not…
…would be you in a film?
Andi: This could be interesting..
Andi: Because she’s small.
Hen: She’s quiet, she doesn’t like to make a fuss about things, she just gets on.
Abby and Hen: Ooh!
Andi: I love how people are judging here! Friendly, quite sensible. It’s funny how you view yourself! Independent, greedy, a little suspicious at times!
Sarah: Spy? She’s a pretty independent reindeer, knows her own mind, no nonsense, can be stubborn but also fairly willing to do things.
Abby: I think I would be Cheese. She’s a bit frantic at times. And she’s greedy. And she’s needy, she’s with her mum a lot. I don’t like to be alone! Who would Beyonce be?
Andi: Hopper? She’s a bit bolshy and a wee bit of attitude but she’s a really nice character.
…go pubbing with?
Abby: You need like an old man reindeer, like Elvis.
Andi: Elvis, yea. Or Paintpot.
Abby: Ooh yea! He’s a bit of a grouchy old man, he’d be like, ‘why’s my favourite beer no longer on tap?’
Hen: Topi. Old lad, good lad, he’d have all the gossip. Or Magnus.
…go clubbing with?
Hen: I don’t know, you’d have to pay me a lot of money to get into a club.
Abby: Fergus! I feel like he’d have a funny, mischievous night. You’d have a disaster of a night but it’d be amazing.
Sarah: Maybe Minute. He’d have the moves but he’d be pretty loyal!
Andi: I’d maybe take Chelsea because I reckon she knows the streets.
Abby: I reckon Chelsea might take me to a strip club…
The heading tells it all. I am the oldest person working at the Reindeer Centre and, at the age of 71 years, it really makes me feel a lot younger mixing with all the youngsters who work there.
Officially, I am the book keeper for the Reindeer Company, but my role involves lots of other jobs from Agony Aunt when hearts are broken, to financial advisor when the young ones are starting out in life and need some good sound motherly advice.
I started working with the Reindeer Company approx 15 years ago, and have seen lots of people coming and going in that time. It is always a lovely family atmosphere at the Centre and throughout all the different years I have made some really good friends.
Sometimes in my job I have to help the staff understand the rules of book keeping but they all seem to accept my advice and “do as they are told” to get it all correct. They dread it when they see me reaching for the RED pen, reminds them of school!
Last Summer my grandson, Christopher, came to work at the Centre for one week doing work experience, and got a gold star for his efforts from Tilly, Alan, Alex and Fiona, so maybe a future generation of my family may carry on working amongst the reindeer.
Some of the shop customers are really envious of us here having such a wonderful view of the Cairngorm Mountains and one lady said you must have the best job in Scotland looking at that view every day. We are indeed very fortunate.