We were very confident that we'd make friends here. Unless the whole island was populated by nutters it would be hard not too. You are in the same boat as everyone else here which is after all the first step towards friendship - a common circumstance. It's why we make friends at school, at work, at parent and toddler group, at the school gates - shared life experiences and being in a similar place to each other. Rum has a very diverse community of people, a fairly wide demographic and although many of the islanders came here initially to work for SNH in some capacity people here now make their living from all sorts of different ventures and spend their days doing all manner of interesting and different things. It's not quite like Balamory but there are times when I think it comes close!
This means Ady and I have made some really good friends here, people who we feel we have properly connected with and really value the friendship of. People who we feel the richer for having in our lives. I adore popping in for a cup of tea at various houses in the village, exchanging banter with fellow islanders on facebook, starting to build up in jokes, catchphrases, little traditions, starting to forge friendships which will last a long, long time. I miss friends and I really miss family but the community on Rum are doing a fine job of meeting our needs and we are pushing hard to help along the sorts of things we'd like to see more of socially here on the island.
But what of Dragon and Star? We've always been very aware that taking them away from everything they know, their local friends, their cousins (to whom they are very close and saw pretty much weekly when we lived back in Sussex) could become a problem. Our children are also very sociable, like mixing with people, making friends, spending time with others. There are other children on the island but the three girls who are older than Dragon and Star anyway are away to school for two weeks at a time coming home only every other weekend. The three girls who are younger than Dragon and Star (one is nursery age, the others are not even that old yet) are good company for a while but the appeal of 3 and 4 year olds when you are 10 and 12 is fairly limited and a different sort of company to peers and equals. The ninth resident child on the island just celebrated his first birthday... I cannot deny that this is a concern for me and one which I ponder regularly. I do watch the children being friends with various adults on the island and I know that these relationships are no less valuable than the friendship of children the same age as them would be, just different. Dragon and Star are very fortunate to have each other; they have always been close and chosen each others company over more or less anyone else even when lots of potential friends were available. Many of their friends are mutual ones and they have shared interests and passions and happily fulfil the 'best friend' role for each other admirably. All of those vital socialisation skills are more than covered in the sibling relationship - conflict resolution, cause and effect, bargaining and negotitation, give and take, reading social cues and just understanding how relationships with another young human work. As for their socialising they seem to be doing okay with the people available here on the island, happily spending time with various people here in various ways and they have regular top ups of friends and family coming to visit to bolster them when needed.
There is no question that this is a different life and the effects on them of having spent this chunk of their childhood in this environment will no doubt be evident in some way - I hope positive or at least benign.
This morning I was having a 'it would be nice to be able to just nip to...' moment briefly so I asked the others what 3 things they most miss about the mainland:
- Retail therapy. I loved going to supermarkets for reduced to clear items at the end of a day and finding bargains.
- Electricity - I did point out that most of the rest of Rum has electricity but of course it is still rationed here rather than available on demand no matter how much you want to use.
- Being able to go out for a meal or get in a takeaway - either as a celebratory treat or just because it's easy sometimes to get in dinner from the chipshop.
- Toy shops
- Home Ed groups and activities such as Badgers (St Johns Ambulance 5-10year olds), Wildlife Explorers ( RSPB kids group), Magic Lantern (film club), Forest School.
- Toy shops (She was not copying Dragon, infact she gave her answers first!)
- Friends and cousins and family
- Museums and days out like that. We used to go to London every six weeks or so to visit museums, attend lectures on Science at the RI, the theatre, cinema etc.
- Charity shops - it is true that there is nothing we can't get here, internet shopping is amazing. But I have dropped a dress size or three and could really do with all sorts of new clothes to fit properly and am not really up for paying brand new prices or not being able to try stuff on.
- Library - we do have a little branch library and can request items and get in books but it is not the same as being able to head to the library whenever you like and find a selection of fiction and browse the cook books, craft manuals and kids books for inspiration.
- Family and friends. Celebrating birthdays and Christmas is going to be hard without our usual family and friend traditions. We've missed various get togethers over the last few years with friends and that is hard. My brother is about to become a father and I won't be around to meet the new baby. We catch up on the phone and online but nothing compares to simply hanging out with my sister in law for several hours every week just being part of each others lives, or having my Dad call round for a coffee in the middle of the day because he was passing and saw my car there.
Never ones to dwell on what we don't have my next question was 'what three things would you like to have a magic wand to wave and make happen'. I usually find the magic wand is not at all necessary and most of our wishes are perfectly possible to make true all by ourselves with a bit of time and creativity.
- Electricity -I'd like to be able to charge up my phone, keep the internet on all the time, watch iplayer in bed whenever I want without thinking about where the power is coming from.
- An indoor toilet - I'd like to not be emptying the loos every few days and just have the waste gone once it's left our bodies!
- A log fire - I want to be warm without worrying.
- Enough electricity to charge stuff up and maybe run my Xbox console so I could bring it out of storage
- A bigger bedroom - I want to set up stuff to leave out all the time in my room rather than having to pack everything away every day.
- A playpark - grand plans for a trampoline, zip wire, climbing frame, swing, slide etc.
- A bigger bedroom so I can build a really big house for Humphrey (her hamster) and have a desk to draw at and bookshelves to put all my books on.
- Less mud on the croft so I don't get splashed every time I go out to feed the animals.
- Less condensation in the static.
- I'd love a bath. A bath that I can soak in for an hour with a book and a glass of wine, then get out of, into my pjs and snuggle on the sofa afterwards.
- a washing machine, here at home. So that getting a load of washing done does not require allowing a couple of hours once a week and a roulette risk as to whether I get it home before it gets rained on as I carry it up our muddy hill.
- Indoor space I guess, space to store our food indoors so we don't have in the dark and wind and rain dashes out to the horse box because we've run out of gravy granules. Space to hang wet coats and waterproofs and put our wellies. Space to stash Christmas presents where no one can find them.
What would you miss if you lived our life? What magic wishes would you ask for now in your current life and could you actually make them happen all by yourself if you thought about how to do it?