Thursday, 26 April 2012

Normal service will be resumed as soon as I work out what normal is

which you can take any way you like it but basically means we're still at that point where you throw every single one of your belongings, every single thing you thought was true and every single plan you ever made all up in the air at the same time and wait for them to come back down before you can work out where they've landed and start to get to know your life again.

Does that sounds negative? It's not meant to.

Does that sound positive? It's not meant to either.

We knew there would be challenges, we knew this would not be easy. We knew there would be layers of trickiness, unwrapped gradually with new and different things that might move us to tears - of pleasure or pain - at any given time. There has indeed been all of that. Challenges and issues we had not anticipated, stuff we had expected but hoped might not be so bad.

We also knew it would be the start to an amazing adventure. That there were potential new friends to meet, sights to see, places to discover. There has indeed been all of that too.

Getting our heads around the day to day difficulties of living on an island, ensuring we don't run out of dog food or tea bags. Realising that Star has ripped the knees of two pairs of trousers and got a third pair muddy when she only has three pairs of trousers anyway. These are challenges. Working out the politics and complicated relationships on the island with no prior knowlegde of the history and no previous experience of such a unique place is another challenge. We know how to tend livestock, put up a fence, start growing crops but it turns out simply getting our static down onto our land so we have a home is far from straightforward - yet another challenge.

Life on Rum could so easily become life in a bubble. There is a stream of tourists already starting to parade across the island, with greater and greater numbers expected over the coming months - an audience! There are times, such as when you are homeless, clueless, don't really have any of the answers yet and are finding your feet that an audience is not a comfortable thing to have. It is all too easy to allow small and usually insignificant things to get blown out of all proportion.

Fortunately there are enough snapshot moments to keep our heads clear and our minds focussed and our hearts filled with joy at the prospect of the amazing potential ahead.

Moments when I chat to a random stranger, visiting the island for a geological walk, to site a new compost loo or to built some new signage. I tell them our story and they wish us good luck, tell us we are brave and that they wish they had our courage. Moments when I look across at my children, my gorgeous, self sufficient, resiliant children, walking their new dog, making a whole world of people and places in the mud and sand around the river banks, calling to me to look up at the clouds, the stars, the birds, slipping a hand into mine as we walk along the pathway and telling me they love it here. Moments when I pull open the curtains of our bedroom window and realise from my bed I could see deer or sea eagles. Moments when we are sitting, sharing a beer at the end of another day with some of the islanders and we feel like we may just have come home.

As I said, all still up in the air in fragments at the moment, but falling, falling slowly and softly and when they land and a whole new picture is formed I know the background landscape will look like this:

and I reckon that pretty much guarantees it will all be fine in the end!

Monday, 23 April 2012

We're Home!

We have very little internet access and mobile phone signal is very patchy. We are having all sorts of wobbles about quite how the static is going to make it onto the croft.


we're here :)

This is where we live now
We spent our first day helping with a beach clean up over on Kilmory Beach (north tip of the island) which is just beautiful. We saw deer and looked across at Skye and Canna.

Other exciting news includes the addition to the Wondering Wanderers of Bonnie:
12 weeks old. Border Collie.

Isn't she gorgeous?! We collected her on the way up, in Fort William. We're only 3 days in to dog ownership and 3/4 of us have never had a dog before so we have as much to learn as she does but so far she is the perfect addition to the family. Full of energy, spirit and a nose for adventure. I think we're going to be very happy together.

Our next big challenge is the arrival of our static caravan on Wednesday... one step at a time!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Edited to add....

our very wonderful friends (who are off on their own life changing adventure very soon) presented us with this present
we've been on the search for a map of Rum ever since we knew we were moving there. We could have picked up an OS map or bought an old one on ebay but were hoping one would somehow just appear for us. This evening it did.

Love you Bart family xxx

Halfway to Paradise

well Rum :)

We've left Sussex, trailing our horsebox behind us. It poured with rain all morning which was both mildly inconvenient in terms of our stuff getting wet as we loaded it in and also felt in some way symbolic. I was trying to decide whether it was some way of the universe preparing us for our rather wetter new home or if there was some deeper message of there being raindrops along with the sunshine in our lives. My friend Tasha did a far better job with her tweet:

Worthing sky is crying cos that @nicgee is leaving.

which of course made me a little leaky around the eye area too. Having already welled up when saying goodbye to my sister in law, nieces and nephew, sobbed when I got home after saying goodbye to my parents and brother I think I am all cried out.

Friends had said to us the day before that once we turned the key and pulled away from our house it would really feel like the adventure had started. And it did :)

The drive to Sheffield to stay with friends for a couple of night to break the journey was smooth and straightforward. The horse box towed just fine, we got through lots of diesel (a theme of the whole adventure!) but the traffic was kind, the weather was on our side and we listened to music and sang along. It was like being back in Willow, limited to a certain speed, wobbly about going up hills and with a real sense of something amazing about to happen at any minute.

It's been a challenging few weeks in lots of ways, saying goodbye is always hard, living in limbo is a difficult place to be. There are so many uncertainties and hurdles still to overcome. We need to get all the way up to Mallaig with the car and horsebox, still another 400 miles to go! We've got a puppy to collect - more on that tomorrow. We have chickens, ducks and geese on order, are in talks to get piglets and have ears to the ground for cats. We have seeds ready to plant, a polytunnel planned, have opened accounts with various animal feed suppliers and today we went off to buy gerry cans for our petrol and a food shop to stock up loo rolls, tinned goods and UHT milk for those 'ferry didn't come' moments we are anticipating.

We're taking this stage one small step at a time. Yesterday we got to Sheffield, tomorrow we'll get to Fort William, on Friday we'll get to Rum. Many more challenges ahead long after we've managed that but at least we'll be home.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Don't be afraid of your freedom

One of Dragon and Star's favourite songs :)

Four more sleeps til we start heading off. The letting agent has the keys, the tenants have a moving in date and have paid their deposit.

Our generator has arrived.

We've got a campsite booked for Thursday night, a puppy crate arriving here on Monday and we'll pick up a collar, lead, food bowls and some toys at some point in the next couple of days ready to collect our new best friend on Thursday next week.

Last night I went out for a meal with a friend and tonight I'm off out again for a meal with more friends, tomorrow we say goodbye to the cousins, Sunday the grandparents, Monday more friends. Inbetween all of this we are packing stuff up, ticking things of our lists and preparing ourselves mentally for the move.

It's interesting how many people describe what we are doing as mad, brave, crazy, dangerous, foolish, reckless. Some with affection and maybe a scrap of admiration, others with outright disapproval. This is of course alongside a huge number of people who have been very positive and supportive but the negative reactions make me wonder. Why are people so challenged by what we want to do? 50, 60, 70  years ago we didn't have supermarkets, motorways, telephones, televisions, electricity in every home, indoor toilets, mains water. These things are a luxury, not a necessity. And luxuries as we all know come at a price - financial, physical or worst of all a sapping away of our time. Time is NOT money. Time is life. Frankly time is all we've got us humans. I read this poem last week, blue tacked to the wall in my friend's house. I'd never heard it before but it moved me and I want to share it:

I read of a man who stood to speak,
At the funeral of a Friend.
He referred to the dates on this tombstone,
From beginning ….to the end.
He noted that first, came his date of birth,
And spoke the following tears.
But he said what mattered most of all,
Was the dash in between those years.
For the dash represents,
All the time he spent alive on earth.
And how only those who loved him,
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters most is how we live and love,
And how we spend our dash …
So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough,
To consider what is true and real.
And always try to understand,
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more,
And love the people in our lives,
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile …
Remembering that this special dash,
Might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read,
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
And how your spent your dash?

Linda Ellis

So to answer those questions of how we will live it will be the same as everyone else; with uncertainty, with no real knowledge of how we'll pay the bills next year or even what those bills might be. But we'll have insurance - crops in the ground, livestock growing ready to feed us, trees growing ready to bear fruit or be chopped down for firewood. The sun will shine to dry our tears and our washing, the rain (I believe it sometimes rains on Rum ;)) will water our plants. Our needs will be few and as long as we get to laugh every single day I'll feel we've invested our dash wisely :)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

We've got the power!

Today we ordered one of these shiny red electricity giving babies
actually it's the bigger brother of this one but you get the idea!

We've also sent off the balance cheque for our static, had confirmation that the prospective tenants have paid the holding deposit and want to move in by the end of the month.

We realised that the four hour window between ferries probably won't be sufficient for the static delivery man to do much in the way of helping us site the static. So Ady's been watching lots of youtube videos on siting statics.

I meanwhile have been learning about training puppies, specifically border collies.

Dragon and Star have mostly been finishing off Easter eggs and playing. Star told me today 'I am quite rowdy'. She is you know :)

It's been a much more positive day today, we got an email with the Isle of Rum Community Trust newsletters and are most excited at the prospect of joining in with the beach clean the day after we arrive. We've done a few beach cleans over the years and the kids and I did a litter picking walk in our town, collecting three sacks of rubbish on a one mile walk and getting their pictures in the local paper and a display at the local library. An excellent opportunity to do something worthwhile and rewarding while getting to know our new neighbours.

Over at my parents this afternoon Ady and I both caught sight of a TV advert for Scotland and gazed at all the wonderful images of the place we'll soon be calling home. I had goosebumps on my arms and a huge lump in my throat. I can't wait.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Counting down the days

I'm struggling to blog really but at the same time really wanting to capture these last days of a 'normality sandwich' such as it is.

Life is fraught, stressful, filled with anxiety. It's hard saying goodbye to people we love, even people we just like! It's tough to keep realising that popping out to pick up some forgotten groceries or toiletries won't be so simple any more. It feels callous to be itching to get away like a little kid squirming away from a whiskery kiss from an elderly auntie knowing that we'll be missed, that for us each passing 'last time we'll see you before we go' is as exciting as opening another door on an advent calendar for the person we're waving to they are sighing and holding back a tear. I hate that my standard breezy 'see you soon' when I lean in to hug a friend goodbye is actually now a lie.

Ady and I are frustrated with ourselves and with each other for not knowing the answers to all the new questions each day brings. Why would either of us know about siting static caravans when we've never needed to know before. How could we possibly hold the knowledge inside us already that we'll be needing concrete slabs, wedges of wood  - no one told us, google doesn't help, in Willow it was just a case of winding down two stabilisers and deciding it was the spirit level that was faulty if the bubble wasn't in the middle and you had to hold your mug of tea at an angle - we'd be moving on again in the morning anyway!

More things are being crossed off our job list each day - today I crossed off 'redirect post' and Ady deleted 'find tenants for house'. Woohoo. Unfortunately I had to add 'email Royal Mail to add our new address onto their database as it doesn't actually exist' (post will be going to my parents instead) and Ady ended up with 'arrange carpet fitter to refloor bathroom' to his as our prospective tenants have requested that be done. So the list is not actually reducing by much. I have a driving licence with one address, a vehicle registered to another and an insurance policy for yet another, all technically my address, just none of them actually home right now.

I distinctly recall a very similar last minute slump before we left to go WWOOFing. The mechanic had Willow for weeks on end and then told me I'd be mad to take that campervan out of Sussex let alone all around the country. We didn't have a tenant for the house, people at work kept looking us me with pity and Ady with blatant horror at the very prospect of what we were planning to do. Dragon and Star kept wobbling about leaving toys behind, saying goodbye to the chickens, whether the tooth fairy could still find them in a campervan!

This morning I had a chat with my elderly neighbour, she was telling me how fabulous she thinks our plans are, how wonderful Dragon and Star are and what a credit to us they are. She'd caught up with them the other day when they were out playing and they'd given her the full story of our planned new life and told her how 'cool' it was all going to be.

This afternoon the mother of our friend was telling me about how she spent the first year of her marriage living in a tiny caravan while their farmhouse was being built and it was one of the happiest times of their life. How beautiful Scotland is and what an amazing adventure we're going to have.

This evening I replied to an email making arrangements to collect a puppy on the way up to Rum next week.

Right now we're bogged down with the details, the last minute stuff that couldn't have happened any earlier but always means you have too much to do at the end. We're saying teary goodbyes, packing things up, heading off with uncertainty. In one week we'll be over a third of the way up the country on our way, in two weeks we'll be on Rum, awaiting our static delivery the following day. In three weeks I am very hopeful we'll be in that static calling it home. We need some friendly hellos, some unpacking and some deep breaths and space to sit back and enjoy the view.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Moving Month

We've been on the roam the last week. We collected our new car - a 4x4 Pajero. An interesting experience all round looking at the wikipedia entry for Pajeros and learning that in Spanish it means something quite different. Expanded all of our vocabulary that little google!!!

This is me on my first drive of it - turning into our road in Sussex. A very different backdrop to where it will soon be driven around.

We've left Sussex behind for the week to do a round trip taking in stays with two sets of friends. A farewell to Glastonbury for the first half of the week. Great excitement there as there were puppies!

And friends. Lots of lovely friends :) Three nights there was not long but we made every moment count!

Then on to Hertfordshire to spend Easter with more friends. Next week (our last in Sussex) we have plans to hook up with yet more friends before leaving for Scotland on 17th April. A long drive north taking in - you guessed it! - more time with friends before catching the 1240pm ferry on 20th April to Rum.

We're on the mailing list for community emails now, we've had a copy of the IRCT (Isle of Rum Community Trust) business plan, an advert for a job vacancy. I know we're not there just yet and we still have faces to put to some of the names but it's starting to feel like Rum is home.

We're looking forward to going home.