Remote Welcomes

Today has been one of those gorgeous bright winter days with the promise of spring in the air. The sun shone low in the sky, which was a beautiful blue with fluffy clouds and the daylight stretches a few minutes longer each day.

Thanks to an introduction from a friend we went along and met Mark from Green Directions this afternoon and spent a very interesting couple of hours chatting to him about alternative technologies, keeping animals and growing food. Green Directions is a really exciting project with some great opportunities for spreading the word about renewable energy and lower impact living.

We’ve been contacting a few of our WWOOF hosts and other people we met along the way on our adventures last year, to share our happy and exciting news of the answer to ‘what happens next’. At our interview for the croft we explained that one of our greatest strengths is the big fat contacts book we have – sure enough we are getting offers of help and advice, along with making new contacts as we go.

Dragon and Star are very much enjoying the prolonged visit with friends this week – they are stocking up for the months ahead without quite so much contact with same age children, although we are getting potential visits to Rum in our diary for later this year already from various friends, so I doubt we’ll have a chance to miss people too much before we are showing them round our new home. We can’t wait to share it with people we love, as stunning as the photos are they still don’t do it justice. I’m so looking forward to walking with friends on the beaches, pointing out wildlife and just seeing them register the views.

Life has suddenly got very busy again with a big long to do list stretching ahead of us – paperwork to process, research to do, logistics to arrange. Fortunately we’re getting offers of help from Rum, of support from back in Sussex and of assistance from friends all around the country. We have no real news on the sale of the house – one viewing so far which came to nothing and late March will be spent packing up our things currently stored at my parents and working out the best way to get them up the country and across a sea – a further exercise in determining just how much we need things, another cull is certainly on the cards, goodbye electric breadmaker, farewell cheap table and chairs, au revoir business suits and high heeled shoes, we have no further need of you (and that’s just Ady!).

Picture This

In Sussex the view from our windows looks like this:

Here are some photos from our most recent trip to Rum…

minutes after we were told we’d got the croft we walked down to the beach to get phone reception to ring family and friends and share our news. As we stood looking out over the sea a rainbow appeared.

not a traffic jam in sight

looking out over the view

the bridge over the river that runs along the bottom of our croftland

happiness looks a lot like this…

Not a difficult choice to make really…

Best Laid Plans…

We got our first taste of one of the challenges of island life when we left Rum on Saturday. We had made plans to spend some time on Eigg, doing some WWOOFing and catching up with friends. As we stepped on the ferry we were greeted with ‘You’ll be pleased to know we’re going straight back to the mainland rather than to the other isles’ which of course we were not pleased with at all! A split second decision later we stayed on and watched as Rum grew smaller and more distant.

Star turned to me and asked ‘what’s the plan?’ to which I replied I didn’t have one. She was most surprised at this; ‘What do you mean you don’t have a plan. You ALWAYS have a plan!’ Such faith… I promised I would have a plan by the time we got off the ferry and after a quick family conference I was making the most of the occassional phone signal to make arrangements to stay with friends that evening. This made for a very long drive from Mallaig to Manchester, frantically making further plans for the following week as we went.

Once again friends have stepped into the breach to find us room in their houses for the next 10 days until we are back up in Scotland for me to attend a Crofting course next week. We are very fortunate to have such wonderful friends. And they are very fortunate to be banking favours with people who are about to move to such a beautiful place and will be only too happy to return the hospitality for holidays in years to come!

We are currently trying to live up to Star’s expectation of always having a plan by working out the best order of the next few months. It feels rather like living in one of those slidey picture puzzles or a game of Rush Hour, there are lots of things which all need to happen in the right order. There are a whole load of things we have no control over – the biggest one being selling our house. Until that happens we don’t have the necessary funds to start our plans for the croft. Until we move to Rum we can’t start working out what has to happen first. Should we aim to move as soon as possible regardless of the house selling? We all want to be there rather than anywhere else, when you realise what you want to do with the rest of your life, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible! If we moved before the house sells though where would we live? Could we bring Willow and stay in her? That would make sense as we’d be in a position to spend time on the land, start physical stuff like sorting drainage, surveying the land, working out what is going to go where. Plus we’d start to be part of the community, making friends, building relationships, learning how everything works.

Or should we be staying on the mainland? We can go WWOOFing (we already have a potential WWOOF host all lined up for April) which means no costs – food and shelter are covered plus we get to learn some more new skills.

The trouble is, as I was saying to my Mum the other day, it’s really hard to make sensible decisions these days, as if we were making sensible decisions we almost certainly wouldn’t be faced with any of these choices anyway! Sensible has long since ceased to be something we have any relationship with!

So I guess it’s still a bit ‘watch this space’ really.  And I haven’t even told you about our longer term plans…

And you thought the whole WWOOFing year idea was ambitious…?

That had nothing on our next move!

We arrived yesterday on the Isle of Rum, after a fairly epic journey all the way up the UK – we stayed with friends in Sheffield (and caught up with several other friends while we were there) and had an overnight in Fort William. It feels very different travelling at 60mph (officer ;)) in the car rather than 30mph in Willow. Faster certainly but you miss ever such a lot of the scenery. In mentioning this we all realised we’d made an observation of life in general aswell as this specific journey…

The ferry crossing was smooth and is only just over an hour to Rum. We were on board with four of the five interviewers which made for a slightly odd feeling of all studiously not watching or listening to each other’s conversations ‘just in case’.

We were met off the ferry by one of the islanders, wife to the fifth interviewer, who gave us (and our two weeks worth of luggage) a lift along to the Village Hall. It’s only about a mile or so but that would have felt a very long mile carrying all our stuff so we were very grateful. Settled into the hall with cups of tea we four faced their five across the table and the interview commenced.

It was a fairly tough grilling we thought. The questions were a wide variety including logistical stuff about house builds, planning and access from the council representative, questions about how we’d fit into the community, what we would add to it and how we could make positive contributions from the Community Development Officer. We were asked about our understanding of the islands NNR (National Nature Reserve) status, how we would ensure we did not compromise any of the wildlife, flora and fauna on the island with our planned activities and lifestyle by the Reserve Estate Worker and finally the people from the Crofting Committee asked questions about crops, livestock and business ideas.

We stumbled in a few places, knowing that realistically no one has all the answers to just how such an unknown quantity of a brand new croft on a remote Scottish island with a population of under 40 people in a community which is in a very transitional stage of gaining independance from a larger government body might pan out. We certainly don’t. What we do have is endless energy and enthusiasm, a sense of humour, a tight family unit that all want the same future, passion and spirit. We have all sorts of skills and experience in life, in management, in being flexible and adaptable, in making friends and winning over a tricky crowd. We have not walked a conventional path to this point, we have faced challenges and questions and know our strengths and our limitations. We have a lot of people behind us cheering us on, maybe from afar in spirit and often in person, ready to roll their sleeves up and help us construct our dreams. We are prepared to invest everything in this next stage – Rum will become our home, our livelihood, we will need it to provide for all our needs – social, cultural, educational, put food in our tummies, give us a home. In order to ensure it lives up to all that we will have the ultimate responsibility to make that happen – we’ll need to put in as much if not more than we take back. This was our answer to the questions we didn’t have answers to at our fingertips – that we might not know the answer yet, but we would now how to go about finding it out.

A lot of the questions asked were preceded with ‘you’ve already kind of answered this already…’ which either means we are viewing all of what happens next as one all encompassing project under the banner ‘living’ or that we talk too much….

We were then sent off while the panel made their minds up. We took the time to check into the hotel and have a little walk on the croft land before heading back to be given the news.

It was a yes 🙂 🙂

And so the next adventure begins – wanderers no more, wonderers always.