like the deserts miss the rain

Every so often I have a moment or two of doubt about our move here. It is pretty darn extreme, both the day to day lifestyle we as a family currently live and the reality of living on a remote island. When we were planning our move here the biggest thing family and friends were concerned about was how we’d all cope without our friends. We are very sociable people and the idea of cutting ourselves off from people was a scary one which people quite rightly predicted would be an issue for us.

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:

Ady –

  • 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
  • Friends
  • 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.

Star –

  • 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.

Nic –

  • 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.

We did a lot of gallivanting about in our Home Ed life previously; if one of the children showed an interest or developed a passion for something then we would find the best place to visit and discover more – art galleries, museums, parks, zoos, cinemas, theatres, lectures were all part of our day to day lives. I miss that easy availability of finding the right resource to answer their questions, inspire and educate them (and me!).

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.

Ady –

  • 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.

Ady’s answers demonstrate where he is struggling just now and are interesting because I’d consider them all modern conveniences (aside from maybe the log fire, but really that is a heating request which again is a modern thing).

Dragon –

  • 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.

Star –

  • 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.

Star was also pretty struck with the idea of the playpark.

Nic –

  • 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.

A really interesting exercise. I think it proves that six months in we are coping well with our rather extreme lifestyle but are ready to get into a proper house with some of the home comforts that will provide.

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?


Compost Loo update

So we didn’t hit our target of £2000 for the compost loo 🙁  We were pledged £800 which was fantastic and is actually halfway to what we needed to raise to get the compost loo here – I had included the extra £400 to cover the cost of buying the wheelie bins required to put beneath the loo to catch the humanure, supplies of loo rolls and antibacterial handwash and various other extras.

I have been approached by various other crowdfunding websites and may think about putting together a pitch for one of them in the future but for now we are going to carry on quietly raising funds to get this project off the ground. Most of the £800 pledged was just that – pledged. This means that as the pitch was not successful no money will be taken from you if you did it through the crowdfunder website. Some people donated via the button the side of this blog though and that money is now held securely in a fund which will be used to fund our compost loo as soon as we have collected together enough money to make it happen. If you pledged funds via the crowdfunder website but would still like to help us please do consider sending money to us via the paypal account using the donate button or this link – all of the promised rewards still hold good and we may well add to them as time goes by.

I have reset the counter on the side to reflect the actual money raised so far – once we hit the £1600 required I will get the compost loo ordered from free range designs and I will of course keep everyone informed of our progress by way of this blog and email updates.

Once again, thanks to everyone who either pledged to donate or actually has already donated – please don’t let this set back put you off – we WILL have that loo set up as soon as humanurely possible!


From tiny acorns

Last night saw the bonfire and fireworks happen. Isle of Rum venison burgers and sausages and steaks cooked on the barbecue, a towering inferno of a bonfire with the guy we helped make perched on top, fireworks whizzing and banging, kids writing their names in the air with sparklers and people chatting, laughing, sharing cakes…
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The more I learn, the less I know

It’s been a life in the spotlight this last week again. Life in a West Sussex coastal town prepared us to an extent for the seasonal nature of life here on Rum but this is to the extreme. In the summer the village and indeed the whole island is packed with thousands of visitors coming here during the season. We spent our first few weeks here saying hello to everyone we met unsure as to whether they were islanders or tourists. This time of year it can be like a ghost town here with nobody staying but us locals and even we are in depleted numbers with people off on holiday, seasonal workers starting to leave and some folk saying goodbye for this year as they head off to lead the other part of their lives – not everyone on Rum lives here all the time! Kate and Ian from the Tattiehouse have headed to the other place they call home for the winter, Claire who runs the teashop is off for a month catching up with family and friends and taking a holiday now the teashop has closed for this year.

But it being half term in England has meant a small flurry of visitors and elsewhere the red deer of Rum featuring in Autumnwatch has meant eyes are on us from afar. We enjoyed a Ranger event Coastal Otter Walk on Tuesday this week along with five visiting tourists. We never stop telling ourselves how lucky we are to live here but it’s nice to have someone else saying it too. Reading the various coverage on the Autumnwatch stuff on facebook, forums and other online places and seeing the passion people have for our beautiful island makes me very proud to live here and very humbled at how little we still know about this place. We have a plan to explore a new corner of Rum every week and have been doing well so far pushing further out into places we have not been to before. This could easily take us forever, there are a lot of hidden corners and secret places to discover!

The run of gorgeous sunshine has ended very abruptly and we are back to rain again now with the first fall of snow on the peaks this morning. It is beautiful and the light here is amazing – walking to the croft this afternoon at about 4pm felt like the hours just after dawn with a clear and slightly eerie quality to the colour of the sky and the way light was bouncing off everything. The full moon and galaxy of stars reflected in the sea and the river this evening when we walked home later was equally breathtaking. But it’s cold, oh so cold. We are having to re-think our plans to keep gas heaters burning to keep cosy as the condensation in the static is already creating problems and it is only just the beginning of the winter. The ceilings, walls and internal doors are literally dripping, not to mention the windows and external doors. Bedding, soft toys, clothes and curtains are growing mould and mildew before our very eyes and we are very aware that the impact on our health not to mention our belongings could be dire if we stay in these conditions for the next4 or 5 months. We’re looking at woodburners having been told by everyone (literally, everyone!) that it’s the answer to the cold, damp and condensation so that is next week’s project.

Halloween was very comprehensively marked here with pumpkin carving and gingerbread biscuit baking and decorating in the morning, a party at the school (Dragon and Star dressed as zombies!) in the afternoon and the judging of the island Pumpking Growing Competition and some trick or treating in the evening. Mucho sugar, lots of silly games and plenty of wandering round in the dark with torches. Plans now are for Bonfire night – the good thing about this time of year is that you never seem to be more than a week or two away from the next celebration!