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Hear you roar, watch you blow

This last week has seen both the end of the weekly Sheerwater boat trips for the summer and the first stags roaring. The end of the summer and the start of the autumn as defined by nature, all beautifully tied in with the autumn equinox.

After a very quiet season of boat trips this summer we were treated to several pods of porpoises and then a very close encounter with a minke whale.

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That same evening as I got into bed I heard the first roaring stag of the season, an eerie bellow echoing across the croft.

Whales have swum in these waters long before there were boats filled with curious people hoping to catch a glimpse, stags have roared in this part of the world many years before our caravan was dragged up this muddy hill.

We have made choices in our current life, sacrifices and compromises, we face challenges and questions and there are inevitably times when the trade off feels too great. But moments like these where we are existing alongside the forces of nature, not controlling or even really impacting on it, merely observing while the world turns, the seasons change and the real residents of the lands and seas here allow us to witness and glimpse into their world give us such joy.

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Mellow Fruitfulness

Not much in the way of mists but it is very autumnal here. For about four years running we had a September camping trip every year. Brambles were ripe, morning mists hung about until long past camping breakfast time and the campfire every evening was a welcome heat source from the chill of the night time air, stars were amazing, sunsets were stunning and the sunrise was late enough for even late risers like to me to start enjoying. There is that feeling in the air here this week. Despite it being probably the nicest run of weather, sunshine and lack of rain we have had all year the nights are drawing in, the sun is lower in the sky and there is that indefinable yet so very tangible feeling of something being just around the corner.

An acceptance therefore that the tomatoes that didn’t quite make it off the starting blocks will not do so after all, a clear out of the freezer ready for pork and time spent with the piglets now is all about getting them used to us being around them ready for the turning them into pork products in the next couple of weeks. The birds have done an amazing job of clearing the fruit cage of weeds, grass and bugs. So much so that we have now moved them into the walled garden to feed. They are all free range anyway but wherever we scatter their twice daily feed of mixed grain they spent the next couple of hours scratching around and clearing. We have previously made use of them to clear large areas of ground to make paths, to create hay for pig bedding (they scratch up the grass and rushes which as long as the sun is shining quickly dry out to make great soft material) and to empty ditches of undergrowth so we can dig them out. As soon as the last crops in the raised beds are either harvested or given up on we will uncover those, feed the birds on them and then cover with seaweed to mulch over the winter.

I have been out twice a week foraging brambles and turning them straight into jam. Pickings are lean so far but an hours picking is netting me sufficient to make three or four jars of jam each time which are steadily selling from the croft gate which is great as we are having plenty of visitors walking around the croft still. I have also been crocheting new scarves and collecting midges ready to set in resin so that next year we have plenty of stock for our planned produce and craft shack at the croft gate.

We are just days away from hearing the stags roar as they gear up for the rut and then I truly think we will feel autumn has arrived.

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Happy Birthday Davies

Today is Davies fifteenth birthday.

15 years since Ady and I became parents, 15 years since our lives changed forever.

We’ve had some pretty amazing birthday celebrations for Davies over the years. Some birthdays have been spent on holiday – at Centerparcs, camping, in our campervan, with family, with friends. Birthday cakes over the years have varied from hours spent on masterpieces – a tardis, a dalek, Wallace and Gromit, Ben 10’s omnitrix, shop bought spiderman, cooked in a field in a barbecue, quadruple layer chocolate cake carried down the croft hill all the way to the village here on Rum, chocolate eclairs two years running in the shape of a 9 and then two cakes to make a 10. Memorable gifts included the campcraft sleepout that Davies and I did together when he was 10 with a night out under the stars in a shelter we built ourselves. Birthday celebrations and parties have included full on productions of themed parties with halls hired, life sized papier mache daleks and a hilarious Wrong Trousers relay for a Wallace and Gromit party.

Yesterday we spent some time looking back at photos of birthdays over the last 15 years together – some of our favourite pictures are shared below.

Today has been a fabulous Rum day of glorious sunshine. Davies picked all the meals for the day – cinnamon rolls for breakfast, pizza for lunch, venison steak and chips for dinner. Birthday brownies to share at the shop with Rum friends, birthday tiffin for birthday cake home here.

We have spent time all together the four of us and Davies has spent some time one to one with each of the rest of us at various points today. Sometimes I just don’t know where the last 15 years have gone, it feels like just yesterday he was a newborn baby, a toddler, a small boy. At other times I really can’t imagine the world before he was here with us.

Our path in life is so very determined by the people we cross paths with, those who walk alongside us on our journey. We have been blessed to share our lives with Davies. One of the funniest, most creative and artistic, deep and insightful, caring and interesting people I have ever met. I don’t think anyone has ever loved me as much as my son does, I don’t think anyone has ever understood me quite as well or been able to catch my eye and know with just a glance what I am thinking. We are so proud to call him our son, to learn from him and with him. Happy Birthday our lovely boy, may 15 be a wonderful year.

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Anniversaries and jam

It’s been a while since I mentioned an anniversary. Regular readers will know I do love a good anniversary – a reason to get a bit misty eyed and nostalgic. Today was Ady & my sixteenth wedding anniversary. We celebrate two anniversaries each year (obviously!) – one is marking when we became a couple, which was 22 years back in June. The other is our marriage – 16 years today.

As with so many of our life choices our wedding was not conventional. As neither of us are religious or terribly fussed with tradition and had been together for 6 years already when we decided to get married – mostly because we were planning to start a family, we didn’t go about it in the usual way. Several friends and work colleagues had gotten married that summer and we had attended weddings happy to celebrate people having their special day and declaring their love for each other forever but knowing that this was not the right way for us. We didn’t want expense, speeches, practise runs at the hairdresser, dieting to get into our outfits, fretting over guest lists and menus and venues. Instead we decided, three weeks before we did it that we’d fly to Las Vegas and get married in a wedding chapel. We told my parents who were able to come with us, along with my brother. My Granny paid for my dress (selected during my one hour lunchbreak at work when I dashed along, tried it on, decided it was right and bought it) and for Ady’s tux hire in Vegas (no point in buying one, he’d never wear it again). My wedding ring was my other grandmothers, Ady’s we bought. Our reception was at a pub, closed for the evening for our party with the cake and buffet organised by workmates.

The wedding day itself was perfect. We had inadvertently chosen the most popular day of the year to get married 09/09/99 so only 2 slots were available at the chapel – 830am or 1130pm. We went for the 830am slot and so were pronounced Mr & Mrs Goddard at 9am. We then flew to the floor of the Grand Canyon in a helicopter for a champagne lunch and spent the afternoon wandering around the crazy hotels of Vegas, getting our photo taken with a lion cub and looking at each other in disbelief that we were now married. It was fantastic and so very us.

Yesterday we celebrated a fellow Rum resident’s birthday and had the first meeting of our newly set up Rum Whisky Club. This morning we were on the slightly woolly side a result but we did harvest potatoes, open the fruit cage up to the chickens and ducks as all of the fruiting is over so they can go and eat the bugs, caterpillars and do some weeding in there fore us before we gather seaweed for a mulch.

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Scarlett and I went bramble picking and had an hour on the beach. It was such a lovely afternoon I even got a little sunburnt! Back at home I made more jam, this time bramble and rosemary.

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Ady and I have done some more amateur mechanics on the car and hopefully should have a new car battery arriving later this week. Fingers crossed we will have fixed the car and have it running again.

Tonight the stars are amazing and the northern lights are dancing across the night sky. Sixteen years ago Ady and I promised each other many things – a family, a lifetime of love and laughter, sunshine and moonlight, happiness and adventure. I think we’ve both made good on those promises so far.

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Here and there

A week ago today we were on the beach

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A week from today Davies will be 15. Life is so very fleeting and it is tough to strike the balance between breathing deeply and living in the moment while still racing to achieve everything we want to make happen while we’re here and breathing and able. A friend recently wrote a fantastic blog post about This Moment being present and aware of the right here, right now. It really moved me and I have been consciously ensuring I am aware of This Moment ever since. Sometimes taking a photo, sometimes capturing the sights, smells, sounds and committing them to memory, sometimes just making sure that This Moment does not get swept away in the never ending list of things which should get done but do not compare at all to the things which are important. Such as walking hand in hand with your boy along the beach before he stops wanting to walk hand in hand with you anywhere. Or dropping everything to dance in the kitchen because a song comes on the radio and it is these moments of crazy dancing and laughter which most remind you that you are alive.

So a week of the things that make the wheels turn- cooking dinners, collecting deliveries from the ferry, working shifts at various jobs. A week of some of the extraordinary things which you have to just grab with both hands when they happen – a visiting play at the hall, made all the more ‘Rum’ by a power cut just before the end, a sunny Monday afternoon trip to the beach for Bonnie to chase the waves and the gulls, the kids and I to walk along stamping on the sand and making razor clams spurt water up while we came up with as many songs as we could think of with the word ‘stop’ in the lyrics, a 24 dash to the mainland trip at great expense for our bi annual dentist check up, combined with fast food, supermarket shopping and bubble baths.

A week of chatting to yet more people who had seen the Ben Fogle show – varying from the young couple who appeared slightly star struck and told us that they had seen us on the telly and changed their travel plans to take in a day trip to Rum as a result to the mature couple we sat next to on the ferry home telling me about this show they had seen on TV about a family who moved to Rum having genuinely not recognised me.

A week of jam making, and selling. 8 jars made from the final stash of last years brambles in the freezer and a further 3 made from the first pick from this year with 5 sold already
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A week of noticing that Rum is already changing colour, no longer green but purple and browns. Autumn is in the air.

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Not Back to School

Home Educating is what we have always done with Davies and Scarlett. Back in our old mainland lives we would be reminded perhaps once or twice a week that we were doing something different – maybe the checkout operator at the supermarket would comment ‘no school today?’ as we passed through the till, or we would find ourselves driving past a school at drop off or pick up o’clock. Because both children attended swimming lessons, Scouts or Guides or Badgers, gymnastics and RSPB groups we worked to the rhythm of term times to an extent. We certainly breathed a sigh of relief once the school holidays were over and the beaches, parks and museums quietened down and became our private playgrounds once more.

As unschoolers or autonomous Home Educators we have never followed a curriculum or timetable, or recreated ‘School at Home’. For us learning never stops happening through life, regardless of the hour, day or month on the clock or calendar. There is no such thing as term time.

Here on Rum though we have lost that connection to the passing of the school year to an extent. We march now to a different beat and as most of the people we come into contact with regularly know us already. Scottish schools keep slightly different term times to English ones anyway so while for me the concept of Back to School has always been a September one here schools went back a couple of weeks ago. It came as something of a surprise this time last year to realise that Scarlett would have been starting secondary education should we have walked a different path and I was reminded of the blog post I wrote about that by a friend this week.

It’s been strange this week to see the rash of Back to School and Not Back to School posts on my facebook feed, to note the changing page on the calendar and the changing feel of the season without the change in our routine. I noted that it was dark by 9pm tonight, we have started picking brambles, there are specific to us changes but none are to do with education or learning.

I have avoided using this blog as a place to talk about education because I don’t really believe it is separate from life generally but aware that we have a slightly new readership and aware that we are representing a particular educational philosophy I have a few posts forming themselves in my mind on the subject so I may well commit them to the (web) page and post them up over the next few weeks.

For now though, we remain happy to not be going back to school this week, even if in our current life we don’t tend to mark the event as we used to back in Sussex.

Gratuitous Youtube link to us back in 2009