I love reading the visitor books in places. Whenever we stay in a holiday cottage or at an attraction it is so interesting flicking through and seeing who has been there before you, what they thought of it, where they came from…
We are just over halfway through our first week away from Rum. Ady will return back after just this week off, the rest of us are heading way down south for some time catching up with family and friends.
About three weeks ago I commented to Ady that I *almost* wished the holiday was already over so I could be looking back on it fondly and feeling refreshed rather than in that anticipatory state of fretting about details and anxiety about possible derailments to our plans. Life on Rum is always at the mercy of ferries, weather conditions, livestock and people. So any deviation from our day to day lives means even more vulnerability to outside factors out of our control. Ady corrected me that I could relax once we arrived at our booked holiday cottage on the Isle of Lewis because that would mean Croftsitter Jen had arrived safely on Rum (a trip from England for her which also involves public transport, an overnight stop and a ferry crossing), we had left the island (a ferry and car journey) and arrived on Harris (another ferry and another car journey). As it goes that first night we arrived in the cottage was not really that relaxing – the car had failed to start on the day we left Rum (easily remedied by starting one of our other cars, which doesn’t always start, rolling it close enough for the jump leads to work – scary when the brakes are unreliable and it’s a giant car rolling towards our tiny mainland car, all done with an audience of Croftsitter Jen and a random tourist who stopped to watch and chat to us), the ferry had been delayed and when we arrived at the cottage after a long day travelling, it was very cold, the oven was unfamiliar and we burned our pizzas and the wifi was patchy and slow.
I should have projected myself forward to last night as that was the point that relaxation kicked in fully. Two bubble baths, lots of stunning views and bracing walks on beaches, huge amounts of laughter and fun and in-jokes, quite a lot of crap TV, several good nights sleep, plenty of nice food and drink and all was well with the world.
We’ve been to the very bottom of Harris, bought some wool from the tweed shop, Ady surprised me with a bottle of Harris gin (he double backed in to get it for me after I’d fallen in love with the sample). We’ve been to the very top of Lewis – the Butt of Lewis lighthouse, the Callanish Standing Stones, Carloway Broch, to Stornoway. Our last full day is tomorrow and we’re planning a return to the stones to go to the visitor centre and a trip to the Blackhouse museum.
And that ‘home away from home’ title? It’s a much used phrase in visitor books. Here at our holiday cottage it has been used by visitors in the past to describe the fully stocked kitchen with touches such as a radio, utility room complete with washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher, the comfy sofas, cosy bedrooms. None of these things are what we have at home these days. What is making us feel at home away from home is wild and windy weather, either outside the window right now, or evidenced by everything being tied down in anticipation of it – wheelie bins are tethered, shed doors are very secured. The lack of shops – we called in to a petrol station / groceries store yesterday to buy tonic water to have with my Harris gin and were told ‘Not till next Tuesday…’ a very familiar tale back at Rum shop. The attitude of the people, used to their lives being fascinating because they live on a remote island, well versed in the usual questions, slightly tired at the end of what has no doubt been a busy tourist season here too.
We came here because it seems mad that we live so far from our previous lives in a wild and remote place yet there is relative civilisation further away from the mainland than us. Because we live in the Hebrides but there is an ‘Outer Hebrides’ and we wanted to know what was more extreme and outer than where we are. Because one day, when we no longer live where we do we will probably live somewhere more anonymous, less documented. But while we live here, we should explore more, take the opportunity to visit the places which are, relatively speaking, on our doorstep.