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Plan coming together

In many many ways life just now is feeling very similar to when this blog first started and we were putting together the plans for our WWOOFing adventure. Loads of emotions: uncertainty, excitement, nerves, anticipation. Lots of logistical details – back then we had the packing up of one life: clearing belongings, finding tenants for our house, leaving jobs, and sorting out what would happen next – finding the campervan, planning a route and finding hosts. Practical stuff: what to do with our car, where to re-direct our post, how to stay in touch with family and friends, what clothes would we need, what special things would we take to bring a bit of home with us, what was essential in the van in terms of crockery, food supplies, entertainment.

We did it again when we moved to Rum – that time the details were different but still a lurch into the unknown. Moving house is tricky enough, moving the actual house too as we did with the caravan is even trickier! Re-directing post when the address doesn’t even exist and registering at the doctor and dentist when you don’t have a landline and mobile signal is pretty patchy can prove a challenge.

It’s good to remind myself that I have done all of this before when it feels a bit overwhelming. Living here can add an additional layer of complication to many aspects of the next steps. One of the things I have gotten much better in over the last 7 years though is asking for and accepting help. Not to remotely belittle the assistance we’ve been offered and taken from family and friends but what feels like a small favour for them can be massively helpful for us. For example we realised that we need a bigger car for the next part of our adventure – my Dad bought us a little car last year for our regular trips to the dentist with Scarlett last year and it’s been fantastic for those short journeys but is not remotely suitable for four adults and a dog. Finding, viewing and buying a bigger car is all pretty difficult to organise from Rum but a lovely friend did all of that for us and is even driving it part way up to us. We have had countless offers from friends to visit / stay and are hoping to catch up with as many people.

Our current plan, as ever subject to change, tweaking or abandoning completely if we change our minds! is as follows:

Leave Rum 16th November, spent a weekend with family in Sussex before arriving in Glastonbury on 20th November. We’ll be staying at a friends’ holiday cottage complex and exchanging our time / work / skills for accommodation. Somerset is the perfect place – it was a very early destination in our WWOOFing adventure, somewhere we returned to several times during that year and also just before coming to Rum. We have many friends in Somerset – some we made during the WWOOFing year, some bizarrely that we have made while living here on Rum who have relocated there and at least two sets of old friends including the friends who came to visit us here on Rum last month and the friend who Ady and I lived with when we were first together. It all feels very meant to be. We are there until just before Christmas when we’ll be returning to Sussex for a very long awaited, first in six years family Christmas with my parents, my brother and his family and some time with Ady’s brother and his children too. We have tentative new year plans and a couple of possible options for early January but are hoping to find either a house sitting or WWOOF style option for January and February if at all possible. We’d like to spend some time in Wales and explore possibilities for either bringing new ideas back to Rum next year or possibly for what we do next.

That leaves us with several things still to sort out – packing up our lives here on Rum. Drastically reducing our livestock holding and arranging care / feeding for the tiny numbers we’ll be leaving behind (more favours!). Sealing up and shutting down the caravan for a few months including the gas and water and any potential leaks for rain or rodents. Finding the balance in our usual habit of ensuring we have stores of tinned and dried food incase of ferry cancellations and not leaving loads of food here, shutting down the wind and solar power set up, making sure we top up the power for our freezer, sealing up the shed and the polytunnel, putting away things like tools securely and weatherproofing as much as we can. We’ll be leaving as though we will be coming back to start back up our lives here while also knowing there is a chance we may be coming back to pack up. There are certain precious things we will take with us, certain things which won’t be practical to take off this time but we need to keep safe, certain things which are only really useful here in our Rum life but we’ll need to hang on to for now.

Just as I did before I am making endless lists and plans and mind maps, working out the chain of events for sorting things out, the order of organising, what can wait or be left open, what has to be pinned down and sorted out, what has to be left on the huge list of last minute tasks and what can be got out of the way now. It’s all coming together, I need to carry on playing to my strengths, trusting the process and accepting the help when it’s offered.

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Leaves are brown, skies are grey

Well not quite, but heading that way. And as ever the skies are a rainbow of colours from greys, to blues to stunning sunsets and of course actual rainbows too.

September, or the start of autumn always feels like the time to make a change for me, much more so than January and an actual new year. It’s obviously the back to school feeling leftover from my own school days with new pencil cases, slightly too large and stiff from being brand new school uniform, new classrooms, timetables and new teachers. Brand new exercise books filled with blank pages and the feeling of all that new learning ahead. Five times in my childhood / teens September would have meant a whole new school or college. A quick count up finds at least three new jobs started in September in my adult life. We got married in September so a whole new name, became parents for the first time in September. Obviously we didn’t do school but Davies and Scarlett attended scouts, guides, St Johns Ambulance, RSPB wildlife explorers, swimming lessons, Forest School sessions all of which ran termly and re-started after a summer off with a timetable of four or five evenings a week hitting the rush hour traffic to get them there and ensuring they had the relevant uniform and termly subs.

Meanwhile nature sounds, looks and smells different. I think the change from summer to autumn is definitely one of the more dramatic seasonal changes – leaves changing colour and dropping, altering from shiny and soft, to crunchy and crispy underfoot before becoming soggy to walk through. The air becomes cooler and the smell of bonfires or people lighting their fires fills the air. Morning dew, maybe even the first frosts sparkle on the spiders webs that are suddenly everywhere. Nights draw in and we dig out a warmer pair of socks or cosier jumper. Even when we lived in a town I noticed wildlife changing at this time of year – birdsong is different – no longer the mating or rearing young type calls. The cast of your garden birds may change as migrations to and forth begin. Spiders start coming in, drunken drowsy wasps buzz around. Here on Rum we notice our own livestock altering – the pigs begin to thicken their fur in advance of the winter, the geese are no longer so feisty, the cockerels happily stand side by side rather than preparing to duel. The hills have gone from green to purple.

In previous years autumn here heralded the start of preparing for another harsh winter. Of starting the winter stockpile of tins and dried food, of long life milk in case of cancelled ferries. Of ensuring the firewood stash would see us through. Aside from these practical tasks also came the need for the mental preparation of another winter here. That got both easier in some ways and harder in others as we learnt exactly what to expect of the months ahead. None of us really struggle with the darker days and lack of sunlight. All of us struggled with days of endless rain, nights of howling winds shaking the caravan, condensation and damp. We’ve come a very long way from our first winter where we were still carrying water across from the often raging burn, lighting our long evenings with candles, collecting firewood daily as we’d not had time to prepare in advance. We’ve put measures in place to help with the more testing aspects of life here over winter which have included both the practical and also the soul feeding self care things like regular events to look forward to, at least one trip off over winter to top up on the comforts of warm, comfortable accommodation and access to mainland treats.

This year though autumn marks the start of our next adventure – leaving Rum. Certainly for now, possibly for the longer term. Autumn is the start of Davies’ next chapter in life of beginning an Open University course. It’s the start of a new location for all of us, building a whole new set of memories, a whole new list of skills and experiences and a brand new blank page. We’ll likely need different uniforms and tools just like starting a new school or job, we’ll meet new people and learn new ways, our status will change once more.

This is massively daunting and thrilling in equal measures, just like it was starting a new school, new job, new marriage, new life every other time we’ve done it. I clearly remember that wobble of wanting to run back to my old classroom with the teacher I knew, not wanting to be the littlest kids at senior school after having been the biggest kids at primary school. Remembering the ease of knowing everything about my old job – where the staff room was, the best place to park, which tasks were boring and which were fun instead of being the new girl who didn’t know anyone’s names yet and felt awkward and uncomfortable. That last second feeling of finality in saying ‘I do’ and signing my new name rather than my old one. The realisation with the first contraction of childbirth that life would never, ever, ever be the same again. Big steps and big changes are always scary, the people staying on the ground watching the roller coaster climb up and up towards the inevitable plunge back down always look briefly like the sensible ones when you are in the carriage heading towards the sky while your tummy is turning somersaults and your hands are gripping the bar in front of you. But the big moments – the photographic evidence, the life affirming stuff, the moments you know you are alive are the ones where you are pronounced husband and wife, where you hold your tiny born and look into their eyes while they grasp your finger tight. The day you realise you know which floor the English class is on, a newer colleague than you starts work and you are the one showing them around. The grainy digital picture of you screaming with equal measures of joy and sheer excitement as the roller coaster swings you round and you feel sorry for those people back on the ground who haven’t felt what you have.

More than all this though, we have reached a point where our current life feels like the safe option. It will take more courage to step on the ferry and leave this behind than to stay here and carry on with it. This life, on a remote island, miles from family and friends, living with no mains power, where our existence relies on wheelbarrows and clambering up muddy hills, where every forecast gale has us climbing up ladders to tie up wind turbines and wondering if this will be the one that destroys the caravan. A life so unusual that is is worthy of TV shows, this blog, articles in magazines and visitors every year taking photographs. If this life has become the safe option then we know our perspective is skewed. We know we need to remind ourselves of what else is out there – both the good and bad, the rough and the smooth. Staying in the same place should only feel right if it continues to offer enough highs to balance to lows and enough thrills to remind you you’re alive.