Time marching on

It’s August. When I was a child August was the summer really, the whole of the month was school holidays. My parents were both self employed and so school holidays were often spent going to work with one or other of them – with Dad that meant riding in the back of his van (in the days before seat belts, let alone child car seats), wedged between paint pots and brushes, sat on a pile of dustsheets. The smell of turpentine or white spirit, linseed putty or a freshly prised open tin of gloss paint takes me back. With Mum that meant going to first a snack bar /cafe in early school days where my brother and I would mostly join in with the gang of local school kids in that town (not our own, but we had a crew of friends there in that way that kids fall in with each other based on being more or less the same size as each other and in the vicinity to play together!), so days at the local park or playing elaborate games in the car park behind the cafe. In later school days it was a restaurant where I might actually be helpful. We also spent time at friends’ houses or sometimes at home looked after by a ‘babysitter’. School holidays were times of adventure, of freedom and of endless days of long hot summers or so it feels looking back with those rose tinted glasses of nostalgia.

The August of my teens was of summer jobs rather than college – far better to be working for cash than grades and far better to clock off at 5pm or even 8pm but be done for the day without homework. I think that comparison of term time to holidays was what tipped me towards not carrying on with education back then. I remember distinctly a summer where I spent my lunch breaks lying in the garden strategically topping up a sun tan.

The Augusts of my young adulthood meant driving to work in daylight rather than darkness and leaving work in daylight rather than darkness. It meant evenings after work in the pub beer garden, barbecues and a different stock on the shelves of whichever retailer I happened to be working for or a different sort of staff need to recruit for when I worked in recruitment. The Augusts of early parenthood meant paddling pools, sticky children in hot cars, trips to the beach and sand everywhere, ice creams and camping, sun cream and shopping trips to Clarkes for Doodles.

Here on Rum August does not mean summer, instead it heralds the start of autumn. The nights start to draw in, slowly at the start of the month but by the end noticeably almost each day. We are still at peak visitor numbers but residents are starting to talk about ‘winter jobs’ and look weary of the feeling of being on show. Birds have fledged, wasps are drowsy and the hills are starting to turn from bright green to golden as the purple of the heather takes over and the brambles ripen, the fungus springs up and the stalking season of the red stags is here.

Today I spent the morning picking brambles, the first of the year. It was slow, they are only at the start but I checked my usual picking haunts, noted where looks promising for this year and gathered sufficient for the first four jars of bramble jam of the season. Added to the mix were dried lavender flowers from the croft harvested and dried a few weeks ago.

Very excitingly the seas around Rum have been host to a large number of basking sharks these last couple of weeks. They are regular visitors to the waters at this time of year but have been very absent these last few years and we have previously never seen one despite tales from locals of them coming close to the shore and one of the previous residents even swimming with one a few years back. Lured by tales of encounters and photos of them we went out on Monday in search of them and were rewarded by a tail and fin spotting! No photographic evidence to support it and it was a fleeting sighting but an exciting one nonetheless. Scarlett and I went out again on Friday in search of them but despite it being a nicer day to be out on a boat for a couple of hours we didn’t see any more.

Meanwhile back on the croft the last few crops are doing their thing. Our chillies have done very well this year and we are enjoying picking one or two for dinners several times a week.

My experimental sweetcorn which probably took up more room in the polytunnel than the small harvest will justify but were fun to try are getting close to ready, not quite yet though….




There are still some soft fruit to come – autumn rapsberries, loganberries and tayberries are still cropping but the rest are over for this year. We will do a hard prune later in the year. We have plans to start gathering seaweed to mulch the raised beds in the next month or so ready to leave them over winter for spring planting next year. Our salad crops came to nothing this year really – I think the extreme early heat followed by a fairly chilly July meant things bolted too early or were stunted too late. A great crop of strawberries and peas again though and the currants did really well.

We had a group of Scouts staying on the island who almost cleared us out of stocks of paracord wristbands and midges so I took delivery of more cord this week and spent a morning making up more of both to restock the shed.

When not knotting paracord I’ve been knotting wool carrying on with squares for the big blanket project too which is coming along nicely.

I’m getting short of the handspun white though. so may need to take a crochet break and do some spinning this coming week.

August is also the month of the perseid meteor showers each year here in the UK, known in our social circle as ‘percy-wotsits’. A name coined about 12 years ago on a group camping trip when we saw round the campfire star gazing together looking out for them. Over the years we have spent many August nights in the company of some or all of those friends either in real life looking up an the skies together in a field, or online sharing stories about how many we’ve spotted. Last night Ady and I spent a happy half an hour on the bench outside, whisky laced hot chocolates in hand looking up at the heavens, watching meteors shoot across the sky and reminiscing about years gone by and dreaming about years to come.

Decades from now I could well be pondering on how during this stage of my life August meant brambles and basking sharks…

Fun & Games

Every summer there is an inter-island Small Isles games between Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. We take it in turns to host – so every isle gets a go once every four years. Just as the four islands each have their own ‘personality’ and feel, so do the games depending on which island is hosting.

The largest of the Small Isles geographically is Rum – we are wider, longer, taller and wilder. We are the third in population size though. Rum is partially owned by Scottish Natural Heritage and partly by the Isle of Rum Community Trust. Our wildlife is pretty diverse but very red deer heavy, oh and midge heavy too! Eigg is the second bigger island and by far the largest population of the four islands with over 100 people. Eigg is community owned and is a really thriving and diverse mix of people, properties, businesses and endeavours. Canna is owned by National Trust for Scotland and has the smallest population of the four islands. Muck is privately owned with a similar sized population to Rum. This year the games were hosted by Muck.

Muck is the sort of tiny Scottish island you might imagine if you have been reading Katie Morag books. It is pretty, everyone has a place and a job and it all runs very efficiently. There are generations of the same families living there and people who visit the island year in year out. It has a lovely feeling and is tamed and organised. There is a healthy diversity in ages across the island with plenty of young folk from toddlers to teens. They are fit and active and certainly for as long as we’ve lived in the Small Isles they win the games every year in a whitewash of victory! This year was no exception. The games were a great mix of fun and creative but with a heavy emphasis on sporting achievement, something the rest of the isles are not quite a match for Muck on, either by lack of resident numbers, lack of sporting prowess or the lure of the beer tent! Either way we were all very happy to compete, have plenty of fun and be very gracious runners up (Eigg came second, Rum came third and Canna came fourth) and cheer on the victorious Muck once more. Before retiring to the village hall for food, drink, dancing and quite possibly the longest raffle I have ever witnessed (seriously it went on for nearly an hour!)

Very excitingly Davies and Scarlett returned to Rum on the ferry on the same day – they were happy to miss the evening in favour of a film watching marathon and their first ‘home alone’ experience. So they came back to feed animals, deal with the cat and the dog and tie up the wind turbine as the high winds which had been moving around the long term weather forecast all week had finally settled during the early hours of Sunday morning. Ady and I stayed on Muck for the evening celebrations and caught a lift with the remainder of Team Rum back on the Marine Harvest fish farm boat on Sunday morning.

It was a rough, but super speedy trip back and we were home before sleepy teens were even awake.

Thanks Muck for another memorable Small Isles games.