The whisper of winter

This time last year we’d already ‘flown’ south for the winter. My facebook memories from one year ago is showing me swallow murmurations in Somerset, a visit to Bath spa and a visit to the Glastonbury Frost Fayre.

I’ve often said that I find November one of the hardest times of year here on Rum because all of that winter is still ahead and looming, the light is already fading, the condensation and damp is making it’s presence felt in the caravan and it feels like a long time from Bonfire fireworks to Christmas lights (here on Rum, I know on the mainland both are already well on the way on the High Street by the end of August!). This year though, thanks to a chunk of the month spent off the island and a truly gorgeous week since we’ve been back of amazing sunrises and sunsets with clear blue skies between, autumn colours still very much in evidence and our paths around the croft meaning the mud has yet to be it’s annual winter downer it’s been very manageable.

Just before we had our visit off I was hanging out with our chickens in the low hanging sunshine and had the realisation that actually it’s not November I struggle with necessarily, it’s November inside. If we only get a limited number of hours of daylight each day then spending as many of them outside stretches them massively. I am sure my walks up the hill also help a lot, getting air into my lungs, space into my head and perspective into my heart.

I’m getting a perfect blend of creativity in the shape of a few crochet projects and some more arty crafty projects in the planning, some learning in the shape of a planned wind turbine upgrade and hydro power experiment along with helping Davies with his studying which is fascinating just now as he’s covering a study unit on consumer society which has all four of us joining in conversations about lifestyles and consumerism. I’m getting plenty of outside time with my walks, some firewood processing and this week we’ve been tree planting too. A lot of our next step forward planning is out of our hands which can feel disempowering and stifling but thankfully there is plenty of other planning of small trips and adventures for next year taking up the slack and meeting that need too.

With just a few days left to go I think I can say that so far this November has been far from hard.

I remember it well

We’ve been off gallivanting and adventuring. Bridging generations, making memories and revisiting old ones.

We started with a night in Fort William – our nearest town, bustling metropolis by Rum standards. Home to supermarkets, hotels, hospitals, dentists, opticians and clothes store selling every bra I think I own these days (nearly seven years of very limited bra shopping opportunities)!

This time it was the dentist for us – catch ups in the waiting room with our original dentist when we first moved up here and Scarlett’s orthodentist – I love that about living here, people don’t see you from one half a year to the next but they recognise, remember and chat with you as though they saw you only yesterday.  A new dentist for all four of us this time, so chats about her visit over a decade ago to Rum to walk the ridge, a bit about Ben Fogle and what life is like for us here and a quick scale and polish and we were on our way.

Down to Sussex. A smooth, straightforward and uneventful if incredibly long, boring and tedious drive down to my parents. We arrived late in the evening but not so late as to be hideous, settled Bonnie the dog and Kira the cat in who thankfully remembered it well from spending time there over Christmas and speedily recalled the routines for litter trays / walks / feeding / places they could curl up for naps. 

The next morning, still slightly reeling from the transition we upped it a level and caught the train to London!

It’s a journey the teens and I know well, having been regular day trippers to London back when we lived in Sussex, heading up for museum trips, lectures at the Royal Institute and meet-ups with friends. Ady also spent a lot of time driving around the capital for work and at the QVC shopping channel studio during his stint on TV. Reassuringly nothing much in London changes so the travel was straightforward. What had changed since our last trip was all four of us now being classed as adults for ticket prices, so a speedy check on tube fares, bus fares and a chat with a black cab driver had us doing the maths and concluding the taxi was the cheapest option!

What made it even cheaper was clocking where we were and spotting landmarks to enable us to walk back to places again later. Cunning travel tip and one not available from the underground!

So a cup of tea, a bag drop off and a mind blown by the technology of the vending machine issuing our room key cards later we were back out walking to the Natural History Museum for a few hours. Despite having spent days on end there in the past we all still found something new we’d not seen before, revisited old favourites, learnt new things and were able to look at the place through new and more well travelled eyes than when last we were there.


A quick flick through old photos brings up these ones from the NHM visits over the years. Lovely to have up to date versions!

We walked back to the hotel, got some food, stopped to take some pictures with the Tardis outside Earls Court tube station,

had baths and hung out in our room waiting for very special friends to arrive all the way from Northern Ireland. The first planned part of this whole trip had been a theatre visit the following day. The day I had booked it I had plotted with my friend C, mother of Scarlett’s best friend E for them to join us. Initially it was going to be a surprise for the teens with us keeping it secret for as long as possible, with the ultimate reveal being them finding themselves sat next to each other in the theatre. A planned get together a few weeks prior to the theatre had fallen through though leaving them sad and begging to know when we would next meet up so we had decided to blow the secret and give them it to look forward to as a treat instead. It was the right decision and they had both been counting down the days. Suddenly it was here!

Some drinks in the hotel bar and catching up before a late bedtime ensued.

The next morning we walked through London back to Victoria, stopping for cakes along the way.

We ate our cakes and drank takeaway tea and coffee outside the theatre

(Not all teens permitted pictures being taken!)
And then it was time. Through security, up about a million stairs and finally into the Room Where It Happened.

The show was Hamilton. Much and long beloved of Davies and Scarlett, entirely unknown in advance to Ady and I – I had asked Scarlett if I should listen to the songs beforehand and she told me I should not, both because she felt it would make seeing and hearing it for the first time at the theatre even better AND because she didn’t want me to start learning to play any of the songs on my ukulele!!

I was a fabulous show, very much enjoyed by all of us. It was my (and Davies and Scarlett’s) first London show. We’ve been to various theatre shows, concerts and stadium things but never a London stage show and it was amazing and everything we might have imagined it would be. Having since listened to the soundtrack (albeit the original American cast recording) a few times on various drives I do think Scarlett was right. As I sniffled my way up the M6 on Friday listening to a couple of very sad pieces I know that would not have moved me to tears were I not recalling the amazing staging of those scenes.

We waved our friends goodbye at Victoria station and then we had a couple of hours to hang around before our train back to Sussex. Fortunately if you are going to be hanging around anywhere for a couple of hours Victoria station is one of the best places going – we were entertained for a whole hour by following the adventures of a dropped glove on the floor. It got kicked, dragged along by people’s wheelie suitcases, it was trodden on and moved back and forth. We didn’t see who originally dropped it and I imagine they were sad to discover it missing when they realised but it certainly made our wait almost as captivating as the theatre had been. Not quite such a catchy soundtrack or strong plot though.

We were back at my parents house in time for dinner. The next day Ady and I got a broken part of one of our generators fixed, had a bit of a drive around where we used to live and had a really lovely couple of hours with my brother. Scarlett and I went to the local pet shop and I bumped into a friend by pure chance, so that was a lovely hug and catch up ten minutes with her.

The next day we were off, in convoy with my parents to North Wales. We had a cottage booked for a week in the town near to the village where my Dad grew up. That area is very special to all of us – obviously as Dad’s childhood home it is filled with all sorts of memories for him but I also have memories of visits there during my childhood, then Ady and I had holidays there during our early days together. When we lived in Manchester we visited regularly with our children when they were tiny and have since visited a couple of times while we were WWOOFing; once to meet up with Mum & Dad and once to meet up with my sister in law and the cousins.

Here are some pictures from the past…. one of them pre-dating Scarlett even being here!

The two locations are the Horseshoe Pass a location that I have heard tales of since I was ‘knee high to a grasshopper’ and passed on to my own children and the bridge at Llandegla overlooking the garden of the house which belonged to my Great Grandparents and was my Dad’s very early boyhood home before he moved from one to another house in the same village. Somewhere there are pictures of a tiny me stood by that bridge. When Ady and I were very first together and visited the village the house was up for sale so we booked a viewing and have actually walked around it. It was not the right time for us to buy it but maybe one day it will go back on the market.

The churchyard has the graves of my great Grandparents and great uncle who died fighting in the first World War and we were in Wales last week for a 100 year year anniversary of Armistice Day commemorating the men from the village who died during that war, who included my great-great uncle and those who fought and returned, including another great uncle and my grandfather. So our Saturday evening was spent in the memorial hall for a fantastic evening of songs, stories, photographs and memories, of those who fought, those who came home and those who stayed behind.

We sang, we laughed, we cried (more than once), we shared memories and stories, we ate from ration boxes and we gave thanks and remembered. It was a very, very special evening. That fifth name down is David Davies, my grandfather. Had he not returned my Dad, and therefore me and therefore Davies and Scarlett would not be here living our lives. Davies and Scarlett did a lot of Remembrance Day parades when they were younger and we lived in Sussex. We talked about what it all meant and the sombre marches through the streets of Worthing left their mark in their memories but I think this was by far the most powerful way any of us have remembered the fallen.

Mum, Dad, Ady and I returned the following morning for the full service and two minutes silence. We spent some time at the graveside, congratulated / thanked the organisers of the previous evening’s event and Dad spent time reacquainting himself with three old friends from the village, who he had not seen in many years.

The remainder of our week was spent in much the same way. Dad caught up with more old friends, again after a gap of some 70 years. Hearing them talk of playground adventures as the years melted away was a very special thing to witness.

I fully intend to sit with a group of my friends in my 80s gossiping about the good old days and toasting my memories with a glass or two! Hopefully just like Dad did as my grandchildren look on….

We were close enough for very special honorary family members of Ady, Davies, Scarlett and I to come and visit too which was perfect. Thank you Lynda and Stuart, we’ll see you again very soon!

The rest of the time was spent returning to old haunts, reliving old memories and making new ones. The best of times.

A wonderful week in Wales.

Friday was spent on the long drive back north again. Although I love returning south because it means family and friends, bright lights and big cities I think I love driving north even more as the roads get quieter, the skies get bigger, the air gets cleaner. We had a last night of mainland TV, eschewing the fast food in favour of sandwiches, a final supermarket trolley dash for fruit and veg and crisps before heading to the Saturday morning ferry.

Ady and I spent the ferry trip standing outside in the glorious November sunshine as the mainland grew smaller and Rum loomed larger. By pure coincidence it was a year to the day that we had left Rum and arrived in Fort William last winter to having driven back up and arrived in Fort William this year.

As always there was vehicle hokey-cokey with unloading one car into another, driving part-way home to the croft followed by countless wheelbarrow runs to get us, the cat and dog and our stuff plus the shopping we’d bought home back up to the croft but it was all conducted in sunshine.

Own bed, own view, own mug…. for now, for at least as the sun shines it is certainly good to be home.