What Happens Next?

We’ve been hinting and alluding to next steps in the planning and while we are still waiting for all the details to fall into place we have enough of a vision of what we’d like our lives to look like that we can share that vision. As has happened before with sharing ideas and plans on the blog we often get some great feedback – questions are brilliant as in answering your questions we often need to think about details that we may have missed or iron out any flaws in our plans. Ideas or suggestions are also really good – the hive mind or the ‘more the merrier’ definitely comes into play. Finally though the more we talk about ideas they more they manifest themselves, take shape and become closer to a reality.

Eight years ago we were on the cusp of a huge adventure. We were working out our notice periods in our jobs, finalising our WWOOF host arrangements, doing the final clear out / pack up of our house and preparing ourselves as best we possibly could for the absolute unknown. Willow the camper van was already sitting on our driveway and we would often go and sit in the van and try to picture what lay ahead. Our lives were filled with lists, timescales, maps, plans and a long, long checklist of hopes and dreams.

Seven years ago our application for a croft on the Isle of Rum – a place we had only visited once, for barely two hours – was in the hands of the island community trust, in response to crofts they had created and advertised to let. Within the coming weeks we would visit again for an interview, be offered the croft and set about a whole new set of lists, packing up, getting ready and a whole new list of hopes and dreams.

One year ago we were sitting in a rented house in Ireland having left the island for the winter to decide what we should do next and get some perspective away from Rum and our challenging lives here on the croft. We collectively decided to return, to make changes to our lives here to fix the issues we had with the things that we did have control over and to accept with good grace the things we could not. More lists, more plans…

Whilst it would be completely fair to say that we have made some unconventional and unusual choices it would also be accurate to say that all of them have been considered, planned, well-thought out and the result of plenty of research, discussion, taking the individual and collective needs of the members of our family into account and with careful re-evaluation along the way. The detail, reflection and talking that makes it onto this blog is merely the tip of a very large iceberg! Whilst it would be true to say that our little family unit is definitely up for adventure, challenges and grasping at the opportunities life offers us we are also not heading off blindly into the unknown.*

*largely thanks to Ady if I am being honest, I am definitely of the more reckless personality type!

So with that considered approach to our lives here on Rum we have collectively concluded the following:

Our current lives here no longer meet all of our needs; social, educational, financial, health & welfare are all lacking:

  • Social – Davies and Scarlett are the only teens / young adults on the island. There is no social scene catering to their needs. Whilst Ady and I have some very good friends here there is also a side to our social needs which is lacking too.
  • Educational – Davies is able to pursue his formal education with the Open University which is an excellent fit for him and his study needs and style. However, there are other educational opportunities such as relevant work experience, training or workshop type learning experiences which all four of us would like to access which our location here on Rum prevents from being viable.
  • Financial – As we move from being a family of two adults and two children to a family of four adults our financial situation alters both in terms of income (eg. child-related tax credits and outgoings (eg adult rates for travel, accommodation, more spends on food, clothes etc.). There has been a loss of a couple of small but not insignificant earning opportunities on the island over recent years with the closure of a hostel and a drop in visitor numbers, Ady’s knee injury prevents him from some of the more physical work he has previously done to bring in money and the shed, while continuing to do well, particularly with additional online sales does not bring in sufficient income to sustain us. Added to this the need to travel further afield to meet those social, cultural and educational needs brings an additional cost implication in travel, accommodation and so on which our already stretched budget cannot cope with.
  • Health & Welfare – Whether it is age and the physicality of our lifestyle beginning to take it’s toll, the living conditions of a damp caravan or a continued erosion in the services we receive in terms of healthcare, access to sufficient winter sunlight or a decent supply of fresh fruit and vegetables we have to concede that this life poses challenges to our health, some of which we struggle to mitigate.

There are many aspects of life here which we cherish and wish to retain:

  • Love for Rum – This island, this croft has been our home for a large chunk of our lives and will forever hold a big place our hearts. While it is currently not providing everything we all four need we also feel very attached and do not want to lose that connection.
  • We can still see potential – It would be very easy to conclude that this is not completely working and so we should do something completely different. Having spent time away over last winter and viewed our lives here with a different perspective since returning in the spring we can still pick out the aspects that really do work and the ones which could potentially work with some tweaking.
  • For now, (but) not (necessarily) forever – As said before there are four of us and at times our individual needs can be really quite diverse. Just because on balance this is not working for us right now it does not mean it may not work for some of us at a future point, in fact it may continue to work for some of us right now if we can find the compromise for those it is not working for.
  • The elements of this way of life which do work for us – when we came we said we were looking for somewhere to live which was beautiful, which had a sense of community and which allowed us freedom to do a land based project of growing crops and rearing animals. Nearly seven years in we are forced to accept that not all of those criteria are met here just now. Yet Rum continues to be beautiful, we do have land which while not as suited to our hopes and dreams as we’d have liked nonetheless with our time and energy spent so far has improved and does sustain some crops and some animals.

What we are missing and want from the next stage in our lives:

  • A more suitable living space – We still believe in our original idea of a modest home with as small an environmental footprint as possible and as low running costs as we can manage. However a growing family means a need for more space, more privacy and more protection from the elements. Walls that don’t wobble, ceilings that don’t drip and space for us each to follow our interests without needing a rota for who has use of the table for art / crafts / studying /gaming would be desirable.
  • Access to those cultural, social, educational and medical opportunities – A dentist or physiotherapy appointment that does not require two nights away from home, a cervical smear test that does not end up two years overdue before the doctor only does house calls now there is no surgery space on the island and you don’t live in a house (!), a cinema, theatre or music event you can travel to and maybe need to stay overnight but not require several nights and hundreds of miles travelling, a celebratory meal out,  a ‘run out of cat food pop to the shops’. This is island living and it’s been a compromise we have been happy to make with our eyes wide open fully aware of the flip side of the massive benefits to island living. But at our current collective stage of life the down sides are weighing heavier than the up sides.
  • To use all those skills we have learnt, to make the most of the last seven years and to move on to the next stage – we want to do the things we are good at, that we love doing and we want to start earning money from them and doing what we believe in. Whilst working a few shifts cleaning hostel rooms / doing the admin in the school / working at the post office / picking winkles have been great ways to make ends meet they were never on that list of hopes and dreams. Planting seeds and tending crops, breeding and rearing animals, butchery, baking, crafting, photography, talks and tours, teaching and hosting volunteers were all on that list and to a degree we have managed all of those things but not to the level we had hoped or dreamed.

Looking at all of these factors has led us to a new vision for the next few years. One where we have that living space that suits our changing needs, one where we manage to access all of the things we are craving hopefully without losing all the things we love. So we are looking for a house to rent on the mainland, close to Rum. Our idea is to be based on the mainland offering Davies and Scarlett all of the opportunities that mainland life provides – driving lessons, cinema trips, part time work, a social life, offering Ady and I some respite from the more challenging aspects of life here and some of those same social and educational opportunities too. But we’ll continue to spend a large amount of time here on Rum on the croft, still growing crops, rearing animals, crafting and producing. We’ll be able to take our crafts and produce to the mainland too though – to market days and craft fayres, to local shops and tourist hot spots, to accommodation providers. We’ll find the capacity to offer volunteering opportunities or workshops here on the Croft when we can bring supplies with us from the mainland. We can look for part time work to help sustain us while we get our existing Croft 3 brand expanded to include this bigger potential market.

In short we can bring some of our Rum life with us to the mainland and bring some of that mainland ease and convenience with us back to Rum.

As you can tell it is still at the plans, hopes and dreams stage of a vision. There will be details to iron out, not least the actual finding of somewhere to rent, an issue which has been proving rather trickier than we had first hoped when we began looking a few months ago. But as with all of our previous ambitious and at first glance perhaps unachievable goals we are confident that if you start with the vision, begin making lists and carry on talking and being open to ideas and opportunities there is every chance that this will be forming the start of a blog post of the future talking about a plan we shared way back in early 2019.

45

I’m almost at the end of my year with the self indulgent posts (teens birthdays, end of the actual year, my own birthday) and I do have plenty of mentally half composed posts about crofting stuff and what we’re planning next but first please bear with me while I get my own personal annual All About Me post out of the way.

January 6th is my birthday. This year, 2019, I turned 45. Not a particularly landmark birthday but certainly putting me firmly into my mid 40s. I place I am perfectly happy to be.

I unashamedly love birthdays. I love a day all about me, particularly one so close to Christmas. Birthdays are very indulgent for our little family with the birthday person getting to choose all food and activities for the day.

As I mentioned over Christmas I am very keen to not acquire more ‘stuff’ so when it comes to finding gifts for me I know I can be quite tricky. Years of careful coaching (and often, as this year actually sourcing exactly what I want and directing  Ady towards it) mean my usual mantra of something I can eat, drink or use up, or something that is actually regularly useful or beautiful enough to justify itself were all adhered to. I was given gin and chocolate and a gorgeous pendant that I had commissioned myself from a local Hebridean crafter. I first came across Fiona aka The Silver Grasshopper when I admired the silver pendant an Eigg friend and went to check out her website.

I am not a huge jewellery wearer, I have several small earrings which I never change or remove, my wedding ring, eternity ring and a gold ring of my late grandmother’s which my parents gave me when I got married (my wedding ring was hers) and I wear a piece of amber with a trapped cadisfly inside it around my neck. But something about Fiona’s island charms really appealed to me and the idea of having a tiny Rum charm to wear no matter where I may roam to symbolise the importance of this island to me has been something I’ve coveted ever since.  And now I have one!

It is perfect. I love everything about it – the supporting a fellow crafter and small business owner, particularly someone local (Fiona is on the Isle of Raasay), the fact it is a one-off made just for me, by hand. Even if someone else has a Rum charm made it won’t be identical to mine as they are all created by hand, but as yet mine is the first and only one in existence.

As usual Davies and Scarlett created amazing cards. Scarlett’s was inspired by one of my favourite photos from a few years ago…

Davies’ was capturing all sorts of tiny details about me, my life and the things I love

We were fortunate to have a dry, mild day so in honour of my birthday everyone came up my hill with me. Scarlett sneaked a flask of tea into her bag too which she presented me with at the top.

We never quite seem to manage to organise a birthday cake – often this is because there is still Christmas cake needing to be eaten and I am not a big cake-eater anyway. This year the reason was a complete lack of eggs on the island so we tried to make jellies in our number moulds for a 4 and a 5 but failed to de-mould them very well so I had a bowl of brandy snaps and some birthday sparklers – perfect!

A friend came up to bring a present and stay for a cup of tea and chats, another friend dropped by while we were out with a gift and I had plenty of messages and phonecalls from family and friends too. It was a lovely day.

Out with the old… and in with the new

2018 left as all years do, a mix of the mundane and the remarkable.

Our nasty colds have lingered and given a soundtrack of coughing and blowing noses to the festive season but I think we are all now over the worst of that. The weather has continued to be kind and we’ve had a few amazing starry nights where we’ve stood out in the darkness looking up in wonder.

Most of the festive food has now been eaten, plenty of festive drink remains, as do festive chocolates but we are happy to find room to store those and enjoy them over the coming weeks. We took our decorations down a few days after Christmas. Slightly early according to tradition but in such a small living space with such extreme temperature fluctuations the tree was becoming both a nuisance and starting to look past it’s best anyway. I always like the brief feeling of the caravan being spacious! We were also aware that rather than let the tree get sadder and limper in the caravan once we put it outside on the croft it would be very gratefully enjoyed by the sheep for a few days. Sure enough they were investigating it within minutes of me putting it outside and a few days later it is stripped bare of bark and needles.

The last day of 2018 was wet though, right through til the evening and Ady seemed to spend a large amount of the day outside doing various things like getting supplies from the village freezer or shop, checking for post deliveries (both Davies and Scarlett were still waiting on one final Christmas gift each, both have now arrived and been very gratefully received). On one such jaunt he left the caravan only to return a few minutes later carrying a buzzard.

Yes, a buzzard!

Very sadly it had killed and was eating one of our chickens. It appeared to have been quite the tussle with feathers everywhere and the chicken clearly not going without a fight. The buzzard was quite thin and had gotten waterlogged during the tussle and so when Ady disturbed it eating the chicken it was unable to take flight and he was able to fairly easily grab it. He bought it up to the caravan where Scarlett covered it’s head with a tea towel to calm it down and then he took it to the resident bird expert on island who kept it calm and quiet overnight to dry out, fed it some venison and released it the next morning whereupon it flew off seemingly none the worse the wear for it’s adventures and manhandling. Hopefully not to return too soon to Croft 3, at least not for any more chicken buffets! A slightly sad tale but an exciting one and Ady also plucked and stripped the breast meat from the chicken which I added to the meat I was cooking the following day for our New Years Day dinner.

The actual turning of the year from 2018 to 2019 was spent just the four of us having enjoyed a nice dinner, chatted with friends online and by phone watching the rest of the UK celebrate.

We stepped outside on to the sporran at midnight to toast the new year under the stars. It was very cold so we didn’t linger but lovely to be together seeing in this new year and wondering what it has in store for us.

We were all up quite late.

On New Years Day I popped into the village to collect the post from the day before and this years calendar had arrived, very conveniently. I make the new calendar each year in late December using photos from the corresponding month of the year just passed – so in 2019 all the January photos are from January 2018 and so on. It means we are always looking at a large page with photos to remind us what we were doing this time last year and dates to remind us what we have planned for this year. The putting the calendar together each year is a nice activity to remind me of all the things we have done each year and we all look forward to it arriving and then turning over on the first day of a new month to see what we were doing last year.

For some reason – maybe the fact I had finished this year’s quite late at night, having ordered a slightly different one for my parents as a Christmas gift including photos of us with them and so was tired by the time I finished our one I have managed to create a calendar with 2019 on the front but the actual dates for each month being 2018. So all of the days of the week are wrong and events like birthdays, Easter and bank holidays which I fill in with little extra pictures are all wrong too. I was initially upset about this and considered getting in touch with the company I ordered it from. Although it is my mistake to have selected 2018 from the drop down box I do think that when the front cover selected is 2019 and it is almost at the very end of 2018 given how many pop up alerts about the photo quality I got a pop up alert to check I definitely had the right year selected would have been really helpful and prevented the error.

I then decided that actually a few minutes sat with some white paint to mark out all the dates and then rewriting them by hand, along with drawing a little arrow to show the pictures for special dates should be on the next day would still give us a perfectly usable calendar. Plus the rest of the family are so delighted at the teasing me opportunity the mistake has given them the ‘hand corrected’ calendar complete with ‘oops!’ next to where I’ve changed the date from January 2018 to January 2019 is now hanging in pride of place and is making me smile every time I catch sight of it. Imperfect, with a story to tell and visible mistakes that have been put right is definitely the sort of characteristics I admire and celebrate in things and in people!

 

It’s our Bad, Good, Learnt in 2018 round up

Our round up of 2018 and our hopes for 2019. We are overdue an update post on what our next steps plans are and there are hints of of that from all of us in this post. I will get a proper ‘what’s happening next’ post up in the next few days but for now here is us drawing a line under the year gone by and looking ahead to the year to come.

Davies:

Bad in 2018:

  1. The house in Ireland. It was two months – a sixth of the year – spent living somewhere that didn’t fulfil my needs. We had gone hoping for respite from the tougher aspects of life here on Rum but ended up somewhere which was worse! I was colder than in the caravan on Rum and there was even more limited internet access.
  2. Not achieving all of the things I’d hoped to in 2018. I have come to realise that I am not always as motivated as I thought I was. This is something I have learnt about myself. It is not a bad thing to have learned that but it is on my bad list that I feel I have wasted time.
  3. The Megabus experience! Although it is a fun story in the re-telling the actual day spent travelling on the bus was no fun at all.
  4. Continuing from what I said last year about having missed out on a chunk of growing up experiences, when I listen to parents and friends talking about their lives at my age I am aware of the limitations that my lifestyle and location put on me.
  5. Tutor phone calls! During the access course with the OU I had regular scheduled phone calls with my tutor. I found them awkward and dreaded them. Talking about myself, to a stranger, on the phone were really difficult things to do.

Good in 2018:

  1. The London trip to see Hamilton. It was really good, cool, fun and awesome to see a London show and to see it with a friend made it even better.
  2. Finishing my OU access course and getting a good pass. I have started studying for a degree and been doing really well. My first marked assignment got a very high grade and my second got an even higher one.
  3. We’ve probably spent a cumulative total of about a third of 2018 off of Rum on various trips. That has been a good part part of this year.
  4. I’ve made new online friends again this year and spent time talking to and hanging out with them online.

Learned in 2018:

  1. As mentioned in my bad list I have learned about myself that my motivation is not as prominent as I would have liked to have thought it was. I started the year with a long list of things I wanted to achieve and the only barrier to making them happen was myself.
  2. Although I am lacking in motivation I have learned that when I do apply myself to something I am more than capable and actually can do very well.
  3. The course content of my OU studies is Social Sciences and I have learned a lot from the course materials and being able to  take the theories and apply them to real life.
  4. I continue to improve my art skills, I would like to improve further but I can see from my instagram posts on my drawings how I have gotten better in 2018.
  5. I’ve done a lot of gaming this past year and feel that I am good at them and the skills involved such as reflexes, reasoning and my determination to improve are all things I have learned.

Hopes for 2019:

  1. Complete this years study and commence the next (academic) years.
  2. Continue improving my art skills. I’d like to combine my art and film making skills to create some videos for my youtube channel.
  3. As last year – to learn keyboard / read music
  4. To get my driving licence.
  5. I would like to find a way to start earning some money. I would particularly like to earn it by doing something I like.

Special bonus wish for 2019 – to travel to a different country, specifically one which I have an online friend in.

Scarlett:

Bad in 2018:

  1. The house in Ireland was not what I hoped it would be. I was looking forward to getting to know and exploring a new area but we were completely in the middle of nowhere so there was no opportunity to get to know a new place or meet new people.
  2. I had hoped to do more with my baking / cake decorating. But everywhere we stayed (whether in Ireland at the start of the year or the various holiday cottages we stayed in last year) or here on Rum I never had the opportunity with the right kitchen / cooker / space.
  3. I’ve gotten behind in watching lots of the cartoons / anime stuff I like to watch just because I always think that 20-30 minutes is too long to start watching something even though actually I often end up watching youtube clips for longer than that.
  4. As much as we have done lots of off island stuff in 2018 living on Rum has still meant that there are some events we are not able to get to. You can’t be spur of the moment about arrangements, you have to plan things long in advance
  5. The Sheerwater boat trips were disappointing again this year – the weather was fine but for a second year running we saw hardly any marine life.

Good in 2018:

  1. Hamilton. I’ve loved the show online and the soundtrack for such a long time and got into it by chance and introduced it to Davies and my friend E. To actually go and see the show in London and to see it with my friend E and Mummy, Daddy and Davies was amazing.
  2. I really enjoyed how much time I spent with my friend E. We’ve been best friends for a few years but in 2017 we saw each other maybe twice, in 2018 we saw each other so many times and spending real life time together has been so amazing.
  3. We saw a shark! It was only a fin and a head but it was worth the rocky boat trip and the trips where we saw nothing to have been able to say we saw a basking shark. We also saw a polar bear cub. It was at the zoo rather than in the wild like the shark sighting but it was really good to know that there is still wildlife in the wild or conservation projects happening which mean we can have such experiences.
  4. THE NON STICK COPPER STONE FRYING PAN!!!
  5. I went ice skating! I have done it before when I was really little but had been really keen to do it again. Being off Rum and staying with friends in a more accessible to general facilities meant we were able to decide to go ice skating (or the cinema) in the morning and just go rather than it being a big epic trip.
  6. The trip to the adventure park with the high ropes and the jumping off the sky dive platform. It was something I’d never done before and it was really fun.

Learnt in 2018:

  1. I learned how much of a problem marine plastic is. I had thought it would not be such a problem somewhere like Rum where there are so few people and we are all environmentally conscious. But having spent hours each day collecting plastic off the beaches here I realise that even though we might not create the problem here on Rum it comes here anyway.
  2. My reading and writing has really improved this year along with my understanding of how complicated the English language is and how we have collected words from other languages too.
  3. I have known about nail art as a thing for a while but after Mummy got a UV nail lamp I got really interested in it as an art with the colour and details and embellishments like glitter. I don’t want my own nails done but I like the artistic and fiddly skills, a bit like cake decorating in doing nail art.
  4. I have been really interested this year in realising how far technology is progressing in things like artificial intelligence (eg google, amazon alexa, siri and so on).
  5. From the wildfire on Rum back in April, I learnt how fragile and risky our lives are. The fire was spreading really quickly and rather than having a fire engine arrive to put it out we were planning to evacuate and let our animals go instead because we live too far from everything to just fight the fire.

Hopes for 2019:

  1. To spend as much time with my friend E as possible.
  2. To do a course or workshop to improve my skills and learn more about nail art.
  3. To travel somewhere outside the UK and see wildlife in the wild that I can’t see here.
  4. Carrying over my wish from 2018 to do more horse-riding and improve on that.
  5. Further improve my art and drawing skills.
  6. Learn all of the lyrics to Despacito (the original).
  7. To see more live shows like Hamilton.

Special bonus: learn to do dance routines. I’ve watched lots of videos of dancers and it looks like a really cool thing to be able to do.

Ady

Bad in 2018:

  1. This year a situation occurred that bought home to us how if you want to be part of the progressive and developing community on Rum you need to buy your way in to it. We are too far out of the main settlement on the island  so to be included in investment into infrastructure we would need to finance that ourselves. There is an upgrade on the island internet which our household has not been included in as it is not financially viable.
  2. Our time off last winter was really good but it felt as though there were consequences in having been off for so long. Returning to find rats had been in the caravan showed us that if we leave the island there will be a price to pay when we return.
  3. There is a real feeling of divide on the island this year, particularly towards the end of the year. The on island politics have been at a peak and it feels as though there are two distinct camps.
  4. Our living conditions here in the caravan continue to deteriorate.
  5. It is not possible to drive home to the caravan – whether with a load of food shopping, a heavy gas bottle or just after a night out in the pouring rain and that makes for a hard life which gets me down.
  6. Health and the limitations that my age and general health levels create for living this lifestyle.
  7. I am aware that this life no longer works for all four of us, specifically Davies and as a parent that makes me feel bad.

Good in 2018:

  1. There have been contractors on the island in 2018 working on building a shore base and the ground works for housing for the fish farm. They have been really sympathetic to our lifestyle and have gifted us off-cuts of wood and scrap building materials, delivering them as close to the Croft as they can get. Some of it has already been put to use for improving our path which is brilliant, but even knowing that someone is up for helping us out has been really heartening.
  2. The flip side of the challenging issue this year with the wider community has been that as a foursome we are closer than ever as a family and really know we can count on each other.
  3. In 2018 we had two holiday cottage breaks and Nic’s parents gifted us a car. That has opened up a whole new world of opportunity to have time with family and friends, to take the cat and dog with us and be able to host, to cook and make a (temporary) home.
  4. The new solar panel has been fantastic. It has meant that we have had so much more power than ever before for a relatively small financial outlay.
  5. The path. We have had a very kind end to the year weather-wise but to still be able to walk around the croft in shoes rather than knee deep mud has been wonderful.
  6. Croft 2 has now been re-let and while we don’t yet have permanent neighbours there is hope on the horizon that we will no longer be the lone outreach of life outside the main village on the island.
  7. The fruition of the work we have done on the Croft over the last 6 years. People comment on and we can see the difference in our land having improved drainage, planted trees and created infrastructure.
  8. The welcome when we came back after the winter – a friend picked us up from the boat and bought us and out stuff home, we were given bed in the bunkhouse for the first couple of nights while we got everything straight in the caravan.

Learned in 2018:

  1. About land management – cutting the grass and digging drainage ditches makes such a difference.
  2. About the right sort of livestock here for Rum and our land – not pigs, the sheep have worked, that we need to look at specific breeds of poultry to work best here on the island.
  3. That we don’t need to come off for such a long period. This winter has been kind so far and the implications of being off for so long are bigger than the benefits.
  4. That this life is no longer enough for Davies and Scarlett. It is definitely time to give them the opportunities to spread their wings.
  5. How important it is to go off.
  6. That we no longer have a full time future here on the island.

Hopes for 2019:

  1. To have the best of Rum on a part time basis with a part time business on the mainland while Rum remains our base.
  2. To improve the caravan by cladding it to help preserve it from the weather and improve the aesthetic of it.
  3. To be able to be hosts again. We have had lots of visitors while we’ve lived on Rum but not in the way we used to and would love to again, having people, to stay, to come for dinner or to entertain without it being so difficult.
  4. To create a viable business that if not already earning enough for us to live on has the potential to do so.
  5. Seeing Hamilton in London in 2018 was amazing. I’d like to have more experiences like that.

Special bonus wish: to have some rheas.

Nic

Bad in 2018:

  1. Having returned to Rum in the spring ready to give the island, the croft and our life here another really good try it was incredibly disheartening to learn just a few months after we came back that a so called island-wide internet upgrade had been planned without including us here on the Croft. Not only had we not been included in the finances to make it happen we had also not been included in the conversations about it happening. Whilst the finer details of the whole situation are still being discussed the overwhelming message to us was that we were not part of the future or the vision for the island community and that instead of being valued we needed to fight our corner and defend ourselves. Whilst I can make any number of justifications and explanations for the decisions that have been made the realisation that some of our closest friends here on the island had been involved in decisions which excluded us and then rather than apologising for, explaining or attempting to put right those decisions a period of ignoring us, making aggressively defensive justifications for their actions, false promises or simply a wall of silence will be forever something that makes me sad. There was a time frame where just talking to us, just saying sorry or just treating us like the fellow islanders, residents of over 6 years and friends we are could have put that situation right. That time has now passed. People I know I did my best by over the years we have lived here did not do their best by me or us.
  2. Our return to Rum back in March was both a high and a low point. But there were certainly moments during the first week or so we came back that it all felt very hopeless and futile. Cleaning four months worth of mold from walls and ceilings, dealing with the aftermath of a rat invasion while the water had frozen definitely falls into the lows category.
  3. Ady’s knee injury has been a low. It has perhaps not prevented him as much as it should have done from working on the croft and making life here run smoothly but seeing the man I love suffering pain and not get the proper medical diagnosis, support and treatment has been hard. It is also a timely reminder of the harsh reality of life here in terms of medical provision, remoteness and the physicality of our lives.
  4. Whilst I think we have struck a pretty good balance of time spent off Rum celebrating significant birthdays, spending time with family and friends and having special experiences I can see that life here is starting to mean compromises that hit hard – from it being near impossible to get Davies through a driving test, to finding education and work experience opportunities for Davies and Scarlett, to simply arranging simple medical appointments even the fairly mundane and routine things are tricky, let alone finding the way to see the latest cinema release without several nights accommodation, ferry trips and a several hundred mile round trip to the nearest cinema.
  5. Finances have been super tight this year. Due to a combination of reasons not least Ady’s inability to do some of the off-Croft work he usually manages, more trips off that usual and children becoming adults altering our family finance status. I have had some big sales for my various crafts and produce which has helped but it has felt like quite a juggling act to make ends meet in what is far from a luxurious lifestyle.

Good in 2018:

  1. Going off. As much as the Ireland adventure at the start of the year was not everything we had hoped it might be it was still an adventure. It gave us perspective, a renewed sense of what we do love about our lives here and what we still wanted to achieve here which is why we returned. I have been grateful to be back, to see another trip around the sun here and to really appreciate all that I love about Rum once again, particularly as I suspected when we left back in November 2017 we might only be coming back to pack up our things and leave for good.
  2. New things. I always strive to learn new skills, to introduce new lines to the Croft 3 shed and to have a good do at trying new things. I’ll elaborate more in my learned section but I feel I have certainly achieved that aim in 2018.
  3. Studying and stopping studying. I had always intended to go to university after taking a gap year to do some travelling back when I was 18/19. In that year off I ended up getting together with Ady and we bought a house instead. While I have never for a single moment regretted that decision I have often wondered whether I would have actually got to university and how I would have done. In doing the OU access course last year I learnt both that I am indeed more than capable of studying for a degree which was good to know but more importantly that certainly for now I really don’t want to! I am loving looking at Davies’ course materials as he embarks on a degree and find the subject matter and the learning absolutely fascinating, but every time he is doing an assignment or writing an essay I am so grateful that I am not and don’t need to prove my learning in that way. I may yet return to formal education (never say never!) but for now it’s been really good to have that question that was always in the back of my head answered with a ‘yes you could, but actually you don’t really want to’!
  4. Spending time with family. I really miss my parents, my brother, my sister in law and my nieces and nephews. In 2018 I think I managed to see the most of them I have since we left to go WWOOFing back in 2011. Particularly spending a few birthdays or other special occasions with family has been lovely and the Remembrance Day trip to North Wales with my parents in November was filled with some very special memories that I will treasure.
  5. Our trips. Hamilton was excellent, the Giants Causeway was fab, the seaweed baths were mad but splendid, the Natural History Museum was amazing as ever, seeing the polar bear cub, going ice skating, doing the high ropes circuit at Landmark in Aviemore. I can’t pinpoint any single one of those experiences, they were all wonderful.

Learnt in 2018:

  1. I’ll start with the practical skills. I properly learned to shear the sheep by hand. Then I learned how to deal with the fleece to card it, spin it, ply it, wash it and crochet with it. The fleece I (and Ady) took off the backs of the sheep we keep is now a hat that Ady wears, a pair of bedsocks I have been wearing while suffering with a cold and part of a fantastic heirloom project huge blanket that I crocheted for my Mum which sits on my parents bed down in Sussex. That makes me pretty proud.
  2. More ukulele stuff. In 2017 I said that while still very much a beginner I felt like I had mastered the start of learning to play. In 2018 I spent many more hours, carried on learning but also wrote five songs – the tunes, the lyrics and everything. They are personal, meaningful and feel like something special I have created all by myself.
  3. More crafty stuff. Along with the fleece / wool stuff I have also taught myself a few other crafts including increasing my general crochet skills to include creating patterns, making amigurumi creatures and finally mastering crochet socks, learning about lettering and making signs and clocks on slates, working with willow and other foraged materials to make baskets, wreaths, Christmas decorations and more.
  4. I’m not entirely sure this fits in my learnt, but I’m not sure it would have fitted in good either really, but it’s noteable. I’ve been walking up one of the steep paths on Rum regularly since June. I have not done it every day; we’ve actually not been on Rum for days or even weeks at a time over the late summer, autumn and winter and if the weather has been particularly dire or I have been busy or otherwise unable then I have not been up but I managed over 80 trips up the hill during 2018. It is a decent path although it has some steep places and several burn crossings which can be a leap during or just after heavy rain. I use a pair of walking poles to ensure both minimum impact on my knees but also to improve my surefooted-ness as I am a clumsy walker with weak ankles on perfectly flat ground let alone uneven steep paths. I’ve learnt from the process of the exercise, the head space and the effects that doing that walk have had on me.
  5. In spending time off Rum at the end of 2017 and the start of 2018 I learnt about what I did and didn’t miss about life here. In returning I have learnt about what I do and don’t value about being back. That sense of perspective is what is helping to shape our plans for the next stage in our lives and it’s been such a valuable lesson to realise and be able to quantify just what we do like and at what cost it comes.

Hopes for 2019:

  1. To find the right next stage for the four of us. We have a fairly good idea now of what that might look like and have started to make steps towards making it happen. I hope that it is not too far into 2019 before we are starting to live that new life with a new business and new challenges and adventures ahead.
  2. Linked in to the hope above I also hope that winter 2019 sees the four of us in a home which we feel less vulnerable in. One that better meets our needs and enables us to start following our dreams and feeling back in control again.
  3. To continue to follow my creative passions of music, writing, crafting and creating. I would love to make a living from my creative outputs and to continue producing things that others enjoy and want.
  4. To support my family through the next stage of our lives – to be there cheer leading and providing whatever is the most appropriate back up to Davies and Scarlett as they continue to navigate their way through life and the start of their independent adult paths.
  5. To feel I am making a difference. Whether it is by activism, writing, encouraging others or just small actions in this uncertain world where so many injustices exist and I feel at times powerless to make change to find a way to use the tools I have to make that change in the world that I would like to see.

Special bonus wish: Some kind of natural world experience to make me gasp in wonder – a wildlife sighting, a landscape or weather phenomena or other such encounter, of the good sort!