I’m 46 you know

It’s all relative obviously, but that is starting to sound almost like I should be a grown up…..

It was my birthday on January 6th. I am the last of the four of us to celebrate a birthday here in our new mainland life.

As usual, in a tradition which now spans close to 40 years the day before my birthday I jumped three times. Depending on where I happen to be I conduct those three jumps in various ways. This year I was at the jetty for a group swim with local friends. I decided to go with three jumps off the jetty and into the loch. As there were three of them I went for one in my wetsuit, one in my swimsuit and one…. not as my swimming friends suspected in my ahem, birthday suit, but accompanied by Scarlett, who is always my favoured partner for all the maddest pursuits.

Later in the day I showed Davies, Scarlett and Megan how to use fabric to wrap gifts. I’d been on a workshop for it and wrapped all the Christmas gifts that way and promised to teach them all how to do it. There was a need for birthday gift wrapping so the skill was shared.

In what was probably quite predictable it was a small step from wrapping books and boxes to wrapping bottles to wrapping Davies! I guess if you use reclaimed bedlinen as your wrapping material then it is not a surprise when they take the size of the material as a personal challenge to find a suitably large thing to wrap!

My actual birthday was perfect. I got to eat. drink and do all the things I most wanted to.

I had a swim, in a rather choppy loch which swirled around me and offered me seaweed as a gift. A couple of years ago Ady and I went to saltwater seaweed baths in Ireland. Yes, that was a warmer experience and there was a very nice steam box too but saltwater seaweed bathing in a loch is freer, both physically and financially!

Back at home we had birthday pancakes followed by (beautifully fabric wrapped) gifts of nice drinks and chocolates and the most wonderful art from Davies, Scarlett and Megan. All three of them had created a picture for me and all three featured me swimming in my loch.

And all three of them made me cry <3 with the beauty of their talent and with the heartfelt lovely things they had written.

They then took charge of the obligatory birthday brownies

Later we had home made burgers for dinner and played a game of the Escape Room challenge our friend Mairi had given us for Christmas. We got out with seconds to spare!

A perfect start to being 46. Another year older, possibly another year wiser but certainly no more grown up!

Bad, Good, Learned in 2019, hopes for 2020

2019 was quite a year. We started it still on Rum with hopes to move on but no real idea quite where yet. We end the year very settled into our new lives with various work – self employed, employed and voluntary, new friends, new hobbies and interests and plenty to look forward to in 2020.

As always we have enjoyed visits from and to family and friends, getting to Manchester, Northern Ireland, Sussex, Edinburgh, Glasgow, North Berwick, Inverness, Rum (obviously!). We’ve had cinema and theatre trips.

We have continued to do crofty type things, bringing over chickens and some crops from Rum, dispatching our sheep and having a mammoth fruit picking and jam making session. We have still sold from our Rum croft shed as well as craft and produce fairs here on the mainland.

We have started new jobs, new businesses, new studying and new voluntary work – some in very exciting brand new areas, some in things we already knew about, some fulfilling long-held ambitions.

Without further ado, here are our individual round-ups of 2019 – the bad, the good and what we learned. Along with our hopes for the year ahead.

This year we are five – Davies’ partner Megan joined us for the whole of August and is here again for all of the winter celebrations – Solstice, Christmas and New Year. As a big part of our lives and a member of our family now Megan joined in with the bad, good, learned, hopes sharing session too.


  • I still miss Rum friends – although I have started making friends here I miss the connections of people who we shared our lives with on Rum.
  • In most recent visits to Rum it has been sad to see the croft falling back into nature’s grasp. I feel guilty about not doing stuff there.
  • Although I love the house we are nearly five miles away from the village so can’t just pop out. Over Christmas we have been to the local pub a couple of times for an evening meal and a New Years Day event but one of us has to drive so the option of popping in for a drink of an evening is not there.
  • We are still a long way from family. Although it is much easier to get to us than when we were on Rum it is still a very long journey from Sussex where our families are. I’ve particularly missed seeing family this Christmas.


  • I am still feeling like we’re in a honeymoon period with the house and where it is. I love still being remote and gathering firewood from the land and having privacy. But we’re in a lovely house now without the hardships of being in a caravan. Luxuries such as being able to drive right up to the door of the house, have a bath, not worry about the weather have not worn off at all.
  • I’m really excited about my new job. It is a really good fit of a part time role doing something I really want to do. I love the idea of it not interfering with our family life and other things we want to do but I am really looking forward to learning new things, being part of a team and meeting people.
  • I am really pleased that we still feel part of a community. It was something that was important to us on Rum and within a year I feel we are now part of this community here – both the smaller area within our village, where I now almost always spot someone I know to chat with and am known in the local shop, but also in our bigger nearby town where we usually bump into someone when we go in for bigger food shops, petrol or other things.
  • Christmas in the caravan on Rum was really special and I will treasure the memories of those years but this year was magical with a big tree, so many lights, a big table to have Christmas dinner and festive TV to watch.
  • We are able to be more spontaneous and act on impulse more now. Financial limits obviously apply but we have been to the theatre and recently decided to go to the cinema just the night before rather than having to plan for weeks, arrange animal sitters, book ferries and organise accommodation.


  • From working at the tearoom I learned so much. I had never previously waited tables or set up tables. I got to work with and learn from a qualified chef and understand about catering rather than home cooking.
  • It had been 15 years since I last went for a job interview. The application process and the actual interview were all new experiences for me, particularly in an area I have never worked in before.
  • I learned lots on the Marine ID workshop and surveys. I didn’t know before about the various strand lines and the seaweeds on the shores around here.

Hopes for 2020:

  • That I settle in well into my new job and it all goes well.
  • That with more money coming in we can carry on having experiences like the cinema / theatre and other trips this year.
  • I hope that now we have room again to play hosts we are able to have lots of visitors here.
  • I hope that all of the next stage of their lives plans that Davies and Scarlett have in terms of studying, business ideas and relationships continue to thrive.

Special bonus wish for 2020: To visit America again, particularly someone I’ve not been before like Universal Studios, or a return trip to New York.



  • The internet at our house is really very bad. It is often slow to the point of being unusable, particularly for things like whatsapp calls when the audio and video quality is really poor.
  • Bonnie is visibly aging – she is slowing up and is no longer up for the long walks her and I used to do together.
  • All of the good walks with easy access and decent paths require a drive. Although we have woodland around the house and the loch at the end of our lane all require walking on poor ground or along roadsides.
  • I miss having the livestock, particularly the ducks. There are lots of sheep around us here and of course we have our chickens but I miss having creatures that come to you for feed.
  • I am really noticing the effects of climate change with this very mild winter. So far this winter there has been no snow even on the mountain tops and I like the marked changes of the seasons.


  • I’ve really enjoyed seeing the wildlife here on the mainland that we don’t have on Rum. I’ve seen foxes and pine martens here at our house. I got a trail cam for Christmas and saw a pine marten on the very first night.
  • Although the internet here is poor it is still good having internet and electricity to charge devices all the time.
  • It’s been good having friends to stay and be able to host properly here.
  • The Welcome to Nightvale live show in Manchester in January. It was another really good live show and it was really good to have Daddy join us for the first time and all being together along with our friends Ali and Freya too.
  • It’s been good to spend even more time in real life with my friend Elinor – we’ve been to stay with her twice, she has been here twice and we met in Manchester too.


  • I learned about doing surveys and throwing quadrats and laying transects, as well as lots about different seaweeds from the marine ID surveys. I already knew a fair from Ranger Mike who we spent a lot of time with back in our early days on Rum but it was good to use that knowledge and expand on it.
  • From doing the craft and produce markets and fayres I have learned that people buy cupcakes more based on how they look than what flavours they are which surprised me as I would have chosen on flavour first.
  • I had a taster session of kayaking at the water festival in the summer, which was something I had not done before.
  • At our tour of the sandmines I learned lots about mining, about sand, about how much that mine had changed in it’s processes over the decades since it was first opened.
  • I learned quite a bit when giving blood from the nurses. Everyone there was very lovely and had lots of time to talk about it. I held the pouch of my own blood and was surprised at how much you can donate and how warm it felt. It was like it was still alive somehow.
  • I got my food hygiene certificate earlier this year, which meant a few hours of online learning to pass.

Hopes for 2020:

  • Carrying over last years wish to visit somewhere outside the UK and see animals in the wild we don’t have here.
  • To go to a cosplay event with friends. My friend Elinor and I almost got to one this year and I’d love to do that with Davies and Elinor this year.
  • To put together a business plan for my baking business and understand all of the stuff around like profit and loss, pricing and marketing etc.
  • To spend as much time as I can with my friend Elinor, whether online or in person, with as many visits as we can manage.
  • I’ve been missing beach cleaning here as there is not much litter on the shores of the loch. I think this is mostly because we are a long way from the open ocean rather than an indication of the marine litter issues however. I have noticed some litter along the roadsides though and would like to organise some litter picks.

Special bonus hope for 2020: To get involved in volunteering with some sort of animal charity or shelter.


  • Because I have spent every free moment in 2019 talking to Davies I have not made any new friends and have maybe lost touch with some of my older friends. Because it’s a long distance relationship it has been even harder to combine spending time with Davies and friends and I feel I sometimes don’t have people to talk to or spend time with as much as I would like.
  • Being in a long distance relationship comes with some real challenges, such as not being able to have a hug, or always be there when you need each other. I’d definitely choose this LDR over no relationship but it is tricky a lot of the time.
  • I struggle to talk to my parents and wider family about things that we don’t agree on. I choose to stay silent rather than create conflict.
  • In getting close to Davies this year I have recognised some aspects of myself which I don’t always like. I feel I am improving myself but I realised this year I still have things to work on.


  • A highlight of this year is my relationship with Davies and getting to actually meet up with him and spent real life time together. I would extend that to meeting Davies’ family and feeling like I have a new family as well as my relationship with Davies.
  • Although Davies and I were close for a few years it is only since becoming a couple that I have realised he is my best friend too. It’s great to have that sort of relationship where someone so totally gets me and is so good for me. I think so many of the positive things I have done this year have been down to having someone supporting me to be the best version of myself.
  • I did a summer job to raised funds for my two trips to the UK this year. Getting a temporary job was something I had been considering for a while but not motivated to do before. Although there were bits of the job which I didn’t always love I did get a lot out of it, from feeling like I had done something productive and helping myself, as well as raising the money.
  • A huge highlight of this year has been in taking control. I always felt as though I was headed in an inevitable direction in terms of not looking after myself physically or mentally as well as I could. This year I have really changed that and almost reinvented myself. I have started to exercise and change my eating habits and to take better care of myself in personal hygiene. I have also altered my attitude towards things – I used to think ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I am afraid to do that’. Now I tell myself ‘I’ll still be afraid anyway so I might as well go ahead and do the scary thing too.’ I’m proud of what I’ve achieved this year.
  • This year I re-evaluated some of the people in my life and realised that I had some relationships which were more bad than good and quite toxic at times. I found the courage to cut those people out and while it was not always easy and there were parts of our relationships which I missed I know that it has been better for me to not have them around and influencing me.


  • I learned a lot about how much power I have over my own self control this year. I used to see people who I identified as like me and think that if they could not do something then I could not either. In taking the big jump towards changing myself I realised that actually once you make a change it becomes easier to carry on making it.
  • I have always questioned who I am and spent time trying to label myself or consider myself either A or B. I have also at times been frustrated when I feel people don’t recognise what I consider the ‘real me’. This year I have had a bit of an epiphany in realising actually it’s fine to be both A, B and C and explore both sides to myself and worry less about how people view me.
  • New things I have learned and discovered: New TV shows, a dance group at my athletics group, learning about anthrapology and evolution expanding on science I already love and enjoy. I discovered Scotland and have really enjoyed exploring the bits I’ve seen. I have also learned new skills in singing, public speaking and cooking. We don’t have cooking utensils at home so coming to the Goddard home and learning some cooking and using kitchen equipment has been new.
  • I have been learning about genetics and recently did a DNA testing kit and got my results back. I learned loads both about genetics as well as learning more about me and what makes me who I am. It was so exciting to hear about what my roots are and how I got the physical traits I have. I was really excited to do the test and so thrilled to get the results before I set off for my trip here.

Hopes for 2020:

  • I would like to gain confidence and be able to speak freely. I feel I spend too much time worrying about how I might come across rather than just talking to people and can be awkward. I’d like to work on overcoming that this year.
  • I’d like to work out this year what I’d like to do with my future, both as part of my relationship with Davies and for me too. I’d like not just to work out what I want to do but also work out how I’m going to do it.
  • I’d like to try and achieve a better balance between being productive and having fun. I can be inclined to focus on one thing without giving other things the opportunity to come to the fore. I would like to get better at being flexible to change my mind and make sure I have a good all round balance of things. This includes being open to making new friends.
  • I’d like to spend more time with Davies this summer than last summer and stay for longer. I’d also like to visit England. It would also be great if Davies came to visit me in America.

Special bonus wish for 2020: to have some sort of big milestone in my relationship with Davies.



  • The first month here in the house was a bit of a limbo situation, We had no internet, no phone signal and had not settled into the house properly. I was only a few months into my relationship with Megan and wanted to be talking to her all the time but we were driving to sit in a carpark each day for an hour or so and connect to 4G signal to do all the various online things I wanted and needed to do including studying. Initially it felt like all of the promised benefits of leaving Rum had not appeared and we’d actually lost some of what we had there in terms of internet and phone signal.
  • Even when we finally did get the internet sorted it is not as good, fast or reliable as we’d hoped. It has settled down a lot now and is mostly usable but things like uploading and downloading videos and games, and playing movies are sometimes impossible.
  • Being in a long distance relationship is sometimes hard. I miss having a real life hug and making proper eye contact. A live chat through a screen means you can’t look at both the camera and the other person.
  • I found the interviews and phone calls with the job centre and work coach to be really stressful. When I am actually in the interview I am fine but I still get anxious in advance.
  • As per last year I have not accomplished everything I had hoped to do this past year.
  • I sometimes feel conflicted about the choices and the path I am on. I find the deadlines of studying and the assignments quite stressful and some of the content feels repetitive and a bit pointless which I find frustrating. With my art in order to make something sale-able I sometimes have to do pieces which are not what I would choose to do which can remove some of the joy of it.


  • My relationship with Megan. Having a best friend and someone I know is always there to talk to and be on my side. Megan’s two visits to me in the UK have been the best thing.
  • The house. Although there are compromises to the location and internet it is so good to be in a cosy house with electricity and internet. Having two bathrooms is brilliant! Having a bigger bedroom with space for my stuff.
  • Being on the mainland. Being able to visit the town, go to the cinema, go out for lunch.
  • Another year of stuff which was all good included: friends visiting, trips to see live shows, visits to friends and family.
  • My results on my studies this year. I passed my first year with honours and got a really high mark on my first assessment so far this year. Within a few weeks of setting my art business I had made my first sales.


  • I attended lots of courses this year for my voluntary work – training for being a helpline listener for a local mental health charity, a suicide prevention awareness course and a women’s aid domestic violence awareness ambassador course. The course content was really interesting and the skills that were covered were ones I feel will be really useful. Some of the information and statistics I heard on the courses were surprising and informative too.
  • From being in my first relationship I have learned so much. I have learned about Megan but also more about me and how I am in a relationship. Having Megan stay for a month each visit has been intense and meant we have learned lots very quickly.
  • I have learned lots from the course content of my OU studies, particularly psychology. I’ve enjoyed the case studies and been inspired to investigate further into some of the stuff I’ve learned.
  • I put together a business plan for my art this year and it was very similar to the academic writing of essays for my assignments for my studying. It involved using evidence to support your point and writing introductions and conclusions. It was good to have a practical application outside of my studies to use that skill.
  • I’ve spent a lot of time this year watching, reading or listening to reviews of films, commentaries on films and why they are good or bad and similar things on games. I have also watched and listened to similar things about debating political issues and contentious issues. It’s been interesting to understand other people’s views and see how they contrast or match my own and expand a little more how I form opinions and views.

Hopes for 2020:

  • To spend more time with Megan. Both here in the UK and visiting the US. I’d like to travel more and see where Megan is from too.
  • I hope to do a piece of art for every day of 2020. I have some strategies in mind as to how to make that happen, I will now start doing it.
  • To continue donating blood. I’ve done it twice in 2019 and despite the rather spectacular end to the second time (I fainted and fell to the floor from standing) I want to carry on.
  • I’ll carry over the two things which have been on my list for a few years but not happened yet – learn a musical instrument and post videos to a youtube channel.
  • To be earning an income from my art by the end of the year as per my business plan.

Special bonus wish for 2020: To go to America. It would be good to see any of the big landmarks I have heard about or seen like New York, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Niagara Falls, California or Disney.



  • When we stepped outside of the rest of the world for our initial WWOOFing and then our move to Rum it felt like we were embarking on the start of something new and exciting. We began to mix in circles of people who all thought along similar lines to us and a lot of our rather ‘out there’ ideas all began to feel quite normal and sensible. In returning to mainland life and living in a house we have stepped back in ourselves to some habits which I had been glad to leave behind. I know that having done without things like TV and always on electricity and internet it is unsurprising to enjoy them to the full but a little part of me is sad that they have so quickly become seen as essential. In many ways the world has moved on in the last decade and people have started to wake up to the big issues facing us. In so many others things are worse now than ever. It was easier to feel that we were at least not part of the problem when living our low impact off grid lifestyle.
  • Another lifestyle one – although I am enjoying all the various things we do as I recently blogged it is so easy to get caught up in ‘the glorification of busy’. I am determined to keep re-evaluating what I’m doing to make sure that I keep my priorities straight around what I spend my most precious resource – time – on. Necessities of ensuring we were able to pay the bills and settle in to our new life with the expense that came with it have meant I have taken on a lot this year and there have certainly been times when I have felt the balance has been off. I am fiercely protective about my time and how I spend it. This year has maybe involved slightly more compromise on that than I have been happy with. I have done less crafting, less playing my ukulele, less listening to podcasts which inspire, educate and inform me this year than in previous years.
  • The above both feed in to what I miss about Rum. Freedom over my time, little to worry about outside basic survival and everything having meaning. I am managing to find my meaning and my connection to the things I personally feel are the most important to me, and to the world, but it takes a conscious effort and a degree of offsetting things to ensure that happens, whereas in our Rum life it was just the way things were.


  • I am massively proud of the four of us and what we have achieved in such a short space of time. I am proud of our ability as a family to be a team, to talk about our wants and needs individually and collectively and work out the best path forwards. I am proud of how we have managed to land here with no jobs, no friends and no real knowledge of this area and so quickly find work, opportunities, friends and make a space for ourselves. I feel both heartened that we have made this work but also reassured that if and when we need to we could do this all over again. I hope we have been good role models for Davies and Scarlett and shown them how to achieve this and make things work.
  • Individually I am loving all of my various jobs. I am so pleased and proud to be writing for the paper. I love finding stories, interviewing interesting people and working out what the best way to present a story about them is. I love the thrill of seeing my name in print as a by line next to stories I wrote and I have been so chuffed to have such great feedback, from the editor and from local people too, about what I am writing. I am enjoying the youth work I do, despite sometimes feeling frustrated I can see a real difference in the way things are happening as a direct result of my input and again have had some great feedback. I have had a lot of different jobs over the years and always found joy and pleasure in aspects of all of them but as Ady said in his bit it was about 15 years ago that I last did a proper interview, particularly for work I had not previously done, so to go to the various interviews, perform well and be offered the jobs was a real boost. To be doing them well and enjoying them is even better.
  • I have loved watching the others blossom here. It has been great seeing Davies in his first relationship and meeting Megan. It is lovely to watch your son be such an amazing partner and I am so proud of his loving, respectful, affectionate and caring manner towards his partner. I am also hugely proud of his setting up his art business, his voluntary work and his continued studying. It is wonderful to look at your 19 year old son and see a man, with echoes of the toddler he once was. Scarlett has done so well with her cakes and will continue to develop that too but she has been amazing this year in her mature and responsible attitude towards our new lives here and such a massive part of our team in making everything run smoothly from quietly spotting what needs doing to suddenly appearing with a cup of tea, announcing she has done the thing you were fretting about still needing to be done, dealing with crises and just really stepping up as another adult around the place to fill in the gaps when we’ve needed her. She has impressed so many people whether it’s been coming along with me on interviews, getting involved in the marine ID surveys or coming along to swim. She has been offered two jobs just by people who met her and thought she was great. I’ve already talked about how proud I am of Ady and his new job and how proud I was of him back in the summer taking on the work at the tearoom too.
  • My wild swimming has been a real highlight of my year. I have loved the group swims, both the big organised events I went to and the smaller regular swims with locals I do weekly. I love the camaraderie and support of the groups, the acceptance and cheerleading and always looking out for each other. I also absolutely adore the solo swims I do. I love the feeling of oneness with the loch, the sky and the mountains. I love the wildlife encounters I have had with seals, with eagles, with gulls, herons and oystercatchers grazing the waves and screaming at me. I love the sense of personal challenge, the connection to nature and the changing seasons. It has become my new hill to replace the one I was missing on Rum.
  • Despite my earlier bad about getting sucked back into mainland life closer proximity to cultural and educational opportunities has been a real plus. I have to mention Ady and I going to Glasgow to see Hannah Gadsby and Edinburgh to see Richard Herring and Tony Slattery as huge highlights of this year.


  • I have gotten loads better at spinning this year and while a spinning wheel remains on my wish list I have mastered the drop spindle. I also started experimenting with natural dyes and really enjoyed both the process and the results I got from that.
  • I have learned a new style of writing from my work with the paper. I have never had my words edited before and it is interesting to see where things get chopped, changed, cut out and moved around. I used to think I would hate having my words critically appraised and altered but actually I have found it really interesting.
  • I have learned all sorts of things about swimming, both in terms of actual stroke and technique and in terms of wild swimming, various kit and how big a thing it is in the UK.
  • Living in a very small community on Rum taught me so much about people, about small scale politics, about how communities work and people interact. It also taught me a huge amount about myself. Starting over in a new community has been fascinating and seeing how people slot into almost pre-ordained roles. I am continuing to learn about what makes people tick, what motivates them and about myself and what I am prepared to accept, what I am not willing to put up with and where my boundaries are. I am definitely better than I was and much more inclined to aim for straightforward and honest stating my case and being prepared to walk away if things don’t work out.


  • I’ve not quite made the sort of friendships and connections I miss from Rum but I am starting to build them. My swimming and my work at the community centre along with the volunteering I do and the couple of craft fairs we’ve done have begun to throw up connections with people who are now definitely more than just acquaintances. I am looking forward to deepening those into lasting friendships over the coming year.
  • I hope to strike a better balance over the course of this year with how I invest my time – in bringing in money, in volunteering and in my creative outlets.
  • I hope to continue to support, encourage and cheerlead the other three in their endeavours, hopefully striking the balance between gentle motivation and adding too much pressure, while helping them see what they are capable of.
  • I would like to have more house guests. We have a spare room in a lovely home and it would be amazing to have more people visit us.

Special bonus wish for 2020 – I would like some sort of exceptional adventure (of the good kind) – a special trip, an amazing wildlife encounter or a personal achievement of a noteworthy kind.