The slow motion apocalypse

Prior to this past week I am not sure I have actually gasped at anything other than TV drama and action movies. Now I am gasping daily while watching the news, logging on to social media or reading things online. Gasping with horror, with shock, with dismay.

I’m also finding myself with my hand on my heart, feeling the most bittersweet emotions of seeing the very best of humanity too.

For every vitriol filled rant on social media there are several stories of people helping their fellow neighbours. For every selfish act witnessed there is a leaflet through the door advertising helplines to ring to ask for help collecting shopping, medical supplies or firewood.

People are scared, which almost always brings out the worst in us and there is not necessarily fast enough responses and answers from our usual trusted information sources and government, largely because the answers may not yet be know, so people are turning to less trustworthy sources, making up their own answers or grabbing what they can to feel safe and prepared against the worst.

Davies, Scarlett and I took to self-isolation as of last Tuesday when I was sent home from work as youth club and all the various sporting activities at the community centre where I work shut down. Ady and I cleaned a cottage on Wednesday but saw no one and the cottage had already been empty for over 48 hours. I have ceased my group swims and have been swimming alone, although I sometimes see someone (and indeed have passed folk) we have been tens of metres away from each other and outside so able to call a friendly but physically very distant greeting to each other. Davies and Scarlett are out every day for a walk but see nobody at all and touch nothing which another person will have touched.

Ady is obviously not able to do the same as his care at home work requires him to be at very close quarters with his clients. Updated guidance and information is coming through from the NHS all the time for him and he started four days off (he works a 4 on, 4 off shift pattern) today. I suspect by the time he returns to work again on Friday things may have moved on yet further. With him out and about anyway he is doing our essential shopping for food and fuel. After nearly a decade of island living and rural living we have become accustomed to buying in bulk and having a decent store of essentials anyway, with a decent stock of food in the freezer and healthy amounts of dried and tinned goods. Living 40 miles from the nearest supermarket and at the mercy of often extreme weather closing roads and stopping the ferry running means you have a certain amount of SHTF-preparedness as a matter of course.

Being at home for me has meant I am able to sign up for extra shifts on the mental health helpline as I am usually working 3 evenings a week. It’s also meant I have been able to volunteer for the local community council initiative of a phoneline for residents too and today I completed a skills audit of various other home-based things I can do with the local council, who my youth work / community centre employers have redeployed staff to aid with.

I already had my mini green house filled with seeds but have ordered a few additional packs of seeds and will turn over the sunny window sill of our spare room to ‘greenhouse’ space too. Sadly the friend expected later this week, our house sitters for our planned Ireland trip and my parents, visiting for 10 days will not be needing that spare bedroom, which had been looking like it would be very busy over the next 6 weeks. All of those plans have been cancelled.

A fingerpicking workshop of daily practise I had signed up for before this all kicked off has been an excellent daily motivator to pick up my ukuleles every day. And once in my hands after I’ve done the 15 minutes of finger picking I have been playing on for another 15 minutes or so. Today we joined in with around 15000 other people for the first of Gareth Malone’s choir practises.

Mothers Day yesterday was the embodiment of all that is good, bad, happy and sad about these strangest of times. A video call to my Mum, an email and text message exchange with my extra Mum Lynda, a facebook messenger chat with my extra daughter Megan all scatted across the UK and across the world. A day of being so very grateful to have Davies and Scarlett right here with me. As always I was completely blown away with their skills and creativity from their hand made cards and reduced to (happy) tears with the lovely things they said to me. And Megan managed to also make me cry with her message too.

We never really know what the future holds, but the world has been totally turned upside down for every single one of us.

I hope all of our readers stay safe, look after themselves first and as many others as they are able to help look after too. Be kind – as always it’s the single most important thing we can possibly aspire to.

One Year On

Last week it was the one year anniversary of our move back to the mainland. As it’s not that long since our bad, good, learned round up of 2019 I have not made the others sit down and do the exercise again about our first year away from our Rum life.

We have all been reflecting on it though and I spent a few hours with a friend who we met on Rum but actually lives near us here having lived on Rum for a few years himself last week, so Life After Rum was part of our many conversational meanderings.

Life has moved on hugely for our family a year on. It’s been a really busy year with all of us making the most of the opportunities being based on the mainland has offered.

We have all taken on new volunteering responsibilities – Ady has been involved in a hospital transport driving project, Scarlett and I are both in the throes of becoming involved in the local Cats Protection League, Davies and I volunteer weekly for a local mental health helpline and are ambassadors for a Women’s Aid initiative as local ambassadors, we’ve all been involved in a citizen science project and between us spend several hours a week collecting litter off the shore of the local loch.

We have all found new and very diverse employment ranging from holiday cottage cleaning, writing for the local paper, working in the local tea room, at the local community centre, as a youth worker, selling our art, crafts, baking.

We have made new friends and become part of new social circles.

We have taken up new hobbies and interests, learned new skills and had new experiences.

Our lovely house has meant we have been able to have many people to visit for shorter and longer stays, both to visit us and to house sit for us when we’re away.

We have managed to bring chickens with us over from Rum and they have settled in well and bred the first new generation of mainland chickens for us. We also bought over some strawberries from Rum and had a tiny little crop of fruit, hopefully a bigger crop will follow this coming summer. We have sown seeds here and have plans to turn over part of the garden to growing veg, we have a compost bin and have been experimenting with dyeing wool using the lichen from the woodlands around the house.

My friend asked me last week if I missed Rum. I replied yes, I did and then we talked a bit more about what it was I actually missed.

Eventually I concluded that what I most missed about Rum was who I was there. I missed the freedom to decide each day what I wanted to do and how much meaning every single thing had. There were no pointless tasks in that lifestyle. Everything was either about survival or future proofing. Life was very much in the here and now and there was something hugely satisfying about that. In this past year there have been days when I’ve felt frustrated or as though my time has been wasted doing things I would struggle to justify the point of (mostly done while earning money it has to be said and there is a circular argument forever about that, which I have had internally with myself and with others over the years. There is no definitive answer…). On Rum I almost never had that feeling.

This was definitely the right move for us, the right choice at the right time. I feel proud of the new life we have built in the last 12 months and all we have achieved. It has a transient, temporary feel to it which at times I find unsettling and I am not entirely convinced we have the balance of all the various components completely right but we’re edging closer to it and there is no doubt that when everything is weighed up we are definitely in the right place. For now.

Swimming into spring

‘But you haven’t done a winter’ is a phrase which has rather followed us around in our life choices since we started this blog.

The notion of managing a winter in our campervan volunteering was the first one. Actually, we didn’t manage that. We’d always planned to be back in Sussex again for Christmas with family and not even attempted to set up WWOOF hosts through the winter before we set off as that would have proved all but impossible a year in advance. We assumed we would either continue setting up hosts a few weeks in advance as we travelled, that we’d have had enough of the adventure and returned home, decided to move our travels to somewhere warmer and venture into mainland Europe next or have worked out what our next step was and be wanting to start on that.

In fact we had indeed decided to move to Scotland, visited Rum for the first time and submitted our application for the croft so were waiting on hearing about that.

Our next ‘you haven’t done a winter yet’ was living on Rum itself. That was footnoted by ‘and definitely not in a caravan’.

That was quite some winter. We certainly came out of the other side of it feeling as though we had achieved something. We’d survived the winter winds, the days and days of endless rain and the croft turning to mud before our very eyes. The hours and hours of daylight – sometimes 20 a day shrank to barely 5 or 6. We’d been out collecting firewood, out picking winkles. It was a challenging and eye opening season with countless lessons learned and battles fought, lost and won.

‘Doing a winter’ certainly seems to be something of a badge of honour.

My adventures in wild swimming, started back in the summer last year had a similar hesitancy to the approach of the winter. I began to don a second pair of neoprene socks, looked at thicker gloves, bought a balaclava style hood and began exposing less and less of myself to the water as the temperature dropped.

At the end of November though, just as winter was tapping on our shoulders a couple of friends and I stripped off our wetsuits at the end of a regular swim and got back in to the water in our swimsuits. It was the most amazing feeling – like thousands of tiny pins and needles all over our bodies as the nerve endings jangled. It was one of the most freeing, joy filled experiences I’ve ever had. Every bit of my body seemed to be flooded with the most amazing sense of being alive. It was like letting your hair down when it’s been tied up all day, taking off a pair of uncomfortable high heels, removing your bra, finally having that wee you’ve been busting for for the last half an hour.

It was like putting on a pair of glasses when you’ve gradually been losing your vision and suddenly seeing every leaf on the trees again, your ears popping after being blocked and realising how muffled everything was. It was that feeling on the last day of school before the summer holidays, the relief of an all clear result, the exhilaration of a roller coaster.

I’ve not put the balaclava hood on since. Well actually I have, one day I had a very cold head and said to Ady ‘remind me tomorrow that my hat is my friend’ so the next day I went in the water wearing it, but a halfway into my swim I pulled it off and stuffed it down the front of my wetsuit. It was muffling the sounds, lessening my feelings and a million times more annoying than having a cold head.

Swimming without a wetsuit is known as ‘swimming in skins’ even though you are not just in your skin, you do have a swimsuit on too (although I do hear of many folk who literally just swim in their skin even my remote corner of the world still has me encountering other folk once a week or so and I can be seen from the roadside by any cars driving by, so I’ll be sticking with the swimsuit for now!). We carried on these skins dips at the end of our regular Sunday swims through December and for our New Years Day ‘Loony Dook’. The water was getting colder but with the decreasing temperature came increasing pleasure from the experience.

I began to consider just swimming in skins all the time rather than stripping off at the end of a swim. In the same way as the hat felt constricting the wetsuit was starting to feel the same. It was a faff to wriggle in and out of every time and I often felt I spent more time getting in to, out of or rinsing my wetsuit than I did actually being in it in the water. Over Christmas and new year I heard myself telling at least three people about how I was ‘considering losing the wetsuit and starting to swim in skins all the time’. I had half a plan to maybe shed it in the summer and then try not to go back to it through next winter thinking I would acclimatise that way, but those weekly skins dips were working their magic.

Then one day in early January I had my wetsuit with me to change in to on the shore as I was planning my swim on the way home from being out. I already had my swimsuit on under my clothes. It was windy and raining and Ady said to me ‘you’re going to get just as cold and wet putting that wetsuit on as you would just getting into the loch without it.’ He voiced in a joke what I had been thinking in all seriousness. My own voice was echoing in my ears that the only way to go from ‘thinking about doing’ something to doing something was to do it.

So I did.

And since then I’ve been in the loch most days in just a swimsuit and gloves. I have a fairly unreliable thermometer – some open water swimmers are a bit sniffy about having a thermometer at all but I like to know the water temperature. I am curious, purely in an interested in what’s going on sort of way. It is useful, in getting to know my own body and my capabilities to understand what impact a degree either way has on me. Finally I quite like knowing so I can brag about how tough I am! Conservative estimates corroborated by friends with more accurate thermometers and splitting the difference averages put the loch as low as perhaps 1 or 2 degrees at it’s coldest this winter. It’s currently around 6 degrees.

I swim in the loch in skins about five times a week. Sometimes it’s a dip lasting less than 10 minutes, sometimes it is over 20 minutes and I manage a decent swim. This depends on all sorts of variables including the water temperature, the air temperature, the weather conditions, the tide being in or out, the level of the waves, what the wildlife around me is doing and how I am feeling on any given day. I have had times when I went in calling back to Ady (who always accompanies me on my solo swims and stands on the shore, sometimes taking photos, sometimes collecting rubbish from the beach if it is after a storm and there is rubbish washed up) ‘I won’t be long…’ and then emerging after a new record for distance of swim or time in the water. Sometimes wading in thinking today is the day for breaking a personal record only to be spooked by an eagle, suddenly aware of loss of feeling in my toes or a low flying plane putting me off and coming back out again.

Up until today I have been donning my wetsuit still for my regular Sunday group swim with friends, feeling that it allows me to stay in for longer. But the last few times I have worn it it has felt like such an effort to pull it on pre-swim and I have felt constricted and irritated by wearing it, as though it is hampering my swim rather than aiding it. So today I arrived for our group swim in skins. And it did not prevent me from swimming as I would have done had I been wearing it, infact I am confident it was not missed at all and that I found swimming without it easier. It was also quite fun to be the only one in a group of nine without a wetsuit. I am always happy to be different!

I have had some of my best, deepest and most interesting conversations with people I swim with. I have made connections, lost inhibitions and found links with folk I would likely have little else in common with. It has been my opening in our new mainland life to a new social world and to interesting and diverse people.

It has provided me with my much needed link to the natural world and the landscape around us. I physically crave that connection with nature, with the weather, the seasons, the wildlife. On Rum my life was much more outside based and through necessity our new mainland existence means I am driving more and walking less. I am back in artificially controlled environments for a greater period of time with lights and heating and no windows. My near daily dips re-centre me and keep me in tune with a clock and calendar far beyond that which hangs on my wall or sends me reminders on my phone.

My relationship with the loch is much like the one I enjoyed with the hill on Rum. It provides challenges and inspiration, motivation and opportunity. It gives me headspace of a meditative nature and allows a mindless meandering of my thoughts and a wide open space for what is really important to rush in and show itself to me. I have epiphanies, realisations, eureka moments and clarity.

I am reminded how small I am, how insignificant and finite. I am conversely given the gift of feeling mighty, powerful, in control and autonomous. I can choose how long to stay in, which direction to head in, which stroke to select, I am at the absolute mercy of the waves, the tide, the unknown depths below me. I am entirely along in my experience in the loch, I am submersing myself in water which has always been on this planet and has been tears, sweat, a raindrop, a glass of water, an ice cube, a snowflake, a cloud…in a never ending cycle older than I will ever be, before my first ancestor, likely after the last of my line has become extinct.

It is mid March. I swam in summer, in autumn and I will swim in spring. But once again, with the echoes of voices in my ears about ‘not doing a winter’ I am able to take a small sense of pride in knowing that once again I did. This time I swam though it. I swam through a winter.

Down and back up again

For the last few years rather than acquire more ‘stuff’ we have instead tried to choose experiences as gifts for Christmas and birthday presents for ourselves. We still exchange small tokens but aim for either things which are going to be consumed quickly (nice chocolates, nice drink, nice bath products) or items which are going to be regularly used and enjoyed. We also aim to support small independent makers, usually either local people or sellers on etsy, for example my hand thrown pottery mug, tumblers, bowl and plate and my silver Rum pendant.

This has meant visits to the theatre in Manchester, London, Glasgow and Brighton. Often weeks, months or in the most recent case over a year after the actual occasion the gift was marking but there is something rather lovely in still having a treat to look forward to long after the decorations are down and the season has turned.

Way back in 2018 we booked tickets and arranged a trip to London to meet up with friends from Northern Ireland and see Dear Evan Hansen We had super cheap restricted view seats and a budget hotel booked. We were still on Rum at that point so further travel arrangements were not worth considering but closer to the date I organised house and pet sitters and booked very cheap, long in advance train and bus tickets for transport into London. We tied in our visit south with an overdue visit to family in Sussex too.

Having house and pet sitters meant not only were we confident that Bonnie, Kira and the chickens were being well cared for in our absence it also allowed some dear friends of ours the opportunity to have a well deserved break. We are lucky to have a lovely house in a lovely location just now and having someone else enjoy and make use of it while we were not there made perfect sense.

While in London we walked miles and miles and miles. We were lucky (if you can call unseasonably warm weather at this time of year lucky?!) to have mild, dry weather so we walked from the train station to the hotel, walked to the theatre, walked around seeing the sights and walked to the coach station for our trip back. For entertainment we spent hours crossing the Thames by various bridges, past St Paul’s cathedral, through Trafalgar Square, into Covent Garden, to St James’ Park, into Parliament Square, past Westminster Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben. We watched people at the skate park, enjoyed the buskers and street performers – and contributed accordingly to their upturned held-out caps, took refillable water bottles and coffee cups, packed picnics and found interesting things to see and do for free.

It was a trip of over 1000 miles but we used public transport where possible, made sure when we did use a car it was full and packed in as much as we could to make the trip worthwhile.

In London aside from the show (which was amazing, I seriously can’t recommend it highly enough. I cried three times and through most of the second half, it was so good) we clocked up about 25 miles of walking around.

Back in Sussex for a few days with family I had also arranged Ady’s belated Christmas present. One of the few TV shows we had managed to watch while on Rum was Masterchef. A hangover, along with a couple of other shows from our old mainland life which we had enjoyed and tried to keep up with thanks to iplayer when internet connection allowed. Having come from Worthing ourselves when Kenny Tutt, one of the contestants was from there back in 2018 we had cheered for him right through the process. We were so pleased when he won Masterchef Champion that year.

From afar we’d carried on following his career and been delighted when he opened his first restaurant in Worthing last year. So when deliberating on the right Christmas gift for Ady last year I had realised our usual habit of deferred gifts and experiences would be perfect in the form of a romantic lunch for the two of us in Kenny’s restaurant. So I booked the table for while we were down in Sussex and got a voucher for the set lunch for two for us.

Davies and Scarlett came into town with us and had their own lunch of their choice courtesy of a well known fast food retailer, followed by a look round the shops and a very productive hour or so spent in the amusement arcade at the end of Worthing pier. Not dissimilar pursuits in the very same locations I would have followed at their ages….

While Ady and I had the very best lunch ever at The Pitch Restaurant.

The decor was stunning, the service outstanding, the food as beautiful as it was delicious. It was truly as much of an experience as we’d hoped it might be. But as the absolute icing on the cake Kenny himself was there and came over to say Hi.

We had a great chat about being on TV, about knowing the origins of your food, about the reality of the behind the scenes side of filming a TV show, about being yourself and about staying true to what you believe in. What a lovely bloke and what a pleasure to meet him and congratulate him on achieving his dreams.

Sometime in the last few months I seem to have become something of a saltwater addict and I have to confess I was missing my fix. The sea has always been important to me and the English Channel is the body of water I grew up with. Paddling in as a small child, driving alongside on my way to work each day, taking my own small children to paddle in, using as a gauge of what the weather was doing. It felt only right to immerse myself in it while we were there. So I had a quick dip one afternoon.

After Highland lochs the air and water temperature was positively balmy and it felt like stepping into if not a warm bath then at least an indoor heated pool. It was delicious though and the paddleboarder passing by and chatty couple walking their dog along the beach all added to the startling comparison to my near daily dips back home.

London sights, shows, lunches out and swims aside the highlight of the trip as always was spending precious time with family. We are very close to my parents and a 7 month gap between last spending time with them was far too long so it was lovely to be with them, as well as seeing both my brother and Ady’s brother.

Because when all is said and done, when it all comes down to it all we really are is memories. It’s the things we’ve seen, the places we’ve been and the people we have spent time with who make us who we are.

We will continue to find our path through life treading as lightly as we can, leaving the smallest footprints, the least impact on the world. But I endeavour to leave the biggest traces, the loudest memories, the longest lasting imprints of my kisses on the cheeks of those I love.

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.

All was merry and bright

Our first Christmas here in this house. It’s been a perfect Christmas house – lots of space, lovely high ceilings to accommodate a nice tall tree, lots of light so Ady has been able to have poinsettia, hyacinth and amaryllis bulbs all ready to flower for the big day. We have a stair case in the open plan downstairs living area which we have strung with lights.

It’s been lovely heading into Fort William which is our nearest big town every 10 days or so to get a dose of festive countdown madness and see the Christmas lights in the high street.

I’ve been in to the lovely local independent shop which sells fair trade, ethical and no waste items for a furohiki workshop and learned the skill of fabric wrapping so all of my gifts were wrapped with recycled fabric – mostly brightly coloured bedding sets from charity shops along with some fabric from my own stash.

All now tidying folded ready for re-using, The others all used up previously bought wrapping paper but I’ve promised to teach them all to fabric wrap too and will aim to carry on picking up suitable fabric from charity shops to wrap future gifts with. I think things like tea towels or scarves will be perfect as they will become part of the gift too.

We’ve always managed to make our own Christmas cake and mincemeat in autumn ready for Christmas but it’s been a juggling act in limited space finding room for it in the caravan. This year we had plenty of space and were able to make extra mince meat to sell at the local Christmas Fayre. I also made some festive flavours of granola to sell too. Davies had three designs of Christmas cards printed out to sell and Scarlett made some amazing festive Christmas cup cakes. I also made some little santa hats to go on my crochet midges. We had a great day at the fayre, which was held at the local community centre where I work in aid of the high school. It was fab to be feeling part of the local community, realising how many people we already had gotten to know, selling our various wares and getting in the festive groove, albeit still back in November!

We even managed to attend a couple of Christmas staff parties. We had been invited to four different ones for our various self employed, volunteer and other roles but chose just two.

It’s been fantastic to add these new things to our run up to Christmas. It’s also been lovely to continue our closely held little family traditions too and all the more special to be sharing them with Megan this year for the first time.

The first of which (after Solstice celebrations) was Christmas cracker making. In the style of The Good Life, which regular readers will know is a source of constant inspiration to us, we make our own crackers and shout ‘bang!’ when we pull them. We make the hats from newspapers, write our own festive jokes, make a small gift to go inside and stuff it all into a loo roll inner.

This year, having saved our very favourite Christmas movies to share with Megan we cleared a big floor space on Christmas Eve and laid out all the supplies. Pens, packing paper, supermarket weekly specials leaflets, loo roll inners and our badge machine to make the gifts. Davies and Megan particularly took it very seriously and were still hard at work many hours after we started creating cracker masterpieces.

Scarlett decorated the Christmas cake, going for a melted snowman theme this year. As ever she amazes me with her skills in cake decoration and her vision for her designs.

We all ushered in Christmas Day staying up past midnight with carols on the TV – which reminds me Ady and I also managed to attend a local carol service with mulled wine, mince pies and the chance to sing along – bliss!

The big day itself was beautiful with sunshine. I went for a morning swim in the loch where I found the best Christmas star!

while the others opened their Christmas stockings. Then after a festive breakfast we exchanged gifts. A fantastic mix of thoughtful and lovingly chosen presents. As ever we have gone for some experience type gifts to be enjoyed through the year – for Ady a lunch at a restaurant he is very keen to visit, for all four of us a show in the spring, for Davies, Scarlett and Megan photo calendars of some of the best memories of their 2019s to take into 2020. For Scarlett a trail cam which she set up and captured footage of a pine marten of that same evening, for Davies a set of headphones, for Ady a couple of ‘toys’ to play with including a crystal ball for photographs, for me a good supply of lovely gins and fancy chocolates and a non-leaking travel cup to replace the very unsatisfactory one which has leaked tea over me on the last few car trips I’ve taken it on.

We had replaced Scarlett’s now too small Christmas jumper and found one for Megan in charity shops over the past few weeks so once all the gift giving was complete we headed outside into the sunshine for our now traditional Christmas jumper photos.

And took Ady’s new crystal photo ball for a first try out too.

Dinner – as cooked by Ady – was delicious.

Our Boxing Day, along with many people, saw us all venturing out for some much needed fresh air and vitamin D. For Davies and Megan that was a brisk walk. For Ady, Scarlett and I it was a slightly wetter experience as Ady finally took the plunge – quite literally – and joined us in the loch!

Super brave of him and he assures me he was not entirely put off and would definitely do it again. I’ll let you know if he actually does!

We continued our traditional Boxing Day dinner of bagels with smoked salmon, cream cheese and leftover turkey but this time Davies and Megan took over the bagel making duties. It felt slightly strange teaching an American to make bagels!

It’s been a fabulous Christmas so far. We’re looking forward to seeing 2019 out, welcoming 2020 in and seeing what the year ahead will bring.

To all our readers we wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or whatever winter festival you celebrate (or indeed summer if you are in the Southern hemisphere!) It is so lovely for us to know that so many people are sharing our story.


One of the most amazing things in our country is our health service. We have been incredibly fortunate – so far – to have needed to call on it fairly few times but both Davies and Scarlett were born with NHS midwives in attendance, Ady obviously had his emergency operation and both he and I have had routine or non-emergency appointments over the past few years.

It can be tough to give back, outside of national insurance and income tax contributions and not using up precious resources unless necessary. On Rum we participated in a long running survey being interviewed 3 times over several years about the service the islands received. We ensured we attended any first aid and first responder training sessions and engaged as fully as possible with consultations about ways to improve the service and to take responsibility for community-led services.

When we lived down in Sussex Ady and I gave blood and we are all on the organ donation lists with Ady and I both also registered for living donor lists too. On Rum giving blood was a logistical impossibility but as soon as we were settled back here we registered for the next session in Fort William and in June we donated, along with Davies who was now old enough too. Last week we donated again and this time Scarlett was also able to donate, just 12 days after she was eligible. It was a super smooth first time for her and she loved all of the information the nurse was able to give her about the process including having a hold of the bag once it was full ‘It’s so warm. And heavy!’ So close to Christmas there were giveaways of tree baubles for donors too.

Poor Davies had a slightly less smooth experience for his second time as he stood up off the bed and promptly fainted and fell back to the floor. He managed a fairly spectacular drop with a cut to his lip and a big bump to his chin but after a lie down and something to eat and drink other than a couple of extra bruises to go with the one on his arm where the needle goes in he was none the worse for wear. It’s always good to have a heroic tale to go with a bruise I think. I’m really proud of them both for donating and hope it’s the start of a years-long habit.

We also volunteer in health service supporting services – Ady in the local hospital transport project, which offers lifts to people attending hospital appointments in our very rural community. Davies and I volunteer for a mental health helpline service and are also trained ambassadors for the local Women’s Aid charity. These services are so very important in remote areas and on Boxing Day I took a call to the helpline – a stark reminder of how difficult this time of year can be in the middle of feasting, lights and making merry.

For some few years Ady has felt that if the opportunity arose he would be interested in working in a caring type role. He really enjoys working with people, is passionate about empowering people to live independently and supported rather than ‘looked after’ and particularly likes getting to know and being around older people. He put some feelers out when we first moved here but found that not having previous experience or qualifications could prove something of a barrier. He then found work at the tearoom over the summer along with our various housekeeping contracts and so nothing more came of it.

Recently though, with no real work (both of the above roles are very seasonal) his thoughts turned again to that type of work and with a bit of research and a very well written application demonstrating how cross transferable his many varied skills could be he was offered an interview for a post a few days before Christmas. Competition was fierce and he was the only unqualified applicant granted an interview. His first interview in well over a decade, his first ever panel interview with five people on the opposite side of the table. He came out having learned more about the job and even more keen to do it. Later that afternoon he took a phonecall offering him the job!

So yet another new chapter of life is upon us with yet another new role. Loads of new skills to acquire, lots to learn, to understand and to embrace. It’s a perfect fit of a part time role which allows us to continue with our flexible housekeeping posts between the four of us and my part time jobs too, while still ensuring that time together as a family remains our top priority and that which gets most of our focus.

We are so proud of Ady, ready and willing to start anew in something completely different, something that he will love. We think he will be brilliant at it, a perfect match for his caring nature, unflappable approach, skills in getting to know and helping people.
Ady is proud to be joining and becoming part of a team of people we have long been in awe of and thankful for – our NHS.

Solstice 2019

We began celebrating Solstice quite some few years ago and while on Rum it became a real turning point of the year when we lived so close to nature and were so dependent on natural daylight. Our days were so dictated to by what was happening outside be it weather or hours of day and night time, as were those of our animals and our crops.

After attending the amazing Burning the Clocks celebration in Brighton back in the early 2000s we have followed the tradition of lighting up the longest night with fire and celebrated the rising of the sun for the following day when it stays in the sky that tiny bit longer than the day before.

I know that solstice can move about to a day either side of 21st December, in the same way as summer solstice can do in June but we have tended to stick to that date. Two years ago we were in Glastonbury for Solstice which was a magical place to sit around a bonfire with dear friends and talk about the year gone by and dreams for the year ahead. Last year we were back on Rum for a bonfire.

This year we are a family of five as Davies’ partner Megan has joined us from America to celebrate a month’s worth of special times including Solstice, Christmas and New Year which also happens to be Davies and Megan’s anniversary.

To mark a mainland Solstice and our increased number we decided to do something special this year so took advantage of it also being the 30th anniversary celebrations of the Nevis Range centre on Ben Nevis meaning they were offering gondola passes at the same price as back in 1989 when they opened.

This meant that after a solstice morning swim for me we headed off to the foot of Nevis and took a cable car ride part way up the mountain. As we climbed higher and the ground below us began to be snowy and the view spread out it was a truly magical experience. We’ve been up a couple of times and it’s always special but this was really wonderful.

The snow was not too deep – although in characteristic fashion we deviated from the proper path and found ourselves wandering in sometimes really quite deep and often rather perilous places with at least two of us getting wet feet as a leg disappeared down a hole! We walked to a viewing point offering splendid panoramic views of snow capped mountains all around, lochs far below reflecting the pink of the sun set skies and nature truly dwarfing man. We’d taken flasks of hot chocolate to enjoy and toast the shortest day with.

Someone was blowing giant bubbles off the balcony of the centre at the top, which drifted magically by, sometimes bouncing off the snow before taking off again.

Back at home, night fell, the clock struck midnight and we took our solstice candle block cut from last year’s yule log on Rum and lit the candles on our decking. We all had a sparkler to fully light up the night and said what we were grateful to nature for. Then we stood while the breeze blew the candles out. The final flame lasted quite some while, almost going out several times and then reigniting before a gust of wind finally extinguished it.

Later that morning, once the sun had risen again I had another swim in the loch, this time with friends. Mountains, lochs, stars, sun rises and sun sets – we felt we continued our tight connection to nature as we marked the shortest day, the longest night and the turning of yet another season.

Happy Birthday Scarlett

Scarlett is finally 17. I say finally not because she was desperate to reach that milestone birthday like I was when I was her age – it was my most longed for birthday because it heralded my provisional driving licence and start of my driving lessons, followed as swiftly as possible by my first car – to this day the most exciting test I’ve ever passed and possession I’ve ever owned, filled with possibility, opportunity and adventure. No, Scarlett doesn’t really care about driving. She, like Davies when he reached 17 has her provisional licence but they are both yet to have a lesson or look at theory tests to begin the road to a full licence.

No, for Scarlett this landmark birthday meant she was now eligible to give blood, something she has been looking forward to doing since she first came with Ady and I as a very small girl.

For me it was a good birthday as for some unexplained reason I have never quite felt 16 suited her. I’ve no real idea why, I just never quite got my head around her being 16 and stumbled over it every time I had to say her age. 17 feels just right. For one whole month all four of us are odd number ages, maybe that feels tidier somehow. I’ll ruin that soon by becoming even again – I think odd just suits me better!

The day started with a birthday breakfast of french toast – always the better for using our own chicken’s eggs. This year they are laying so much later into the year and we are still regularly getting an egg or two most days. And present opening. Scarlett’s main requested gift was a waterproof camera for swimming with. There was also a selection of smaller items and a fabulous picture from Davies.

After much deliberation about how to celebrate the day itself Scarlett decided to go to Treasures of the Earth – a local crystal, fossil and gems museum. The kids and I had been before quite some few years ago but Ady had never been. It’s a small and rather tired place but has a real charm to it and was reminiscent of the places we used to go to when the kids were little. We were in there for a couple of hours and enjoyed it.

After that we headed into Fort William for lunch. A new American / Italian diner style restaurant had opened up earlier this year on the high street and we’d been keen to go and try it so in we went. Another ‘couldn’t have done that on Rum’ type treat. We had really nice food in a really colourfully decorated place.

Later back at home it was Scarlett’s favourite dinner followed as per tradition no matter where we might be by birthday brownies.

And maybe a glass or two of something cold and fizzy to toast the birthday girl.

We are very fortunate that we have always been able to make a huge fuss about birthdays. Ady and I have always taken the day off work for ours and of course neither of the children have ever needed to be at school, so the day is always all about the birthday person including food choices and how the day is spent. Of course on Rum the choices were rather more limited although we always seemed to manage something special and appropriate for the person celebrating.

It was lovely to say goodbye to 16 (which I insist never suited her!) and welcome in 17 with a very Scarlett day – different, sweet, interesting, fun, family-focussed, filled with love and laughter and all her favourite things.

Happy Birthday to our wonderful daughter.