Our round up of 2018 and our hopes for 2019. We are overdue an update post on what our next steps plans are and there are hints of of that from all of us in this post. I will get a proper ‘what’s happening next’ post up in the next few days but for now here is us drawing a line under the year gone by and looking ahead to the year to come.
Bad in 2018:
- The house in Ireland. It was two months – a sixth of the year – spent living somewhere that didn’t fulfil my needs. We had gone hoping for respite from the tougher aspects of life here on Rum but ended up somewhere which was worse! I was colder than in the caravan on Rum and there was even more limited internet access.
- Not achieving all of the things I’d hoped to in 2018. I have come to realise that I am not always as motivated as I thought I was. This is something I have learnt about myself. It is not a bad thing to have learned that but it is on my bad list that I feel I have wasted time.
- The Megabus experience! Although it is a fun story in the re-telling the actual day spent travelling on the bus was no fun at all.
- Continuing from what I said last year about having missed out on a chunk of growing up experiences, when I listen to parents and friends talking about their lives at my age I am aware of the limitations that my lifestyle and location put on me.
- Tutor phone calls! During the access course with the OU I had regular scheduled phone calls with my tutor. I found them awkward and dreaded them. Talking about myself, to a stranger, on the phone were really difficult things to do.
Good in 2018:
- The London trip to see Hamilton. It was really good, cool, fun and awesome to see a London show and to see it with a friend made it even better.
- Finishing my OU access course and getting a good pass. I have started studying for a degree and been doing really well. My first marked assignment got a very high grade and my second got an even higher one.
- We’ve probably spent a cumulative total of about a third of 2018 off of Rum on various trips. That has been a good part part of this year.
- I’ve made new online friends again this year and spent time talking to and hanging out with them online.
Learned in 2018:
- As mentioned in my bad list I have learned about myself that my motivation is not as prominent as I would have liked to have thought it was. I started the year with a long list of things I wanted to achieve and the only barrier to making them happen was myself.
- Although I am lacking in motivation I have learned that when I do apply myself to something I am more than capable and actually can do very well.
- The course content of my OU studies is Social Sciences and I have learned a lot from the course materials and being able to take the theories and apply them to real life.
- I continue to improve my art skills, I would like to improve further but I can see from my instagram posts on my drawings how I have gotten better in 2018.
- I’ve done a lot of gaming this past year and feel that I am good at them and the skills involved such as reflexes, reasoning and my determination to improve are all things I have learned.
Hopes for 2019:
- Complete this years study and commence the next (academic) years.
- Continue improving my art skills. I’d like to combine my art and film making skills to create some videos for my youtube channel.
- As last year – to learn keyboard / read music
- To get my driving licence.
- I would like to find a way to start earning some money. I would particularly like to earn it by doing something I like.
Special bonus wish for 2019 – to travel to a different country, specifically one which I have an online friend in.
Bad in 2018:
- The house in Ireland was not what I hoped it would be. I was looking forward to getting to know and exploring a new area but we were completely in the middle of nowhere so there was no opportunity to get to know a new place or meet new people.
- I had hoped to do more with my baking / cake decorating. But everywhere we stayed (whether in Ireland at the start of the year or the various holiday cottages we stayed in last year) or here on Rum I never had the opportunity with the right kitchen / cooker / space.
- I’ve gotten behind in watching lots of the cartoons / anime stuff I like to watch just because I always think that 20-30 minutes is too long to start watching something even though actually I often end up watching youtube clips for longer than that.
- As much as we have done lots of off island stuff in 2018 living on Rum has still meant that there are some events we are not able to get to. You can’t be spur of the moment about arrangements, you have to plan things long in advance
- The Sheerwater boat trips were disappointing again this year – the weather was fine but for a second year running we saw hardly any marine life.
Good in 2018:
- Hamilton. I’ve loved the show online and the soundtrack for such a long time and got into it by chance and introduced it to Davies and my friend E. To actually go and see the show in London and to see it with my friend E and Mummy, Daddy and Davies was amazing.
- I really enjoyed how much time I spent with my friend E. We’ve been best friends for a few years but in 2017 we saw each other maybe twice, in 2018 we saw each other so many times and spending real life time together has been so amazing.
- We saw a shark! It was only a fin and a head but it was worth the rocky boat trip and the trips where we saw nothing to have been able to say we saw a basking shark. We also saw a polar bear cub. It was at the zoo rather than in the wild like the shark sighting but it was really good to know that there is still wildlife in the wild or conservation projects happening which mean we can have such experiences.
- THE NON STICK COPPER STONE FRYING PAN!!!
- I went ice skating! I have done it before when I was really little but had been really keen to do it again. Being off Rum and staying with friends in a more accessible to general facilities meant we were able to decide to go ice skating (or the cinema) in the morning and just go rather than it being a big epic trip.
- The trip to the adventure park with the high ropes and the jumping off the sky dive platform. It was something I’d never done before and it was really fun.
Learnt in 2018:
- I learned how much of a problem marine plastic is. I had thought it would not be such a problem somewhere like Rum where there are so few people and we are all environmentally conscious. But having spent hours each day collecting plastic off the beaches here I realise that even though we might not create the problem here on Rum it comes here anyway.
- My reading and writing has really improved this year along with my understanding of how complicated the English language is and how we have collected words from other languages too.
- I have known about nail art as a thing for a while but after Mummy got a UV nail lamp I got really interested in it as an art with the colour and details and embellishments like glitter. I don’t want my own nails done but I like the artistic and fiddly skills, a bit like cake decorating in doing nail art.
- I have been really interested this year in realising how far technology is progressing in things like artificial intelligence (eg google, amazon alexa, siri and so on).
- From the wildfire on Rum back in April, I learnt how fragile and risky our lives are. The fire was spreading really quickly and rather than having a fire engine arrive to put it out we were planning to evacuate and let our animals go instead because we live too far from everything to just fight the fire.
Hopes for 2019:
- To spend as much time with my friend E as possible.
- To do a course or workshop to improve my skills and learn more about nail art.
- To travel somewhere outside the UK and see wildlife in the wild that I can’t see here.
- Carrying over my wish from 2018 to do more horse-riding and improve on that.
- Further improve my art and drawing skills.
- Learn all of the lyrics to Despacito (the original).
- To see more live shows like Hamilton.
Special bonus: learn to do dance routines. I’ve watched lots of videos of dancers and it looks like a really cool thing to be able to do.
Bad in 2018:
- This year a situation occurred that bought home to us how if you want to be part of the progressive and developing community on Rum you need to buy your way in to it. We are too far out of the main settlement on the island so to be included in investment into infrastructure we would need to finance that ourselves. There is an upgrade on the island internet which our household has not been included in as it is not financially viable.
- Our time off last winter was really good but it felt as though there were consequences in having been off for so long. Returning to find rats had been in the caravan showed us that if we leave the island there will be a price to pay when we return.
- There is a real feeling of divide on the island this year, particularly towards the end of the year. The on island politics have been at a peak and it feels as though there are two distinct camps.
- Our living conditions here in the caravan continue to deteriorate.
- It is not possible to drive home to the caravan – whether with a load of food shopping, a heavy gas bottle or just after a night out in the pouring rain and that makes for a hard life which gets me down.
- Health and the limitations that my age and general health levels create for living this lifestyle.
- I am aware that this life no longer works for all four of us, specifically Davies and as a parent that makes me feel bad.
Good in 2018:
- There have been contractors on the island in 2018 working on building a shore base and the ground works for housing for the fish farm. They have been really sympathetic to our lifestyle and have gifted us off-cuts of wood and scrap building materials, delivering them as close to the Croft as they can get. Some of it has already been put to use for improving our path which is brilliant, but even knowing that someone is up for helping us out has been really heartening.
- The flip side of the challenging issue this year with the wider community has been that as a foursome we are closer than ever as a family and really know we can count on each other.
- In 2018 we had two holiday cottage breaks and Nic’s parents gifted us a car. That has opened up a whole new world of opportunity to have time with family and friends, to take the cat and dog with us and be able to host, to cook and make a (temporary) home.
- The new solar panel has been fantastic. It has meant that we have had so much more power than ever before for a relatively small financial outlay.
- The path. We have had a very kind end to the year weather-wise but to still be able to walk around the croft in shoes rather than knee deep mud has been wonderful.
- Croft 2 has now been re-let and while we don’t yet have permanent neighbours there is hope on the horizon that we will no longer be the lone outreach of life outside the main village on the island.
- The fruition of the work we have done on the Croft over the last 6 years. People comment on and we can see the difference in our land having improved drainage, planted trees and created infrastructure.
- The welcome when we came back after the winter – a friend picked us up from the boat and bought us and out stuff home, we were given bed in the bunkhouse for the first couple of nights while we got everything straight in the caravan.
Learned in 2018:
- About land management – cutting the grass and digging drainage ditches makes such a difference.
- About the right sort of livestock here for Rum and our land – not pigs, the sheep have worked, that we need to look at specific breeds of poultry to work best here on the island.
- That we don’t need to come off for such a long period. This winter has been kind so far and the implications of being off for so long are bigger than the benefits.
- That this life is no longer enough for Davies and Scarlett. It is definitely time to give them the opportunities to spread their wings.
- How important it is to go off.
- That we no longer have a full time future here on the island.
Hopes for 2019:
- To have the best of Rum on a part time basis with a part time business on the mainland while Rum remains our base.
- To improve the caravan by cladding it to help preserve it from the weather and improve the aesthetic of it.
- To be able to be hosts again. We have had lots of visitors while we’ve lived on Rum but not in the way we used to and would love to again, having people, to stay, to come for dinner or to entertain without it being so difficult.
- To create a viable business that if not already earning enough for us to live on has the potential to do so.
- Seeing Hamilton in London in 2018 was amazing. I’d like to have more experiences like that.
Special bonus wish: to have some rheas.
Bad in 2018:
- Having returned to Rum in the spring ready to give the island, the croft and our life here another really good try it was incredibly disheartening to learn just a few months after we came back that a so called island-wide internet upgrade had been planned without including us here on the Croft. Not only had we not been included in the finances to make it happen we had also not been included in the conversations about it happening. Whilst the finer details of the whole situation are still being discussed the overwhelming message to us was that we were not part of the future or the vision for the island community and that instead of being valued we needed to fight our corner and defend ourselves. Whilst I can make any number of justifications and explanations for the decisions that have been made the realisation that some of our closest friends here on the island had been involved in decisions which excluded us and then rather than apologising for, explaining or attempting to put right those decisions a period of ignoring us, making aggressively defensive justifications for their actions, false promises or simply a wall of silence will be forever something that makes me sad. There was a time frame where just talking to us, just saying sorry or just treating us like the fellow islanders, residents of over 6 years and friends we are could have put that situation right. That time has now passed. People I know I did my best by over the years we have lived here did not do their best by me or us.
- Our return to Rum back in March was both a high and a low point. But there were certainly moments during the first week or so we came back that it all felt very hopeless and futile. Cleaning four months worth of mold from walls and ceilings, dealing with the aftermath of a rat invasion while the water had frozen definitely falls into the lows category.
- Ady’s knee injury has been a low. It has perhaps not prevented him as much as it should have done from working on the croft and making life here run smoothly but seeing the man I love suffering pain and not get the proper medical diagnosis, support and treatment has been hard. It is also a timely reminder of the harsh reality of life here in terms of medical provision, remoteness and the physicality of our lives.
- Whilst I think we have struck a pretty good balance of time spent off Rum celebrating significant birthdays, spending time with family and friends and having special experiences I can see that life here is starting to mean compromises that hit hard – from it being near impossible to get Davies through a driving test, to finding education and work experience opportunities for Davies and Scarlett, to simply arranging simple medical appointments even the fairly mundane and routine things are tricky, let alone finding the way to see the latest cinema release without several nights accommodation, ferry trips and a several hundred mile round trip to the nearest cinema.
- Finances have been super tight this year. Due to a combination of reasons not least Ady’s inability to do some of the off-Croft work he usually manages, more trips off that usual and children becoming adults altering our family finance status. I have had some big sales for my various crafts and produce which has helped but it has felt like quite a juggling act to make ends meet in what is far from a luxurious lifestyle.
Good in 2018:
- Going off. As much as the Ireland adventure at the start of the year was not everything we had hoped it might be it was still an adventure. It gave us perspective, a renewed sense of what we do love about our lives here and what we still wanted to achieve here which is why we returned. I have been grateful to be back, to see another trip around the sun here and to really appreciate all that I love about Rum once again, particularly as I suspected when we left back in November 2017 we might only be coming back to pack up our things and leave for good.
- New things. I always strive to learn new skills, to introduce new lines to the Croft 3 shed and to have a good do at trying new things. I’ll elaborate more in my learned section but I feel I have certainly achieved that aim in 2018.
- Studying and stopping studying. I had always intended to go to university after taking a gap year to do some travelling back when I was 18/19. In that year off I ended up getting together with Ady and we bought a house instead. While I have never for a single moment regretted that decision I have often wondered whether I would have actually got to university and how I would have done. In doing the OU access course last year I learnt both that I am indeed more than capable of studying for a degree which was good to know but more importantly that certainly for now I really don’t want to! I am loving looking at Davies’ course materials as he embarks on a degree and find the subject matter and the learning absolutely fascinating, but every time he is doing an assignment or writing an essay I am so grateful that I am not and don’t need to prove my learning in that way. I may yet return to formal education (never say never!) but for now it’s been really good to have that question that was always in the back of my head answered with a ‘yes you could, but actually you don’t really want to’!
- Spending time with family. I really miss my parents, my brother, my sister in law and my nieces and nephews. In 2018 I think I managed to see the most of them I have since we left to go WWOOFing back in 2011. Particularly spending a few birthdays or other special occasions with family has been lovely and the Remembrance Day trip to North Wales with my parents in November was filled with some very special memories that I will treasure.
- Our trips. Hamilton was excellent, the Giants Causeway was fab, the seaweed baths were mad but splendid, the Natural History Museum was amazing as ever, seeing the polar bear cub, going ice skating, doing the high ropes circuit at Landmark in Aviemore. I can’t pinpoint any single one of those experiences, they were all wonderful.
Learnt in 2018:
- I’ll start with the practical skills. I properly learned to shear the sheep by hand. Then I learned how to deal with the fleece to card it, spin it, ply it, wash it and crochet with it. The fleece I (and Ady) took off the backs of the sheep we keep is now a hat that Ady wears, a pair of bedsocks I have been wearing while suffering with a cold and part of a fantastic heirloom project huge blanket that I crocheted for my Mum which sits on my parents bed down in Sussex. That makes me pretty proud.
- More ukulele stuff. In 2017 I said that while still very much a beginner I felt like I had mastered the start of learning to play. In 2018 I spent many more hours, carried on learning but also wrote five songs – the tunes, the lyrics and everything. They are personal, meaningful and feel like something special I have created all by myself.
- More crafty stuff. Along with the fleece / wool stuff I have also taught myself a few other crafts including increasing my general crochet skills to include creating patterns, making amigurumi creatures and finally mastering crochet socks, learning about lettering and making signs and clocks on slates, working with willow and other foraged materials to make baskets, wreaths, Christmas decorations and more.
- I’m not entirely sure this fits in my learnt, but I’m not sure it would have fitted in good either really, but it’s noteable. I’ve been walking up one of the steep paths on Rum regularly since June. I have not done it every day; we’ve actually not been on Rum for days or even weeks at a time over the late summer, autumn and winter and if the weather has been particularly dire or I have been busy or otherwise unable then I have not been up but I managed over 80 trips up the hill during 2018. It is a decent path although it has some steep places and several burn crossings which can be a leap during or just after heavy rain. I use a pair of walking poles to ensure both minimum impact on my knees but also to improve my surefooted-ness as I am a clumsy walker with weak ankles on perfectly flat ground let alone uneven steep paths. I’ve learnt from the process of the exercise, the head space and the effects that doing that walk have had on me.
- In spending time off Rum at the end of 2017 and the start of 2018 I learnt about what I did and didn’t miss about life here. In returning I have learnt about what I do and don’t value about being back. That sense of perspective is what is helping to shape our plans for the next stage in our lives and it’s been such a valuable lesson to realise and be able to quantify just what we do like and at what cost it comes.
Hopes for 2019:
- To find the right next stage for the four of us. We have a fairly good idea now of what that might look like and have started to make steps towards making it happen. I hope that it is not too far into 2019 before we are starting to live that new life with a new business and new challenges and adventures ahead.
- Linked in to the hope above I also hope that winter 2019 sees the four of us in a home which we feel less vulnerable in. One that better meets our needs and enables us to start following our dreams and feeling back in control again.
- To continue to follow my creative passions of music, writing, crafting and creating. I would love to make a living from my creative outputs and to continue producing things that others enjoy and want.
- To support my family through the next stage of our lives – to be there cheer leading and providing whatever is the most appropriate back up to Davies and Scarlett as they continue to navigate their way through life and the start of their independent adult paths.
- To feel I am making a difference. Whether it is by activism, writing, encouraging others or just small actions in this uncertain world where so many injustices exist and I feel at times powerless to make change to find a way to use the tools I have to make that change in the world that I would like to see.
Special bonus wish: Some kind of natural world experience to make me gasp in wonder – a wildlife sighting, a landscape or weather phenomena or other such encounter, of the good sort!