We’ve had lots and lots of visitors in the last couple of weeks. Last Wednesday saw the Loch Nevis arrive at Rum pier bringing seven people to visit us :). It’s never occurred to me before that once it is close enough you can yell to people. For some reason despite the fact we can clearly see each other and wave there is some sort of invisible force field between those on board and those on land that precludes verbal communication so we’ve only ever waved. Not any more! My lovely friend Jonathan disproved that by calling out from a great distance away :).
We were welcoming a family (minus one child, plus an additional along for the ride adult) visiting between boats and another friend and his daughter visiting for a couple of nights. None had met each other before being from different parts of our different worlds long before we came to live on a remote island but I guess having people like us as friends is enough in common for people to hit it off with each other fairly quickly!
We did the whistle stop tour designed to take in as much of Rum and our lives here as possible between boats which includes: walking to Croft 3, taking the path that the static took (apart from crossing the river) with running commentary from me as to the various landmarks along the way (‘here is where the wheels fell off’, ‘here is where I thought Ady might have a nervous breakdown’, ‘here is where we couldn’t see for midges’ ‘here is where I cried’), a speedy introduction to the animals on the croft complete with pause in my talking as we go up the rather steep hill on the croft. I like to pretend this is in order to give people the opportunity to take in the unspoilt beauty of the surroundings – the dramatic peaks and jagged skyline, the river, the sea view, the woodland complete with majestic red deer lurking, the skies whether blue with fluffy white clouds, grey with drizzly rain or somewhere inbetween complete with majestic eagles soaring overhead, to listen for a moment to the sound of silence, of peace, of feeling utterly immersed in the gorgeousness of nature and overwhelmed by how very lucky we are to be living here. The truth is that the hill is so very steep I cannot climb it and talk at the same time without collapsing into a wheezing heap so I have to shut up!!!
Next is a refreshment stop – I was not the best host at this point and having realised we didn’t actually have enough cups to give everyone a drink I went without myself and then felt very bad for not offering some form of food – next time I’ll be better prepared with home baking or gorgeous things on doilied plates.
That done with a bit of a tour of the static and the croft and some general arm waving in the direction of things we plan to do in the future ‘house maybe here, compost loo maybe there, camping site in that area, polytunnel could go here, fire pit, earth oven, storytelling circle down in that corner.’ we made our way back down to the village. Visitor footwear, weather conditions and level of bogginess of path permitting we may take a different route to give a different perspective of the crofts, the views and the island.
Village centre next, taking in shop, teashop, village hall, wildlife garden, byre. Currently we have Market Day on a Wednesday where I am usually to be found joining in with the sitting behind a table groaning with wares from the village – gorgeous crafts, homemade baking, preserves, toiletries, home grown produce, some of which I can even take credit for making :). This week I just brought along customers 🙂
Stepping stones across the river mouth as it meets Loch Scresort taking in the wildlife garden and then a quick peep in the old dairy before walking along the coastal path through the campsite along to the visitor centre. We had enough time to walk the south side nature trail to the otter hide taking in the very different feel that the south side of the village has to the north side with more shady woodland and closer proximity to the sea.
Then to the pier to wave off the day tripping friends, extracting promises that next time they’ll visit for longer. I intend to hold them to those promises…
Back to focussing on the friends staying for longer. An evening stroll to the shop to meet some of the other islanders and have a beer in the early evening sunshine. Midges meant this was not quite as idyllic as it could have been but it was not far off.
The fuller island experience (48 hours rather than just 4) also took in the Sheerwater boat trip – not much in the way of wildlife out there that week but we glimpsed porpoises and saw a few seabirds. We took a car ride to Harris beach hoping to spot various animals but only actually seeing the highland cattle and a couple of deer from a distance. Our guests did the castle tour on their last day before we waved them off on the ferry.
Earlier on the same day we’d had another five friends arrive for a week, crossing over with leaving friends briefly. The weeklong experience is different again and this week our friends joined us on many walks, evenings sitting round the fire, the Sheerwater boat trip, walks around the island, a couple of fishing attempts including a very successful afternoon that saw us coming home with enough of a catch to feed ourselves that night. A few evenings down in the village, calling in at the houses of various on island friends for cups of tea or even cocktails!
I hope we gave all our recent flurry of visitors a real taste of our life here – the challenges and victories, the things that make us smug and the ones that make life tough, an introduction to the people, wildlife and history that we share this island we all call home with.
From our perspective it has given us plenty to think about. Having realisations of how far removed from our previous life we now are. What we used to take forgranted but now don’t miss, what we accept as fine but when seen through the eyes of others we appreciate as bigger compromises than everyone is prepared to make. The lack of plug sockets with electricity connected to charge up phones, cameras, ipods, games consoles. The challenges of quite where to put nine sets of muddy wellies, soggy raincoats and slightly damp socks. The logistics of providing breakfast, lunch and dinner without a working fridge let alone a freezer, a fruit and vegetable order that doesn’t arrive, getting through a weeks supply of breakfast cereal in the first two days and discovering that home made pizza for nine involves standing pummelling pizza dough for the best part of an hour and then a further two hours rolling them out, topping them, cooking them and serving them.
It’s tough to realise that in order for people to visit us they will be travelling for a long time, spending money on getting here and likely taking time out of their annual leave entitlement to do so. That our role in their adventure is to provide a gorgeous place to stay, with access to us and a sliver of our lives to take away and better understand what we are doing here. Not to provide a luxurious B&B style, fully catered five star experience because that is way out of our reach. In our previous lives we prided ourselves on being excellent hosts. Our house may have been small but we tried to cater and provide for everything, spending time on lovely food, snacks and drinks. This last week and latest rash of visiting friends has educated us that these days our responsibility is to merely be ourselves – to let people come, see quite what it is we are doing, share some of our plain lifestyle, simple food and very basic accommodation but maybe go away again feeling inspired, relaxed from the escape from the mainland ratrace, a bit more connected to nature, to food production, to us – their crazy friends. Hey if nothing else we get to send them back on that ferry marvelling when they arrive home at their flushing toilets, running water, plug sockets, landlines, 24 hour supermarkets and fitted kitchen appliances with a feeling of relief that it’s not them who hit a mid life crisis and ran off to live a crazy dream.
Come again soon, our lives have been the richer, more interesting and affirming for your visits. And if you’ve not booked to come and see us yet, please do.