Ady and I had an interesting conversation today as we were collecting firewood. We were above the croft, looking down on the static and across to the snow capped peaks beyond, sea spread out before us and Rum in all it’s wintry glory looking gorgeous, forbidding and a bit wild.
I asked Ady what three things he was most proud of and felt were our biggest achievements in the nine months we’ve been here. And which three things he regrets, would have done differently or would change if he could go back in time and have ten minutes with his past self of a year ago.
He listed top achievements / things he is proud of as:
- Choosing Croft 3. We had the choice of croft 2 or croft 3 and croft 2 is larger. With no real basis to our choice we went for the smaller croft 3 and it was the right decision.
- Getting the static to Rum, to the croft and living in it.
- Becoming part of the community and getting to grips with island life. In the early days I used to feel a real pang when the ferry pulled away from the island and we were ‘trapped’ here. Now it is home.
Things he’d have done differently:
- I’d have maybe not put the static up on the hill. I love the view and it has been fine so far but whenever it is windy I wish we’d put it in a more sheltered spot and a more accessible place where we don’t have to bring everything up the croft hill every day.
- I wish we had planted trees already. It should have been one of the first things we did and we have not done it yet.
- We should have got a different car – the Pajero is still just about running but there is no denying it is too small and is not up to the 4WD challenge we need living here on Rum. A bigger, more reliable car would have been a wise investment.
I congratulate us on the following:
- Not being hasty – we always said we would give ourselves a year and get to know the land, the island, the seasons and not make mistakes or spend unnecessary money before we knew what we were doing or were sure we were on the right track. We have managed to do that really well and although there are times it feels frustrating not to have swept in and made massive impacts straight away we have done the right thing in watching and waiting and learning.
- Fully immersing ourselves in our new lives. Being part of a community was so important to us, particularly me, it was really high on our list of things we wanted in our new life when we went off in search of it at the start of 2011. I wanted to make a difference, take a real active role in shaping our lives and have more control than we used to back in a big town on the mainland. I love being part of the various groups making decisions and creating opportunities, events, making things happen here on Rum. I love the freedom to decide to do something and just get on with doing it, I love feeling I am contributing and making a difference in real, tangible ways. In just nine months I feel our family is genuinely a large part of the community and helping shape what happens next here. I’m really proud of us for finding our roles within Rum and making positive and valid contributions.
- My third one is quite likely what led us to be here in the first place but I’m pleased it has continued to hold true and that is resilience and positivity. This has been a really testing and challenging journey so far in many ways and we have been forced to examine over and again our motivation for being here, whether it is worth it and if it is still what we really, really want to do. We talk all the time about our plans and dreams, what bits we find hard and try to predict and anticipate how things will pan out. There have been several times over the last nine months when it would have been all too easy to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Although this is our dream and a life of our choosing and creating there have been many moments when wallowing and self pity would have been quite forgivable but instead we have risen to the challenges, found ways to make the best of things and taken comfort in counting blessings. It is true that I will always manage to put a positive spin on things and find the best in any given situation but we are also pretty good at realising when something is no longer working and being able to about turn without a loss of face. The option of packing up and heading off to the next adventure is always there and I think it is a tribute to us that we have never even come close to heading that way.
What I’d have done differently:
- Infrastructure stuff. There are still some areas that we struggle with or take a large chunk of our time each week which I regret not having just dealt with and got sorted out already. Namely water, toilet and footpath. We planned out how to extract water from the burn months ago and even priced it out but something else always cropped up to take precedence over us doing it. We collect rainwater for showers and washing up but still collect our cooking and drinking water from the burn in jerry cans because the water off the roof often ran out in the summer and now tastes too smoky to drink as it runs around the chimney from the woodburner. We still have to dig a hole to bury our toilet waste and the croft hill up to the static is currently above ankle deep in mud in places which on a steep hill in the dark is not easy to negotiate. I think all of those were anticipated issues that we should have prioritised in better weather to get sorted.
- I would not have made the static our home. I am not sure what we would have done instead although for similar money we could have bought a large wooden shed and some insulation, a wood burner and some basic furniture including cooker. The stress of getting the static onto the croft was something we’ll never forget and the reality of living in a metal box designed for summer seasons during a harsh winter on Rum is a daily battle. I know that a year from now I will probably have forgotten this and be thankful that we have such a great self contained holiday home here to let out but for now I hanker after something that keeps the weather on the outside a bit better.
So there you are. We both struggled to come up with three things we’d do differently, infact you will notice I squished several together and called them infrastructure so I only have two. Our watching and waiting period is coming to a close and we feel the pressure of new crofters coming soon nipping at our heels, showing us up and hopefully infecting everyone with new enthusiasm and energy! It’s going to be an exciting year, I wonder what we’ll be summing up at the end of it and wishing our future selves could pay us a brief visiting now to fill us in on!