The increased numbers of people coming off the ferry for day-trips has meant the resurrection of answering the usual round of questions these last few weeks. How many children in the school? What do you do in the winter? What brought you to Rum? I never really tire of answering them but I am just as desperate to gather information in return – why are you here on Rum? Where are you from? Had you heard of the island before?
I was explaining to someone recently about how the community works. About how we all have a relationship which is almost sibling-like with each other. There is greater tolerance and acceptance of people’s faults and foibles here than anywhere else I have ever lived or worked. No one is excluded or ostracised, there may be squabbles and whispers but there is a feeling of being in this together, of batting for the same team, or belonging to the same family. That is one of the great positives about life here but also one of the issues at times. In the same way that we tend to regress to our childhood or teenage self in the company of our family here on Rum there is a tendancy to become a caricature of oneself. With so few people here we find our role and fit it, often in an extreme and slightly one dimensional way. I have noticed on all the islands that folk get labelled with nicknames and almost become like sit com versions of themselves. If you are the only red head, resident teenager, birdwatcher, lesbian, rock music fan, overweight, underweight, bald, blonde, classic car fanatic then that one character trait defines you to the exclusion of anything else you may be.
It is one of the things I find most difficult about the lack of people here. Back in our old world we all had many interests and facets to our personalities and elements to our lives. I worked part time, home educated, did some volunteer stuff looking after sheep, was very active in our local Home Ed community, helped run the kids St Johns Ambulance Badgers group, ran a kids book group and was part of an adults book group at the library, had a wide and diverse circle of friends as part of a couple, as a parent and as an individual, I went swimming every week and did two big sponsored swims for charities, had an allotment, chatted to the neighbours, spent time with famil, kept up with my circle of online friends… I am still very busy here and have two different jobs outside the croft along with my various crafty pursuits and stuff on the croft but it’s the same cast of people who I work with in every different role.
We’re off next week for a 10 day jaunt – a weekend with friends; folk who have known us for 10 years or more. Back when we lived in a house, had jobs, went on holidays, wistfully talked of a different lifestyle. People who have been there with us for a big old part of our journey. I can’t wait to sit with old friends who have known us in different times, seen our kids as toddlers rather than teens and catch up on their lives rather than mine. Then to see family and go on our cob building course – learning new skills, meeting new people in an environment where we are all new and inexperienced.
After that I have started to arrange our very first WWOOFers – I think the time has come to start getting support with the tasks on the croft, begin sharing what we have learned and teaching others what we can and gaining from the fresh eyes and new ideas of like minded people coming and seeing what we have achieved.
I have always known that the island cannot possibly provide everything, we will have to go seeking when it falls short. The time has come to start searching out opportunities and creating new ways of meeting needs. I think we are on the way to making that happen.