like the deserts miss the rain

Every so often I have a moment or two of doubt about our move here. It is pretty darn extreme, both the day to day lifestyle we as a family currently live and the reality of living on a remote island. When we were planning our move here the biggest thing family and friends were concerned about was how we’d all cope without our friends. We are very sociable people and the idea of cutting ourselves off from people was a scary one which people quite rightly predicted would be an issue for us.

We were very confident that we’d make friends here. Unless the whole island was populated by nutters it would be hard not too. You are in the same boat as everyone else here which is after all the first step towards friendship – a common circumstance. It’s why we make friends at school, at work, at parent and toddler group, at the school gates – shared life experiences and being in a similar place to each other. Rum has a very diverse community of people, a fairly wide demographic and although many of the islanders came here initially to work for SNH in some capacity people here now make their living from all sorts of different ventures and spend their days doing all manner of interesting and different things. It’s not quite like Balamory but there are times when I think it comes close!

This means Ady and I have made some really good friends here, people who we feel we have properly connected with and really value the friendship of. People who we feel the richer for having in our lives. I adore popping in for a cup of tea at various houses in the village, exchanging banter with fellow islanders on facebook, starting to build up in jokes, catchphrases, little traditions, starting to forge friendships which will last a long, long time. I miss friends and I really miss family but the community on Rum are doing a fine job of meeting our needs and we are pushing hard to help along the sorts of things we’d like to see more of socially here on the island.

But what of Dragon and Star? We’ve always been very aware that taking them away from everything they know, their local friends, their cousins (to whom they are very close and saw pretty much weekly when we lived back in Sussex) could become a problem. Our children are also very sociable, like mixing with people, making friends, spending time with others. There are other children on the island  but the three girls who are older than Dragon and Star anyway are away to school for two weeks at a time coming home only every other weekend. The three girls who are younger than Dragon and Star (one is nursery age, the others are not even that old yet) are good company for a while but the appeal of 3 and 4 year olds when you are 10 and 12 is fairly limited and a different sort of company to peers and equals. The ninth resident child on the island just celebrated his first birthday… I cannot deny that this is a concern for me and one which I ponder regularly. I do watch the children being friends with various adults on the island and I know that these relationships are no less valuable than the friendship of children the same age as them would be, just different. Dragon and Star are very fortunate to have each other; they have always been close and chosen each others company over more or less anyone else even when lots of potential friends were available. Many of their friends are mutual ones and they have shared interests and passions and happily fulfil the ‘best friend’ role for each other admirably. All of those vital socialisation skills are more than covered in the sibling relationship – conflict resolution, cause and effect, bargaining and negotitation, give and take, reading social cues and just understanding how relationships with another young human work. As for their socialising they seem to be doing okay with the people available here on the island, happily spending time with various people here in various ways and they have regular top ups of friends and family coming to visit to bolster them when needed.

There is no question that this is a different life and the effects on them of having spent this chunk of their childhood in this environment will no doubt be evident in some way – I hope positive or at least benign.

This morning I was having a ‘it would be nice to be able to just nip to…’ moment briefly so I asked the others what 3 things they most miss about the mainland:

Ady –

  • Retail therapy. I loved going to supermarkets for reduced to clear items at the end of a day and finding bargains.
  • Electricity – I did point out that most of the rest of Rum has electricity but of course it is still rationed here rather than available on demand no matter how much you want to use.
  • Being able to go out for a meal or get in a takeaway – either as a celebratory treat or just because it’s easy sometimes to get in dinner from the chipshop.


  • Toy shops
  • Friends
  • Home Ed groups and activities such as Badgers (St Johns Ambulance 5-10year olds), Wildlife Explorers ( RSPB kids group), Magic Lantern (film club), Forest School.

Star –

  • Toy shops (She was not copying Dragon, infact she gave her answers first!)
  • Friends and cousins and family
  • Museums and days out like that. We used to go to London every six weeks or so to visit museums, attend lectures on Science at the RI, the theatre, cinema etc.

Nic –

  • Charity shops – it is true that there is nothing we can’t get here, internet shopping is amazing. But I have dropped a dress size or three and could really do with all sorts of new clothes to fit properly and am not really up for paying brand new prices or not being able to try stuff on. 
  • Library – we do have a little branch library and can request items and get in books but it is not the same as being able to head to the library whenever you like and find a selection of fiction and browse the cook books, craft manuals and kids books for inspiration.
  • Family and friends. Celebrating birthdays and Christmas is going to be hard without our usual family and friend traditions. We’ve missed various get togethers over the last few years with friends and that is hard. My brother is about to become a father and I won’t be around to meet the new baby. We catch up on the phone and online but nothing compares to simply hanging out with my sister in law for several hours every week just being part of each others lives, or having my Dad call round for a coffee in the middle of the day because he was passing and saw my car there.

We did a lot of gallivanting about in our Home Ed life previously; if one of the children showed an interest or developed a passion for something then we would find the best place to visit and discover more – art galleries, museums, parks, zoos, cinemas, theatres, lectures were all part of our day to day lives. I miss that easy availability of finding the right resource to answer their questions, inspire and educate them (and me!).

Never ones to dwell on what we don’t have my next question was ‘what three things would you like to have a magic wand to wave and make happen’. I usually find the magic wand is not at all necessary and most of our wishes are perfectly possible to make true all by ourselves with a bit of time and creativity.

Ady –

  • Electricity -I’d like to be able to charge up my phone, keep the internet on all the time, watch iplayer in bed whenever I want without thinking about where the power is coming from.
  • An indoor toilet – I’d like to not be emptying the loos every few days and just have the waste gone once it’s left our bodies!
  • A log fire – I want to be warm without worrying.

Ady’s answers demonstrate where he is struggling just now and are interesting because I’d consider them all modern conveniences (aside from maybe the log fire, but really that is a heating request which again is a modern thing).

Dragon –

  • Enough electricity to charge stuff up and maybe run my Xbox console so I could bring it out of storage
  • A bigger bedroom – I want to set up stuff to leave out all the time in my room rather than having to pack everything away every day.
  • A playpark – grand plans for a trampoline, zip wire, climbing frame, swing, slide etc.

Star –

  • A bigger bedroom so I can build a really big house for Humphrey (her hamster) and have a desk to draw at and bookshelves to put all my books on.
  • Less mud on the croft so I don’t get splashed every time I go out to feed the animals.
  • Less condensation in the static.

Star was also pretty struck with the idea of the playpark.

Nic –

  • I’d love a bath. A bath that I can soak in for an hour with a book and a glass of wine, then get out of, into my pjs and snuggle on the sofa afterwards.
  • a washing machine, here at home. So that getting a load of washing done does not require allowing a couple of hours once a week and a roulette risk as to whether I get it home before it gets rained on as I carry it up our muddy hill.
  • Indoor space I guess, space to store our food indoors so we don’t have in the dark and wind and rain dashes out to the horse box because we’ve run out of gravy granules. Space to hang wet coats and waterproofs and put our wellies. Space to stash Christmas presents where no one can find them.

A really interesting exercise. I think it proves that six months in we are coping well with our rather extreme lifestyle but are ready to get into a proper house with some of the home comforts that will provide.

What would you miss if you lived our life? What magic wishes would you ask for now in your current life and could you actually make them happen all by yourself if you thought about how to do it?

11 thoughts on “like the deserts miss the rain”

  1. Try not to worry too much about the lack of other children.When you HE you can find your child/children go through solitary phases even when surrounded by others (have a reclusive teen) Friendships with older/younger folk are equally as valuable and more indicative of adult life. Most of my friends are not the same age as me 🙂

    What would I miss if I lived your life ? – electricity on demand since it makes life so much more comfortable-in many ways. Being able to stay connected (Internet/phone) is priority for me and mine. And probably the convenience of living next door to a supermarket although doubtless my wine bill would reduce dramatically (I’d probably have to brew my own !!) but not much else in all honesty.

    I love your pioneering lifestyle and really admire you for having the courage to follow your dreams. I’ve got as far as thinking about how I want to re-train once A is off to college and then setting up my own business 🙂

    1. Weed have you been hanging around listening to me explaining to people in real life why it’s not important to have same age kids around all the time?! That is almost word for word what I say when challenged. I guess every so often I just need to hear someone else say it or at least agree with me rather than nod sadly while clearly privately thinking I am a nutter!

      In lots of ways I think there is more courage required to stay in a life that doesn’t suit you than to accept that you are in the wrong place and go about changing things accordingly. It’s not always possible to follow your dreams as we have followed ours with such a huge life change – sounds like you have your own dream chasing plans ready to start when the time is right for you 🙂

  2. I think Weed pretty much sums it up, my two children 10 and 13 do not have home educating friends nearby (daughter did but has since fallen out with the few that live near, I should say without even trying, long story but not her fault she is the nicest person you could wish to meet) and son the reclusive teen! there are groups that run nearby i.e. guides/scouts etc. but my son has no interest and daughter has had her confidence knocked so much that she does not even want to try.

    I live in a small seaside down in yorkshire and sometimes wonder if a return to Leeds where we originate from would provide much needed get togethers with family, cousins etc. for the social side of things and to be truthful I miss them also and obviously there are more home educating families to get along with. So even I, living as it were surrounded by thousands of people have those same questions going on in my head. I think your two children are so lucky to be living in a close community and I agree again with Weed different friends of all ages is sometimes a better thing.

    I think the thing I would miss the most is having a supermarket nearby, or one a walk away as I have now but I would trade my view with yours any day! by the way hubby has nicked my google account so do not be suprised if you see his face up as a profile picture with a name like rosieposie!

    1. you are right, I think my kids are incredibly lucky and actually so do they – they love their lives and are really aware of how fortunate they are to have the opportunities they have. We do have a fantastically well stocked little shop here on Rum so although it’s no 24 hour tesco we can get pretty much whatever we need, it just takes a bit more being aware of the opening hours!

  3. if it was me… number one would be the bath- our months last wionter in the (now sold!) touring caravan taught me that. space for kids stuff without hemming me in with chaos is number two- them having a bedroom is still such a treat. I imagine this year for food will be the toughest- next year you’ll be growing some. My Dh would probably be tired of toilet duty too.
    And if the static is the plan for a year or two, can the porch be ‘extended’ to be extra living space, with storage and perhaps woodburner? I remember seeing a picture of a static with strawbale walls around afew years ago, and being intrigued- not exactly helpful in your wet and wild and windy environment, but something along those lines is what we’ll do when we do our (very tame) version of static living. We drove past some statics for sale today, but promised ourselves not to look until we have somewhere to put one 🙂

    1. I’ve seen pics like that of statics made into permanent dwellings with decent insulation. We’ve even talked about cladding ours with various things including straw bales, dry stone walling, wood etc. Hopefully we’ll be building next year but are planning on putting a woodburner in in the next week or so which should help lots with heating and condensation reduction.

    2. Hmm… things I would definitely miss would be the occasional conveniences like you guys said – getting takeaway or going out for a good meal/coffee, having op-shops (charity shops) nearby, popping online any time I want.

      I grew up without these things (we did have an op-shop in the local town), and they were things I really loved about moving to a city. Now we’ve moved to a small town, I have to say the lack of variation in eateries/takeaway joints is bugging me a bit!

      I feel like the everyday chores are things that you get used to (e.g. living without washing facilities, having to go outside to the loo) and factor into your days. But not having the option of throwing up your hands and going, “Screw it, let’s go to the cinema and get Thai for dinner!” can wear you (well, me!) down.

      Does that make sense?

  4. Oh god, everything! Good rail network so I can go places, decent deli and a wide choice of cafes, theatre, ballets at least 3times a year, pizza delivery, heating, plumbing, bookshops, my kitchen, fabric and yarn shops… You know me, Nic – unrepentant urbanite with a horror of isolation

  5. Well, we desperately need more space as there are 6 of us in a 3 bed house. However there is nothing more we can do about that than we have already – we were meant to use the front room as a bedroom but as we home ed and have a tiny lounge and galley kitchen knew we would suffer cabin fever if we did that. So its our dining room/project room/computer room.

    A job for my DH would hopefully ease our negative cashflow(!) issues and give him a new sense of purpose after being made redundant without warning last year.

    On the positive side our good friends have become close and we have felt cared and supported during difficult times, so they are prob what I would most miss if I moved somewhere remote.

    Apols if I’ve rambled – your Q was more thought provoking than I’d expected!

    I love reading your blog and find it very inspiring 🙂

    Thank you


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