As in, we had a wonderful Christmas time in a very simple manner.
It’s been a challenging Christmas for many thousands of people all over the UK, indeed all over the world really but specifically in the UK many people have not had the Christmas they were hoping for or had planned due to the circumstances beyond their control that the weather has thrown at them.
This has been a common theme for our family here on Rum since we arrived here.
We are not at risk of flooding by rain but it frequently comes through the roof of the static if the wind blows in a certain direction. Our bed, Scarlett’s floor, the area infront of both external doors and the kitchen worktop underneath the spotlight have all at some point or another had pans or towels beneath soaking up rainwater. The rain on Rum is not a simple matter of determining what outdoor clothing we wear or whether we can hang washing outside today or not, it dictates the very rhythm of our lives from if we can drive across the river or not and therefore need to carry groceries, animal feed, bottled gas, firewood and so on a lesser or further distance. It turns our croft to mud, drowns our crops and on occasion has taken an animals’ life too.
The sun although almost always welcome can bring it’s own causes for concern. Rum has been glowing alight from out of control fires across the island on more than one occasion, never during our time here but the regularly spaced firebeaters, warning signs that go up during the summer months and evidence of burnt out patches of land which still exist testify to the issues that the sun can bring. This summer just gone we could see burning areas out of control on the mainland from across the water.
But by far the biggest force of nature here for us is the wind. Wind cancels ferries, destroys buildings, pulls down trees, rattles our roof, wobbles our walls and keeps us awake at night. Wind gave us power and took it away again by burning out our wind turbine. Wind has blown the doors off the polytunnel, the netting off the fruit cage, tossed the Honesty Larder fridge on it’s side and regularly seems to laugh at our attempts to move forward. I had a story when I was a child about a naughty zephyr, a little wind who caused trouble and made mischief and I often wonder if he has followed me to Rum.
We have been hit by storm after storm so far this winter and Christmas had become something of a landmark point to reach. Many times in the last few weeks Ady and I have quietly wondered whether we would actually see Christmas Day here in the static, whether it would still be intact. Our plans of our own turkey, all day power from the wind turbine, presents under our Rum harvested tree all felt in great jeopardy as we lurched from one crisis (dead wind turbine) to another (cancelled ferries) to yet another (more storms forecast). We seriously questioned what the odds were of us waking up on Christmas morning in our own beds might be as we kept readjusting our expectations.
In the event there was a last minute hitch in the form of a lightning strike knocking out the islands internet from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day (when on islander superstars clambered up Hebnet Hill and fixed things to reconnect Rum to the outside world once more), always patchy mobile phone signal also disappeared and we were concerned as to how friends and family might be thinking the worst of our silence. We managed to get a few messages out to let people know we were fine, happy, safe but disconnected and just before lunch we managed a phonecall to family.
I can’t say the uncertainty has added anything to this years festive celebrations, I think we have sufficient excitement and adventure in our lives of our own making without any additional layers but we have indeed had a very Merry Christmas. An off grid, way out there in the wilderness, edging closer to self sufficiency all the time sort of Christmas. A healthy mix of bought in junk food snacks along with our home made cranberry sauces, pickled onions, Rum reared and oven readied here on Croft 3 roast turkey, Christmas cake, mince pies and other goodies. A variety of presents delivered to Rum thanks to amazon, ebay and other online retailers along with some thoughtful low cost, handmade gifts. Some entertainment brought to us thanks to the newly fixed internet, BBC iplayer and radio, high profile, high budget celebrity Christmas specials combined with carols round the piano, brisk walks in the brief dry sunny spells, parlour games with friends, mulled wine and mince pies and in jokes with the community.
Our second Rum Christmas. A (relatively) quiet one at home.