The new normal

What a madly busy week we’ve had.

Last Saturday we did our cleaning job in the morning and then as the weather was so glorious we collected Davies and Bonnie and some ice lollies in a bag of ice and headed down to the beach near our house. We are about half a mile up a track through oak woodlands off the ‘main’ road with a loch the other side of the road. The loch is tidal and low tide reveals a beach. It’s rocky, sandy, seaweedy with plenty of good foraging if we wanted a seashore feast but that day we were out collecting rocks to tumble and any plastic or other litter to collect and bring back to the rubbish bins.

The following day was just as glorious which was perfect as it was the local water festival. Organised by the local community it was a day celebrating our loch-side location with a whole host of taster sessions for various watery activities including paddle boarding, skiff rowing, canoeing, kayaking, open water swimming and more. On shore there was food and drink, music, an open tank displaying creatures collected from the deep of the loch including lobster, crabs, starfish, sea sponges and more.

Scarlett had been keen to try kayaking for a while so we had signed her up for a session and as she is under 18 she needed an accompanying adult. Davies and Ady declined which left me signed up too. I’ve never kayaked and although I am a confident swimmer I am not a confident getter in and out of boats so I confess to being slightly nervous. I was right, it was not at all elegant getting in or out (Ady kindly videoed me doing both, I won’t be sharing those clips!). It was however hugely fun, amazing to get that different perspective out on the loch of this beautiful area and excellent to challenge myself with something I was unsure of.

Scarlett adored it and we’ve been googling inflatable kayaks ever since. I forsee a purchase once we have sorted out finances out a bit with some more work.

The next day was Ady’s birthday. 55 years young. His gifts included lots of biscuits, a book and a kitchen gadget! And of course a mention from Ken Bruce on his radio show.

Ady has been desperate to go and find the mines up in the hills above Strontian, which is our nearest village ever since he heard about them. It was these lead mines where strontium was collected and Ady was very keen to see if we could find some. So we googled the route and set off with a picnic. We ended up driving a road we’d not even known existed, let alone realised could lead so far showing our lack of local geography. It was a spectacular route up, up and over the hills and then back down ending near a loch. We parked up and took our picnic for a wander along a brilliantly maintained track which led up and over another big hill for walkers and bikes. We paused a short way in to sit next to a winding river and eat our lunch.

Then we back tracked along the route a little way as we suspected we had missed the landmark for the start of the walk to the mines. Sure enough we happened upon it. We had bookmarked the link to the route on our phones but not anticipated having no phone signal to check it again so were relying on half remembered hastily read through directions which almost had us turning back as we felt we had gone wrong, but we decided to turn one last corner and suddenly we spied the landmark building ruins we recalled so carried on further.

Scarlett was the only one tenacious enough to carry on looking after the rest of us had sat down to rest. While Ady and Davies spent time finding likely looking rocks to contain seams of strontium and smashing them open like people, from Time Team, Scarlett climbed a bit further and was rewarded with the discover of the opening of a mine.

We gathered up quite the haul of rocks showing quartz and traces of the mineral and then walked back the way we had come to the car, retracing the gorgeous drive back home.

Then it was time for cider and cake in the sunshine.

We had earmarked Tuesday as postal voting day. Davies’ first vote. We’ve had postal votes ever since we moved to Rum and although we are now close enough to a poling station to go and vote in person it seemed sensible to stick to a postal vote for now when we all registered living here just incase voting clashes with working or visiting Rum or something else in the way. Davies and I spent several hours online watching videos about what MEPs do, how the numbers of MEPs are allocated to various countries and areas within countries, doing some political compass quizzes and looking at how MEPs had voted on past issues over recent years to see who we would be most aligned with. We talked about tactical voting, how you may vote differently in local, general, European, council elections and in referendums. How you may vote on single issues or feel more closely aligned with the political ideals of a particular party or candidate, how to engage politically via contact with your councillor, MP, MSP or MEP even if you didn’t vote for them and so on. We talked about what votes might mean in this rather unusual European election and how you might want to use your voice to make a statement. It was the sort of exercise I have done with every time I’ve voted but honestly never quite in so much detail and with so much thought.

This was all followed by the complicated origami that is putting ballot paper into one envelope, into another envelope with not all of them fitting without folding and then requiring licking and sticking…. if the political research had not left us with a bitter taste in our mouths then the envelope glue certainly did!

The next three days and two nights were a home alone adventure for Davies and Scarlett left looking after the house, the pets and each other while Ady and I headed to Rum for a couple of days.

We planted trees, dug up strawberries, caught up with friends, checked all was well on the croft, got up my hill, tidied up the shed and removed a wasps nest, sorted out the water, attended to the boiler, changed a tyre and were generally very productive and efficient.

Once home we’ve repeated ourselves with back to holiday cottage cleaning and mammoth volumes of laundry this weekend.

It’s alright you know this new normal. Busy, lots of opportunities for new things, new adventures, new skills and new challenges. Just what we were looking for!

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