As it seems to have become a monthly blog just now! I guess there are only so many ways to say ‘not much has changed’.
Of course that’s not strictly true. The month has changed, the season has changed, the clocks have changed, the view from the window has changed.
I was sitting just yesterday morning observing the weather rolling past – first sunshine, then a very heavy rain shower, a rainbow, some hail. The sky went from dark to bright, grey to blue and an interesting yellowy shade just before the hail. There was at least one rainbow, probably two. All the time the wind blew, shaking the final leaves from the oak trees I can see outside and hustling the clouds on their way from the far right window to the far left at quite a pace.
I reflected that life in a house could very easily disconnect you from the world outside – no longer do the walls shake, the windows rattle, the roof produce an symphony of sound depending on the size and frequency of the raindrops with pitch changes depending on the wind direction. Caravan life on Rum was always a very close connection to the world outside, in fact it was never truly left outside. Leaky ceilings, condensationed windows and thin metal walls only ever kept it at a small distance rather than shutting it out.
Rum was already on my mind thanks to that reflection and then a google alert I still have set up from our time there pinged to tell me a news story was in the Scottish press about the first new residents moving there this week to take up the newly built houses. There was much press coverage and social media interest in the new houses during lockdown. A perfect storm of conditions for a frenzy of noise about island life, isolating living, getting away from it all at a time when many were feeling the isolating feelings of the pandemic anyway. There are just four houses, each one attracting interest a hundred times over with well over 400 applications for the small Community Trust to consider.
From our seven years there, starting in much the same way with an application for our croft tenancy, supported with business plan and comprehensive family ‘CV’ followed with an interview before being offered the croft we could well empathise with those looking to apply. From our jubilation at being accepted to the logistics involved in making the move and cocktail of emotions as the big move drew closer we can understand some of what those new residents will be feeling as they arrive. From our subsequent lives there we have a fairly good idea of the rollercoaster ahead of them as they settle in to their new lives, getting to know the island and the residents.
This week will mark the anniversary of the first time we set foot on Rum, November 2011. Nine years ago we stepped off the ferry and walked around the village and the perimeter of the croftland which was to become our home.
From our time on the island including my own several years as one of the directors for the community trust I can well imagine the excitement felt on island at the prospect of these new people. New faces, new energy and ideas. New children for the school, new customers for the shop, new volunteers to help get involved in the many, many aspects of keeping a small island community working. Unique to island living in a way no one who has not lived somewhere like that will ever fully understand, unique to Rum specifically. And of course, 18 months since we left, nearly a year since we last even went to Rum ourselves unique to those who now call it home in ways we won’t understand any more either.
I am in turn excited for those new residents, and for the rest of the community. Ever so slightly wistful for an adventure we once had and also even more aware that that is no longer our adventure to have and that other things are for us now. New challenges, new friends, new lives.
Life continues to move on, and away from Rum, for us. We have even had chapters closing in the brief time we have been here on the mainland. We have finished our housekeeping contracts now with keys handed back, or passed on to new housekeepers. We sold our second car as Ady now has use of a company car for his job. I have been offered a payrise and more hours for the charity I am working with. My writing work is going well with some lovely feedback from readers of the various pieces I am writing in various places. There is an opportunity on the horizon for Scarlett which is too early to share but exciting to think about. These are the life chances only available to us now we are away from Rum.
Our connections to that outside world may not keep us awake on windy nights any more but still form the bigger part of us all. We gathered outside just this week to marvel at the starry night sky spotting Uranus and a new moon. Ady is photographing sunrises and streaky November skies as he takes his coffee break watching the Mull ferry travel between the mainland and the coloured row of houses visible from miles away on Tobermory (made famous on the children’s TV show Balamory). I have been marvelling at the bumper crop of acorns this autumn all beginning to sprout in the garden and the spring bulbs in my pots already sending up tiny green shoots.
I am still swimming most days. The loch is down to single digits in temperature now and offers a huge adrenaline rush along with exercise and life affirming connection to the natural world. Last week there were otters swimming close by me. I have a close circle of local swimming friends who I often swim with, getting to know each other, sharing secrets and stories, sharing joy and swear words as we swim alongside each other.
I would be lying if I said all was well. Not having seen family or further afield friends is hard, so very hard. It was the way of life on Rum but even by our isolated island life standards we have seen less of the bright lights, big cities and people we love this year than ever before. It is somehow harder to swallow when it is not through our own life choices and a compromise we understood and accepted when we chose a lifestyle, rather a pandemic related prevention of these freedoms. But compared to so many we remain incredibly fortunate.
On balance life is good. Which is pretty much all we have ever strived to achieve. I’m pleased to report we continue to meet that aim.