Three Months In…

It’s three months today that we arrived here at this new address. Three months since we pulled up, signed the tenancy agreement, were handed over the keys and started the process of settling in and making this our new home.

It’s been a busy three months. We arrived not knowing anyone, with no work, having never been to this little corner of the highlands before, despite it being within 50 miles of Rum. At that point we had no phone or internet connection either.

Three months on we have started work in various jobs, made contacts (who will hopefully become friends), met the neighbours and plenty of locals, joined the library, been to the cinema and several local events and signed up for voluntary work. We have planted up a bed of strawberries and potted up some plants in the garden, made plans to bring across the chickens, hung up our clock, found furniture, had the phone and internet connected and done all of the changing your address admin. We have had several overnight guests, several more visitors for tea and cake.

We have had visits to the doctors, the dentist, the optician, the supermarket. We’ve been down to Sussex, across to Northern Ireland and to Rum for the day and overnight. All of which have had huge layers of logistical trickery removed. We have been here in rain, wind, hail, snow, sunshine and midges.

In lots of ways it is still very early days. We still have things to get properly sorted out, details to finalise and long term plans to thrash out. In other ways it feels like we’ve been here for ages, we settled in so quickly and it definitely feels like home, like the right move.

So in classic WW fashion, as we have continued to wander a bit, and wonder a lot here is the bad, good and learned from our first three months here. As none of us felt we had learnt much new (yet) we have gone with just one thing we’ve learned here and added in a new category of ‘opportunities I am going to explore’ as a prompt to help us all find the social, educational and work or voluntary lives we would like and make the most of this move.

*Nothing is walking distance.
*It’s hard to meet people, on Rum we just went to the shop and eventually made all those connections. Here there is no central place to just hang out and meet folk
*Although the ferry to Rum is only 50 miles away we have not gotten over as much as we’d thought. The straddling two places is not as feasible as we’d hoped it might be
*Mainland expense. We are relying on spending to accumulate, the need to run a car, to have semi-decent clothes
*I’m missing the freedom of knowing the rules.
*I’ve lost a little of the pride of doing something different and living somewhere unusual.

*The security of being in a sturdy house means I sleep easier at night and I’m really happy to see Davies and Scarlett in better living conditions.
*I like being able to go out just for the day, to go to appointments and shopping or into the town.
*I am pleased that we have stayed in the same region and still have the amazing views and brilliant wildlife of the Highlands of Scotland
*The logistics of day to day life are so much easier. Next day delivery is still not quite next day but it is so much quicker than on Rum and does not involve a trek to the ferry and a wheelbarrow up to the croft.
*I am loving not having to empty the compost loo.

I have learnt:
I am working in a tearoom, assisting the chef and understanding what happens behind the scenes in a catering kitchen. I am really enjoying every aspect of it and learning a lot.

Opportunities I am going to explore:
Social: I’ve made a few possible social contacts and there are some specific men’s social opportunities here which I am going to explore more.
Educational: I like learning more about the social and cultural history of the area and have been getting books from the library and researching online.
Work / Volunteering: My work at the tearoom is likely to be really busy over the coming months so I will see how that pans out.

*There is less to do here than there was on Rum. The beach is slightly too far away to take Bonnie and do beach cleaning as I need to keep a hand free for her lead.
*There is a lot of bird life here, more than on Rum but there is not so much other wildlife (like the deer).
*I still have quite a bit of my stuff left on Rum and had hoped to be spending more time on Rum than we’ve managed.
*It feels quiet without the livestock here and I miss seeing the Croft creatures around.
*Not having as much scope for selling my baking and Mummy’s produce as we’d hoped due to the regulations around food production for sale.

*Being in a house is good. When it’s midgey or the weather is really bad you almost don’t notice it living in a house.
*With internet and electricity all the time I can spend more time chatting to my friend online without it needing to be at times when the internet is on or I have charge on my devices.
*As much as I said we don’t see the wildlife I am enjoying seeing more birds. We have a couple of woodpeckers around most of the time which I’d not seen for years.
*I really enjoyed the marine ID workshop. It was interesting to do and something I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do on Rum.
*Kayaking was really fun. It was something I would not really have had the chance to do on Rum. The whole Water Festival was good, it was nice to see some of the local community and see that stuff like that goes on here.

I have learnt:
*About strontium, which was mined above Strontian, our nearest village.

Opportunities I am going to explore further:
Social: There is a youth club once a week which I will go along to and meet some of the other teens in the area.
Educational: I will look at the courses available online or locally
Work/voluntary: Marine ID volunteering opportunities plus Mummy has made contact with the local ranger who I am going to meet and have a chat with about volunteering opportunities locally too.

*It is hard to still be between homes with some of my stuff over here and some of my stuff still on Rum.
*The internet took nearly a month to get installed and is not always super reliable.
*Although it is great to have unlimited power after having limited electricity on Rum, all of our power there was renewable from the wind turbine or solar panel whereas here the electricity comes at a cost, both financial and environmental.

*My bedroom is big, I have more privacy than on Rum in the caravan. I have a bigger bed, a desk, my games / TV set up and it’s a space I actually use and spend time in. I can be drawing or watching something at 4am if I want with no restrictions such as light / power/ internet / disturbing the others.
*I have not started yet but I have signed up for volunteering on a helpline and am on a course about it this coming week. This is something I would definitely not have had the opportunity to do on Rum.
*I like the location of our new house. We are able to get back to Rum so I can still enjoy the parts of that life which I liked. But we are also closer to civilisation.
*Being on the mainland makes my online friendships easier to maintain. I am able to get to the post office to send gifts, have better internet to chat and hopefully have a friend visiting later this year.
*Life feels fuller here. I have more going on. I am getting outside more with Scarlett for walks, largely because if we get wet or muddy it’s easier to get clean and dry, there are more things happening (in the last week we’ve been to the cinema, a party, a workshop, to the re-use centre, to the town for the dentist). When I am not out there is an unlimited number of things to do inside too with the internet always on.

I have learnt: while living on the mainland I am still able to maintain the positive things that I had while living on Rum 😀 such as having freedom for the cat and dog to roam, keeping livestock, being remote and rural, having access to nice walks.

Opportunities I will explore:
Social: Arranging more visits from friends coming to stay. I will attend the local youth club at least once to see whether it is likely to offer me.
Educational: I have finished the first year of my degree and am enrolled on year two starting in the autumn. I will also be attending various training courses to support me in my voluntary work.
Work / voluntary: I have set myself up as a self employed artist and have a meeting this week to register with a work coach for support on that.

*I would echo what Ady has said about nothing being walking distance. If I could pick this house up and move it five miles to the right that would be perfect as we could all walk to work, we’d be closer to the ferry crossing to Fort William (nearest big town for supermarket, dentist etc.) and if we ran out of milk we could nip out and get some.
*Red Tape. Which is not entirely red tape as such, just barriers that I’ve gotten used to not having. I made a couple of contacts who were up for selling my jams and Scarlett’s baking but when we looked into registering as a food producer we discovered that because we are on a private water supply we would need to have it tested annually. While I totally understand the reasoning behind this it would be a cost of several hundred pounds to us which we’d be needing to cover before making any profit, effectively putting paid to any such business even starting. This is the same private water supply that our landlord is able to let the house to us with perfectly legally as long as they take responsibility for the filters so we all know it is safe. Rum, in contrast offered none of these barriers and I’d gotten rather used to having an idea and making it happen without having to adhere to rules as long as I applied my own common sense.
*We are in a strange middle ground here of not being in such a small community as we were on Rum where everyone just knows everyone and not being in a big town where you don’t know most people but there is plenty going on to just join in with. Some of the things I’d like to do I am going to need to travel for, others I am likely to have to either accept are not there or make happen myself.
*Rum feels a long way away. Not as easy to get back to as we’d planned. Not as much a part of our lives as we’d anticipated.
*I’ve not yet found the creative outlet that meets my need for that sort of making. My crochet bits and pieces that were so well received on Rum in my little shed have not been so welcome here and so far neither of the places I’ve approached about selling them were interested, my jams and baking are a no-go thanks to the food producer regs. Rum was perfect for providing inspiration and answers and demand for me but so far I have not been struck with any such brainwaves here. I may not need to do creative crafts for cash but I don’t want to lose that side of me either.

* I am really proud of what we’ve achieved in this short space of time. I completely acknowledge that we have been very lucky in having some financial support from my parents which not everyone is so fortunate to have. We have however absolutely made the very most of that privilege and have put everything into making this move work. It is a big balancing act trying to meet the individual and collective needs of four people, ensuring we are all recognising and making the most of our opportunities, seeking out all the options and making leaps of faith to try out new and often scary challenges. As always, a lot of our path is driven and suggested by me with the odd bit of cajoling and persuading of the others at times. It’s really good to see that paying off and working out.
*People! New, interesting, fascinating, as yet not known people. Potential friends, teachers and allies. I love my little family and I have a lot of friends already but I am always, always in the market for making new friends and getting to know new people. In three months I have already made a few new actual friends, got a fair few new colleagues, quite a lot of people I know well enough to smile and say hello to when I pass them. Lack of people on Rum was one of the biggest low points for me, so it stands to reason that a village with several hundred people to start mixing and mingling with hits my lists of goods.
*The house. I love the bath. I love the kitchen. I love the two toilets. I love the washing machine and the bedroom. I love the space and light in the lounge and the views from every window. I’ve loved watching the trees come to life in the spring and I’m looking forward to seeing them change in the autumn and go to sleep in the winter.
*I love the challenge. I was restless towards the end on Rum because although life was far from easy it had become familiar and without fresh challenges. This change has offered new tests, new possibilities and new directions for all of us. I think we have celebrated more victories and achievements in our three months here than in several times that period over the last few years. Even though the other three do not actively seek out these sorts of challenges with quite the relish that I do I can see that they are getting a lot out of them too.
*The busyness. I have had to set up a google calendar for the family to keep track of all the things we are getting up to. And it’s full! We are already finding things clashing with each other or not being able to fit everything in. That’s a pretty good situation to be in after days and weeks of nothing happening at all.

One thing I have learnt: Is that every phase of life is slightly different while carrying forward aspects of what came before. I used to think that we moved wholly from one life stage to the next and maybe some people do, losing every bit of their life before when they become part of a couple, or a parent, or retired… perhaps work defines some of us more than we realise? As I move from being a Home Educator living off grid to someone with older kids doing their own thing while living in a house I find I have not much changed and lots of what I held dear and lived by carries on regardless.

Opportunities I will explore:
Social – I’ve yet to find people just to hang out with, something that I have always had in life before, wherever I’ve lived. I know from experience that they way to find that tribe is to put myself in the right places where they will be. So it’s going to be books, crafts or music that brings me to the people I probably want to spend time with. I know from Rum life and from talking to a few folk around here that this is the time of year for being busy, head down, getting on with earning money during the tourist season and that the winter is the time for the real socialising. So I’ll carry on making connections and if I find they don’t turn into what I’m looking for as the year goes by I’ll have to rethink.
Educational – My various jobs are all teaching me new things, along with learning quite how life here works in what is still a pretty small community.
Work / voluntary: I already have three new jobs (and an interview for another one) and two volunteering commitments so I think I’m sorted there!

2 thoughts on “Three Months In…”

  1. It must feel good to have a comfortable and secure home but what a change from your life on Rum. Davies probably alludes to the biggest change when he mentions your loss of renewable power supplies. You made sacrifices to live a very different, more environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyle but your new lives seem firmly routed back in the mainstream with references to supermarkets, cinemas and two cars! Anyway, this is just an observation not a criticism but I did wonder if at least some of the family could consider bikes/electric bikes/mopeds as a form of transport if the village is only about five miles away: they are great for escaping the midges!

    1. Yes, definitely a more mainstream existence, although the cinema referred to is screenings of films at the local community centre and we are tying in trips to the big town to every 10-14 days and combining all the things we can on those trips to reduce mileage wherever possible. Two cars is a long term possibility as public transport is not great – the nearest train station is about 30 miles away and the bus runs along the end of the road (and would stop for us although not an official bus stop) but only once a day.
      We will bring the bikes across from Rum on one of our next trips over and Ady has talked about a moped too. I am very edgy about bikes or mopeds as the road between here and the 5 miles away village is a single track with passing places and very windy so not a super safe one for cycling, neither does it have a footpath for walking (which would also be an option when the weather is on our side).
      Thanks for your comment – what Davies said about power and your comment have reminded me that one of the posts half composed in my head is about the trade off of being back on the mainland and how we are aiming to tread as lightly as possible still as this was obviously one of our big motivators for our off-grid lifestyle in the first place.

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