Bad, Good, Learned in 2023


* We have still not returned to Rum. This nags at me as there are things I would probably like to collect and I know things will be decaying and need to be dealt with. I can list the reasons why ; busyness, expense etc. but ultimately we just need to organise ourselves to do it.
* The car. Our car was a gift from Nic’s Mum which was incredibly generous. It is not really a suitable vehicle for our lifestyle here though and has been an expense to maintain this year.
* One of my oldest friends died last year. We had not been regularly in each others lives for a good few years but when we was diagnosed with a terminal illness another of our friends organised a big reunion and I made the trip to meet up with around 20 of our old group of friends who were at school together.
* Whilst for sad reasons the reunion with old friends was a highlight of 2023, to catch up on several decades of each others lives and see the paths everyone has taken from similar beginnings.
* We remain a happy and close family unit who live very happily together with close relationships and a lovely lifestyle. That makes me feel very blessed.
* We have enjoyed lots of trips and events in the last year. Although we are working hard to facilitate this it is lovely to be in a position where working hard enables these sorts of treats rather than just paying bills.
* I continue to love where we live. I still feel the novelty of living close enough to a town to drive to in under an hour while retaining a remote and very rural life.
* I really enjoy my job. It is rewarding despite its challenges but it is something I look forward to going to work to do.
* There are too many to list but my job means I am still learning new things all the time.
* I feel like this year I have finally learned to take things a bit slower and listen to my body when I am tired, or suffering pain or ailments. Things which I would have done without thought have started to become more challenging with advancing age. I also notice my children now spotting ways in which they are quicker and more able thanks to youth to do things than I am.
Hopes for 2024:
* I hope that we continue to enjoy being together as a family for as long as the children want to.
* I would like to do more trips and adventures. Our short breaks in the UK in 2023 have been really inspiring in making me want to explore and travel more.
* To definitely get to Rum.
Special bonus wish for 2024: Vegas


* The war in Ukraine is not only still happening there are more places at war. Wars are not even the first item on mainstream media news and it feels as though we have accepted them as a way of life rather than something to be horrified about. I am disappointed that people do not stand up for things they believe are wrong when it becomes too difficult.
* Big businesses – particularly high street food and drink chains are notorious for underpaying staff, providing financial support to war or bad governments but people continue to buy from them. Even when boycotts are started against them they don’t seem to make a difference or be continued for any length of time.
* UK politics remains a source of frustration for me. At 21 I have never voted in a general election and yet there has been a succession of unelected Prime Ministers making decisions which affect me.
* A few months ago there was a large spillage of polystyrene balls on our local beach. Despite us spending many hours clearing them and informing the person responsible and being assured action would be taken it is continuing to happen. I hate that people, particularly ones who claim to care do not demonstrate that through their behaviour and actions.
* I still feel the absence of Bonnie and miss her every day.
* We managed a lot of travelling, adventures and gigs in 2023 and have plenty more planned for 2024.
* My trip to the USA was a lot of fun. I have been to mainland Europe as a small child but didn’t really remember it so travel outside of the UK and Ireland was cool. It was really interesting to see another country, different culture and ways. I particularly enjoyed the time we spent at a cabin in the wilder part and the wildlife we saw.
* I got to spend lots of time with my best friend Ellie this year. As well as the whole month in the US together there were more months in which I did see them than didn’t thanks to various trips. We already have time together planned in January and February 2024 too.
* I spent a lot of time this year helping our neighbour with her pony. It was really nice to spend time with and bonding with an animal and I got a lot out of it as well as helping our neighbour.
* Thanks to spending time with our neighbours pony and attending an equine behaviour course I learned a lot about horses.
* I did a full silversmithing course this year and learned a lot from it. I really enjoyed it and was happy with the items I made.
* My month in the USA was a big learning experience. America may be English speaking but there are huge differences in culture to here. While in the US we went to 3 different states and it was interesting to note the differences in different areas too.
Hopes for 2024:
* More travel with family and hopefully a Europe trip too.
* I would like to learn taxidermy and taxidermy the critters I have stashed in the freezer.
* In 2023 we started some Pride events in the area including a film screening and a stall at the local village show. In 2024 I hope we can build on that further.
Special bonus hope for 2024: To see an apex predator in the wild (carried across from 2023).


* School was pretty stressful this year. As it is my final year I have worked really hard and ended up doing all-nighters to make deadlines. I also was applying for my internship and applying for graduate school for the final semester alongside studying which meant I was very busy for a lot of the year.
* I have been the vice president for the Active Minds club at school, which is a mental health awareness and advocacy club. I had joined because I was really passionate about the work the previous president had done and wanted to continue their legacy. Earlier in the year I felt as though I was underused and not able to contribute in the ways I had hoped. Later in the year things did improve but I have spent some times frustrated or disappointed about the club and the focus.
* Many of my fellow students live either on campus or close by while I am still living with my parents some distance away from school. This is due to financial constraints and I have found it frustrating to have missed out on some of the on campus experience, social and other opportunities.
* During 2023 I had several experiences of losing friendships. These were a blend of me not being prepared to not be true to myself or finally ending toxic connections. While I was going through the process of this it was painful and difficult.
* There have been instances during the last year when I have been super self aware and at times felt negative about myself and my interactions, particularly in group situations.
* This year I have been diagnosed with the neurodiversities of ADHD and Autism and I have experienced a retrospective grief for the time I lost or negative previous experiences in not understanding some of the difficulties I went through.
* I have spent time this year observing laws being changed in some US states eroding Trans rights. 2024 will be a presidential election year and Trans rights are high on the agenda for protection or removal depending on who is elected. This is hugely worrying and feels like fear mongering and reminiscent of previous social justice movements including gender, sexuality and civil rights.
* This past year I have continued to move forwards in understanding who I am but my home and school environments have hampered and stifled a lot of exploration of my gender, personality and identity which I find frustrating and hard.
*This year I have received a formal diagnosis for Autism, ADHD and OCD. This has felt like a really positive experience for me as I have felt seen, heard, understood and validated. I have found the experience of undergoing a diagnosis and getting relevant support and medication a beneficial one, which has helped to explain the things I struggle with and to justify why I may need support.
*A real highlight for me this year has been increasing my social circle and making some new friends as well as deepening some friendship connections. It has felt really good for people to accept me and to feel as though they are pleased to see me, to hang out with me and to be around me.
* I have previously done public speaking in a church environment but this year I have had several public speaking engagements including some paid opportunities to deliver public speaking on a wider scale. This has included speaking about personal experiences, sharing issues which are hugely important to me and delivering speeches to audiences where I am able to shape opinions and influence policies. This has really increased my confidence and I have more of these opportunities lined up in the coming year.
* I am really excited that I have been accepted into the grad school of my choice and the internship I applied for and was interviewed for. I will be starting my internship in early 2024 and grad school in the summer.
* As part of my work with Active Minds I have assumed a leadership role in welcoming people and I feel I have made a difference and helped people in that way. I have also acted as a mediator in some situations, working to present both sides of an issue and help to find a way forward.
* I took a creative writing class early in the year which I found really enjoyable. I had good feedback on my writing and really enjoyed being in a creative environment with like minded people. I have continued writing in my spare time and hope to carry on.
* This year I discovered a youtube channel which brings together many of my passions and interests in one fusion. I am really enjoying the blend of creativity, gaming, social dynamics and presentation which it delivers and am inspired to maybe create something similar myself in the future. I have also spent time this year playing a game which blends gaming and decisions and a single player narrative in which my outcomes were very different to those of another player.
* This year I fully moved on from contact and connection with someone who has played a sometimes toxic role in my life. It has been a process to entirely place them in my history rather than my present and I am pleased to have finally achieved it.
* I had so many adventures and travel in 2023 both independently, with my partner, extended family and with friends. Some of the experiences were ones which were just exploring what was already in my local area but with different company and fresh eyes and some were brand new. All of them were exciting and memory making which is so special.
* This year has been a really good year for my relationship with Davies. I feel we have continued to grow as a partnership and found new and deeper ways to connect and communicate to make us even stronger.
* Learning more about myself and my needs. I have progressed in being confident and comfortable in my identity and in who I am in certain situations.
* I have learned some new things about myself by new friends telling me how they see me and seeing myself through their eyes. They are that I am positive and optimistic and that I am funny and fun to be around.
* Through my year of studies I have learned so much about Social Work in the US. Both from an academic perspective but also in terms of confidence to create change, about activism and how the system works.
* I have learned this year that I may not always make the right decision or do the best thing but that it is not always possible. It is important to do the best I can but then to move on from that. I have also learned that sometimes it is not entirely about me in every interaction and that the other person also has a role and that their reaction to me may not have anything to actually do with me.
* As per all of the above I have learned so much pertaining to the bad and good things I have listed.
Hopes for 2024:
* I would like to travel somewhere new.
* I would like to explore possible opportunities to move to my school campus.
Special bonus wish for 2024: Vegas


* The state of the world – environmentally and politically remains hugely concerning and feeling powerless to change that adds to the general worry of it.
* I have started a final module of study in this academic year and it has not been as engaging or interesting as previous years. This has made it harder to stay motivated to study and made the less enjoyable aspects of studying such as essay writing even more challenging.
* The impending conclusion of my studying is giving me reason to consider next steps – in life and in possible careers. Knowing that I am not keen to study beyond this and that this degree has not necessarily led to a specific and clear career path has me feeling slightly lost about my next steps.
* Coupled with reaching the end of my time studying I am also conscious of being into my adult years without a clear vision of where my future lies, particularly in comparison to people my own age or even younger. The feeling of the unknown is daunting.
* I do not have an in person social circle or social life. This is in a large part down to where we live.
* I have made progress in both my piano playing and in my art. I ensure that I spend time daily working on one or both of these and can identify real progress in both over the course of this year.
* One of the unintended good things about studying is spending time with Mummy and the interesting conversations that the module content inspires between us.
* I have really enjoyed all of the trips I took in 2023 and all of the new experiences I got to have while on them. Some highlights include: On the US trip: meeting up with some of the people I met in 2022, the roadtrips, visiting the cabin. It was really good to return to the US and to have Scarlett with me too this time. I loved going to the live music concerts we went to, hanging out with our friend Ellie in York and meeting her friends and my first experience of a night club.
* I continued my quest of watching lots of movies including cult classics. I chatted to people I know about their movie recommendations and shared reviews with them. I have also read more books this year than in previous years.
* I have grown closer to some of my online friends and been able to have virtual movie nights and other get-togethers with them.
*I have learned more about piano and music.
* I have continued to learn more about art from visits to galleries, working at the gallery and online tutorials and self teaching.
* I attended a six week silversmithing workshop which taught me a whole load of new skills in design and working with metals.
* My studying in 2023 was mostly the forensic psychology unit and this had lots of real world and film / tv parallels which aided my understanding of both.
* I feel generally more aware and educated about the world around me as a result of further travel, watching news and world events and engaging with the world as an adult.
Hopes for 2024:
* I would like to continue working to raise awareness and visibility and support for the LGBTQI+ community specifically in the area we live and more generally. I am aware that activism has the most impact where you are and in the situation you are in so I want to invest more time and energy into that.
* I would hope to find remedies and resolutions to some of the things I listed as bad in 2023 – in terms of shaping my plans for the future.
* I would like to explore a few ideas I have which include: video making, more art.
* I would like to learn to drive even if I don’t necessarily run a car of my own.
Special bonus hope for 2024: I would like to climb Ben Nevis.


* I did not feel I got my work / life balance right in 2023. I was definitely putting in more hours of work than I wanted to and feeling resentful of that. Whilst the extra income as a result enabled lots of fun stuff that also contributed to a lack of downtime as it meant when I was not working I was busily ‘enjoying’ life with little in the way of actual resting and doing nothing.
* I felt a real sense of being ‘the generation inbetween’ during 2023. Davies and Scarlett were enjoying more independence and pursuing their own adventures at the same time as my parents are starting to feel suddenly older. It felt like a very sudden shift from both directions and was quite unsettling.
* We lost our cockerel, Kevin, to a fox while we were away in the summer. He was the last of the chickens we had bought over to the mainland from Croft 3 and our Rum life so felt like our final connection to those years. I also still miss Bonnie and our shift in pets and animals feels like a movement away from those days.
* Ady had a second brush with shingles, although he saw it off quickly by identifying the early signs. Towards the very end of the year all four of us had our second bout of Covid which I still feel some of the lasting effects of in terms of energy levels and a persistent cough. Whilst we are certainly still in good health I am also aware of the impacts of age.
* Various combinations of us have been to lots of live music and performance events in the last year. I saw: Cavetown, Lucy Spraggan, Rura, Ali Affleck, Malin Lewis, Susie McCabe, Bridgit Christie, Seamas Carey, Hamish Napier & Duncan Chisolm. Events like these make my heart sing and fill me with joy. I am thrilled to have more lined up in 2024.
* Some friends and I began a weekly singing group in 2023 which has been a source of great happiness to me and others. I love singing, particularly with others and we led a few community singing events over Christmas locally. I also met with a smaller group of friends to sing and play music regularly throughout the year which is also something I get a huge amount from.
* We had some fab trips this year within the UK – including Glasgow, York (twice), Durham, Chester, Manchester and Northern Ireland. We met up with family and friends and had some lovely adventures. We were also delighted to have visits from three sets of friends to come and stay, all of whom had visited us on Rum but we had not seen for a few years so it was lovely to catch up.
* I have ended 2023 fitter than I started it. In February I undertook a 28 day skipping challenge to raise money for charity which inspired me to start walking 2km every morning down and back up our rather steep track. I have massively improved my lung capacity and general fitness with this (more or less) daily 30 minutes of exercise.
* I continue to swim in the loch daily. I completed two winter swim challenges over 2022/23 winter and am on track to complete two over this current winter. I enjoyed a winter swim event with a couple of friends and have been on a couple of swimming spot road trips with a friend. I have also encouraged several visiting friends to join me for a swim and made some new friends as a result of wild swimming.
* Whilst it was their adventure rather than mine and I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every moment of them being away for a month I have to list Davies and Scarlett’s trip to America as a ‘good’. To see your children head off together as best mates on an adventure without us was special and to have daily contact hearing about their travels and see the photos of them off doing exciting new things made me incredibly proud of them.
* 2023 was always going to be a slightly reactionary year to the events of the previous few years. From nearly a decade of incredibly remote and extreme living we were thrust back into mainland life in 2019 and had barely found our feet with being back in a bricks and mortar house with mainland expenses and finding work before 2020 and the pandemic / lockdown arrived. 2023 was the first year which had any sort of ‘normal’ feel to it after we had left Sussex in many ways. As such we filled it very full and whilst the memories of that are precious and special I also know that I have not entirely found the right balance for me of the somewhere inbetween. I did return to fully self employed this year and have resisted set working hours in favour of working from home at times to suit me but I am still fine tuning precisely what I want to do and how much of it.
* I have continued to learn new skills in my various work roles, I have attended courses in silversmithing, beading, food fermentation and beeswax wrap making. I have also read various books and listened to podcasts and learned more about weather, the Orkney Islands, American culture, walking and breathing.
Hopes for 2024:
* A quieter second half! The first half is already looking pretty busy, with lots to look forward to, so now is not the time to be setting intentions to do less. However I am scheduling a time for myself to sit down and take a long look at our life direction for the second half of the year and make some forward plans.
* Some new swimming adventures / challenges / intentions. Again I have some half formed ideas rather than full plans but I am noting here that I have those to encourage me to work on them further.
* A new (Ad)venture. I am not sure yet quite what form this will take but I have some plans bubbling away ready to rise to the surface once I take myself off somewhere quiet to ponder on them further. Watch this space!
* Some of the others have mentioned Vegas and that is something I am determined to make happen. 2024 is a year of big numbers for us – I have just celebrated my 50th birthday at the start of the year, Ady will be celebrating his 60th birthday in a few months and we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in the second half of the year. We have always planned to return to Las Vegas and take Davies and Scarlett with us so that is a hope for September.
Special bonus wish: to tick off a natural wonder experience, either a wild animal encounter, a meteorological phenomena or a bucket list destination.

Bad, Good, Learnt in 2022 and hopes for 2023

* I have still not been back to Rum and there is lots of stuff I would like to get back over here and people I would like to catch up with.
* I sometimes feel we have returned to the daily grind type existence a little bit.
* Losing Bonnie was a source of great sadness.

* I love where we live and that we all four are still happily living together.
* I have really enjoyed the various trips we have taken this year now things have opened back up again – highlights include York, Inverness and Mull.
* I enjoy my job. I find it very rewarding and challenging, both of which are really good.

* I have been reminded again this year to never take anything for granted, particularly your health. Life can change in the blink of an eye.
* I learned that Guy Fawkes was born in York!

Hopes for 2023:
* I would like to have a trip down Memory Lane this year and take Davies and Scarlett around some of my childhood and teenage haunts.
* I would like to do more trips and short travels again generally including getting to Rum.
* I would like to get a small motorcycle.

Special bonus wish for 2023: An Arctic cruise

* Bonnie dying.
* The state of the world:
* I cannot believe the war is continuing in the Ukraine and feel we are not doing enough to end it.
*Specifically in the UK I hate that we have no control over who our Prime Minister is and that one of last years (!) reintroduced fracking.
* I feel that so many promises made at COP26 have been ignored and not lived up to.
* I cannot believe we still have a gender pay gap and poor working conditions for key workers.
* I feel that we have forgotten too quickly how fast germs travel – hand washing, masks and social distancing are good ways to behave with all sorts of germs and viruses but we have stopped using these simple measures to control things like colds and flu.

*We have done a lot of trips this year. After being restricted for the past couple of years being able to travel further from home again this last year has been really good. Particular highlights include Edinburgh Fringe, York, Northern Ireland and seeing live music / shows.
* Whilst I wish it was not there in the first place I have spent many hours this year collecting rubbish off the beaches. Kilos and kilos of plastic and other human created rubbish which would otherwise still be putting wildlife at risk is not because of my efforts. It feels good to be making a difference, however small.
*Despite lots of disheartening things happening in the world – e.g anti abortion laws I do think that there are positive changes happening too e.g Scottish trans laws, previously small minded and non inclusive places and spaces becoming safer and more open minded and progressive. I am also heartened to see that people are less likely to accept things and more inclined to protest, strike and fight for their rights.

* During my time at my work placement I learned a lot of new crofting skills: fencing, different animal care (goats, horses, larger flock of sheep) and various woolly crafts.
* I have got a stand up paddle board and although I have not been out on it as much as I would have liked it is a new skill and one I enjoy.
* I did some silver smithing this year and really enjoyed it. I have signed up for a further course in 2023 which I am looking forward to.
* I have developed my skills in some techy and practical areas this year too, from IT skills to fixing things.

Hopes for 2023:
* I would like to do some travel in the coming year. I am interested in the possibility of inter railing and other low impact travel options and need to do more research and planning but hope to embark on at least one big travel trip this year.
*I’d also like to do more family trips – making memories with the others is so important and I am looking forward to more of that this year.
* I would really like to learn to play the guitar.
* I would like to attend a Pride march. There is currently quite limited local representation of the LGBTQ+ community so this may require being active in organising one.

Special bonus wish for 2023: I would like to see an apex predator in the wild – a bear, lion, tiger, wolf or similar. I have seen them in zoos but it would be amazing to see one in their natural habitat.


*The state of the world. The climate crisis is so, so pressing. The quality of life for so many people is also dire.
*The saddest thing in 2022 was Bonnie dying, particularly as I was not here when that happened. Her dying was in the best possible way – quick. I had been gone for just a couple of weeks when she died and she was fine when I left.
* Although my trip to the US was really good I also really missed Scarlett and it was strange to be having all those new experiences, particularly ones I know she would also have loved, without her.

*I feel I have accomplished lots of things during 2022 that I had been keen to do: In no particular order:
I visited places, made new friends, experienced new things. My trip to the US, theatre visits, a trip down south and to London, to Rum and to York.
* I really enjoy my job at the Gallery – I feel like I contribute in a meaningful way and have found a place there.
* I have begun to learn the piano – it has been on my list of things I wanted to do for quite a few years but this last year I finally started with a teacher, have practised lots and really feel I have made progress.
* I feel that 2022 has been a really good year for me as a person. I feel I have grown and developed and really found my place; I have found myself in situations I would not necessarily have chosen to be in but navigated them, done my first solo travelling, made new friends and learned new things.
*I have noticed that this year I have really tried to engage and be present and available with friends. This has resulted in friends coming to me for support and advice and I feel both I and they have benefited from these deeper connections.
* I am (today!) celebrating my fourth anniversary with Luka. This feels like a real achievement and together we have grown, learned and are even stronger than ever as a couple.

* I have improved my art in 2022. Working at the gallery and being with artists has helped. I have extended my reach with different materials including charcoal, acrylics, oil pastels, attending an art course, Inktober and various other specific art challenges.
* I am now in year 6 of 7 years of studying for my degree. At the start of 2022 I was midway through a philosophy unit, I have now returned to forensic psychology. The studying is both interesting in the content to learn but also it is creating potential for my future. Referring back to my earlier point under ‘bad’ about the state of the world my studies have gone at least some way towards reassuring me that if this is what students of my generation are being taught then there is progression in our understanding of things, we are improving and striving to be better.
* I have learned more about the interests that I have – I have always been interested in art, film and music and this year I have strived to deepen my knowledge and understanding in these areas. I have also learned more about geography.

Hopes for 2023:
* I would like to have another travel trip – perhaps to the US again, and this time with Scarlett too.
* I hope to continue my job at the gallery and carry on learning and contributing there.
* I want to carry on with my piano and hope that I continue to improve my playing.
* By the end of this year I would hope to be in the final year of my degree. I am not sure whether it will necessarily lead me directly to a career but I can see how it has shaped my thoughts about what I might want to do.
* I have had a really good year and would hope to build on all the things which made it good for another good year ahead.
Special bonus wish for 2023: To make some youtube videos.


* We have a new cat at home (in the US) and there is a lot of friction between it and our other cat which I find really stressful to try and manage. * I have had a lot of study commitments and heavy work load this year. Even when I have not had a pressing deadline I have not been able to relax into downtime.
* I have not found a job which many of my fellow students have. This makes me more dependent on my family for financial support and means I do not have as much independence, freedom and autonomy as I would like.
* I had a run of ill health in 2022 which lasted for several months.
* I really enjoy playing Pokemon Go and one of the early reasons for enjoying it was the sense of community but during this year it has become super monetised which is really frustrating.
* This year I have started to share with some people that I identify as non-binary. This has come with a lot of explaining and sense of responsibility which I find stressful.

* This year I have chosen my major as Social Work and been elected Vice President of Active Minds, which is an advocacy and awareness group to support and promote mental wellbeing within college. These two areas together have really helped me to feel I am working towards something which will both help me contribute and make a positive difference in the world but also help me myself.
* This summer I came to the UK and visited Sussex, London and Rum and Davies finally came to the US. All of these things have been what I wanted to do for so long. It was so cool for Davies to meet my family and friends and see where I am from.
* This year I have really felt that I returned properly to a childhood passion of creative writing. I did a course and have signed up for another next year and really feel my character development and skills in this area have improved. My teacher and classmates gave me such positive feedback and encouragement which really made me feel seen and heard. I also received an award for a research paper I contributed to. I feel my writing has been acknowledged and appreciated this year.
* This year I have felt that I have really taken responsibility for my mental health, actively engaging with counselling, groups and tools such as journalling to help me support myself. It has made me feel empowered.
* The cat we re-homed this year is very receptive to attention and company which is both not something I have experienced with a cat previously and very welcome. I enjoy having a cat who actively welcomes petting and being close to me physically, particularly when I would be otherwise alone.
* Sharing with people that I identify as non binary, while challenging, has also been really affirming. In feeling that I am being authentic and true to myself but also in taking up space, something which I have previously not always felt able to do. To be able to ask people to call me a name, or use pronouns which I have chosen rather than those selected for me has felt as though I am claiming something for me.
* This year I feel I have both widened my social circle but also deepened the connections with old and new friends. This is as a result of a deliberate effort on my part in both in person and online to actively connect with people.
* In 2022 my sister sought inpatient help for an episode of acute poor mental health. I am considering this a good thing as the resultant effects were positive. For my sister the seeking of help and support and acknowledgement of there being an issue, for me the inspiration and recognition that help was available and useful and for my wider family the appreciation of the gravity of the situation and for all of us to witness the support and care that my parents offered.
* In 2022 I have been entertained, inspired and in some cases delighted by some media which has really resonated with me including: The Magnus Archives, Sam Ryder, Mario and The Shawshank Redemption.
* Within US politics 2022 was mid term elections and it was so heartening to see the reactive vote not swinging against the current Democrat administration as often is the case but instead supporting it and protecting LGTBQ+ rights. This has been attributed to both younger voters and a more progressive pro human rights stance.
* Davies and I have been together for four years and this is fantastic! (yay)

* I have discovered this year that I actually really enjoy horror as a genre. I would have previously said it was not for me at all but looking at what I like I really do.
*This year I have learned (although I need to keep reminding myself) that I am not in control of what other people think or my emotions but I am in control of how I respond and react to them.
* I have this year gained an understanding of the breadth of the umbrella term social work and what it means to study and work in it and the support and help available for mental health support.
* I have learned this year about creative writing and the ‘show don’t tell’ style of creating settings and backgrounds in addition to creating characters.
* I took a class of German language which is very much my heritage and although I do not have any particular plans to learn more just now it was nice to make a start.
* I am passionate about geography and have been using a game called Geoguessr which has cemented and increased that knowledge.

Hopes for 2023:
* Planning a path towards independence from home.
* A new experience together with Davies.
* Continuing with my mental health – proceeding with obtaining a diagnosis and the support that may offer.
* Completing a writing challenge.
Special bonus wish for 2023: A big travel trip to somewhere I have not been before.


* I would echo what the others have said in that losing Bonnie was one of the single saddest / worst things about 2022. I miss her presence a lot, particularly at certain times of day as well as every time I arrive home and she is not there to welcome me.
* During a period of a few weeks we lost most of our chickens to a predator. Whilst I know that the risks of a free range lifestyle for them are the chance of a swift end and that they had all had good lives it was still sad to see their numbers reduce so quickly.
* Covid has continued to shape 2022 – both in terms of a low level worry about the mortality and general health of me and those I love but also the ways in which is has affected the world. All of us caught Covid this year and while we were fortunate to have a mild dose with no lasting effects it remains a real and present danger which I fear will not disappear for quite some time to come.
* The others have already touched on what we have termed ‘The State of the World’; from the swing towards eroding peoples’ rights and freedoms, the people forced to resort to strike action to highlight issues over not being able to do their jobs due to cuts in resources, the climate crisis and dangerous people holding power. I generally choose to focus on controlling what I feel I have some power over rather than dwelling on what I have no control over but even with my eternal optimistic viewpoint I have had some bleak moments of reflection on where we are and where we are heading as a human race during 2022.

* I am currently juggling four different work contracts and this blend of various freelance, contract and employed work really suits me. I am learning new skills, enjoying being in control of my workload and feeling that I am doing them all well. I have quite the patchwork CV thanks to home education and remote island life preventing me from being available for work but I am earning money doing things I really enjoy, feel I am good at and in their own small way are making a positive difference to the world.
* As the world has opened up again slightly in 2022 I have really enjoyed getting back out and spending real life time with people. The connections I have with family and friends – old and new – are my most precious and cherished thing and 2022 has offered lots of opportunities to enjoy them.
* Which rather follows on to the travel and trips we managed during 2022. From seeing live performances from Gordon Buchannan, Grace Petrie (several times!), Derren Brown, Welcome to Nightvale, Siobhan Miller, Hannah Gadsby, theatre and cinema trips including Edinburgh Fringe, trips to Mull, Ireland, Sussex, York and having friends to stay. When I look back on the photos of this year it has been a heartwarming mix of all of my favourite things.
* A huge good thing this year has been seeing both Davies and Scarlett thrive. As they continue to find their own way in the world and start to forge independent adventures and lives away from us. In stating how proud of them I am not attempting to take credit but my heart sings to see them flying, to hear their wise words and plans and to still have so much precious time in their company too.
* This year I have made time every single day for Journalling and other creative and mindful recording of things. From drawing challenges, nature connection journalling and running a few courses on creative journalling I have completely embraced it as part of my daily routine and would feel the lack of it were I to miss a day.
* I have to make mention of my wild swimming as another daily pursuit which brings me joy.
* This year I have begun to meet regularly with friends to sing and play music together. This is something which brings me great pleasure.

*I have continued to learn so many new skills through my work and have done various online training to increase my skills in various areas. These include social media / marketing, desktop publishing / design.
* I have learned the importance of carving out specific time for creativity / swims etc. Now that Davies and Scarlett are less requiring of my time I feel able to choose to do things just for me. I see the value and necessity of this so clearly.
* It sounds like a bit of a cliche and I suspect I already knew it but I have been reminded again this year to never stop learning – the more I learn the less I know. I have picked up reference books on a variety of topics from understanding water to issues around race, I have listened to and talked with people who have different world views to mine and taken so much from being prepared to open my mind and hear new thoughts.

* I would like to do more with the garden this year. I know that growing loads of food is always a challenge in this area and while we are happy here I also know we won’t be in this house / garden forever so options like polytunnels and greenhouses, which are essential for extending the season here, are not really an option. I have got some books on forest and perennial gardening and it would be nice to set something more low maintenance up here so I can learn more in putting that into practise even if it is not necessarily me who reaps the long term rewards of it.
* There are some friends who despite staying in regular online contact with I have not seen in real life for far too long. I am determined that this year I will spent time sat beside them, sharing the sorts of conversations you only have late at night, after a few drinks, while in the same physical space.
* I would like to carry on with singing / making music. Doing it regularly with friends in 2022 made me realise how important it is to me and I want to make sure I keep that going in 2023 and maybe take it further.
* Whilst I am really enjoying all of my various jobs I always like to challenge myself to learn more and do better. I am very fortunate to have a high level of autonomy in all of these roles and I want to carry on learning and developing and perhaps helping others to do the same too if opportunities to do arise.
* I am already filling the calendar with trips and bookings. I hope that all of the things I have already planned or am hoping to organise happen and than we are able to attend them all and see those plans to fruition.

Special bonus hope for 2023: Maybe this will be the year I see my name on the front of something in print?

So I did promise…

I think the most appropriate first proper catch up post is a sad but celebratory one.
In late August, we said goodbye to the fifth member of the Wondering Wanderers team – Bonnie the dog.

Bonnie joined our family at a pivotal moment in our story – we collected her as a tiny 12 week old puppy the day before we moved to Rum.

This was remarkable for two reasons;
* It went against the advice of various people – we were arriving on a remote Scottish island which we had previously only stepped foot on twice before, in a small 4×4 towing a horse box with a static caravan due to arrive 48 hours after us. We had no idea where we would site the caravan and it was going to be on a bare field with limited vehicular access. We had two young children and a hamster. A new puppy when we had never owned a dog before was adding further to the blend.
* About that never having owned a dog before…. a big part of the reason for that was that I was hugely dog phobic and had been since early childhood. I had worked hard to overcome my phobia during our year of WWOOFing but if you had asked me just a couple of years prior whether I would willingly ever share my home with a dog I would have laughed in your face.

But hey, when did we ever do anything the easy / conventional / advised way?

I had done a bit of research on the right dog breed and decided a border collie puppy would be perfect for us, our family and our specific circumstances.
*A puppy because it would mean we were teaching a young dog in our ways and it would be small – and therefore unscary enough – for me to not feel scared of it.
* Border collies are one of the most intelligent breeds of dog, easily trained, requiring plenty of stimulation, high energy and good around other animals. This felt like the perfect fit for two young energetic children and a croft full of other creatures.
* An excellent focus for the uncertain times we were about to embark upon. Bonnie offered a distraction / small responsibility for Davies and Scarlett to spend time on while Ady and I dealt with the more tedious details of setting up a new life from scratch.

So we found a breeder, with available puppies, local to the path to Rum and arranged to meet the two available puppies in the litter – a dog and a bitch. The dog was bolder, friendlier and more robust. The bitch was more nervous and reticent and therefore the unobvious to most / obvious to us choice. We drove away from the breeder with a tiny bundle of puppy on my lap. We initially had intended to call her Wanda (to fit with our Wondering Wanderers ‘brand’) but it didn’t suit her. She slept for a bit on my lap, then woke up and was sick all over me. Davies suggested ‘Bonnie – you know, like Bonnie Scotland’ – it was perfect.

And so was she.

From the outset and for her whole life Bonnie gave the four of us precisely and exactly what we needed from her.

For Ady she was his daily companion, running up and the croft as he fed the animals, offering unconditional love, warm welcomes every time he came home.
For Davies Bonnie was a great responder to his authority and assertiveness. She listened to what he said and responded best when he said it with certainty and firm tones. She learned tricks and never ran out of patience for playing games.
For Scarlett Bonnie was the greatest pet ever, a willing recipient of as much love, attention and focus as Scarlett could shower her with. She was a constant through sometimes uncertain times as we moved around in later years and gave shape to days, weeks and months offering routine and responsibility.
For me Bonnie was the dog who gave me faith in dogs being creatures I could build a relationship with. I had a massive connection with Bonnie; she was so in tune with cues from me, whether verbal, a nod of my head, a flick of my eyes, a hand on her head, or often simply reading my non intentional body language or movements to anticipate what I might be doing and therefore want her to do.

Our Rum years were very much with Bonnie as part of our team, our times off Rum were either reliant on a trusted and worthy human being able to spend time with her in our absence, or her coming along with us. She travelled to England, Ireland and Wales with us on ferries, trains and cars. She found her space in countless other ‘homes’ for short or longer periods and was always at her happiest close to where we were no matter where that happened to be.

When we left Rum to our current home it was a perfectly timed retirement for Bonnie. She was ready to slow down from her previously busy existence of chasing up and down the croft, barking at the sun, tearing up the grass along the pig fences, herding geese, seeing off the crows and generally keeping everything in order. Instead she still spent much of her time outside but now she was contained within the garden keeping a watchful eye on the neighbouring sheep who surround our garden. In Bonnie’s head it seemed she had herded all of them into the fenced around they stood behind and she would periodically round them back up again. The fact that they were free roaming on acres of ground while it was in fact she who was contained in the smaller fenced area within never seemed to matter.

Bonnie would see off the occasional fox or pine marten and kept our smaller flock of chickens in check. She would accompany us on walks, shorter and shorter as the years went by, but would enjoy joining me in the shallows of the loch for a swim or joining us for a torchlit after dark stroll.

Bonnie visibly slowed down in her later years but remained in excellent health, very happy and very well loved. She is buried in the woodland near our house, in a spot that she used to regularly walk to with Scarlett. She is much missed – daily in our routines, but also at random moments for each of us. I suspect she always will be.

Thank you Bonnie, for being part of our family, our adventures and our story. You were – and always will be – the very best puppy.

January 2012 – August 2022

Archiving a life?

I have a few blogs littering the internet covering various periods of my life or telling stories about specific issues. There is one about money and debt, a couple about Home Education, an early self sufficiency blog which in many ways was the forerunner to our WWOOFing adventure and subsequent Rum days. None of them are still in use other than for the occasional nostalgic wander down memory lane which I take from time to time.

In many ways that would probably be the most appropriate fate for this blog.I am in the (slow) process of writing a book about our year of travel, which may even be followed by a book about the Rum years. As any aspiring book author will tell you though, life often gets in the way. A beautiful irony when for most authors it is life – either living their own or observing and imaging the lives of others – which is what they are writing about. Finding that balance between living and documenting is always the challenge.

There are aspects of our lives now which are not for public consumption – to be fair there was only ever a selected and edited amount up for public consumption anyway, whether at the hands of us choosing what to share, or the more professional filmmaking, directing and editing skills of Channel Five TV show producers (which is how some readers will have found us – hopefully a rather more 3 dimensional and fuller story is here than the two 40 minute snapshots which were made for TV moments and soundbites of our lives). Our Good, Bad, Learned reflections are no longer something we choose to share widely for example. However the story is far from over and for the sake of the ‘what happened next?’, for which I am*not* planning on starting another blog I have a few updates which are for sharing.

So, over six months from my last post here, what has been going on? More to follow in the next few posts. (Some of which may be sneakily backdated to fit with timelines if only to be tidy for my own future nostalgic wanderings through here.)

3 years off Rum

Which sounds like a recovering alcoholic!

Today marks the three year anniversary of us leaving the Isle of Rum, a place which had been our home for just short of seven years. We left in much the same way we had arrived, crammed into a vehicle loaded with what we thought we needed for the next chapter, rather unsure of what to expect but excited by the adventure.

We didn’t have a hamster – Humphrey had lived most of his life and was buried on Rum. Bonnie was rather a lot bigger than the 12 week old puppy we had arrived with and we had our already very well travelled Kira cat with us, who was well versed in cat carrier based in car travels having been on several holidays, trips to Glastonbury, Sussex and of course Ireland with us already.

We didn’t have jobs, or furniture, or mainland suitable clothes but when have details ever stopped us from heading off in new directions?!

What a strange three years it has been for the whole world. A pandemic, continued climate emergencies, civil uprisings and protests, headline news updates on war in Europe, terrifying cost of living increases. I am not sure these are the most uncertain times we have lived through but we are certainly all aware of the uncertainty now.

In many ways a return to mainland life, to moving back into a house and reconnecting to the grid has meant our lives are less tuned in to the things we feel so passionately about – low impact living, reducing our carbon footprint, being as self sufficient as we can. In others we have been able to make more of a difference now than we could on Rum – able to shop locally, support our community in ways we were not always able on Rum. For certain though we have been able to find opportunities for all four of us individually to follow our passions and find fulfilling ways to spend our days. This had stopped being quite so achievable for us on Rum.

All four of us are working, all part time, in jobs that we really enjoy, feel valued in, find challenging and worthwhile. We have made friends and connections, despite the pandemic, and found opportunities to socialise, learn and take on new hobbies and interests.

Most importantly for all four of us though we have found a way of meeting as many of our individual needs as possible, while staying together as a close family unit. The extra space, solidity and security of a house rather than a caravan, greater connection to technology to enable remote working, learning and socialising, more space to host, easier logistics for travel and no real loss of access to the wild spaces mean that, certainly for the time being, this is home and we are very happy here.

Festivities 2021

Our year ended with a burst of festivities. Not as many as any of us may have hoped but we still collectively managed last days at work, exchanging gifts with friends, a meal out, taking a stall at a Christmas market and visiting another one to make sure we shopped local. We made lots of Christmas gifts, decorated the house, I managed to have an evening around a campfire singing Christmas songs with friends, celebrated the solstice and generally made merry.

Probably the best gift any of us could have wanted this year though was Megan managing to return to join us for Christmas and New Year and on 23rd December Davies, Scarlett and I drove down to Glasgow to collect her.

Which meant our now traditional Christmas Eve activities of making home made crackers while watching Christmas films could happen just as we’d hoped.

This time for the first year ever Ady was working on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day (and then again over New Year), but as a house of adults, many of whom are not early risers (that would be pretty much everyone except Ady to greater and lesser degrees!) it meant I could have a Christmas Day swim, Davies, Megan and I could enjoy a more leisurely late breakfast and we were all ready to open gifts together in the early afternoon.

Fitting with ages, environmental ethos, baggage allowance for those taking gifts back across the Atlantic and our general beliefs gifts were modest, wrapped in fabric and all very well thought out as local, consumable or needed. Which certainly doesn’t mean that any of us were any less spoilt or thankful for what we unwrapped.

Then we headed outside to take our usual Christmas photos in our festive jumpers.

We have had a pretty quiet ‘betwixtmass’ thanks to a nasty cold which Ady went down with on Boxing Day and has slowly moved through the rest of us over the week. Daily testing assures us it is *just* a cold but after two years of not having had so much as a sniffle it has hit us all pretty hard so aside from my daily swims which have been having at least a temporary easing of my symptoms we have mostly been snuggling up in the warm, eating lots of festive food and enjoying each others’ company.

We all managed to stay up and see out 2021 and welcome in 2022 and would like to wish all of our readers a very happy, healthy and new year filled with wonder.

Happy 19th birthday Scarlett

(another sneakily backdated post)

Another ‘during these strange times’ birthday chez Goddard as Scarlett turned 19.

Prevented from doing much by general restrictions, our own sensibilities and the fact it was winter and not lovely weather it was a day spent at home.

French toast for brunch, steak pie for dinner and the usual pile of Birthday Brownies, gifts, calls and messages from scattered family and friends and a day of feeling thankful for being together.

Happy Birthday to our wonderful rainbow girl who always lights up the day, the room and the world.

Happy Birthday Davies

(And yes, this has sneakily been back dated!)

Back in September we celebrated Davies’ 21st birthday. As Scarlett’s 18th had been at the end of last year it was a lower key celebration than we may have planned in other times with less opportunity for travel, meeting up with family and friends, but it was a lovely day nonetheless.

As usual the ‘birthdayee’ gets to choose all food and activities for the day. As usual Davies chose pizza for lunch

and as it was a beautiful autumnal day we had a walk in the local woodlands which were filled with gorgeous falling leaves, fantastic fungi and once we were there lots of chatter and laughter.

This a recreation of one of my favourite photos of Davies and Scarlett hugging a tree which is the screensaver on all of my devices.

as always the day was rounded off with a piled up plateful of birthday brownies.

Every celebration and marking of a birthday, anniversary, Christmas or other festive time as a family is so very precious.

I’m never entirely sure whether official grown-up-dom starts at 16, 18 or 21 and to be honest despite having celebrated 47 birthdays of my own I am fairly sure I’m still not a grown up but Davies is certainly an adult now and a very fine one he is too.

Happy Birthday to our wonderful son – Davies (Dragon in the early days of this blog), an amazing man who lights up our days, weeks, months, years and lives with his humour, creativity, kindness, steady personality and intelligence.

The world is a better place for having Davies in it and we are so very fortunate to have shared his life with him.

Is this the real life?

I’m torn between wanting to believe this is a hiatus and a pause, that we will one day return to what we previously considered ‘normal’ or the suspicion that just like those fuzzy lost days of brand new parenthood you never in fact return to normal, you just adjust to a brand new life which after a while becomes normal instead.

I guess we’re all wondering the same.

This is my August catch up post, when we had at least a bit of a play at returning to the pre covid world even if there were considerable and constant reminders that we may never in actual fact be in a post covid world.

My new job as editor of the local newspaper had me aiming to get out and about, meet as many of the stockists and regular advertisers as I could and familiarise myself with some of the corners of the peninsulas we call home but I’d not yet managed to visit as possible. This was sort of work but not very arduous work.

For one of my other jobs I ran an eco art workshop which was lots of fun.

The garden provided plenty of harvesting of peas, beans, courgettes, broccoli, tomatoes, edible flowers and herbs.

Then in a real return to things we had missed a lot we had a day at the pared down Edinburgh festival seeing three shows which was just so special. There was such a collective feeling of gratitude to be with people, watching or being performers. It was quite emotional.

Our lovely friend E came to stay for a few nights

Meanwhile I stayed down in Glasgow for a few nights having some time with very old friends (the friendships are old, not the actual friends!)

Much fun was had, much drink was drunk, much singing was sung… and I got to swim in Loch Lomond too!

Back at home our nephew who had been staying with us for the summer headed back down south and we had a lovely visit from our sister in law and niece when they came to collect him.

We finished the month off back as a household of four once again but with a book and arts festival right here in the village which was fantastic for reminding us that while it’s lovely to get out and about further afield what we have right here is really very special too.

Another month passes us by

I have one of those ‘X years ago’ type reminders on my phone of photos taken on this date. For most of the last 18 months it was the sort of thing you would not want to look at as it just reminded you of the Beforetimes when there were friends to be with, places to visit and a life outside of lockdown.

Eight years ago today I did the long Saturday round trip of the Small Isles for a community council meeting – 4 hours on the ferry for 2 hours on the Isle of Eigg, where I had hugs with some Eigg friends, drank a cider and then spent another 4 hours to get back to Rum.

Five years ago we’d been out on the weekly boat trip looking for cetaceans and then spent some time fishing off the pier. We’d seen nothing and caught nothing, but the people who took the boat back to the mainland had spotted an orca.

Three years ago I’d been up my hill and then taken a photo of a newly sheared sheep who was trashing a croquet arch. I miss croquet on the croft – the garden here has no flat ground at all, which is ironic given the slope of the hill on the croft.

Two years ago we’d been to Rum for the day – to pick all the soft fruit (I’d made 29 jars of jam), slaughter and butcher the remaining sheep and bring a wheelbarrow of stuff back from the island.

One year ago we had Ben Fogle and the (very small) film crew here with us.

It’s a funny old life isn’t it?

In the last month I’ve been on TV again -this time on BBC Alba for the Gaelic news being interviewed talking about my job as editor of the the local newspaper. Later this week I’m on local radio talking about wild swimming. I’ve had columns in the local paper, am about to put out my first issue of the other local newspaper as editor, I’ve been mentioned in the neighbouring local newspaper (which was our local one on Rum). I met our MSP (member of Scottish parliament) last week.

Life is certainly not quiet.

Meanwhile it carries on ticking away. We have our nephew / cousin staying with us for the summer so are back to a household of five again. It’s nice to feel the house is being fully used and have new and interesting viewpoints tossed about over the dinner table.

Ady is still enjoying his job and learning lots of new skills as he takes on different challenges. Davies is signed up for his next unit of study to start in the autumn and is continuing to enjoy his time at the art gallery each week.

Scarlett has an extended contract at the croft and is really enjoying being there. She is loving spending time with the animals, particularly the goats and is learning a lot. Over the winter she will be learning more about some of the crafts at the croft including wool crafts and candlemaking.

Two of our hens co-hatched a chick which is currently being co=-parented by them. The garden is doing well with an abundance of flowers, mutant potato plants, so many peas, brassicas which are growing wild, strawberries aplenty and lots of lovely salad leaves and herbs.

Meanwhile although we are cautious about what life may bring next we are also keen to restart life again as much as possible and have been making the most of being able to book music, comedy and other live events over the coming months with some day trips and even overnight adventures for various combinations of us planned.