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.

New horizons all round

Time is definitely the weirdest it has ever been. As we get older it seems to move more quickly, as the pandemic and lockdown continue it seems to have stretched and bent and almost caught up with itself coming around the other way.

I can’t believe how quickly Friday comes around every week and often wonder if there are not somehow two of them each week instead of just one. It surely cannot be mid June already and yet 18 months ago feels like 18 years ago…

Anyway, since the last blog post which was only last month (just!) lots has changed for us.

Davies has started an informal work experience opportunity at the local art gallery. It is an excellent place which in ‘normal’ times hosted not just regularly changing exhibitions of amazing art but also events. In the year before lockdown we attended many such events there, indeed I covered a few of them for the newspaper. These included live music, a book launch, opening of art and ceramics / sculptures / photography exhibitions and talks and an amazing artist demonstration.

The gallery also has a framing service and as well as being open to visitors has an online presence on social media, an excellent website and sells online. Davies is getting a fantastic overview of all of these aspects to the business, learning loads and really enjoying being there for a day each week.

Davies has finished his studying for this academic year and has slightly altered his planned path for next years studying taking on a more increased study load and adding in philosophy to his psychology studies which he is really looking forwards to starting in the autumn.

Scarlett is continuing to love her job at the croft and is really enjoying the combination of learning new skills, doing lots of hands on practical stuff and getting plenty of time to hang out with the animals. It’s perfect for her.

Ady also continues to love his job too and is really looking forwards to the times ahead when the full on PPE is no longer necessary and his clients can see his whole face!

Meanwhile my jobs have rather changed….

When Ady took on extra hours at his job and negotiated use of a pool car which meant we could very happily go back to just running one family car rather than two we stopped our holiday cottage cleaning contracts, which was just as well as Scarlett soon started her job. My work at the community centre / youth work had stopped during lockdown and as I was on a zero hour contract there was no real certainty as to when and indeed if that would start again.

My writing work for the newspaper was less than it had been although I have still been writing a semi regular column for them, alternating between writing about Crofting and Mental Health Matters, diverse but both very relevant to the Highlands. I have also been doing increasing numbers of hours for the local mental health and wellbeing charity I started freelancing for last summer including some writing, some project management of various initiatives and some development of new services.

I have also been doing various voluntary bits and pieces including joining the committee for the local newspaper which was undergoing a slightly difficult phase but has a lot of local support having been running for 40 years. When it became apparent that there may be an opportunity for a paid role as editor of that I decided it would be a perfect fit for my other bits and pieces of freelance work and applied.

Yesterday I had an interview, was offered, and accepted that post. So I will now be combining the three roles of editor of the local newspaper, columnist / correspondent for the larger newspaper and project officer for the mental health charity. I feel incredibly fortunate to be combining my passions, interests and the things I would have told you I wanted to do when I grew up when I was a little girl to being the things I get paid to do.

It is wonderful that currently all four of us are managing to follow our passions, feel as though we are contributing to our local community, learning new skills and still have time for the other things we love doing and spending plenty of time together at home too.

Meanwhile whether it all falls into place or not we are starting to book and plan things for the coming months and into next year, which feels filled with promise and hope.

Scarlett starts work

We never had first days at school photos. I had vague notions to take first day of not going to school photos over the years but always lost track of when it would have been a first day.

We often used to go to Home Educators ‘not back to school’ events on the first day of autumn term / start of the school year when we would reclaim the parks, beaches, museums which suddenly felt quiet again during the day times, but there was never any real official marking of it because we why would you officially mark something you were not doing?

But a first official day at work feels very much worth marking and this week that is exactly what Scarlett had. Two days of induction and training, health and safety and risk assessments, payroll forms and uniform ordering and official changing of status from ‘home educated’ to ‘in employment’.

We dropped her off for her first day, took a ceremonial photograph and then I went for a swim and spent the whole time pondering about ends of eras and quite how my little baby was suddenly a grown woman with a job!

Here she is on her first day at work

And as only seems appropriate I’ll hand over to her to share what that has been like.

I’ve had my first two days at work doing induction and training. I’m working alongside someone else who has just started which is really good as we can learn together.

I also went along to a forest bathing / nature walk which the croft run at the weekend where we took a group of people on a guided walk around a local woodland.

Lots of the first two days have been about policies, paperwork, health and safety and necessary stuff like that but we’ve also been able to spend some time meeting the animals. There are goats, sheep, chickens, cows and a horse. I’ve been around chickens for as long as I can remember and we had sheep on Croft 3, but there are lambs at Darach croft which we never got to have on Rum.

There is going to be a fair bit of practical work like fencing and helping to put up a polytunnel along with getting the animals used to us. Particularly the goats as part of my role will be doing goat walking. The croft has a licence to walk the goats along certain paths so we have walked some of the route and done risk assessments for potential issues such as what we do if a dog is off a lead, or people / horses are walking towards us. Where would be suitable places to stop for rests for the people or the goats, checking locations which may have evergreen trees which are toxic for goats.

Mostly I am looking forward to getting started.

Growing

In our first year back on the mainland we grew nothing other than some strawberries. We did bring some chickens over from Rum and got back to Rum five times to pick fruit, deal with the sheep on the croft and generally just settle in here and get back there as much as possible.

Last year though a combination of more work tying us to the mainland and lockdown preventing us from getting to Rum at all meant we did some growing in the garden here. On the decking I created a container / pot garden with herbs and flowers in a huge variety of pots. Our strawberry bed started to establish with runners bought across from my plants on Rum, we put up a mini greenhouse and turned our spare room into a growing space for starting off seedlings too and we created two large raised beds in the garden.

Slugs were my nemesis. They munched through a vast proportion of what I had grown and even munched through replacement sowings AND a few more established plants which I bought off a friend. I think four crops of chard made it into the beds. Four crops of chard were enjoyed at various stages by slugs. No chard at all was eaten by any of us. The greenhouse was not up to the job either, despite many repairs, a whole new cover, bracing and tethering efforts and several emergency dashes outside in high winds it really struggled with the weather here.

My dwarf beans were a lot more dwarf than I had anticipated. I am still giggling at myself for my grand arches I constructed for them next to much smaller pea supports. The peas grew up and down the supports several times reaching up and beyond…. the beans grew about 3 inches, were mostly eaten by the slugs and I think I picked one single bean which was sad and small and curled up, quite probably feeling inadequate in the face of the towering bean arch!

I sowed too many peas which meant I planted them out too close together and probably had no bigger crop than if I’d planted half that number although that was by far the strongest crop providing garden snack opportunities for all and several dinners.

I lost the potential sweetcorn crop (although sweetcorn outside up here is always ambitious) to a late frost despite us covering the beds with old sheets to try and protect them. My cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower were all slug fodder. They also munched on all the carrot tops and any salad leaves or lettuces I sowed into the beds.

I tried egg shells and slug picking at nightfall, neither seemed to have much impact.


My leeks, finally harvested on St David’s Day were more spring onion than leek. Having tried – and failed – to grow leeks in sunny Sussex, wet and rainy Rum and now soggy and slug infested Strontian I may concede defeat and accept that it’s not them, it’s me.

The triumphs were salad leaves and other salady bits like tomatoes and spring onions, regular cut-and-come-again crops in containers, the peas, the herbs and all the flowers (including edible ones which we used in salads and as cake decorations.) Our decking was a riot of colour with bees and butterflies all summer long, glorious scents and lots of faffing around with arrangement of the pots opportunities as things grew up and got moved around. We also had fresh mint, coriander, rosemary, sage, garlic chives, lavender, basil for cooking with. I freezed and dried some of it and shared the lavender with the bees! We had a decent crop of potatoes although our plants grew like mutants and never flowered. We did worry that they may come and get us in our sleep as they were taller than me! I grew some comfrey which did quite well and I have planted some in the garden and chopped up some of the leaves to make a tea for feeding this coming years crops.

We built a little wildlife pond which we raised some tiny froglets to release in to and also rehomed a rescued toad that Scarlett saved from the beach (salt water is a killer for frogs and toads but they often find themselves washed down to the loch after heavy rain turns burns into rivers) although we have seen no evidence of either frogs or toads in the garden this spring. Bonnie Dog did bring a hitchhiking newt into the house last week though, riding on her back! This is excellent news for biodiversity in the garden, for slug population control and for having interesting critters around. It does mean we won’t stock the pond with frogspawn this year though as that might just be a buffet for the newts!

In the autumn once I un-netted the raised beds to let the chickens go back on the soil to scratch around, keep the weeds down and maybe help with the slugs we dismantled the greenhouse, saved what was salvageable from it (the plastic cover is being used to cover our log pile – more on the shelves in a minute) and planted loads of spring bulbs in the pots on the decking, around the fence line of the garden and around the pond. We have been rewarded with daffodils since early March, iris, crocus and now have tulips and grape hyacinths starting to bloom.

Which brings us to this year – the spring equinox has arrived and we’re already nearly in April. Despite a flurry of snow last week and a still cold feel to the temperatures the lengthening days and the calendar tell us it’s spring once more.

We have spread some manure from our neighbour’s horse onto our raised beds, I’ve emptied our own compost bin (which was beautifully rotted down other than a few eggs shells, which I spread anyway, assuming it can’t hurt to annoy the slugs a bit even if it doesn’t entirely deter them!). I have used a dose of nematodes on the beds too to see if it makes a difference and will attempt to both plant out seedlings a little later so they are more established and perhaps a bit more able to tolerate a bit of slug nibbling. I will also have a look at some companion planting tips this year, using some crops dotted around that deter slugs too.

I will sow fewer peas, install taller pea supports and smaller bean supports. I will sow fewer tomato seeds (says every gardener every year and almost never manages to do it – if you live near me I bet I’ll be offering you baby tomato plants a month or two from now!). I was very conservative with my seed purchasing this spring, although Ady ruined my sensible behaviour by arriving home with six multipacks of flower seeds and some more pots so the decking will be florally adorned again this summer despite reticence in vegetable plans.

The main plan for this year though was a more fit-for-purpose place to start the seedlings off. I’ve been collecting loo roll inners and plastic pots to cut up for plant labels, digging out the sunflower and lettuce seeds I lovingly harvested, dried and saved last year and shuffling through my seed packets like a deck of cards putting them into sowing date order, crops we most like eating order and alphabetical order since early February waiting to get my hands in compost.

A friend gave us some old windows and Ady picked up an old pallet so one day a couple of weeks ago we assembled the windows, the pallet, power tools, screws and brackets,a clear space on the decking (we decided that was best – ease of location for regular watering and monitoring, south facing for most sun with east and west aspects too, backing on to the house for shelter / additional warmth, elevated away from slug action) and spent about an hour holding windows up in various configurations, talking ourselves in and out of ideas, measuring and cogitating. Finally we came up with this.

Three smaller windows around the front and two sides, a larger window on top, a pallet on the back. It is secured to the decking and to it’s component parts. The top slopes down to get the most daylight / sun and it has plenty of gaps for ventilation as condensation was a big issue with the mini plastic covered greenhouse. We repurposed some of the window hinges we took off to make the door on the front hinged. Originally the plan had been to have the top able to be lifted off but it is *so* heavy it would have been unsafe.

It is super sturdy and has been comprehensively tested with some very high winds. The recess of the glass set into the frame on top was collecting rainwater but Ady has drilled some holes so it now drains. We have sufficient windows left to create an extension to it once we get another pallet for a back. The pallet back means we can cover it with cloth on cold nights or open it up when it is warmer so we can control the temperature a little in there too. We could also cover the whole thing with something white and reflective (that old sheet!) if it got really too hot in there.

After giving it a day or so to ensure it was definitely up to the job and test in heavy rain (hence drainage holes) and high winds I was finally able to get sowing. Scarlett has collected all sorts of useful things off the beaches, mostly fish farm rubbish like fish boxes and trays which are really useful seed trays. I also have supermarket meat or veg packaging trays and of course my loo roll inners which with a few snips and some folding make perfect modules for sowing peas, beans, sweetcorn etc.

I managed to cobble together some shelving from the old doomed mini greenhouse too so there are several hundred little seeds all tucked up in warm compost doing their thing in there now. Watering proved slightly trickier than in the walk-in mini greenhouse where a fine rose on a watering can did the job but Ady had the genius idea of a pressure sprayer which he picked up for me from the supermarket for under a tenner. Thanks to it’s long arm I am able to reach in and perfectly deliver the right amount of water to each module AND feel like I’m in Ghostbusters (or is that just me when using a pressure sprayer?).

Two weeks on and this morning when I went out to water and cheerlead I was thrilled to spot the first little green leaves peeking through. Even more excitingly these are from lettuce seeds that I harvested, dried and saved myself last year.

Of course the reason I saved them was because they had bolted and gone to seed, so I cut them off, dried the seed pods and kept them, then crushed them open over the compost a couple of weeks ago. I am currently taking this to mean I am an excellent seed saver although if they bolt again then I may have to accept they are simply a very energetic and enthusiastic breed of lettuce and feed them to the chickens!

Excitingly though this could mean we are eating home grown salad by the end of April.

I have some seed potatoes to go in and some currant cuttings from a friend to get put in the ground, plus a bramble which I would like to train growing in the strawberry bed (train to grow in a certain direction, not train to do tricks!) and of course I need to keep doing succession sowings of things every few weeks too. It’s great to feel that the garden is coming back to life after winter though and think ahead to all those lovely summer days spent out there last year.

Some of the ‘Watch This Space’ stuff.

If you know us in real life, or even have just been following us for a while you will know that Davies is the artist and Scarlett is the naturalist.

If you read back to the start of this blog and then all of the various posts along the way you will discover how these passions have shaped not just their lives but also the direction our whole family unit has taken.

Of course they both have other interests too and in fact Scarlett is also a very talented artist and Davies is very knowledgeable on all things nature related too but in the same way as the first thing Davies reached for as soon as he was able to make a move in a certain direction as a toddler was an unattended pen to scribble with or even a mug of tea to dib a finger in and daub somewhere, Scarlett was grasping for our pet cats, or slugs in the garden.

Home Education, in the autonomous style we followed has allowed them both the freedom to follow these passions without distraction. A story I will tell for the rest of my days is of kissing a barely-school age Davies goodnight, sitting on his bedroom floor for a while and then heading downstairs confident that he was moments away from sleep after a relaxing dinner, bath, cuddles and story bedtime routine before bed. Only to discover many hours later when I finally headed up to bed that he had filled half a notebook with an entire retelling of the story (it was Ted Hughes The Iron Man) of the story in picture form. It was way past midnight but set the scene for the rest of his days and in fact still does even now he is an adult, when his most productive, creative, imaginative and brilliant moments are late at night when the rest of the world sleeps.

Scarlett, who does not have an official diagnosis but is probably dyslexic came late to reading and writing, despite having a groaning bookshelf and surrounding herself in bed each night with a heap of cuddly toy animals and a pile of animal related books. During the day if she was not out exploring she would be glued to a dvd / tv documentary channel about animals. If David Attenborough was explaining things to her then so much the better but Gordon Buchanan, Steve Backshall, Steve Irwin or Chris Packham were just as acceptable. Despite being interested in the natural world myself she had far outstripped me in her ‘specialist subject’ before she reached double digits in age. I distinctly recall walking around Edinburgh museum with her when she was 12 as she confidently identified every single creature on display asking me to cover up the labels on things. Not only could she tell me what bird or animal they were she could also reel off a whole load of facts and information about each one too.

Our pre-travels, pre-blog life had us arranging educational workshops and experiences, family holidays and weekend trips and any opportunity we could find around supporting Davies and Scarlett in their interests. Whether it was zoo trips and keeper for the day experiences for Scarlett, joining the RSPB wildlife explorers and supporting her through bronze, silver and gold awards with the RSPB, finding educational sessions at the British Wildlife Centre, Longleat safari or Drusillas Zoo Park or camping in Scotland planned around the very best time of year to spot dolphins in the wild. For Davies it was sourcing decent art materials, taking him to every art gallery from Brighton to London and beyond, supporting him in booking display space at three local libraries to put up his first public art displays aged 7 or finding him as many opportunities to experiment with creative art techniques as possible.

These were children who were always offered as many diverse opportunities as possible but were dragged away from and distracted from their passions as infrequently as possible because we believe that even at a very young age a person already knows best what it is they most want to invest their time in.

Our original travel adventures and eventual move to Rum was as much shaped by the dreams Davies and Scarlett had as those Ady and I had. For our poetic, artistic son a whimsical land filled with dramatic landscapes, wild weather and endless inspiration for creativity. Our little shed shop was home to much of Davies’ creative output. For Scarlett a whole croft full of animals where she was around to rear hatchlings, witness piglets being born, be around to help with feeding and tending the animals and understanding what keeping livestock meant in all it’s full technicolour good and bad glory. As a National Nature Reserve and home to world famous natural research and monitoring projects including the red deer who feature on Autumnwatch, a massive share of the world population of Manx Shearwaters who return to the island each year to breed and rear their young, the release site of the reintroduction of white tailed sea eagles back into the wild in the UK as well as access to a community ranger, visiting and resident animal researchers and weekly boat trips to spot sea birds and cetaceans.

During our seven years on Rum the young children we moved there with became adults and so when the time came for us to leave it was as four adults with diverse and collective ideas about what happened next. Davies has been selling his art, alongside his studies and voluntary work. Scarlett has been involved in more practical life stuff like making sure that when the rest of us are working or studying we are supported with food and so on, looking after the chickens, cats and dog and helping in various part time jobs when an extra pair of hands were required.

Scarlett was also seeking her own voluntary opportunities and along with hours every week on the beach collecting rubbish and plenty of citizen science projects last year she has been working through the training to volunteer with the local Cats Protection League and pre lockdown was involved with a local social croft – Darach Croft where she was helping with various animal related tasks on an ad hoc voluntary basis.

All of which meant that when some paid work experience / apprenticeship / training opportunities arose at Darach Croft she was perfectly placed to apply for one. This week she had her first ever job interview, having previously put together her first ever CV and job application and did wonderfully well, being called back the same day to be offered one of the posts.

It was amazing to see Davies and Scarlett from nearly 6 years ago feature on the TV this week being asked about what they might want to do in the future. Davies talked about travelling – a dream which should have become a reality last year were it not for the pandemic. That is fine, he has simply got more time to further plan for that exciting adventure. Scarlett talked about how she would like to work with animals, probably on a croft. The day before the show aired she had just been offered precisely that opportunity.

She starts in a few weeks time and I am sure there will be updates from her on how it is going once she is settled in. For now though we could not be more proud and pleased for her. As well as slightly relieved she did indeed stop trying to grab and eat all the wildlife as she did with that first garden slug!