Realists and Dreamers

“There are dreamers and there are realists in this world. You would think the dreamers would find the dreamers and the realists would find the realists but… more often than not, the opposite is true. You see the dreamers need the realists to keep them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists… well, without the dreamers, they might not ever get off the ground.” — Modern Family

Yep, it is a quote from a US TV sitcom. But it’s one of the funniest I’ve seen and quite aside from being devoured by all four of us when the next disc arrives from LoveFilm and having us all laugh out loud several times each episode it has also had me welling up more than once as something very profound is said by one of the glossy gorgeous characters. The above had me asking Ady ‘what are you then?’ and him replying ‘realist, obviously’ before saying ‘and before you ask what you are…. just look out of the window!’

I used to consider myself a realist. Definitely optimistic and utterly glass brimming over rather than even half full (air counts right?! Even an empty glass is filled with possibility). In recent years as my ideas have gotten crazier even I have had to accede to dreamer rather than realist. The trouble is that without ridiculously high levels of ‘it’ll be fine’ and blind optimism so many of the most amazing adventures we have had would have folded at planning stages and never made it to reality. So I’m going to continue with my dreaming and trying to sell my dreams to my co-adventurers. With the disclaimer in the small print that sometimes things might not work out quite how I planned them but we’ll have a lot of fun along the way. And we can adjust and take a different route if one crops up and that might mean an even better journey than the one we started out on.

Last weekend I had one of those moments of crashing realisation that something was not going to work. Something I had planned and sold to people and stated with certainty and confidence would be the case was actually not going to happen. Ady actually watched the penny drop as I stood, spade in hand in the middle of a really big hole while people dug around me and I did some mental calculations, realised how much work was still ahead, what the date was and what the true limitations of the project are.

Our project timeline was always ambitious and we knew that we had to account for the Rum Factor – midges, weather, logistics of living on a remote island. We still vastly overestimated the amount of headway that Ady and I would make during the winter on the project. The weather was dreadful, there are only six hours of daylight each day, we were spending time surviving and gathering firewood, dealing with leaks in the caravan, coping with the challenges that life here chucks at you every single day. Despite all of that it was our best winter yet in terms of how well we coped with things but the area that was compromised was working on the cob project. I hoped that once we hit the spring we would catch up, volunteers would arrive and things would move forward. Cue spring really not arriving! March was still positively wintery, April still brought frost and snow, we’re into double figures of May and ferries are still being cancelled due to high winds. The midges will be here any day and we have not stopped wearing coats yet!

There is no point in bemoaning what we have not done but there is massive mileage in learning from it, planning better and investing time in doing things properly taking into account the challenges that have shown themselves. So we have readjusted our expectations and ambitions for this year, still optimistic and not without challenges, still requiring plenty of help and a hefty dose of luck. Our first three volunteers this year have shown us that we can make massive leaps forward in small amounts of time with many hands. They have also demonstrated to us that we need to be better organised and set up for hosting volunteers on a larger scale. The caravan hosted a team of 10 plus people coming in for tea, coffee, bringing wet coats and muddy boots and decimating the cookie supplies a couple of weeks ago. It was great fun, we loved the company, the banter and having people here. It also made us realise that the caravan is not set up for such hospitality and we need to establish a volunteer Base Camp. An investment of time and a bit of cash which takes us away from the cob project but will pay long term dividends in happier, better looked after volunteers, less impact on our home. So plans are afoot to make that happen this year.

Cob cannot happen while it is wet, windy or cold so even if we had been on schedule we would be unable to be actually cobbing just now, the weather would prevent it. So we’ll make full use of the less weather dependant aspects of the project and hope to have the groundworks all done this year with the low wall built, the landscaping and site prep all completed, maybe even the materials gathered to get started with by the time the weather is warm enough next year. With nearly a whole year, plenty of willing volunteers and lots of support that is definitely achievable.

There you go, me getting back to my realist roots. Let’s skim over the fact that my dreamer side is still here planning to build a mud house on an off grid croft on a remote island and let me keep that realist label just for tonight…

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