The Craic from Packing Cases to a Housewarming Turbot…

English: The North Cuillin ridge from Portree.
Image via Wikipedia

So, where was I? Ah, yes, moving house. It’s done. Hurrah! We’re exhausted, but it’s done. It was quite a bourrach for a while there. But now the boxes are unpacked and it’s good to be reunited with all our stuff that’s been in storage for the last seven months. It’s also good to bring our nomadic existence to an end. Once more we have a home of our own. There’s still all the pictures to put up and some new curtains to be made – but mostly everything is in place.

We have surplus furniture in the garage, but I’ve already managed to sell some of it by advertising on the local free ads page on Facebook. Still got a couple of wardrobes to go and then there will be space for the ‘Big Beamer’ – otherwise known as the husband’s motorbike. Needless to say there will never be space for the car to go inside.

We have had a great incentive to get on and get the house organised as our daughter, her husband and our gorgeous eleven-week-old granddaughter are coming to stay on Thursday for a long weekend. It’s hard being three hundred miles away from them, so I’ll be making the most of the visit.

I still can’t quite get over the fact that I’m a granny but I absolutely love this new status. The love you feel for a grandchild is as, if not more, intense as you feel for your child – but it’s also different – in an (for me) inexplicable way. We’re also very glad that my very dear father-in-law got to meet his wee great-granddaughter before he passed away so suddenly in January. His passing has left a large gap in our family life, but his children carried out a most poignant and fitting funeral service for him where we felt his presence more than his absence.

My new study is very comfy. I’ve commandeered the fourth and smallest bedroom as my lair. It looks south over the garden to the Portree hills and the Cuillin ridge beyond. I think I’ll be very content to write in this room and I’m so grateful to have a room of my own. My writing has been so disrupted over the last few months – with one thing and another – that it will be good to finally get back some rhythm and momentum. My children’s novel is ‘finished’ (first draft) and is fermenting quietly in the background. My second novel for adults is almost finished the first draft stage and that is my priority. Then it will be back to the children’s book to start the rewriting process.

I still write for Words with Jam – the bi-monthly writers’ mag – haven’t missed an issue and am so proud to be associated with Jane Dixon-Smith’s most marvellous creation. Next edition is out in April (available both in e-format and paper copy) and the theme is storytelling. After my visitors leave, I must get  on and write my next piece.

The island continues to be almost permanently swathed in grey. It’s hard for us Hebrideans to believe that there’s a drought in parts of England. We have had almost unrelenting rain, wind and dreichness for many weeks now. The bairns at the school are hardy though. We make sure they’re well wrapped up and out they go in all but the most foul of weathers. But the children – and the rest of us – desperately need to see some sun. It would be nice to go for a walk without all the waterproof gear on.

The current main concerns for many islanders are – lambing in a few weeks time, the Co-op’s plans for expansion in Portree, the possible arrival of one of the ‘big boy’ supermarkets, the continued practice of some companies to charge outrageously for delivery to the island – we have had a fixed road connection to the mainland, i.e. a bridge, for many years now – and the change over from the Crofters’ Commission to the Crofting Commission – yeah, spot the difference?! We can only hope the new governing body for crofting is less bureaucratic and more efficient and crofter friendly than its predecessor.

Oh – just been interrupted by a knock at the door. Scuse me.

Windowpane flounder

Aw, our next door neighbour is a fisherman and he’s just handed in a humungous turbot. He told me there’ll be plenty more. The kitchen smells of the sea – incredibly fresh fare – Mr T was swimming in a loch this afternoon. Right must go – have to look up turbot recipes on interweb.

Oidhche Mhath/Night Night.

PS if you’ve spotted/been puzzled by the muckle amount o’ guid Scots words in this post – that’s because I watched a braw wee programme on BBC2 Scotland the nicht a’ aboot the Scots language. It was called Scots Scuil and followed six Scottish bairns who spent a week at a special residential Scots school and developed their abilities to talk, sing and write in the language. I was fair ta’en wi’ it, so I was.

 

Woman cannot live by view alone

Map showing the Hebrides: Orkney and Shetland,...
Image via Wikipedia

No regrets. Me and Mr Anne lived in a lovely, spacious and
comfortable house. We’d spent a fair bit of money getting it up to 21st
century standards and put in hours of work creating a wonderful, wildlife
friendly garden.

The view was truly stunning. A panorama ranging from the
mountains of Harris in the Outer Hebrides across the Minch to the north; the
entire Trotternish ridge across Loch Snizort to the east; and to the south the conical
peak of Ben Tianavaig.

 

First time visitors often panicked as they drove ever
northwards to try and find us. They’d arrive grumbling about us living in the
back of the back of beyond. And then they’d walk into the living room and see
the view from the large window. Then, silence. We learned not to expect any
sensible conversation from our first-timers for quite a few minutes as they
just stood and gawped. Then they’d say, “Now I understand why you live here.”
The utter beauty of our location really defied description. The crofting
township where we lived is small. Around thirty houses sitting on the
characteristic long narrow strips of land known as crofts. Each croft providing
the ground for subsistence farming. Our crofting neighbours kept sheep, goats,
highland cattle and hens.

Sea eagles, golden eagles, and hen harriers could all
be spotted soaring above the loch and dolphins, porpoises and minkes regularly
swam in its waters. Roe deer would run along the bottom of the crofts as dusk
fell – making light work of the deer fencing.

And the winter skies – were big
and bright with stars. No street lighting meant the Milky Way, the
constellations and the planets were clearly visible. What’s not to like?

Being there wasn’t a problem. It was at times idyllic and, even
in the worst of Atlantic gales and storms, it could be exhilarating. No, being
there was fine – but the trouble was we couldn’t always be there. We work in
the main town (population 2500) which is a 30 mile drive – 10 of them on single
track road – from where we lived. The nearest supermarket is in the town along
with all the other necessities of modern life. The winter drive on unlit,
ungritted, narrow twisty roads was a challenge – especially when tired after a
long day at work. And the monthly petrol bill was around £250.

So we’ve moved to town. And we’re loving it. We can walk to
the shops, to work, to the pub. I have a social life. I can relax at work and
not fret about what the weather’s going to be like for the journey home.

Great Britain, Skye, Portree
Image via Wikipedia

No, we don’t have a house yet. We’ve moved 4 times in 4
months – short let to short let – lived with the minimum of stuff and lived out
of bags and boxes. And you know what – it wasn’t as stressful as it sounds.

I was quite proud of myself – that I could make a home out
of only the most basic stuff – and live in relatively small spaces – and be
perfectly happy. In some ways it was quite liberating to realise that if some
catastrophe took away everything I owned, I’m capable of surviving – even without
the internet.

But, yes, now it is nice to be in a bigger rental place, to
know we’re settled for six months and to have some of our stuff out of storage.
And yes, it would be nice to once more have a place of our own. But in the
meantime I know I can cope.

Portree by Night
Image via Wikipedia

I love being here. The decision to move was difficult – but it
was right. I’m not missing the old place at all – much as I loved it at times.
But woman cannot live by view alone. So no – no regrets.