January Rant & Rave

Eager, avid and wide-awake readers – or maybe that should just be the sad – will be saying ‘Hang on, weren’t you going to be a-ranting and a-raving on the first Tuesday of the month and then blogging about island life on the second Tuesday?’ And you’d be right.

However, having used up the first instance of a Tuesday by setting out my new year blog plans, I missed the opportunity to R& R. So, in the true spirit of the January sale, I’m doing a two-for-the-price-of-one special. Right, I hope that’s that all cleared up.

There’s a bit of a ‘Handy’ theme to the R&R this time…

First rant of 2012 –  bottle tops. I have just struggled for many minutes to get the top off a bottle of bleach. Now I know it has to be childproof but so do pill bottles and I can remove the tops from them no bother. Just push down and turn. But this ridiculous bottle requires you to squeeze in the sides of the top and turn it at the same time. My hands are small but perfectly formed and, yes, there’s a bit of arthritis in the old fingers, so this combined movement proved impossible and was very painful. The design of this top is very poor.

And what about  cooking oil bottle tops? Not a problem if the bottle is glass because then you just unscrew but the plastic variety – argh! With their ridiculous little, thin plastic strips that cut into your fingers as you tear and pull an unfeasibly small tag to release top from bottle, they are bad-word inducing.

Cue the ranters battle cry. Why oh why?  And breathe…

Fortunately Mr Write Enough has big, strong hands and  he opened the bleach bottle for me. But what if he hadn’t been available? The outcome could have been unthinkable – an unbleached sink – or – even – asking a strong child to do it.

Rave – The Body Shop’s Shea Body Butter moisturiser. This was a Christmas present from my son and his lovely girlfriend. I’ve been using it on my hands which are in a bit of a bad way with eczema – very dry and cracked. My prescription ointment helps a bit but this Body Shop stuff is the biz. What a difference it’s making. The cracked, red, itchy skin is much better since I’ve been using this stuff. And it smells gorgeous. I give it a round of applause with my newly soft hands.

Island Life – Weather is a major feature of life here on the island. We have a maritime climate with, often contrasting, local variations in the minute-to-minute weather. Wind is the predominant feature and over the winter, when it’s incredibly noisy and intrusive, even when you’re indoors, it could drive a person to insanity. It will drown out the television, cut off mobile phone and radio signals, push the car onto the wrong side of the road, smash sturdy wooden garden furniture and mangle greenhouses and polytunnels. But you do learn to live with it. You learn to tie down caravans, compost bins, rabbit hutches and dog kennels. You put away all garden furniture and ornaments in September until May. It can even be exhilirating to be out in the Atlantic squall – as long as you have the appropriate clothing and, ideally, a hand to hold –  a wind-blown walk will whip your troubles away.

Being so far north, light is very precious at this time of year. The island is beautiful and, in winter, the snow on the mountains, the ‘white-horses on the waves and stark, silhouetted views can be magnificent. If you can see them. But this winter everything has been veiled.  It’s the greyness, I find hard to bear. The constant low level of light and the often accompanying drizzle, showers or monsoon are so depressing. The grey sky, grey rain, grey light – they take you beyond feeling blue. The mountains disappear, the sea disappears, the beauty of the island is drained away. A sort of claustrophobic island fever takes you over. The mainland with its big cities, its street lights, its cinemas, theatres and shops beckons beguilingly. You need a fix. You may well succumb and drive the two hundred miles to Inverness.

However all it takes is one day – one day of blue sky and full spectrum light – and you know – you know it’s not forever. Spring isn’t far away and even at its darkest worst, this island is home.



The sky falls on Skye

Strange noises in the night – like a sliding door opening and closing – turned out to be snow avalanching off the roof. We awoke to our most substantial fall so far this winter. Six to ten inches depending where you place your wellies.  The track has been ploughed, but a wall of snow means the car is trapped. We’re officially snowed in. I took some photos around the garden. I hope you enjoy them.

Llamas, bluetits and hairy cows

Shona, the Highland cow, and some other croft residents

The weather! They say us Brits are obsessed with it, but I was never so aware of it as I am on Skye. Unsettled, volatile and downright weird (not me, the weather) – it’s also an area of micro-climates so districts a few miles apart can experience completely different weather.

‘Eilean a Cheo’ is one of the island’s Gaelic names and it means ‘misty isle’. It’s a name the island often lives up to. Because of this, some short-stay visitors don’t get to see the mountains which dominate much of the landscape.

However, it could equally be called ‘rainy isle’, ‘windy isle’ or ‘sunny isle’ and all of these adjectives can apply within an hour – never mind a day. And whatever the weather, Skye is never less than stunningly, jaw-droppingly beautiful.

But on a sunny, blue sky day with enough of a breeze to keep the dreaded West Highland midge at home in bed, there can be few places on Earth to rival its ‘stop you in your tracks and make you gasp’ abilities.

Yesterday was such a day. The second in a row. The husband was away on a motor-biking trip, I was on holiday from work so I headed out of the house and into the garden.

The house I headed out of

Now, normally, spending time in the garden for me means  weeding, pruning, chopping – gardening of the ‘stopping the garden invading the house or becoming like Sleeping Beauty’s 100 year forest’ variety – with a little bit of creativity occasionally thrown in. But not yesterday – yesterday I just wanted to be outdoors – not labouring in the garden or going for a walk – but just being.

I didn’t want to sit passively in a chair and just gawp either. I wanted to be an active observer – to really see, hear, smell and feel (I drew the line at taste) life in the garden and on the croft and to do a bit of stopping and staring at the wider landscape that I normally take for granted.

Llamas, tits (blue and great, of the feathered variety) and big hairy cows are just some of the things I observed.

Great tit contemplates taking a bath

My next couple of posts will tell you more of what I found there…