Lifeonasmallisland has moved….

https://www.facebook.com/northuist/

to here! I liked this page but lot’s of friends were asking me to do it on fb – made it easier for them…..

 

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The joy of a fridge.

It’s a small thing (in this case literally) that we take for granted every day, the fridge. We were pleased that one was to be left in the house when we moved in – some money saved! There was, and it was fine – it’s clean and it works, but it’s tiny. There’s a reasonable freezer on the bottom and the smallest fridge compartment in the universe on top. Wouldn’t be a problem for one person and a couple might cope, but a family of 5? Nope, no chance.

We’re a good few miles from any shops, but we are used to that. We were about 15 miles from a mid-sized supermarket in the last house and anything between 4 and 8 from a wee shop (milk etc only or bankruptcy). We’d plan accordingly, stock up, good larder and lot’s of pantry staples. You can’t stock up in a tiny fridge.

So last night the new fridge arrived, it’s bigger (not humongous), it’s energy efficient, it’s all shiny and clean. Now I can stock up on vegetables. I’m looking forward to the veg van coming to Lochmaddy on Thursday and a wee excursion to Kallin Shellfish on Grimsay!

We were out when it was delivered, but another lovely thing – the delivery driver had left a note with his number for us to call for a hand with it. He then called the house to make sure we got the note and to offer to come back to help move it. Now that is not something that would happen most places.

I know on a scale of problems this one doesn’t even register, it’s inconvenient but we are lucky we can afford to buy food to put in it, lot’s of folk can’t.

PS I know the picture is not of a fridge but I thought it was too good not to share!

 

A wee word about ticks…

John Donne wrote an entire love poem around the flea but no-one could ever (surely?) find ticks poetic. We have ticks in abundance here. You can’t see them, you can’t use them as an alternative protein source, and you can’t blooming avoid them.

We are not strangers to them – if you live anywhere with a lot of deer, there are ticks. We always check, we wear long trousers in the grass, we teach the children to try and avoid them. No chance.

These are not your average size ticks – we have a plague of almost microscopic ones. They are tiny, so small the smallest tick twister struggles. Tonight after the boys’ baths I removed 4 from Saul, 2 from Louis and about 7 from Ari. Tiny, tiny little ticks. So small on first pass I missed them, on second got some and on third and fourth check got (I hope) them all.

I didn’t see them last night, though found a couple on heads/under hair that worry me. The rest seemed ‘fresh’, didn’t seem to have fed and I got them out alive. If you catch them in the first 24 hours the chances of them passing on Lyme disease is much lower, ditto if you get them out whole. Don’t cover them in Vaseline or similar gunk, it increases the chances of them regurgitating blood and the risk of infection.

So, we’ll be keeping an eye on the boys for any of symptoms over the next few days, particularly redness spreading from the bite but also any flu like ones. We’ll try a tick repellent as well as wellies and trousers tucked in. We can’t stop the boys playing but we can stop them rolling in the grass/dropping clothes on the ground etc.

We’ve ordered tick treatments for the dog and horses too – the horses are the worst hit and it’s impossible to remove every one.  There was, apparently, a call for the Estate here to cull all the deer to try and combat the tick epidemic. I’m not sure about that one, but I do wish someone would invent a safe ‘spot on’ or ‘frontline’ for children…..

The light.

A quick word about the quality of light here. At any time of day, in any weather you find yourself struck dumb by the light. The landscape helps too but the light is luminescent, liquid, it shimmers with colours and tones I’ve seen nowhere else.

Now I understand why so many folk here are artists, writers, musicians, poets and craftspeople. Even folk who come here with no creative background are driven to it by the place and the light.

We have poets, writers, painters, film makers, conceptual artists and guerrilla knitters – all drawing from the place, the light, the sea.

It is almost sensory overload – wherever you look there is beauty – rugged, austere, gentle, rolling, dramatic, classical beauty.

All you have to do is breathe it in.

A small detour…

An Suileachean

 

land twice cleared

a century separating the men

that stood their ground.

I stand here now and see your name

John Morrison.

a family name.

the stone arch frames the land, the sea

the beach.

I wonder what you were?

A man who stood firm

where a hundred years before

family were uprooted, torn from the crofts.

now, we light the beacon

not to summon, but to remember.

I walk to the shore, to the miles of white sand

I long for the kelpie to carry me to sea,

the selkie to cast their skin

or to show themselves, as it’s said

one did to my great, great grandfather.

sacrificing the water for love,

right here at Reef by these dunes.

protected now by law

then, by sense

the water laps the shore, the ripples unchanged

by the century that separates us.

The kindness of neighbours…

Today one of my neighbours introduced me to another of our neighbours.

He did this because he knew I was looking for some sheep and our mutual neighbour was looking to downsize his flock.  Nothing so unusual about that. The unusual part is that we are now the proud (soon to be) owners of 6 Hebridean ewes……given to us for nothing. We’ve also been offered advice, expertise and help in finding a Tup so we will get lambs next season.  We definitely owe all concerned some good whisky and sincere thanks.

We’ve been amazed and the kindness of folk here, we’ve been made to feel welcome from our first visit. We’ve asked daft questions (constantly) and been met with patience and thoughtful answers. Some of the folk have families who have been here for generations, some have more distant connections and some are here because they fell in love with the place.

We walked along the road this evening to visit the sheep. The light was incredible, the deer were out on the wee eileans in the sea loch though the boys made so much noise the deer fled into the water to the far side to escape.

We’ll be getting the sheep in the next week or two and will post some pictures – they are very beautiful – black fleece, curly horns and intelligent wee faces. The ideal starter sheep  – hardy, gentle, easy to lamb too. Next we just need to find some pigs and some hens!

 

The Gaelic

I start Gaelic lessons this week. A bit nervous – it’s unlike any language I’ve attempted before (and I did some Russian at school), but very excited too. It feels wrong being the only person in a meeting who can’t understand it – like the stereotypical Brit abroad.

I did ask at school why we didn’t get the chance to learn and was told ‘Gaelic was never spoken here, it was only spoken in the Highlands’…..really? My eight year old would call that an ‘epic fail’.

It was spoken in the highlands, the islands and right down the west coast into Dumfries and Galloway – you can still see the influence in place names there now, along with the Viking. We started work on the family tree as a present for my Dad (we also got the patriarchal DNA mapped but that’s for another post!). A little research and some conversations and we realised that from my Dad’s grandparents back, they were all native Gaelic speakers. My Dad’s Great Granny was also a native speaker from Arran which had it’s own dialect. My Aunt and her family are all native speakers but on my Dad’s side it had been lost, just stopped being passed down.

Now I’m determined to learn, the boys will learn at school and we’re in the right place. The highest concentration of Gaelic speakers is right here in the Uists. There is a passion here among the younger generations to make sure the Gaelic language and culture is alive and thriving – it’s a wonderful thing. Having sat in a meeting for several hours with a lot of folk speaking Gaelic (and translating for me very patiently), I’m sure of two things – one this time next year I will be speaking it too, and two – it is an incredibly beautiful language.