The decision to move to Skye happened pretty quickly. The idea to move to The Islands had been building up for some time but all of a sudden I experienced a real ‘flight’ feeling. At the same time a few little things fell together that may or may not have been fate.
A vacancy with a marine conservation organisation on Mull first put the spark amongst the tinder (a dream job for a whale lover!). It wasn’t really suitable and the timing wasn’t right but it started a tiny ember (an ember that was fanned by a few friends, that includes you, Ian Rowlands, if you’re reading this!)
I didn’t need a job to bring me up here, I could survive on my wages from painting, but a little part-time position would help me integrate into the community and meet people. It would be pocket money and a way to make friends.
I spent my evenings thinking of all the stunning islands I’d visited on my travels. I called up property agents on Orkney, I dreamt of white beaches on Harris and purple hills on Skye. One night I was wasting time on the internet and I looked down at one of the rings on my right hand. Beside my grandmother’s sparkly ring I wear a little silver band cast from a Scottish heather stem by jeweller Nick Shone. I bought it at the Skyeworks Gallery in Portree and I’ve never taken it off; I’ve worn it to remind me to return to Scotland one day.
Remembering how much I liked the bright little gallery (above an absolutely incredible bakery, The Skye Baking Co) I looked them up online. The first thing that appeared on my screen was an ad asking for help in the gallery. I could do that, it’s something I’m good at.
My ember turned into a flame and that was that, I’d go to Skye.
I remembered the owners of the gallery and bakery from my previous visit. Liza and Barry were incredibly kind when I told them I was interested in food and food writing and had shown me all around their lovely converted woollen mill premises.
Liza was understandably hesitant when I emailed to say I wanted to join them; many people arrive on Skye with unrealistic expectations and dreams of easy living. I imagine a lot of them go straight back when they realise that work and property aren’t as easy to come by here as it is at home.
Somehow I managed to allay her worries and I started on the 1st, the day after I arrived in Portree.
It was quite strange being the New Girl again on my first day, you get quite used to being your own boss when you work from home, but I really enjoyed helping out and learning.
It’s a very different gallery to some of the ones I’ve worked at or managed in the past, the ones with just four £12,000 paintings that never sell. No pretentiousness or snobbery, just lovely stuff made by interesting, local people. I shadowed a lovely lady called Nat (also an artist) and enjoyed spending time with Marion, the gallery’s best selling artist who was holding a painting workshop at the back of the space.
Lunch was provided by the bakery downstairs and I was introduced to a genius invention known as a lunchbread, a bread roll with a filling baked inside. It sounds simple but there must be some kind of magic involved to make them as delicious at they are. Bread sorcery!
By the end of the day I’d met a whole host of new people, gained a ticket to a charity ball, made a shopping list of things I wanted to buy in the gallery and, amazingly, found my next place to live. Not bad for day one.