Eden: the vet and the artist

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At a whale rescue training course in Ullapool -recruiting Rob as another ocean warrior!

Channel 4’s Eden: shouting, crying, sexism, homophobia, rape jokes… Maybe reading about Donald Trump, refugees and looming nuclear war might be a bit more positive..?!

Well, it was tough. The toughest thing I’ve ever done. In the short programmes you think you see people’s dark sides; they haven’t shown the worst of it.

Doom, gloom, booooo, noooooo!

But I’ll let you in on a secret….
It wasn’t all bad.

I made some lifelong friends, I built a Hobbit House and lived in it with a robin and family of voles, I created 7ft sculptures, I became matey with a massive (and sometimes terrifying) Tamworth pig.

Hmm, have I forgotten anything? Oh yeah, just one other thing… Vet Rob.

It’s been really heartening (and kind of weird) to find that people are interested in our relationship.
Obviously, it’s something I could talk about forever so, for anyone wanting to know a little more, here’s a few thoughts on the Eden couple that got away..!

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Our first day together on ‘the outside’!

I remember this one night very early on where I first realised how much I like him…

It was pouring with rain, we were huddled in the stinky straw of the pen, soaked through, and Rob was showing me how to bottle feed a kid goat.
Poor little Monty was the runt of triplets, a tiny tangle of knobbly knees and white fluff, he was so hopeless he couldn’t even suckle.
I watched Rob pick him up with these massive strong, rough-looking hands and nurse this funny little creature so softly and so lovingly… well, that was it for me. Hooked.

I mean, there’s a reason why you get calendars that feature hefty firemen cradling cute puppies. Incredible strength showing pure gentleness. As I said… Hook. Line. Sinker.

So that was it, we picked up momentum and he became my best friend.

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Big softy! (He’ll go mad at me for putting this on here…)

That’s not to say that we didn’t row like cats and dogs. My goodness, we had some explosive arguments in there!
When you’re in a confined environment and you’re stressed, tired, hungry and anxious you see the worst sides of each other very quickly.*
Still, we stuck by the motto, ‘If we can get through this, we can get through anything’

And there was a lot to get through. As you’ll have seen if you watched last night’s programme, in early December Rob exited the project.

Looking back, we’re both pleased that we left when we did and are confident that the decisions we made at the time were what was right.
Rob is an incredibly thoughtful guy and he struggled for a long time with the boys’ attitudes to the animals and one boy who had a particular problem with me.
He only stayed as long as he did because I’d always persuaded him to persevere. But, in the end, it was getting him down deeplyand he needed to go.
Of course, I was devastated when he left without a goodbye but I understood it completely.

For me, I’m pleased that I stayed.
They may have tainted the experience but I didn’t want them to ruin my opportunity like they had done for Rob. Stubbornness maybe. Don’t let them win. It might look like I’m wearing glitter, but I think if you look closer it’s grit.
Somewhere deep down I knew we’d both be fine.

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Reunited on the decking

Fast forward 4 months and we’re out.
On my first day of freedom Mum rented a beautiful house down the road from the Eden site in Ardnamurchan, the first part of her expertly-coordinated plan to help me gently readjust into the ‘real world’.
We pulled up to the drive and I saw through the window a curly-haired figure standing on the decking looking out to the loch.

I’d never seen him in ordinary clothes before. I thought he looked like a rockstar.
He’d never seen me without all the ingrained dirt (and funny smell)!

He met my Mum and, later, the rest of the family. I often daydreamed in Eden about seeing the people I loved most together in one room.

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Rob and the Tunn clan on Armadale Pier, Skye

We’d been a couple for almost a year and this was the first time Rob and I had been in a house together… the first time we’d sat down to a meal at a table with a proper knife and fork… the first time in a car together… the first time we’d slept in a bed with sheets!

A couple of weeks after this we’d travelled to Brighton for our one-year anniversary.
I don’t think there are many couples who can say that the first time they ever sat down for dinner together at a restaurant also happened on their first anniversary! It’s been surreal.

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First anniversary & first restaurant meal together!

Rob’s now found work near my cottage on the Isle of Skye and I’ve got to be his vet’s assistant on call outs around the hill crofts of my lovely little island (once things have calmed down a bit I’ll write about them here -it was a bit like jumping into a tale by James Herriot!)

It was incredibly hard watching last night. It’s taken months for me to piece myself back together and it’s nerve-wracking to relive certain things. Rob has found it tough too but has been patient and understanding.
But for all the shit that happened (and there was a LOT), I’ll always be thankful that I came home with the best souvenir!

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Being idiots on holiday in Santorini

Before Eden it had got to the point where I had the perfect life but I lived it alone.
My main relationship was with nature and the ocean and I had come to terms with the idea that I might not find a partner, it was sometimes lonely but it was okay. A life with gazillions of rescued animals would do.

So I never expected to return with a boyfriend, let alone someone as lovely as Rob.
I don’t want to pinch myself in case it’s not quite true and I still feel a bit guilty in case I don’t deserve him.

It’s a whole new life post-Eden, though our shared love of all things 4-legged means that I still might end up with those gazillions of rescued animals…

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Eden (if you can bear to watch a load of shouting and me ugly crying) is on Channel 4 at 10pm tonight.

*And not just in terms of personality… If a man can still love you when you smell like wet sheep, have a smear of pig poo on your cheek and snot everywhere because it’s too cold to feel it running down your face -well my friends, I think that’s a keeper!

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He seems to be enjoying Skye so far…

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Kindness. Again. (The Syrian refugee crisis)

The first collection. All of this was donated in just an hour or two (photo by Tom Hodgetts)

The first collection. All of this was donated in just an hour or two (photo by Tom Hodgetts)

Okay, I was way too quick off the mark with my previous post. Since writing it, the folk of Skye have excelled themselves in their kindness again.

You’d have to live on the moon to have not heard about the Syrian refugee crisis and the charities that have sprung up to help the people camped out in Calais.
Because of the weather and conditions over in France, the items that the migrants need are things such as tents, walking boots, waterproofs and tarpaulins -all things which are very much everyday staples for life on Skye.

CalAid has been the most prolific of the aid organisations so when I saw a donations drive being organised in Fort William and Inverness I asked them whether we could have a collection here in Skye and add it to theirs. The response was quick and I was put in touch with other people in the area who’ve made similar enquiries.

Long story short, we’re now deep in the middle of setting up donations drop-off points all over Skye and the response from local people has been overwhelming.
I was stunned to find so many other people who wanted to start up a collection and to see how many people were willing to donate every spare rucksack, tent, sleeping bag, etc etc that they had. A chap called Tom took the first car-load of stuff over to Inverness yesterday and within an hour or two he’d been given so much that he could barely close his boot.
The responses on the Facebook group, too, have been so quick and so staggering that it’s been an almost full-time job to try and keep everyone updated and informed.

The first donations packed into Tom's car and ready to go to Inverness (photo by Tom Hodgetts)

The first donations packed into Tom’s car and ready to go to Inverness (photo by Tom Hodgetts)

Aside from the collections, there are people here who want to go even further to help the refugees.
A man called Stuart wrote a letter to our councillors suggesting that we facilitate a programme here to help house and integrate the migrants.
Of course, unlike simply collecting aid donations, this is a political issue that not everyone agrees with (each person is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs). But seriously, if that’s not an example of ‘Highland Hospitality’ and just general kindness then I don’t know what is!

This whole tidal-wave of generosity is something I feel like I’ve witnessed here before; at the whale rescue when local people were keen to do everything they possibly could to help the effort.
Whales or people, there’s a spirit of charitableness up here that is really quite extraordinary.

***

To see what we’re up to please visit the Skye & Lochalsh Volunteers For Calais Facebook page here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/973882062670345/?fref=ts

An act of kindness

As I’ve said before, I moved to Skye to find solitude but it’s been the people here that have really surprised me.
Of course, not everyone’s an angel but I’ve come across more kind and generous people here than I have anywhere else. Plus, it’s the little acts of kindness that can lift a dismal mood on a rainy day.

A couple of weeks ago I had an evening that really proved this point…

The hammer throw in the heavy events part of the Highland Games. Photo by www.skye-highland-games.co.uk

The hammer throw in the heavy events part of the Highland Games. Photo by http://www.skye-highland-games.co.uk

It was games night (the evening of celebrations after Portree Highland Games) and I was out for the evening with some new girlfriends.
After a few drinks we headed to the official after-games ceilidh party at the community centre.

The community centre is a funny place; a big village hall where all kinds of celebrations are held, from black-tie charity functions to dance music nights (mostly attended by barely-dressed youngsters doing bambi impressions in Topshop platform heels).
There’s always a school disco vibe about it. It’s a million miles from the try-hard types of venue you get in the city and I kind-of love that.

Out in the pub on games night. I'm very lucky to have found three girls who will put up with me. Sorry Toni, Lily and Phoebe for ruining the photo...

Out in the pub on games night. I’m very lucky to have found three girls who will put up with me. Sorry Toni, Lily and Phoebe for ruining the photo…

Like most Skye events, the crowd was a perfect cross-section of Skye life (old crofting boys being the exception, of course). From my lovely postmistress Kenina to the girls from downstairs at the Baking Co, there were lots of familiar faces.

Midway through the night, after much swinging and twirling on the dancefloor, I went to the bar for drinks and realised my purse was no longer in my bag.

I did a thorough check. I asked at the bar, asked at the entrance desk, asked at the food van outside and asked the policeman standing next to it. Still nothing.
Damn.
Buffered by the wine I wasn’t too upset about it but it’s always a pain to sort out new cards etc.

I’d been chatting to one of the stewards earlier, a friendly-faced man with an impressive moustache. When he saw me looking through my bag for the fifth time he asked if I was okay and I explained my predicament.
Without hesitation he pulled out his wallet and insisted on me taking a £20 note so that I could still go to the bar.

He wanted nothing in return, just for this rather tipsy, wobbly stranger to continue enjoying her evening with her friends. It was a really thoughtful thing to do.

All good nights finish too early and, with an early morning start at the forefront of my mind, I refused the offer of a few after-party drams and instead wobbled back to the hostel (my frequent home when Out On The Town).
As I went to swipe the keycard for the door I heard a car pull up behind me and a voice yell, “Hey, Katie!”

I turned round to see two policemen looking at me through the open window of a squad car.
“Here’s your purse…”
The policeman in the passenger side leaned out and chucked it to me.
Relief!
I thanked them profusely and as they began to leave one of them called back,
“We’ve been following your Twitter feed this week, we’ve really enjoyed it!”

Friendly (and social media savvy) local police

Friendly (and social media savvy) local police

That’s another thing about Skye, everybody knows your name (I suppose I’d better be good if the police here know who I am!)

But this familiarity is probably part of why people are so kind here; a proper old-fashioned community spirit.
The lack of anonymity here does take a bit of getting used to (I think that’s definitely a post for another day) but it’s worth it when you know that there are always people here who can look out for you.

*****

Thank you Lynne & Simon! x

Treats and a cup of tea cheered up many rainy days!

Whilst on the subject of acts of kindness I’d like to say a huge thank you to Lynne & Simon for my ‘Emergency Yummy Bag’…

For those of you who won’t know, L&S were the first people on Skye to introduce themselves to me after reading this blog. They’re regular faces at the Skye Baking Co and they also live in the Trotternish part of the island (I often drive past them walking or jogging around the Quiraing which totally puts me to shame!)
It was about a week after the whale rescue and I was feeling drained and poorly when they dropped this lovely little bag of chocolate goodies into the gallery for me. It was totally out of the blue and was such a kind thought that it was kind of overwhelming.

Yet another example of the kindness of people on Skye. So, if you’re reading this, Lynne & Simon, thank you!

A date with nature -Valentine’s Day part 2

Cracking company!

Cracking company!

Following my Valentine’s breakfast I was keen to get out and make the most of the day; after all, this was my first taste of spring sunshine on Skye and I didn’t know if it would last for the rest of the weekend.
I stuffed some snacks into a bag and grabbed my binoculars. It was a clear day with little wind so I decided to walk up to the old coastguards bothy at Rubha Hunish, the last little bit of Skye that juts out towards the Outer Hebrides.

I might live in the most Northern cottage on Skye but Rubha Hunish trumps my house as the bit that gets closest to the Arctic here.
I had a wee look on Google to try and find a map to show you the area and I came across this image on the beardedgit.com blog. I’ve pinched it as it also happens to show my exact Valentine’s Day route from Kilmaluag Bay up across and up to the bothy then back down via Duntulm Castle and along the road.

My route from the bay to Rubha Hunish. Image from beardedgit.com

My route from the bay to Rubha Hunish. Image from beardedgit.com

This wasn’t my first visit to the headland but it’s the first time I’ve walked from my own front door rather than parking at Shulista as the guidebooks recommend. It’s also the first time I’ve gone right up to the Lookout bothy.

I ambled down round the bay and up a little path past the old St Moluag’s church graveyard.
It may sound macabre but the Scots really do cemeteries brilliantly. In the cities there’s the gothic grandeur of places such as the Necropolis (Glasgow), Greyfriars Kirkyard (Edinburgh) and Old Town Cemetery in Stirling.
But the places that I love are in the Highlands and Islands where the resting places have been built on hillsides, overlooking lochs or beautiful glens. Their locations, often alongside crumbling church ruins, are really quite beautiful. Whatever your spiritual beliefs I think there’s something lifting about the idea of your headstone looking out over a stunning landscape for all eternity.

The remains of St Moluag's Church and it's graveyard, Kilmaluag Bay

The remains of St Moluag’s Church and it’s graveyard, Kilmaluag Bay (taken at the beginning of Jan 15)

The bothy soon came into view on the highest point of the rocks ahead (you can see it’s tiny silhouette outlined on the photo below).
I amused myself with a thought… In case being alone on Valentine’s Day wasn’t enough, I had decided to spend the day on my tod in a teeny little box on the top of a cliff. I don’t think you get much more solitary than that!
I must work on being a bit more social….

Walking along the cliffs towards the bothy

Walking along the cliffs towards the bothy

This particular bothy is owned by the Mountain Bothies Association, a brilliant organisation that maintains a whole host of open mountaineering shelters all across the UK (find out more at http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk)

Prior to being taken over by the MBA, this was the old coastguard’s lookout station -the bay windows at the front give a full panoramic view over the waters of the Minch towards Lewis.

As advances were made in radio technology the need for a lookout became redundant and it was turned into the bothy that it is now.

The Lookout

The Lookout

The whitewashed front part of the building, the watchroom, was built by the Macleans of Mull in 1928 -it’s survived the weather here for almost a century (much longer than most of my neighbour’s sheds!)

The watchroom part of the Lookout

The watchroom part of the Lookout

I couldn’t resist exploring inside…
I was surprised to see how characterful it was. Little brass candlesticks, binoculars, a vintage phone and cream wood-cladded walls. It’s got more of a feeling of a little hideaway hostel than a plain old bothy (though, of course, there’s no plumbing or electricity here).

I’ll definitely come up here soon to camp out before it gets busy with all the summer walkers. This would make a pretty perfect place to watch the sunset with a flask of wine.

Overlooking the Minch

Overlooking the Minch

Homely touches

Homely touches

Here and there I noticed little personal touches like scrawled notes and faded wildlife pictures (lots of basking sharks!).

There’s also this small brass plaque dedicated to the late David JJ Brown, the adventurous character who the Lookout is dedicated to. The words ‘wilderness-lover and anti-materialist’ always seem to be next to his name, both here and where I’ve read about him online. He sounds like he was an awesome man; I wish I could have met him.
(You can read more about David JJ Brown and the Lookout dedication here)

'wilderness-lover and anti-materialist'

‘anti-materialist and wilderness-lover’

The Lookout is gorgeous but this was a day to be outside and enjoy the sun whilst it was shining.

I found a spot near the edge (not dangerously near, Mum, if you’re reading this! I’m far too sensible/wimpy to get too close) then unpacked my picnic.

This is a famous place for spotting big beasties in the water and I could see why; the view down onto the sea was amazing. The Minch is sheltered between Skye and the Outer Hebrides so I’ve rarely seen it with rough waters. This means that any wildlife is extra easy to spot as it breaks the rippling surface and alerts the eye.

Unfortunately it’s not the season for whales or basking sharks. There might be dolphins, porpoises or other interesting around though, so I had my binoculars handy just in case.

I didn’t see anything of note… seabirds, seals, a large dark fish that may have been a type of small shark.
I wasn’t fussed, I’ve found my place for when the seasons start. As a total ocean wildlife geek and shark/cetacean lover, I intend to spend most of the summer lolling about on the grass whilst idly gazing into the sea.
This was a dry run (with warmer clothes!)

A perfect view

A perfect view

I’m not usually an ale drinker but a bottle of Skye Gold (leftover from my friend Matt’s visit) made the perfect accompanying tipple.
There’s also a certain satisfaction about knowing you’re drinking something brewed only just round the corner (the Skye Brewery is in Uig, literally just along the coast from here)
I haven’t been to the brewery yet as it’s been closed for winter but I might have to put a visit on my To Do list now that I’ve got a taste for the stuff.

(The other nice thing about a long wander is that it means you can have crisps and dips and a chocolate bar all washed down with beer and not feel guilty about it because it counts as walking fuel!)

Product placement ;)

Product placement

I whiled away a couple of hours up here until the wind started to work it’s way through my clothes and I began to feel a chill.

I may be on my own but I was spending my Valentine’s Day with the thing I love the most after my family: Nature.
This was my date with the ocean, the sunshine and the island.

(Maybe it sounds cheesy but it’s Valentine’s Day so cheesiness gets a free pass at this point)

A birds-eye view over the Minch

A date with nature

As I got up to go I noticed lots of tufts of sheep’s wool stuck to some wire nearby…

I’ve recently discovered the craft of felting (using a needle to mesh wool fibres into shapes) and it’s something I’d like to explore further. I was excitedly telling Liza at the gallery about this one day and she suggested that I could collect the small pieces of wool that can be found caught on fences, it would be a free and local source of materials.

So now I find myself on a clifftop pulling slightly damp strands of fluff from various fences and pieces of heather and stuffing them into my pockets. I must look a bit like a nutter, it’s lucky there isn’t anyone around.

Liza, you may have started me off on a slippery slope here… it might not be long until I’m that strange person who smells a bit sheepy because she makes all her clothes out of tufts of old ewes found on hillsides…

My first felting project -pretty good, even if I do say so myself!

My first felting project -pretty good, even if I do say so myself!

I returned via the coastal path towards Duntulm Castle. This took me down to the flat rocks of the shore where the abandoned village of Erisco now sits in small, stony ruins.
Like many areas of coastline that are off the beaten track this one was suffering from a huge amount of washed-up marine debris. Old fishing ropes and nets (known as ‘ghost gear’), buckets, bottles, even shoes, they were all piled up on the tideline here.

If you’ve read my post about Talisker Bay you’ll know that the issue of plastic pollution is something that is close to my heart. This shore at Erisco a well-known spot for otters and it’s incredibly frustrating and saddening to know the dangers that this rubbish can pose to the resident wildlife.

I was going to put a terrible 'sole'-based pun here but I've spared you the cringes...

I was going to put a terrible ‘sole’-based pun here but I’ll spare you the cringes…

An unwelcome delivery from Iceland

An unwelcome delivery from Iceland

On a more positive note, amongst the brightly-coloured plastic I noticed the soft, rounded shape of driftwood.

I think it’s quite hard to find driftwood, it’s something that everyone likes to pick-up, so I started collecting the best pieces that I thought I might be able to use in future artworks.

A lot of it was wet and heavy so I rammed it into my rucksack to make it easier to carry. Somehow within ten minutes I’d gone from lightly hopping over the rocks to bent over, lugging a bag that appeared to be sprouting long greying sticks. I jammed a sturdy 3-ft fence post under my arm and made a determined effort not to look down in case I saw any more. After all, I was still at least 30 mins walk from home over ground I didn’t know and the sun was starting to set.

Driftwood treasures

Driftwood treasures

As I walked, I wondered how I could organise a way to clean this beach. It’s close to the Duntulm Hotel, would the new owners be interested in helping?
Something to think about…

I stopped and watched two oystercatchers hopping around each other before flying off into the sunset, movie style. There’s something so striking about their vivid orange beaks and contrasting black and white feathers.

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I also kept an eye out for otters, this was the perfect time of day for them, but I was probably being too noisy and cumbersome for them to come near. Telltale crab and mussel shells lay broken and scraped-clean all over the place so I knew that this was the right place.

And then I saw something strange…

A jumble of bones amongst the seaweed and bits of rope.

I knew immediately that it was an otter skeleton. It was missing a few limbs but the elongated backbone and flat skull with sharp, carnivorous teeth were easily identifiable, even though I haven’t seen one of these before.

The otter skull

The otter skull

I checked to see if there was any obvious sign of marine debris as a cause of death (it’s important to record the effects of plastic etc on wildlife as evidence in trying to fight it) but it was too far gone to see.

I suppose I can say I’ve seen an otter now, but I’d rather have seen a live one.

It took a while to lug my wood-laden body over the fields up to the road.
I had to make my way through a field of sheep that seemed to find me very interesting. It must have been feeding time because usually sheep move in the other direction when they see a human -these ones came storming towards me!

Sheep

Sheep

Sheep

SHEEP

What ewe lookin' at?

What ewe lookin’ at?

I must have looked a curious sight staggering back to the cottage in the dark with pockets sprouting straggly bits of wool, a log under my arm and what probably resembled a small tree strapped to my back (along with a couple of faded buoys and bits of old rope).

What with all this and the skull in my garden and the birds in my freezer, I may be beginning to go a bit feral!

Still, I can’t wait to get making stuff with my new beachcombed finds. Some might call it old trash but I think I can make it into treasure.

Sunset at Duntulm (though it would be much lovelier without all the ghost gear)

Spring Springing Sprung – Valentine’s Day Part 1

Hello sunshine!

Hello sunshine! 

As I looked out of my bedroom window the other day I noticed something new in the garden.
Down amidst the long grass at near the fence there were three little white snowdrops bobbing in the breeze.
It made me smile; having moved in in October I hadn’t realised that there were flowers in the garden.

The next day when I looked there were a few more.

The day after that they started to appear on the lawn itself.

Now there are little flurries of snowdrops all over the garden and there’s even a wee golden crocus which glows like a cheery beacon squeaking, “summer’s coming!”

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Unexpected visitors on the lawn

As the flowers gradually began to appear this week, so did the sunshine. Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, was particularly bright and beautiful.

As a single girl living alone I knew I had to brace myself for February the 14th.
It’s funny, you can be the most happy/content/commitment-phobic singleton in the world every other day of the year but when everyone else is getting spoilt (and showing it off on Facebook) it does feel a bit rubbish to not be doing anything.

With this in mind I had decided to treat myself by buying a special Saturday breakfast in the morning and an indulgent wine and pizza supper for the evening (obviously buying wine runs the risk of drunk texting but last night I managed self restraint, yay!)

I’d woken up to messages from my girlfriends detailing what gifts they’d been treated with for Valentine’s Day so I must admit I started off a little grumbly. Though with the sun out and one card on my doormat I couldn’t stay that way for long.
(Still no idea who the card is from, it’s a bit cheeky but nice to be thought of!)

Yeah, whatevs, Co-op

Yeah, whatevs, Co-op

The weather was so charming, I thought I’d grab a few magazines and enjoy my breakfast in the sun (with a big hoodie and hat of course, it is still February after all)

With seagulls squawking above it wasn’t peaceful but I haven’t lived by the sea for long enough to find that noise annoying. To me that sound still means fun; seaside holidays in Brighton or Weymouth with stripy deckchairs, runny ice creams and salty air.

I sipped my tea and pulled open the plastic of a new magazine.
I don’t usually buy magazines and I certainly never buy women’s magazines. I hate the way they shout about celebrating body image on one page then five pages later they’re telling you how to diet. They’re all regurgitated features about image, pleasing men and celebrity. Yes, being interested in those things is fine but there is SO MUCH MORE to being a woman than that.
That’s why I’ve subscribed to a relatively new magazine called Oh Comely!
I first came across it when I took part in their November Care Package Project, where you create a package of lovely things to send to a stranger through the post (for more info about that click here). It’s an intelligent publication based on crafts, words, homeliness and happiness; it’s feminine but not dumbed down. A breath of fresh air.

I flicked through the magazine…
An article about a lady rearing rare breed sheep.
A piece about crafts using driftwood.
…All curiously appropriate features for a girl who lives on Skye.

Finally it settled on the first page…

Home

Home

Stop Trying So Hard To Be Found (a letter from the editor):

The next time you’re lost, stop
trying to find your way. Try
something different.

Hold two fingers to your wrist
to find the beat of your heart.

You’re home

It’s funny how just a few little words can speak to you so strongly.

I almost felt as if they were written just for me. They reminded me that I shouldn’t listen to anyone who says I need roses; I’ve got my snowdrops and my ocean and I’m home.

Sitting with my flowers, a mug of tea in one hand and a pile of toasted Scotch pancakes in the other, I don’t think I could have imagined a better Valentine’s morning.

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Driving Home For Christmas & A Case Of Tinsel-litis

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A cheeky wee bit of Scotland on our English tree! (One of my favourite purchases from Tippecanoe in Portree)

I’m not exactly sure what happened towards the end of 2014 but suddenly my quiet new life on Skye got all busy and I found myself a bit short on time (which hopefully explains the absence of new blog posts).

The run up to Christmas is always busy but it’s especially so for an artist when there’s a number of gift commissions with a very definite Dec 25th deadline. On top of this I had visitors to stay, a weekend on the mainland and various evening work events.
Whilst it was all lovely stuff, and I enjoyed each activity immensely, I came up to Skye to slow down a little and this was begining to feel a bit more like London life.
So, 2015 shall be a year when I’m consciously giving myself time and it’ll start with me getting back to this blog…

Should I be worried about that mileage number..?!

Plus a couple of hours for deer-peppered dark roads. Should I be worried about that mileage number..?!

Home! (Chiddingfold Village Green)

Home – Chiddingfold Village Green on the Surrey/West Sussex border

I had a lovely Christmas, despite the fact it didn’t exactly go to plan…

I ended up doing the journey back to Surrey all in one go… 14 and a half hours. It’s the first time I’ve done it in a one-er but the excitement of seeing family meant I didn’t want to stop for the night (well, that and an extortionate amount of caffeine). It was worth it to arrive at 5am and surprise Mum before she left for the office in the morning. The worst thing about the journey was that for the entire time I sat in the car they didn’t play Driving Home For Christmas on the radio. Not once. I’ve been looking forward to singing that on the route home since November.
(Yes, I did download it on my phone especially for this occasion but my phone was involved in a little incident the week before, I’ll explain another time…)

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It was lovely to see our dogs again, though they didn’t seem that fussed to see me!

My first couple of days at home were lovely.
On my first night back I drove down to Winchester to catch up with my newly-married friends, Alex and Rick, and our friend Alex M-H. These guys are the ultimate proof that getting hitched isn’t the end of the party. We spent the evening foolishly mixing German beer, espresso martinis, pina coladas and even a couple of WKD Blues (don’t judge). It was oodles of fun and when we all woke up in one great, hungover heap in the spare room in the morning we deserved every ounce of hangover we’d earned. Brilliant.

Cramming into a nightclub photobooth at around 2am

Cramming into a nightclub photobooth at around 2am. We definitely looked a lot less enthusiastic the following morning.

The next night Mum and I went up to London to watch the ballet at Sadler’s Wells. Going to see one of Matthew Bourne’s fantastically vibrant productions has become a little tradition for us now. Swan Lake with the iconic all-male troupe of swans was wonderful last year and this year’s version of Edward Scissorhands was equally captivating.
If you ever get a chance to see one of his shows you must take it, I think he even appeals to people who don’t usually like ballet as his choreography and staging is so colourful. I see him as the Baz Luhrmann or Danny Boyle of the ballet world.

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Having fun during the interval

All far so good. But then I begin to feel a bit groggy and my throat seems raw. I open my mouth and look in the mirror to find white spots all over my tonsils. I don’t remember putting tonsillitis on my Christmas list.

So I’m stuck in bed for a few days. A course of antibiotics kicks the tonsillitis fairly swiftly yet I’m still feeling rough. It sounds like I’m underwater and my limbs feel leaden. In place of a sore throat there arrives a runny nose, headache and all-round yucky cold symptoms.

It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve just got back from a trip to the ice rink at Hampton Court with my father (a valiant defiance of being sick, I think) … but now I’m curled up on the sofa feeling sorry for myself whilst the rest of the family are wrapping themselves up to go to Midnight Mass.  It looks like I’m totally out of action for Christmas.

A medicinal whisky!

A medicinal whisky!

Despite being poorly I enjoyed Christmas day.

We do what we always do… Open presents round the fire in the morning with my grandparents, go out to a local place for Christmas lunch, come back and relax whilst we wait for the rest of the family to join us (uncles, aunts, cousins etc), play games in the evening, and so on.

On Boxing Day I’ll cook a turkey roast and we’ll push all the tables together to have a big family lunch. We’ll sabrage the tops off champagne and prosecco bottles with glee and, once we’ve filled ourselves with their bubbles, I’ll run upstairs and dig out some of my fancy dress boxes as the kitchen transforms into one big, silly, Tunn Family disco.

Nan rocking out in the kitchen with Abbie and Sophie

Nan rocking out in the kitchen with my cousins, Abbie and Sophie

This year wasn’t much different apart from my Aunty Sharon very kindly taking over my cooking duties (for which I am forever grateful!).

Whilst I did spend most of it watching from my armchair-come-sick-bed, a few restorative whiskies did give me the strength to join in for the most fun bits, even if I did collapse in snotty sniffles an hour or so later.
So worth it.

A little bit of dressing up with my half-sisters. What an elegant trio...!

A little bit of dressing up with my half-sisters, Jess and Emma. What an elegant trio…!

There were so many friends I’d planned to see and so much I’d wanted to do whilst at home but all plans were scuppered. I spent a few more days in bed after Boxing Day and then, when I finally felt a little brighter, it was time to hop in the car and head North for Hogmanay.

Travelling back up was strange; even though I had something fun to go to I wasn’t excited to be making the journey North again. I’d gone home, got ill, got well, then had to leave. It was so short. Did I really want to come back to a place so far away from all the people I love?

Once I’d got back up to Skye and seen the crashing waves of Neist Point and the craggy hills of Trotternish I lost all doubt that I’d made the right choice to come back. I’m slightly unnerved that I’d had that doubt at all but I think it’d be quite weird if I hadn’t felt the wrench of leaving everyone.

Maybe I should just try to persuade them to stay up here too..?!

My wonderful, silly family. I love every single one of them to bits.

My wonderful, silly family… and I love every single one of them to bits.

On Romance…

There are two questions that I always seem to get asked when talking about my move to Skye.
First I’m asked why, then some people, especially close family and friends, ask the question “Wont you be lonely?”

Sometimes it’s asked in regards to romance/finding a partner and at other times it’s asked in reference to simply being on my own in a remote place.
This will be the first of a couple of blog posts where I’ll respond to these questions. They’re not hard to answer but they’re tricky to put into words concisely so please excuse me if I ramble on…

Whilst being lonely is not something that’s crossed my mind, the idea of romance up here is hard to ignore (especially for someone like me who always has her head in the clouds…)

Situations that we consider to be super-romantic elsewhere are everyday here.
For example, curling up in front of a log fire with a glass of red on a cold, stormy night is just another normal evening in on Skye. Whilst I’m happy to share this with just an old book, I know that it could also be a cosy evening with company.
Then there’s the stargazing, the long rambles across the moors and the stunning beach sunsets.
If you were that way inclined you could easily imagine that you were in some soppy novel here. There are plenty of visiting honeymooners that do!

Curling up in front of the fire on a stormy night

Curling up in front of the fire on a stormy night

But I can’t deny that it’s unusual to be alone in a place, a situation even, that is deeply romantic.
Although I think there’s something strangely romantic about being on ones own too, especially in a place as beautiful as this.

A clifftop sunset

A clifftop sunset

But I don’t miss having someone to share this with.
I think that being single is quite indulgent; I can do what I want when I want with no need to consider anyone else. I can spend my money on whatever I like and spend my time in any way I wish.
Why, I could even run away to live on a hill on a remote island if I wanted to… 😉
I suppose it’s an intrinsically selfish way of being but it’s one that I truly appreciate at the moment and that I’d find hard to part with.

In my previous long-term relationship I let my personality fade into the background as I tried to become the archetypal perfect girlfriend. It’s something I didn’t notice until I came out the other side and realised that much of what made me ‘me’ had been worn away.
After steadily rebuilding my confidence and rediscovering my sense of fun I’ve now become fiercely protective of my lifestyle and that’s probably why I’m extra wary of falling into another potentially wrong relationship.
Whilst having a partner is a wonderful thing, I’d rather wait until I’m 70 to find my perfect sidekick than to settle earlier for someone who doesn’t quite see the world in the same way.

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A quote I live by. I think you can also interpret it as love or passion for a vocation, lifestyle or hobby too…

 

When I made the decision to move to Skye I was quite content to temporarily remove myself from the dating scene.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been trialling a Pick n’ Mix of potential suitors, some sweet and some that were, quite frankly, awful.
Perhaps if I wasn’t up here writing about Skye I could be in London writing a comedic blog about dating. There was…

  • The 21 year old country boy with whom I had nothing in common but a remarkable chemistry (it didn’t end well, unsurprisingy)
  • The conspiracy-theorist musician who believes he’s the Freemason’s chosen one and who insisted on taking me to a very expensive restaurant before admitting he only had £15 when the bill came.
  • The crappy pop singer and shark-lover who seemed perfect until he ditched me for a Spice Girl (he still haunts me, even up here, with his naff songs via pub jukebox machines)
  • The cockney actor that started a fight on our first date and ended up arrested.
  • The Clapham guy who’s a dead ringer for the serial killer in The Fall. Not just in looks either… after a couple of cocktails he genuinely listed his interests as red wine and ‘strangling’. Er…
  • The ageing polo playboy who suggested our first date should be a trip to the Isle Of Wight to help look after his four children.

…Then there were the numerous Mr Nice-But-Dulls and sweet-but-generally-unnatainable pretty boys (I’m a sucker for a nice face).
Plus a generous sprinkling of eco egos, polo creeps, Machiavellian city boy sociopaths and generic all-round hopeless cases.

It’s all been unbelievably fun but it’s also exhausting and sometimes frustrating. Some time off from it all could only be a healthy thing.

Amazingly appropriate stock image

Amazingly appropriate stock image

Of course, when you decide something like this, someone comes along and makes things slightly complicated.

I met someone awesome just a few weeks before I left who could’ve probably ticked all the boxes (and I’m picky so there’s a lot of boxes).
We decided to keep in contact with the promise that “if it was meant to be it will be…”
Timing is always a troublesome thing…

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Whilst I’ve been fine with the idea of having someone special back in London or Surrey, I’ve been reluctant to meet anyone here.
This place for me is somewhere to concentrate on myself without the complications or dramas that come with dating and relationships. I’m here for the beauty and nature, for freedom; no distractions.

But as the messages from London began to peter out I’ve allowed myself to say yes* to meeting people up here and last week I found myself on my first Skye date…
(*I’ve been trying to learn to always say yes and never turn down an opportunity because you never know where it may lead…)

The Boy From The Mainland works on one of the big private estates and lives one small boat ride, one ferry crossing and an almost two hour drive away from me. We ‘met’ via the Tinder app about a month ago but have been so separated by geography and busy schedules that we’ve resorted to postcards and letters to keep in contact (a tick for romance and much more interesting than Whatsapp)

During the day he tends to the animals, goes out on the boat and does physical work on the estate. In the evenings he reads or carves knife handles in front of the fire with his dogs. When he first told me this I laughed and said that he sounds like a real life Mellors from Lady Chatterley. He answered that he hadn’t read it yet and I advised him that it was probably for the best if he didn’t look it up.

So far so typically storybook romantic.

This kind of thing but less beardy...

Er, this kind of thing but less beardy…

Our first date went well and there’s a second planned.
We’ll see… you never know what will happen in the future.

Although there is one thing for certain, that whatever happens/doesn’t happen with Mr Mainland I’ve already been romanced here and I’ve already fallen head-over-heels in love.
Though, it’s not with a person just yet… it’s with Skye itself.