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.

Not the M25

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As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I work two days a week at the Skyeworks Gallery down in Portree.
There’s a lot of things I enjoy about working there but one of the things I least expected was the commute.

Originally I had looked at living only just outside of Portree; I didn’t know if the roads on Skye would be treacherous in winter so I thought that was the sensible option.
Of course, falling in love with my funny little house sent the sensible option flying out of the window (although I’ve since found out that the warm, salty sea air here prevents it from getting too icy here anyway)

So, twice a week I drive 45 minutes down the Trotternish Peninsula to work and 45 mins back

…And I love it.

Rush hour

Slow moo-ving traffic

No journey is ever the same.
Morning rush hour on the A855 is when the young farmer walks his characterfully shaggy ‘coos’ down the middle of the road.
Stubborn, wild-eyed sheep threaten to make me late most mornings. Once in a while my journey is blocked by the solid figure of Charlie the bull.
Sometimes I’m greeted by the collie at the end of my road who runs alongside the car as far as it can. At other times I find myself swerving around the chickens, turkeys, ducks and bunnies who congregate at the bottom of my hill.
I usually see a couple of birds of prey perched on posts as I pass the croft cottages and if I’m lucky I’ll spot a sea eagle or two circling over the clifftops just past Staffin.

Rush hour in Kilmaluag

Rush hour in Kilmaluag

On a particularly busy day I might even see some people too.
I like the way the other drivers thank you here, not just a finger lifted from the steering wheel or a solemn nod, you’re more likely to get a proper wave and a grin. Of course, you get the grumpy ones too, and the bewildered tourists, but I enjoy sharing a “Good Morning” smile with the postman, the bus driver, the farmers on their quad bikes…
If it sounds a little like living in an unusually cheery children’s TV show, Postman Pat or Balamory, you’d pretty much be right.

The Quiraing

The Quiraing

Whilst all this is lovely the really incredible thing about my commute is the landscape.
My journey takes me past some of the most famous sights of Skye; the Quiraing, Kilt Rock and the Old Man Of Storr. The spectacular views seem to look brand new every day under different lights and weathers.
Sometimes the tops of the hills are spookily encased in mist with a dark, stormy background. At other times the jagged rocks look like they’re on fire from the neon-red sun setting behind them. When the light has been soft, almost misty, I’ve felt as if I’m driving through an old painting come to life, like that bit in Mary Poppins where the jump into the chalk drawings.

Heading home past The Old Man Of Storr

Heading home past Loch Fada and The Old Man Of Storr

Even something as basic as the road itself is fun. There’s a straight-ish bit over little hills where I like to put my foot down and you can feel your stomach lurch over every drop, fairground-style. Then there’s the flat, open bit along the cliff where you feel like you’re flying along the top of the world.
My favourite part of the journey is where, from going parallel to the coast, the road bends to the right so you face straight out towards the open sea. At the same time the tarmac also curves downwards, disappearing from sight. It gives the impression that you’re about to drive off a cliff and plummet straight into the water hundreds of feet below, Thelma and Louise-style.
The first time I drove it it made my pulse quicken like at the top of a roller coaster before the drop. Even though I pass this way every day I still get that little buzz of exhiliration as I speed towards the waves.

Looking over towards the mainland from the cliff road

Looking over towards the mainland from the cliff road

Could I ever had imagined that I’d enjoy a commute enough to be inspired to write over 600 words about it? Not likely.

Yet with my favourite music on I’m reminded why I moved to Skye every time I make this journey; here’s something that should be ordinary but instead it’s extraordinary. 45 distracting minutes to ease me in or out of the working day.

As Graham, one of my new friends, put it, “If you ever get bored of that drive then it’s probably time to move on from here.”

Morning sunrise over Loch Leathan

Morning sunrise over Loch Leathan