Maraiche

In this post I wanted to share something with you that I’m really proud of being involved with. It includes two very talented Gaelic gentlemen, a band I listen to on repeat, the haunting vocals of Kathleen MacInnes and some of my most favourite places.

The awesome thing about living on this island is that there’s always something fun and creative going on, you never know what you’ll get up to from one week to the next…

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I’ll begin by letting you know about three things that I love:

-Skye
-The water
-Music by the Skye-grown band Niteworks

So, when Dòl Eoin, a talented filmmaker I’d met on the set of Bannan, offered me the chance to take part in the band’s new video there was no way I could refuse.

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Dòl Eoin scouting out the locations around Lealt Falls, where the protagonist climbs away from the waterfall

The words of ‘Maraiche’ are sung in Gaelic and they tell the tale of a woman who has lost her love to the sea.
Dòl Eoin’s vision for the video begins at a Niteworks gigwhere we see her catch a glimpse, or maybe just a memory, of her departed sailor as she becomes entranced by the music. Chasing this vision she races through the streets of Glasgow and we follow her and her memories, Alice In Wonderland-style, towards the sea…

We began filming in familiar Glasgow spots (Ashton Lane, the Tradeston Bridge) then moved on to some of Skye’s most-loved locations; Neist Point, The Fairy Pools, Lealt Falls….
I only had about a week before I was due to leave for Eden and we had multiple locations to shoot in over a number of days so it was a race against time.

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At the Fairy Pools. Dòl Eoin sets up the camera whilst Calum looks on.

My ‘lost sailor’ in the video is someone who loves the water even more than me.
If you live in Scotland and use social media you’ve probably already seen Calum Maclean.
The video of a nutter swimming through a high-altitude icy loch? That’ll be Calum. The naked bum disappearing behind a magnificent waterfall? Probably also Calum. If you haven’t already seen him, look him up, his short videos for BBC Scotland’s The Social are well worth a watch.

They may be a Caribbean blue but the Fairy Pools in March aren’t the warmest of waters (in fact, they’re equally freezing in the summer months too…)
Tourists looked on in confusion whilst, fully clothed, we ducked under, fell off ledges and attempted to film an underwater kiss.
When we finally finished I realised I couldn’t have done much longer. I shuddered big, involuntary juddering shivers and I slid and stumbled down the muddy track back to our cars with limbs barely working -a mild case of hypothermia that was cured by a few hours in a warm pub!
It was worth it though, the aquamarine water of the Fairy Pools made a stunning backdrop to the music.

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A picture rudely swiped from Calum’s Instagram (sorry @caldamac!) It was as chilly as it looks but I love the yellow against the turquoise of the Fairy Pools

Whilst I’m obviously biased, I think Dòl Eoin captured the spirit of ‘Maraiche’ perfectly. I’m was chuffed, still am chuffed, that he’d choose me to work with.

Of course, I didn’t get to see the finished video until I’d left Eden earlier this year but I was thrilled to finally watch it (though I often sat on those Ardnamurchan sand dunes humming Niteworks tunes to myself as I watched the tide go out)

If you’d like to watch it too, you can find it here: Niteworks – Maraiche (feat. Kathleen MacInnes)

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A still shot at Lealt Falls


To learn more about Niteworks and hear the rest of the album visit their webpage niteworksband.com

Notes From A Small Island #3

'And the rest is rust and stardust'

‘And the rest is rust and stardust’

TO BE A LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER…:

I’ve just applied for a job with the Northern Lighthouse Board to become their Skye-based lighthouse keeper. The position involves keeping a check on four lighthouses on and around the island (including Neist Point, where I stayed at New Years). It’s only a part-time thing (I don’t get to live in a lighthouse) but it’s an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

Oronsay Lighthouse, one of the ones to be looked after. Photo by Finlay Oman.

Oronsay Lighthouse, one of the ones to be looked after. Photo by Finlay Oman.

I’ve had to put a few friends straight that it’s not going to be a romantic job where I spend most of the day looking out to sea in a stripy jumper smoking a pipe and growing a beard (well, I might try anyway)… I think it’s going to be more of a maintenance job involving carrying stuff to and fro in the pouring rain. I doubt I’ll get it but I bloody hope I do, who doesn’t want to work in a lighthouse?!

The foghorn at Neist Point Lighthouse

The foghorn at Neist Point Lighthouse

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KATIE MORAG

I’ve been chatting to someone recently who pointed out that I remind him of Katie Morag, the Scottish children’s book character. It was something to do with both of us enjoying beachcombing, finding treasures etc.
I laughed and said I hadn’t read it but I’d take his word for it and he sent me a picture of one of the book illustrations. About half an hour later Mum sent me some pictures she’d snapped during our recent trip to Coral Beach where I had taken advantage of the especially low tide to find shells. They included the photo below.
Obviously there’s no resemblance whatsoever…

Katie Morag collecting beach treasures

Katie Morag collecting beach treasures

Katie Tunn collecting beach treasures

Katie Tunn collecting beach treasures

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THE 70th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BEINN EDRA CRASH:

Saturday was the 70th anniversary of the WWII bomber disaster on Beinn Edra, the site of which I visited on Remembrance Sunday (you can read my blog post about it here). The Staffin Trust had organised a new memorial plaque which was unveiled at the Columba 1400 centre. This was followed by a service and a lecture from someone at the University of Glasgow.

It was an understandably moving ceremony; time hasn’t dulled the fact that this was a really horrible tragedy. The wind and rain whipped around the building as if to show us the weather that the flight crew had had to contend with.
A prayer read in gaelic by a man who had witnessed the event as a boy was particularly poignant moment.

Charles Jeanblanc, the aircraft navigator. He died aged just 23.

Charles Jeanblanc, the aircraft navigator. He died aged just 23.

But what moved me most about the event was how many people there were there; the hall of Columba 1400 was so full that some folk had to lean in through the back door to listen. It says a lot about the Staffin community (and probably most of the communities here on Skye) that they have collectively taken on the mourning for these 9 US airmen that just happened to lose their lives nearby. It’s a testament to the warm hearts of the Staffin people that they remember the loss as if they were their own family.
In a different way I’ve also seen some of that kindness in the way that I’ve been treated since arriving here.

The new memorial plaque for the Staffin war memorial

The new memorial plaque for the Staffin war memorial

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SEA VEGGIES

Someone brought some dried dulse into the bakery the other day and I had my first opportunity to try it (something I’ve wanted to do for ages as I love foraging and wild foods).
Dulse is a deep red edible seaweed that used to be a staple of the old crofters diet throughout the North West coastal regions. It fell out of favour as people began to turn towards pre-prepared modern foods but it’s now becoming popular again due to it’s health properties (it’s full of vitamins, minerals and protein) and the trend for foraging and utilising local produce.

No prizes for looking appetising

No prizes for looking appetising

It tasted as you might expect, salty with a strong iodine flavour. It was incredibly chewy too, and I suspect it would make a pretty handy snack for anyone who would otherwise reach for a huge slice of cake in the afternoon (I’m looking firmly at myself here).

I’ve just bought a load of sushi ingredients back from Surrey and I’m going to do some experimenting with different types of seaweeds for wrapping the rice and making interesting salads. I’ve just got to wait until the weather’s good enough to clamber over the rocks at low tide to collect it without getting blown in. Looking out the window now, that may be some time away!

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MAGIC:

There was something strange in the air the other night.

I’d been driving back from Inverness airport after a weekend in Windsor for a family event. I didn’t leave the city until it had got dark and I had this odd feeling that I was very far from home (which of course, I am, but I’ve never felt that here before. I’ve always felt very settled… It must have been leaving all my loved ones behind that caused it)

Flying visits

The long way home

It was freezing cold and I hit a blizzard again on the road coming up the the Cluanie Dam. It had been a long day, this was the last thing I needed.
It was treacherous but for some reason I felt completely calm, not like the previous time when my shoulders had been up round my ears as I anticipated sliding into a loch.

I came out of the other side of the blizzard to a brightly snow-covered landscape. The moon was almost full and the hills rose on either side of me, silhouetted pale grey against the black sky. Everything was calm, both inside the car and out.

Every now and again my car would disturb an owl on a fencepost and I’d see pale wings swoop up into the night. As I passed the Cuillins one of these owls flew up and followed the curve of the road. I pressed down on the accelerator and sped alongside it for a few seconds before it turned and disappeared into the forest.

There was something so strange about this night that I can’t put my finger on. It felt like a night for mischief and adventures; running around in the snow, midnight swims, sneaking into interesting places, watching meteors.
There was magic in the air tonight.

Driving into Uig I considered pulling over and going for a walk around the Fairy Glen. With work the next morning I decided against it but a wander around the bay wouldn’t keep me up too late.

When I got home I wrapped myself in warm kit, filled a hipflask and grabbed some headphones.
I’ve just downloaded an album by a band called Solomon Grey who composed the soundtrack to the BBC drama, The Casual Vacancy. I had to look them up after watching the programme; their music was perfect… hazy and haunting. I’m always looking for music that I describe as ideal ‘cold winter beach music’; something atmospheric and ephemeral to occupy the background whilst you’re making your way along a shore.
Solomon Grey is exactly that and it’s safe to say that they make perfect midnight wandering music too.

The Selected Works album by Solomon Grey

The Selected Works album by Solomon Grey

I didn’t take a torch; the moonlight was so bright outside that I could see my shadow on the track as clear as if it were bright sunshine. I turned my music down low so that it mingled with the sound of my boots crunching through the icy crust on the snow..
Someone had left a boat pulled up on the shore and I sat in it for a while watching the light on the waves. It was exceptionally still. (Thank you boat owner x)

Artwork by Karen Davis

Artwork by Karen Davis

When my bum got too cold I got up and wandered up the path towards the ruins of St Moluag’s Church. My feet took me up the path on the right towards Rubha Hunish but I stopped myself at the gate. No long rambles tonight, not on a schoolnight.
So I turned back and crunched my way up the track towards the main road.
It was SO still. But I was far from alone. There were birds still making noises, not singing but calling out every now and again. Hares ran here and there in front of me and the heavy, dark shapes of cows in the fields turned silently to look at me as I passed.

I wasn’t sure where to go next. It was well past midnight after an entire day of travelling. My sense of responsibility had a word with my sense of adventure and I turned round towards home.
It did feel sad to leave this moonlight though. I’m sure I sound a little bit nuts or silly but there really was something imperceptibly special about this night.
Again, this sounds ridiculous but it was like there was something huge that was… changing. Somehow.

The night sky over Cill Chriosd Church, Broadford. Photo by blaven.com

The night sky over Cill Chriosd Church, Broadford. Photo by blaven.com

I looked back behind me to take one lasting mental picture of the illuminated monochrome landscape of the back of the Quiraing. Then one last look at the stars. Or maybe just 10 more minutes…
I lay down on the track and looked up. Between the silvery clouds the stars were beaming. I picked out the easiest constellations and reminded myself that I really must learn more than just The Plough and friends.

My music shuffled onto the next song, Choir To The Wild, and the moment was perfect.
Have a listen to it on YouTube here (night sky optional but highly recommended). I think you should just about get the picture.

It didn’t take long for my eyelids to start feeling heavy and I tried to fight off the sleep. It wasn’t working very well so I admitted defeat.
So I went home and went to bed… but I took the calmness with me.

NYE at Neist Point Lighthouse & Some Resolutions

The foghorn at Neist Point Lighthouse

The foghorn at Neist Point Lighthouse on New Years Day

So it was straight back up to Skye to see in Hogmanay.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, Hogmanay is the name for the Scottish New Year celebrations. It’s something I’ve wanted to take part in ever since I first saw the fireworks at the Edinburgh castle party on the news when I was at school. The New Year is taken more seriously up here than in England and the festivities are accompanied by traditional customs (usually involving fire or booze) as well as a long bank holiday.

Good friends, good wines...

Good friends, good wines…

Strangely enough, the party I went to wasn’t held by my new Skye friends. Nor was I hosting it myself.
It’s a funny coincidence… My friend Jack, from London (who I’ve known for almost 10 years) has an August Bank Holiday party every year at his father’s house just 10 minutes from my village. This year, over the BBQ, I mentioned my move to Skye and he turned round and told me that’s where his Mum lives. Not only that, she also owns the famous Neist Point Lighthouse and he’s been meaning to hold a New Years Party there for some time.
Bingo.
I wouldn’t have to come down for the party, this year it was coming to me!

The most Westerly tip of Skye

The most Westerly tip of Skye

Jack gave me his Mum Jane’s details when I first arrived on Skye but I’ve been so busy since I got here that I never got round to calling her. I hadn’t visited the lighthouse yet either, as I’d wanted to save it for after/when I met her.
I should’ve definitely called earlier; she is super lovely and Neist Point is breathtaking. I can definitely see why Tripadvisor lists it as the #1 thing to see on Skye!

The path to and from the lighthouse (with Livvy and Jack)

The path to and from the lighthouse (with Livvy and Jack)

Neist Point is about an hours drive from my cottage. Whereas I’m on the most Northerly point of Skye, it’s on the most Westerly.
It’s around a 20 minute walk to get from the car park down towards the actual buildings. Our arrival was fairly dramatic as we struggled to stay upright against the wind whilst carrying bags of food and clothes down the cliff steps in the dark.
It was worth it.

The buildings aren’t currently lived in and have become a little dilapidated from exposure to the harshest of the Hebridean elements. All the same, they had all we needed to be warm and comfortable and who cares if the paintwork isn’t perfect… we’re spending New Years at a LIGHTHOUSE!

Neist Point Lighthouse (Photo by Hugo Donnithorne-Tait)

Neist Point Lighthouse (Photo by Hugo D-T and his amazing photography skills)

Over the course of four days we drank, ate, danced, laughed, argued over board games, went for walks, explored and generally had a thoroughly good time.

On NYE itself we cracked open the champagne and watched as the boys valiantly tried to set off an £100 firework in coastal winds that almost knocked us off our feet. After a brief display we all ran back into the warm and the party descended into tipsy silliness (as all good parties should).

What a rabble! (Photo by Hugo Donnithorne-Tait)

What a rabble!

There were 8 of us, most of whom I know from around the time we left sixth form. Although I don’t see these guys often anymore they’re the best kind of friends where you can pick up from where you left off as if you’d only seen each other yesterday. Of course, we’re not quite as fresh-faced and perky as we used to be but it was reassuring to find that we can party just as hard!

Jack was a fantastic host too, he always is, and he was incredibly patient with me when I got all overenthusiastic and know-it-all about the local area (the excitement of having old friends visiting my new home was too much!)

Braving the elements with Jack, Ed and Livvy

Braving the elements with Jack, Ed and Livvy

One of my favourite bits was our New Years Eve swim up at the Fairy Pools; It’s one of my favourite places on Skye and whenever I’ve been there the water has always looked so beautifully blue and inviting. Well, it usually does…

It was chilly and drizzling when we got there and the burns that you have to cross on the path up to the pools had become deep and fast-flowing. It took some serious teamwork to get across them; if we’d been contestants in the Crystal Maze we would have won all the crystals for our brave efforts. When we reached the pools themselves they didn’t exactly have their usual mirror-like calm; instead they were white and fierce and it actually took us a while to find a safe spot where we wouldn’t get caught in a current and flushed over a 10ft waterfall.

They say that the Fairy Pools are icy in the middle of summer so you can imagine how cold they were in late December. I went in with three of the boys and we all went pink as lobsters as our skin panicked from the temperature shock. We all hopped out quickly as our limbs burned from the cold but a second dip wasn’t nearly as bad.

Of course, it was as toasty as anything when we got out and we slopped back to our cars and soggily made our way to the Old Inn to dry out.

A wee dip (and yes, it was definitely as cold as it looks!)

A wee dip …and yes, it was definitely every bit as cold as it looks! (Photo by Hugo D-T)

On our last day there were only four of us left. We had a lazy duvet day and whilst the others snuggled up watching movies in bed I made a start on my New Years Resolutions.

I’m not sure when it happened but making resolutions is a big thing for me now. I think it must have started a couple of years ago when I resolved not to accept any plastic carrier bags when shopping. I kept that one easily (and I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone because it’s a small change with an amazing impact) so I think it’s kept me going.
I still have last year’s ones and I went through them to see how well I’ve done…

New Years Resolutions for 2014

New Years Resolutions for 2014

Less than 50%. Could do better but not bad really, there’s a lot on there.
Here’s this year’s list:

New Years Resolutions for 2015

New Years Resolutions for 2015

I’m aiming for hitting at least 50%.
The whisky one might be a little harder now that I can’t have just one dram with Scotland’s new driving laws.
Getting hillwalking fit shouldn’t be too hard with so many lovely treks to do around the island.
I suppose the one about keeping up with the blog isn’t going too badly if I’m here typing this now…

But there’s one I’m already doing very well with. I had 1000 of them delivered the other day so this one should be in the bag…

Just rolling around in sweets on the floor. What sugar high?!

Just rolling around in sweets on the floor. What sugar high?!

NB: A HUUUUGE thanks to Jane for letting us stay at her incredible lighthouse and to Jack for his fantastic hosting skills. Hope to see you both very soon xx