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…

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.