Friday, 12 January 2018

Becoming a 'Local'

On occasions - we are asked; ‘How long do you have to live on Skye before you are no longer an incomer?’ My answer is that we will always be incomers – only those born here have the right to consider themselves to have the true title as ‘local’.

But does the title of ‘Local’ necessarily require a birthright? Hmmm… Yes, I think it does. We have lived here ten years or so now, which is longer than most of those who live nearby to us in Roskhill, and we are getting to know the island pretty well too. But I don’t think that makes us ‘Locals’ – just kind-of ‘Established Incomers’.

There is, of course, another rather major issue… we are English.

There is NO WAY that any proud Scot would ever accept us as Scottish, and I have to say, I totally respect that view, and would never consider myself to be Scottish either. I just happen to have chosen to live in Scotland – and that's a pretty good choice I reckon, though let’s not mention the politics….

OK – so how else do you become a ‘Local’? Here’s a bullet list of my suggestions…

·         Get to know other ‘locals’ (and incomers)!
·         Moan about potholes
·         Join a craft society/yoga class/choir/other niche group
·         Moan about the Co-op
·         Wear thick jumpers and waterproof trousers… all the time
·         Exhibit your best sheep/hen/veg at the village show (this one takes a lot of courage)
·         Know precisely where all the touristy spots are, so you can give directions to a lost visitor without hesitation
·         Moan about foreign visitors - especially those who can’t cope with single-track roads
·         Grow your own neeps and tatties

And lastly…

·        Resist posting even more photographs of fabulous sunsets and sunrises in blogs and on on facebook… oops, couldn’t resist…

Friday, 15 December 2017

Just One Hundred Years Ago

Skye is littered with the ruins of numerous small stone-built dwellings - most were occupied until the mid-to-late 19th century, and many of the descendants of the people who lived in those dwellings will be living amongst us today. We have become so used to our modern heating systems and plumbing, but when an icy wind is blowing or the rain is racing horizontally across the moor, I have tried to imagine what it must have been like to have lived, eaten and slept in such buildings - especially in the depths of mid-winter.

In December 2015, I wrote a short piece in memory of my father - it would then have been his 100th birthday.  The piece has never been published anywhere, so I will copy it here, where it will serve as a reminder of how fortunate we are to be living in the comforts of 2017 – be it in rural England or the Scottish Highlands!

Just One Hundred Years Ago...

... a tiny two-bedroom cottage stood alone alongside a muddy track amid the fields of rural Buckinghamshire. The cottage had no running water, no electricity, an outdoor shed with earth closet, and an open fire for heating and cooking. The cottage was home to a farm labourer, David, his wife Lucy, and their two sons, Fred, age 4, and Dave, age 2.

David, Lucy and Davy, the dog. About 1930
The farm labourer’s wife was heavily pregnant, and in that cottage, on 14th December 1915 – in the bleak mid-winter – the cottage became home to their third son.

It is almost impossible to imagine the conditions at the time, or the hardship experienced by mother and newborn. It is likely a neighbour helped with the birth – professional medical assistance was unlikely.

The newborn baby was later christened Arthur Thomas, but he was always known as Tom. Tom grew up with his brothers to learn the ways of the countryside, and attended the local village elementary school where he was an excellent pupil. At age 12, he was awarded a scholarship to attend Grammar School in nearby Aylesbury.

On leaving school, Tom gained employment with the Met Office, initially working in London. While living in London, in 1936, Tom met an Islington seamstress named Doris, and on 11th December 1938, they were married.

Tom and Doris, 1943
Tom stayed with the Met Office throughout his working life, and during the War, joined the RAF where he continued to work as a Met Officer. For a time he was attached to Bomber Command where he was responsible for providing essential weather forecasts for air raids over Germany.

On 6th June 1945 – the first anniversary of D-Day, my sister Sue was born, and on 18th March 1951, I joined the Dorrell family.

Tom - my much loved and still-missed Dad -  died 11th February 1997, aged 82.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Deep, Dark, December

There is magic in all of the seasons on Skye. The magic is easy to spot in spring, when the countryside bursts into life with a thousand wild flowers in every direction. Or in summer, when the sun glistens in ever-changing patterns on the sea, and the evenings are as bright as the daytime. Or in autumn, when the hills and moorland are painted in every imaginable shade of yellow, brown, green and gold.

So, what of winter, when all about is wet, cold and lifeless?

Damp, Dismal, Dreary, Dull, Drizzly, Drab, Dripping.... there are plenty of words beginning with 'D' that can describe a Skye December. A few might add 'Depressing' or 'Dispiriting' - though not me. The raw winter wind is as clean and fresh as the wind can ever be. Frequent flurries of sleet and snow race by, rattling their icy fingertips on the windows as they pass. The lifeless grasses on the moor shiver in silence as daylight fades and the looming moon peers through gaps in the clouds.

But we are cosy inside. Stove glowing. Books to read, Christmas cards to write.

Me in December...???  Dreamy, Drowsy, Dependable, Defended, Durable.

Roskhill today - Sun, Snow and...
... Sunset

Monday, 20 November 2017

All Change At Roskhill

We have lived in Roskhill for nearly ten years now. When we came here, there were just three older dwellings and three newer ones in our locality. In the time we have been here, a further two houses have been built and a third is currently under construction. There are also plans to convert a small disused agricultural building nearby into a holiday chalet.

I’ve written about this before - there are many places on Skye where a steady creep of new development is taking place. We have largely just shrugged our shoulders and thought that this is just the way things are these days. But having recently driven the length of the UK to visit friends and family in the south of England, I became aware that there ARE places which don’t change much. For example - no new building has happened for many years close to my sister’s home on the edge of their rural Devon village.

But there’s nothing more we can do about the situation here. We are so very glad that we took the opportunity when it arose, to buy the acre or so of land immediately in front of our home, so our view over our field to the sea, cliffs and distant hills will never change.

Just about all the land in this picture (left of the fence) belongs to the Barn
The Barn is the building right of centre
The Barn view - over our field
On a more personal level – we have also been affected recently by a change of ownership of properties in Roskhill. Two properties have changed hands in the past month, and the new house will be occupied soon - so we have some new people to meet. Incidentally - we are now the second-longest-staying residents in the settlement, which is an interesting indicator of the transient nature of residence on Skye.