Sunday, 20 December 2009

My wonderful wife

We had a little pre-Christmas 'at home' yesterday - a number of neighbours and friends were invited to call in for a glass or two of mulled wine and mince pies and nibbles. Our living room became quite crowded for a while in the afternoon.

Sue took care of all the catering, and prepared a wide range of  extremely yummy dips as well as an excellent paté and hot sausage rolls and pizza pieces. Fantastic!

I was very important... in charge of answering the doorbell and announcing arrivals.....

VERY much admired were my Sue's newly hung handicraft pieces - the recently completed Christmas patchwork ...

...and a tapestry, completed some time ago and finally ON A WALL!!!!

Well done, my wonderful Sue!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

It's nearly Christmas!

You wouldn't know it here though...!

There's a few fairy lights in a couple of shops in Dunvegan, and our neighbour with children has a decorated tree in the garden. Portree has a few coloured lights in the streets and a Christmas tree in Somerled Square and that's about it.

Traditionally, Christmas is not a big event in Scotland, though the Scots make a bit more effort with New Year (hogmanay). I'm personally very happy with this, as I am not a fan of Christmas 'hype'. It's slightly odd for everything here to be quiet and normal, while the TV shows work themselves towards a Christmas frenzy.

Fancy a quiet Christmas? Skye could be just the place!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Getting around

Skye is a bigger island than many people expect, and public transport is pretty thinly spread, so travel by car is the most popular way of getting about.

In the 1960s the A87 from the mainland ferry at Kyleakin in the south to the ferry to the Outer Isles at Uig in the north was completely rebuilt. The old single track road was replaced by a fine modern two-lane highway. Bits of the old road still exist, and now make useful dry dog-walking paths!  (Of course - the Kyle/Kyleakin ferry has now been replaced with the beautiful Skye Bridge). 

Above - a stretch of 'old' A87, and below, a juction on the current A87 just north of Portree

A loop of modern two-lane road was also built to Dunvegan, in the west (where we live). Below is the main road near us, with the Cuillin in the background. Just last year, another section of new road was completed to connect the mainland Mallaig/Armadale ferry terminal to Broadford.

Getting to the other extremities of the island still involves a journey down a single track road,  like the two examples below. Visitors can be a bit frightened of roads like this, but you are more likely to meet sheep than any other traffic... If nervous, it's best to drive slowly, and let people behind overtake by pulling into passing places (little laybys - NOT for parking in!). If you meet someone - again, pulling into a passing place in good time will usually alleviate the need for any reversing. Don't be tempted to drive onto the grass verge - your wheels could sink into six inches of wet peat!

The lack of traffic in any of these pictures is not just by chance - the roads are usually like this in winter, and even in summer, traffic jams are pretty much unheard of. The exception to this is when there are road repairs underway... But if you are stuck waiting for temporary traffic lights to go green, it's a good time to whip out the camera and take a few photos of the views!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Our little home

We are well into our second year of living at The Barn now, and I STILL wonder at how we can be so content in this little home, having previously lived in large modern houses in the south east.

It was certainly good for us to 'downsize', as we cleared out huge quantities of un-needed stuff, even including furniture that we simply didn't have room for! I have to admit that the loft space at Rowan Cottage still contains several boxes containing curtains, light fittings and decorative glassware that have lain there untouched since we put them there a couple of years ago...

So - what is our little home like?

Well, it's all on the ground floor, and the ceilings are all low, at about 6ft 10ins.  There's just the one outside door, which opens into a small outer hall which has coat and boot racks as well as a three cupboards which contain food in tins, packets and jars. There's also dog food, the vacuum cleaner and ironing board out there.

From that, a door opens into an inner hall, which is just a passage connecting the other rooms.

We have one bedroom, size about 14 feet by 8ft 6, furnished like any bedroom with bedside cabinets and dressing table/drawers.  Sue has exclusive use of the built-in wardrobe.

We have a second room which we have furnished as our study. This is 13ft x 10ft. There is a desk for the computer, filing cabinet and bookshelves, plus a comfortable armchair and a display cabinet housing my Mum's collection of porcelain ornaments. There's also a built in wardrobe which contains my clothes, plus an airing cupboard/linen store. I've added extra shelves in most of the cupboards to make the most of every inch of storage space.

The bathroom is quite large at 9ft x 5ft 6, and has an old oak beam in the ceiling and stone shelves above the bath. The bath is huge, and we never use it, making the most of the electric overbath shower!

Then all that's left is our living room. This is a total of 22 feet long by 12 feet wide. Taking about 8 x 10 feet at one end is the kitchen, with a dresser across the room as a room divider - it has its back to the kitchen, a bit like a wooden wall. In the rest of the space is a small refectory-style dining table with four chairs, two two-seater settees, and a matching armchair. A deep wall cupboard houses the hi-fi, and a further cabinet conceals the TV when it's not in use. We have a wonderful multifuel stove on the stone hearth.

Outside, there's a big garden, with a number of well established pine trees providing some shelter from the wind. I have a small, slightly damp garden shed. I keep most of my tools in my van. Beyond the garden, we look over our field to extensive views to the mountains and the sea.        

And that's it. Plenty of space! I have to wonder why we strove so hard to buy ever bigger houses when we were younger.