Keep a green tree in your heart…

December 15, 2008

We’re busily preparing to leave the island tomorrow for a couple of weeks; going first to Kendal, so Alan can spend some days at Lancaster and we can do some more packing in the house, then spending Christmas with our daughters and travelling round seeing friends and relations, and back to Kendal to load up the van to return for New Year.

We have a long list of things to come back with that we didn’t bring on the first trip and have needed (for example wire netting to stop Tansy disappearing under the hedge into the neighbouring gardens, the coal shovel, and the bush saw for firewood) and a much shorter list of things to buy (A5 paper, an airbed).

There are not many things I miss since coming here. (I’m not including the big things I would have missed anywhere – loved ones, well trodden paths, the quotidien familiarity of place.) But things that go along with being here, now – there are just a few…

I miss the doorstep milk delivery a lot, not so much for the convenience (we’re only a step from the shop) but for the regularity, for not having to remember, and most of all because of the glass bottles that are used and re-used. Buying milk in plastic invokes a little stress of guilt every time I do it. Especially because the second thing I miss is recycling. Cardboard and glass are recycled here, and ink cartridges, (and a few big things like fridges and car batteries). Not plastic or cans or paper. We’re still paying council tax on the other house till it sells so I have no qualms about going back with a few bagfuls to recycle there, which we’re doing this time, but we’ve only been here six weeks. I don’t think we could store up months’ worth of plastic milk bottles and empty tins in the long term!

Apart from those practical matters, all that I’ve really missed are trees, and especially woodland. There are very few trees here and no woods. I knew that of course, so I came prepared with images to help satisfy the inner dryad…

"Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps the singing bird will come"
Chinese proverb








Christmas shopping

December 7, 2008

Yesterday was the Christmas craft fair in An Talla, the community hall, with lots of handmade goodies made by local people. We bought some Christmas presents and some cards and a cushion, and met more people and chatted to some we’ve already met and even remembered some of their names! An Talla is just down the road from us, so we walked there in the wonderful winter sunshine.

I came home feeling inspired by all the creativity and finished some slippers I’ve been making for Alan, and made a little more felt as well.

Today has turned out wet and a bit windy, a complete change from the clear days we’ve been having. The muted colours of the machair and the sea under the greys of the sky are beautiful, rust and olive and bleached grass, the soft blue greens of the waves close to the shore and deep purpley blues out on the horizon.


November days

November 29, 2008

This was the busiest week so far. Steve and Alan got lots of work done on the physicality project and we enjoyed some very nice meals together, some here, one at Elephant’s End, and a couple at the Scarinish Hotel, where Steve was staying. Alan and I had also had Saturday breakfast at the newly opened Farmhouse Café at Balemartine and yesterday we went there again with Jackie (we bought our house from Jackie and Alun), for lunch, followed by a look round the house they’ve renovated and will soon be moving into. It’s a real labour of love and craftsmanship, and the views across Hynish Bay are fabulous.

In case it sounds as if we’ve done little but eat and work, we’ve also taken a break for a walk on the beach most days, through wind, rain and sunshine. (We mostly managed to dodge the hailstorms). The sky is so beautiful here. Almost all the time, there’s light somewhere.

Crossapol beach

Tansy likes running on the beach…


… but she’s not so sure about the wind! We’ve got her a coat to wear when it’s really blowy but we forgot it this time…

Tansy and boots

We saw Steve off at the airport on Thursday – this time it was the ‘big’ plane.

plane at Tiree airport

The hills of Mull are covered in snow now, and there’s a frost on the ground and ice on the puddles. The sound of the sea at night is huge when the sky is clear. Alan went out to take photos today, unfortunately I’d left the white balance set for tungsten light a few days ago, so they all came out rather blue – I played around with the warming filters in Photoshop for a while but in the end decided black and white was the best solution.

snow on Mull

We went to our first ‘event’ today – delicious afternoon tea provided by the Tiree Women’s Guild, just over the road in the resource centre. On the wall there was a wonderful big banner showing Tiree in a sea of blue, with knitted fields and aspects of island life in appliqué – I’d like to find out more about it one day. Life is very strange at the moment, in one way it feels as we’ve been here for ages, and yet much is still unfamiliar and we are still doing lots of things ‘for the first time’. But it will already be our fourth time in church tomorrow!


meeting the plane

November 20, 2008

Steve has come up from Cardiff for a week while he and Alan are working on a book about physicality in digital interaction, and we met him off the plane, the first time I had been down to the airport (the runway is just behind our house). It’s so tiny! And the plane was even tinier. Some flights are in a bigger plane but this was the Twin Otter, which I think has 18 seats, though there were only five passengers coming in today.

Alan will be flying when he goes to Dublin in December, but I don’t know yet when I may. But before too long, I hope. I love flying but I’ve only done it a few times and never on a small plane so I’m really looking forward to travelling on it one day.

It was interesting to see that the female and male passengers were called through separately for boarding. I guess they have a man doing the scanning and a woman doing the searching and then they swap, but I may be completely wrong!

There’s one flight a day from Glasgow (and back), around lunchtime, and it carries the post, so the last collection from the postbox just down the road is at 8.30am. I’ll try not to use this as an excuse for being late with birthday cards!

We are starting to get sorted out, slowly. We’ve got all the boxes out of the living room now, and I’ve more or less organised my office/art room (blogged on my other blog). Next to tackle are the useful cupboards – or at least they will be useful when all the random stuff I’ve dumped in them is sorted out and found a proper home.


we’re here!

November 12, 2008

All my good intentions of writing about the move as it happened fell by the wayside with a combination of time running out and waiting for our broadband to come on here. We were blessed with wonderful weather for our first trip up the weekend before last – calm sea, beautiful sunshine, gentle breeze. We managed to unpack the hired van the first day, so the next day was spent putting up shelves and looking in amazement out of the windows at the sea! We’d woken early and spent a little time on the beach, looking at the sky and the rainbows and the hills of Mull over the water.

Back down to Kendal on the Tuesday to return the hired van and pick up Tansy the dog and our campervan (already packed up with more boxes and bits). Mad dash up to St Andrews where Alan was giving three distinguished lectures in quick succession on Thursday. Then back across to Oban on Friday ready for the last crossing for a while – I hope!

I took a week off for the move but of course a lot of the time was spent travelling so there’s still plenty to unpack and organise, and this week there’s twice as much work to fit in as well! I should be doing one or the other this evening, so for now these are some of our photos from the past week and a bit.

arriving in Tiree

1. approaching Tiree, 2. Scarinish pier, 3. Alan paddling, 4. house, 5. double rainbow over Crossapol, 6. view from the doorstep


all the little things…

October 23, 2008

…take so much time. Organising the phone and broadband has been a bit of a trial. Originally we thought we could get a simultaneous provision of line and broadband, but after a rigmarole of changing our ISP and cancelling our first phone order, BT decided they couldn’t do it on the line anyway. Still I am saving £10/month with the new ISP (Zen Internet) and their service seems to be so far as good if not better than my old one, so that part’s fine. The bad part is that it will be 6 working days before our broadband comes on, so it’ll be down to dialup, mobile and the local wifi hotspots. But some of that time we’ll be travelling anyway, bringing the hired van back here and collecting our own, then a quick visit to St Andrews University, (not exactly) on the way back.

BT also seem unable to commit themselves to a definite phone number these days. They gave us one, have already changed it once, and are advising that we shouldn’t give it out to anyone because it might change again before the end of the month! But I sent it out with our other change of address details anyway and am hoping for the best – I don’t remember having to contend with such vagueness last time we moved.

All three ferry journeys are booked now – just hoping the weather will be kind to us. Tansy will be in kennels when we take the main van load, we’ll pick her up when we come back and bring her over on the final crossing – her first time on a ferry, and I hope she won’t spend the whole time barking at the other dogs (her one fault!).

I intended to pack some boxes today but the little things seem to multiply, one leads to another and  the time vanishes. Tomorrow I will start by packing some, otherwise it will be just the same. I think I could get most of my art stuff done quickly, as it’s already decluttered and can all just go in – it’s the decisions we’re still making about what to part with and what to leave for later that I’m finding difficult.


living and dyeing with a septic tank

August 2, 2008

I started thinking about this because of putting spent dyebaths down the drain. The sewerage system can cope with this in small amounts but I’m trying to find out how it will be with a septic tank. The one for the house we’re buying is shared, and I gather we won’t be responsible for the maintenance, but I don’t want to do anything that might cause problems with the system.

Paradoxically, Procion dyes seem to be OK, whereas natural dyes aren’t because of the mordants. Paula Burch has a round up of ecological issues with dyes

For natural dyes, soapnuts sound worth a try. I had some soapnuts once and wasn’t entirely successful at washing clothes with them, but I didn’t try using them as a mordant! India Flint in her book Eco-Colour lists a number of traditional mordants, less toxic than metals, and mentions that burnt seaweed was traditionally used in the Hebrides!

I haven’t found much info about indigo and septic tanks yet… but I think the used vat would probably have to go into landfill because of the lye.

Useful general info

note: disposal of campervan toilet – we already use the green Aqua Kem, but Bio-solve might also be worth investigating.