Winter Blues

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Let me tell you about living with the wind on Uist. I am now staying in a house on a hill with a ‘posh’ address: “Upper Town, Carnish”.  Well I suppose twenty or so houses on a circular track is a settlement.   So far this is the most exposed house I have lived in.

The wind is driving me crazy. When I first arrived on Uist four years ago, the gamekeeper told me it puts all animals on edge. And we are no different. It roars like traffic noise every night and assaults you outdoors with a hail of horizontal bullets. It blows away things you love, like my best buoy and I recently found my wheelbarrow  up ended on the shore. A kind friend has delivered me a replacement beach windfall, a new buoy. The wind giveth and the wind taketh away.

It’s normal to have a 40-45 mph wind blowing (that’s a Force 8) but we seem to be having 55 +s (that’s a Force 10) three times a week. And don’t forget there are no trees to break this up. However I do battle and get out in it with the dog and try not to be short-tempered and weather beaten, in all senses of the word.

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Hibernation and visits to the mainland are part of the remedy. In October I went back to ‘Rutlandshire’ and picked berry mountains to make sloe gin and pressed my parents windfalls into apple juice. We are fruit deficient here, only rhubarb grows happily on Uist. My rhubarb chutney is maturing nicely, ready for the Christmas cheese bonanza.

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As a special treat I went last week to London and watched designer dogs on Hampstead Heath and ate real spaghetti bolognaise and later tapas of sautéed baby squid and gremolata at Salt Yard. I swam in the lido on December 8th and nearly expired. It was colder than my mad winter sea baths. I was hoping for a respite from the wind on my return but it was not to be.

I am not working officially as most people define it. I have failed  at several interviews to secure a ‘proper’ job here and things are getting tight. I work instead at making felt and woolly things and just surviving. The natural woolly works evolve with the weather, my collecting and drawings. This winter I will learn to make more dyes from crotal. It’s a magical alchemy.

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The night sky is still full of stars and a rare calm day tricks you into falling in love again. But I am wise to this cycle. I’m staying on isle for my first Christmas and will make game casseroles and share mulled wine and paddle my kayak. Then I’ll decide whether to go away to look for a job I really want to do, rather than one I don’t. This would be some sacrifice, but perhaps my need for tlc, shelter and trees and the possibility of a river in which to dabble my flies and a railway line out to see family and old friends will overcome the loss of my island life. We’ll see what the New Year brings…

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