A taste of island life…
Although we didn’t realise it our arrival coincided with winter shut down on Colonsay. Like a National Trust property in November- there was a sense in the air that dust sheets had been fetched from the loft and if you lingered too long you too would be covered over till next March.
However I caught my self wondering if this kind of exile would be entirely bad? Rugged landscape suited best to the gales of winter and locals who were down to earth and genuinely engaged with visitors.(For those interested check out some of the fascinating articles and books about islanders lives.) No resentment here on Colonsay to the screaming intrusion into their quiet way of life! During a brief stay we encountered amazing characters. Among them : the local who knew my childhood home; seasonal workers who love the life style of their adopted summer home and the shop owners who let us glimpse parts of their rural winter life.
Only a few miles wide and with around 120 hardy inhabitants This out post is 2.5 ferry hours from Oban and 1 from the much bigger and busier whisky island of Islay could just as easily a whole world away. While locals went about their business Colonsay remained still and silent except for the occasional distant call of grey seals against the wind and crash if the sea and the flocks of Canada Geese that seemed to track you all over the island.
My favourite Colonsay’ism’ was parking on a 3m x2m concrete slab next to a rough green. It turned out that the 1960’s style concrete bench next to it held the islands total golf facilities: a laminated copy of club rules and. An honesty box lashed to the least exposed side . This in itself set it aside on many of the western isles geared up for tourists and Leisure seeking incomers.Apart from the airfield and two recycling centres (whose significance I may relate later) the harbour town boasts a grand total of :one shop, a post office, cafe,gallery, library, hotel with the only public bar and a petrol pump. Our arriving boat was shared by a local celebrity whisky writer arriving in a flourish only to be gone again in less than a day.
On the afternoon that we left the hotel housing the islands only bar shut for the winter.Closing weekend appeared to be an event in itself. In little groups the locals dropped in to the bar to raise a toast to the leaving staff and make the most of the last big screen match while the small group of remaining tourists gathered waiting to see whether the ferry would make it through the rising squall. What if it didn’t?( Shop already closed for the weekend and everyone else seemed to be off to ‘the big house’ for the end of season staff party.) There was little doubt that we would be rescued by the locals but it served to hilight that this would be a tough place without friends!
Today while out on our dog walk I looked down just in time to notice a tiny frog crouched completely still just in front of my feet. This little creature was trying its hardest not to move until the threat my huge wellies posed had gone. All well and good if this little fellow had been in his normal habitat, I would have walked past without noticing his magnificent speckled green and yellow skin. Unfortunately for him he had moved out onto the grey expanse of tarmac path where his camouflage left him horribly visible. As I peered down he was quite obviously uncomfortable and aware that he had been rumbled. I imagine if froggie feelings are anything like human ones he was experiencing what it is to be alone and very vulnerable!
In stories and recounts of war time, spies and soldiers often survive by ‘hiding in plain sight’ – a talent not gifted to many. So, when most of us choose to do something different it is extremely hard. We can feel vulnerable and uncomfortable just like my frog on the path. For me this is rather comforting as several recent decisions have taken me right out from the long grass of my comfort zone. For example, choosing to take my beloved assistance dog out with me everywhere is massive. I am rebuilding a meaningful existence. And gosh I feel priveledged to have him. However for anyone considering a step like this it is wise to remember it is not all plain sailing. Extra plans need to be made before travelling to ensure Angus’ welfare; we have to keep refreshing training and feeling that we must be on our very best behaviour at all times and facing the gauntlet of endless intrusive questions about the finer details of my depression an panic attacks . Usually I don’t mind too much- it promotes the cause! But just occasionally when I am feeling below parr assumptions and opinions can make me feel as out of place as the frog on tarmac. It is good then to be able to understand why I feel this discomfort and to realise that to be different is fine. We are probably doing ok -it is just that this part of my journey requires the courage to go against instinct, step out of the long grass onto the pavement and be seen for a while!
The definition of the assistance dog role is that of a partnership between a human and dog. Once formed both partners rely on trust in the other to provide what they need and eventually this trust becomes intuitive and enriching as they begin understanding what makes each other happy. Ok this is perfection and I know there are always blips on the way but you review, practice and move on learning more about each other along the way!
Trusting in another and developing a relationship where both parties gain from a friendship can be tough to achieve for those of us who live in a ‘mental health goldfish bowl‘ ( see below) *.
* there is no collective term that I am aware of to effectively describe how it feels to live in a world where someone can either feel on show for being different or iscollated and alone even in a crowd- cut off by an invisible wall from every thing and every one that you love. So, for now I will call it the ‘mental health goldfish bowl‘ .
This week saw us pack up and head to the lakes for a much needed tranquility top up. Torrential rain,wind snow and glorious sun made sure our short trip was full of drama and beauty. The soft light was perfect for photography and the people we met a joyful inspiration for my new street art project. Angus starts so many conversations and enables me to explore what makes Keswick buzz in such a unique way. Daily life for the locals and tales of travel and adventure from fellow visitors inspired some impromptu street art which I hope captures a little of the delicious atmosphere. There is something magical about the smile on a face or a far away look that opens the door to the mysteries that might lie behind it…
Angus of course met some new playmates…
… Supervised by the local wildlife
Teasing – I won’t turn round for a photo!
A swan family inches away from us on the pier!
No Angus -this is not a real sheep
That’s better- a local ‘Herdie’
… and took in the spectacular views
Oh that light! Just look at how it bounces, sparkles and throws moody shadows, adding atmosphere to these street -photos and the stories that they tell.
I indulged one of my passions- photographing from strange angles and focusing in reflections in puddles.
… meanwhile Angus does what he knows best-relaxing!
Many thanks to Dolly,Dawn,Steven, Max,George and Charlie for being so patient and allowing me to photograph them and share part of their days. It certainly made ours!