Weather: The autumn weather has been good, with many sunny days, some without wind. Autumn can be a beautiful time of year here, with no midges and beautiful yellow gold sunsets.
Friday 25th and Saturday 26th September – we were eventually able to stage our Symposium entitled ‘Imagining an Island’. This was a collaborative online event, held at Taigh Chearsabhagh (TC), organised by Andy Mackinnon, Keith McIntyre, Rosie Blake, and ourselves. Considering the nature of such events, the proceedings went extremely well and this ambitious and rather intense two-day programme, which was supported by distinguished and acclaimed contributors, was excellent, and provided the kind of intellectual challenge and debate that we had hoped it would. Photographer Robin Gillanders (one of the contributors) and his wife Marjory and, even their cat Spike, could make this event in person. They have a camper van and were able to stay COVID-safe in this. We did all manage to congregate for drinks and snacks in the outdoors, which provided some consolation in this time of segregation. The proceedings of this event were recorded and will be available via the TC website. Hopefully we will build on the success of this event, to further reflect upon the ontology of island-ness.
We are now Post-Symposium, post the In this Day and Age exhibition at TC and into the second wave of COVID-19 restrictions. The new world has begun…
Since the beginning of this year we have been in the process of buying a CROFT. Croft buying is a lengthy process, with several hurdles that need to be overcome, to qualify as an acceptable candidate. We have fortunately – after a lot of form filling and hiring of the appropriate croft solicitor – met with all the necessary criteria and are now proud owners of a wee dilapidated croft!
The new house with its smallholding, is in a beautiful setting – surrounded by water, both fresh and salt, and when standing in the garden, looking out to the sea loch, there is a real connection and immersion with the landscape, a feeling of living inside the environment as opposed to simply looking at it. The little house on the croft, is in a fairly run down condition, to be honest it needs a lot of TLC, but we are very excited and look forward to this new project – it is going to be quite the adventure!
Dwellings that have not been lived in quickly deteriorate in the Western Isles, due to the high salt content of the atmosphere together with the lively wind and water from the Atlantic Ocean.
Our recent COVID-19 isolation time has been taken up with clearing out rubbish, fiberglass insulation and knocking down ceilings and walls from our newly acquired Croft in Blashaval. Other people’s rubbish never ceases to amaze; there were box upon box of rubbish including framed mouldy pictures of Highland Glens (bad ones); Jim Reeves albums, there are collections of sewing encyclopaedias to faded Masonic regalia, from broken alarm clocks, two pussy – cat china souvenirs from Marbella. There was even a novelty salt cellar shaped like a corn-cob pipe. (This was quite tempting, but sadly it was chipped, and in and age of surface sensitivity, seemed unhygienic, despite the salt). Add to this a multitude of domestic ephemera e.g. the attic required clearing of old insulation material, crumbling building materials, corroded pipes, most of it filthy, all of it useless. It was a welcome relief when Keith and Fran joined us and started a bonfire, mostly burning the wood that they had previously cut from the dead trees near the house. All four of us, in our bubble, ended the day by sitting around the bonfire eating fish and chips, overlooking the loch – a perfect social distancing event.
Our refurbishment plans for the house have been inspired and imagined by the purchase of some wrongly measured architectural windows, from another build. We are fortunate to have got these windows, and are very excited about re-purposing them. A BIG thank you to Anna and Frank, who even helped have them delivered to our croft (via a crane). They will look amazing when assembled on our gable end. We just need to get the people power and equipment to fit them now.
At this point we just need to thank all our friends who have been helping us with The Croft project. Keith and Fran, Alan and Bernie, Anna and Frank, Effie and Andy – we love you! Bonfires and dinners forever.
The weather this autumn has been a blessing, with some exceptional still days, with pearly grey clouds reflected in the waters of the loch. On one such day (with still much sustainable rubbish to burn) we had another social distancing picnic, bonfire – this time with Rosie and Raphael. The fire burned into the night, occasionally casting a light onto the foreshore, revealing some sheep trying to sneak past us – a humorous sight.
End of September to early November is Deer Rutting season. The rutting is most intense soon after dawn and dusk and usually begins vocally with bellowing roars. These loud guttural cries are strange and eerie and echo across the moorlands. A spectacular sound. We spotted a majestic stag with a herd of six hinds, strolling about with pride – obviously successful in his mating battle.
We have managed to fit some more portrait shoots in (although we have had one postponement due to COVID-19 restrictions). In This Day and Age is probably halfway through completion, the pandemic has caused some delay, but realistically 3 years for an in-depth project like this is not unreasonable.
Some sad news this week is that Photographer Chris Killip has died. He will be greatly missed, and one can only hope that his memory and his work will create the legacy that it deserves, and that he would have wished for.
The local cat bruiser, Pish Wish (a rather gorgeous marmalade cat), has been on the prowl and has caused Angelo (aka the white lion) to fall into a depression. Angelo sits on the sofa, no longer motivated to go on his ritual rat hunts. Alice (the alley cat), who is primarily a house cat, gets very excited by any kind of cat or bird activity, that she can view from the windows. She runs from one window to the other throughout the day, checking for possible sightings of these events. We feel sure that Angelo will enjoy living at The Croft, as will Alice, there are no neighbouring cats and there is a good rat population that needs to be culled.
27th October 2020, reported COVID-19 cases in Na h-Eileanan Siar (Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides) = 68 total