The STORM

Weather : wet and windy (not as cold as Newcastle) – the odd still day, with glorious sunshine. Rainbows almost everyday.

October, Saturday the 25th, we stayed overnight at the Croft for the first time. This involved taking bedding, utensils, food and our cats to our two slightly dilapidated caravans, which are situated on the land around the house. The house itself will not be habitable for some time as there is much work to be done. It is a formidable project – but we have now made a substantial start, and even feel a little inspired by our progress.

Tip: youtube videos are a Godsend for the amateur builder.

The weather report forecast a furious storm – for this day (October, Saturday the 25th) with winds around 69 to 71 mph. It was quite windy, although not as bad as it can be. We were very pleased of the time we spent the previous day ‘battening down the hatches’ – which included dragging building material into the house, fastening the glass for the new windows to the trees (which are already a little unsteady) and basically securing anything and everything to the ground – hoping it would hold. The caravans were also strapped down against the wind and propped up with rocks from the foreshore – our ‘bedroom caravan’ still swayed and rocked about during the night. The surrounding sea loch was whipped into a fury of whitecaps and the few trees on the croft thrashed in the wind. We had to add concrete slabs and wooden planks to the tree roots to prevent them being torn away. Fortunately, the wind shifted direction in the evening relieving its assault on some of the few trees on the Croft. It was exhilarating but exhausting and a bit scary at times.

The COVID-19 lockdown procedures have been devastating for everybody and pretty much everything. It has been difficult and slow working on our project with access to places and individuals – we have managed to take a few more portraits but our ability to reach out into the wider community has been made more complex.

Any initiative such as ‘In this Day and Age’ has the potential for many stories and a broad range of interpretations and uses. Beaudrillard’s ‘unseizable enigma’ suggests that the ambiguity of photographic indexicality is central to the integrity of photography, and he pursued this idea both through his writings and through the aesthetics of the photography that he produced and widely exhibited. We have always believed that the photograph, above all other media, has the potential to generate engagement and discourse and that it best functions within a critical context that is open to engagement and participation by a wide public. Meanings are never simply fixed, but are contextual, complex and fluid, and it is in this positive spirit that we continue to develop our project and we always welcome any thoughtful comments or critical discussion.

We are hoping that many of the issues discussed at the recent Imagining an Island Symposium, with regard to our work, will be pursued and developed through a proposed Routledge Academic publication led by Professors Ysanne Holt (University of Northumbria) and Liz Wells (University of Plymouth). The recent ‘Work in Progress’ exhibition at Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy was a useful point from which to review any progress and development that we have made, and we are grateful to all for the feedback that we have received as this will help us to further shape our work in the future.

Teaching has resumed at the University of the Highlands and Islands although as in many places the most one sees is a computer screen with the accompanying sub-sync sound. It is a desperate time for students, especially the younger ones. Their educational experiences have been much compromised, and the excitement and educational and social value of travelling to another place to study has been ruined. The University campus in North Uist relies on its ‘special place’ status, as elsewhere one office interior looks much like another.

Meanwhile buckets of old tiles together with wallpaper, various bits of wood, wire and plasterboards are being removed from the Croft house and drainage ditches have been cleared and opened out to cope with the excess water that runs of the nearby mountain (it’s a small one). The soil is dark, dense and peaty and saturates with water quickly with black slurry running off into the loch. The fishing season ended with a vengeance given the strength of the gales, hopefully leaving more fish to return for next year. The house is slowly taking shape and we try to visit daily and move things on. There have been frequent trips to the dump to remove the endless rubbish from the house, and the builder’s merchants have become our (somewhat unwilling ) friends. Lockdown (mostly elsewhere) has ensured that we have remained on the island, although we managed a couple of days in Stornoway where we were able to source some building materials (expensive!) and have an excellent meal during our stay at the Royal Hotel on the harbour side. We even bought an original artwork from the Royal Hotel’s nautically themed restaurant. To be able to dine out was a great pleasure after so long.

The nights are becoming longer and Angie, our crepuscular white cat has taken to the croft and comes and goes freely from the caravans and the house. Despite his lack of natural camouflage he is the main man in this territory, stalking the foreshore. He is happy in a way that he has not been since we were living at Minish. Alice becomes very excited with his comings and goings rushing around between our legs, but she seldom, yet ventures outside.

December, Friday 18th, the U.K. has now been subjected to a second lockdown and over the Christmas weekend the country is held in various Tier categories. There will not be many family gatherings allowed this year.

December, Monday 21st we have heard that a person in Lochmaddy has COVID-19, this new strain is virulent.

To everyone who reads and follows our blog may we wish you a Happy Solstice – stay safe!

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