15th September - the storm has arrived...

So, as we walked home in the dark to the castle after the quiz night (£107 raised for the hall roof to add to the growing funds...whoop whoop! We need £11,000 to make the roof wind- and watertight, get rid of the woodworm and repair the big hole that no-one is allowed to mention any more until we can afford to get it done), the wind was getting up and by the time we were in bed we could hear the first blasts booming around the castle.  The wind doesn't whistle here...it makes a noise a bit like a door slamming (sometimes it IS a door slamming - they were fitted with patent anti-slam devices in 1899 that have the effect of making the doors slam much louder than normal doors - but mostly it's just the wind booming in the turrets...)

In the morning I was woken up by actual doors slamming and Mel racing backwards and forwards with saucepans and towels. "There's water coming through in the tower, let's hope it's not the water tank." There's an especially big turret in the middle of the castle which we go up sometimes at night to look at the stars.  You get to the top via a very narrow, steep spiral staircase with rope at the sides to help you and half-way up there is a door leading into "The Water Tank".  This is a giant lead container holding all the water for the castle and has a room all to itself.  Much like the boiler downstairs in the cellar which has been going since 1897 and has a big scary button on it saying "STOP".  "What's that button for?" I asked. "That's what you press if you see flames coming out of the cellar - it shuts off the kerosene supply."  "Aha - where does the kerosene come from?" The kerosene is in a giant reinforced plastic barrel out the back of the castle, there's a big ladder leaning up against it. "What's the ladder for?" "That's so you can climb up and poke the kerosene with a big stick to see how much is left." Um....
Doors of the original boiler - still powering our showers today!


We worry whether our friends living in yurts, caravans etc are ok.  The wind seems to be dropping overnight but we haven't gone to inspect the damage yet.  Claire told us that once she did wake up in the morning after a windy night and looked out of her yurt and there was an entirely different view to the one she'd had the previous day. This is why some people "go off" the island in winter.  It is fun to read about but not so much fun really living in a static caravan on a hillside in a gale in winter, on an island.  However, Nic and Adi think they will try to brave it out this year.  "It just feels wrong to leave, this is our home."  The children are quite excited. As our visitors, my friend and former au-pair child Katharina and her boyfriend, told us, Rum brings out your adventurish side. I hope they are ok in Mallaig today and can get back to where they need to be.

Having our first visitors here was lovely and it made me feel proud to be here. I was worried they'd be bored or anxious when the weather was bad, but instead they braved the elements and went out walking, falling in many bogs, getting followed by many animals and taking many photos of  mountains in the rain (and even in the sunshine).  Already I've started to worry less about rain and just go out in it and get wet.  It was an experience "climbing" the Kilmory Glen road in wet weather - the clouds had come down almost as far as the path and you couldn't see far.  A buzzard flapped right past us, unwilling to go higher into the mists.  Everything smelt of heather, wet earth and smoke.  The air was wet too.  By the time we got to the deer gate we were all dripping and quite cold, but kept on until we warmed up again.  A quick break by the waterfall with tea and whiskey helped! We chatted about German and English politics, neo-Nazis in Germany and the British attitude to Europe, our visitors' impressions of the island (good), whether rolling your own cigarettes is better than buying them readymade (their cigarette papers had got wet on their first walk and never recovered), and why you can't wear trainers to walk on Rum.  Katharina and Julian were keen to get up into the mountains but I had to explain that is is actually dangerous in bad weather and how swiftly good weather can change.  I don't think they believed me until they saw it for themselves.  Luckily, their last day was a golden day and we actually got up to Coire Dubh where Katharina went off-piste and decided to scale a (small) mountain. We followed her up across the non-path to a rocky outcrop where we were above the hills on the other side of the island so that we could see the lakes that are hidden on their summits, bright blue in their reflections of a perfectly blue sky.  It felt dizzy - the first time I've been onto the mountain proper, as opposed to wandering about beneath it.

For me and our visitors these changes were dramatic enough, but I know that soon winter will be here and what we've experienced so far will be nothing in comparison.  The boats are cancelled today and tomorrow, and so there won't be another until Wednesday.  This is with predicted 50 mph gales but it can get much worse! That's why I want to see as much of the island as I can now - so that I can picture it in my head even when in reality it's become inaccessible.

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