off to berlin

There will be a pause in Rum reportage as I am off to Berlin to enjoy Christmas markets. see friends and ease myself back into being a normal person again.

Could take a while!

Thanks for everyone's comments and interest - living on Rum may be hard but also seems to give rise to all sorts of ideas, feelings and perspectives - even or especially for those "on the outside". Keep them coming!

Can I have a reindeer for Christmas?

I know why Santa Claus was invented.  It's not because of the presents.  It's because reindeer make the darkest, most miserable winter day light up and they make you smile.

Having picked up a leaflet in a Grantown-on-Spey hotel that said "Come and Feed the Reindeer", I was embarrassed to admit that I DESPERATELY wanted to FEED A REINDEER!  But I just had to.  So at 11 am on a freezing day in the Glenmore Forest Reindeer Centre, there we were in the reindeer shop, looking at reindeer calendars, reindeer skin rugs, reindeer leather shoes (courtesy of a Finnish partner organisation), reindeer motif knitted hats, reindeer postcards and reindeer fridge magnets, and being talked to by a lady who turned out, obviously, to know several people on Rum.  She advised us to go and look at the paddocks out the back first, where they bring the reindeer down in shifts to get them used to people, check the reindeers' health and so on.  We would then follow the staff truck up into the mountains to do the actual feeding.

Very excited we wandered through the excellent exhibition all about reindeer and then out to the paddocks where there were actual real reindeer to be seen!  The older ones were phlegmatically eating their way through a car tyre of food.  The little ones were galloping about trying to get used to the change in surface between their "stable" and the grassy paddocks.  There were also several ducks and pheasants, trying to steal the reindeers' food while they weren't looking - no chance.  A fight broke out between the ducks, the pheasant tried to seize its opportunity and the largest reindeer aimed a careful kick at it...

We then went back to wait for the staff to take us up to the mountain, and as we waited a large van drove up and started to unload more reindeer from the back.  They were a mixture of large and fairly small, male and female.  Both sexes grow antlers - unlike any other type of deer - and they are hard to tell apart.  They are gentle and happily let themselves be "taken for a walk" with halters or even just by nudging them along.  In the wild this is possibly different...

After a bit of waiting around, finally the staff car got going and us reindeer enthusiasts followed slowly up to the "Sugar Bowl", one of the mountains, where we all got out and gathered around our lovely hostess Sally.  Obviously a complete reindeer fan, she had just started working there a month before but seemed to know all the reindeer names and had no trouble telling us what we should and shouldn't do.
Dos and Don'ts for reindeer:
- Don't grab them by the antlers. They will think you are challenging them to a fight.
- Don't touch their faces.  They don't like it.
- Do stroke them from the shoulders down, and don't worry - if you stand behind them it's not dangerous as unlike horses, they can't kick backwards.
- But they can kick forwards...
- If their antlers are still "green" i.e. still living and covered in "velvet" (a living tissue like a furry skin that eventually falls off when the antlers turn into pure bone), they can be hurt quite badly, so never touch the antlers when they are in this condition.

Having been told what to do, we were then asked to volunteer for carrying the sacks of food up the mountain. Wanting to make my Santa impression as realistic as possible, in case I could get a reindeer to follow me home, I manfully stepped forward and then spent twenty minutes wishing I was a bit stronger in the arms...the path was excellent, but definitely uphill, and got colder and colder as we approached the peaks...
Climb every mountain, ford every stream...with a big sack of reindeer food..
I AM Julie Andrews!
After a while, we got to the top where it was very bleak. There was a gate to a huge enclosure where a number of reindeer sat about in the snowy ground.  "Don't worry about them - they're our Christmas reindeer."  Christmas reindeer are the ones that get sent out to special Christmas events. It was hard to tell if they were particularly publicity-seeking, but they did have especially nice antlers with lots of "tines" (points). We crossed the long boardwalk, which was now getting wet and dark from the sleet that was falling.  Eventually we came to an even bigger enclosure, where most the reindeer were kept while penned - they are also allowed to roam on around 6,000 acres of land.  And we learnt amazing facts about reindeer:

Reindeer can survive in temperatures of up to -70 degrees Celsius.  They are comfortable at up to around -35 degrees.
Their fur is incredibly dense and does not transmit heat and so they can lie on their stomachs in the snow without losing their body heat.
Males are dominant for the majority of the year, but in the winter period when they are carrying young, the females become dominant in the herd and have priority when it comes to food.
For the same reason it's conjectured both females and males grow antlers, so that the females are equally equipped to the males when it comes to foraging.
Male reindeer, unlike many other stags, are gentle and fairly submissive creatures. They may "play-fight" with their antlers but unlike for example red deer stags, are highly unlikely to enter into a real fight or kill each other.
Reindeer have practically no teeth - they don't need to bite.
Most amazing fact of all (for me): Reindeer have a special bone in their hooves that emits a clicking sound when they walk. This means that in an Arctic blizzard where visibility is poor or non-existent, they can hear each other without having to call out, which means that they can conserve energy and the herd can stay together safely.

Amazing facts about humans:
Many humans cannot resist the opportunity of feeding a reindeer with their bare hands.

Bumble the reindeer comes back for a fifth feed

We had to wait a while before we could feed them, as first they have to have their "serious" feed, which Sally took round the field while they followed her.  But they all knew what was going on and several of them came up to try to steal the sacks before they were allowed.  As soon as we had our hands full of feed, they were there, almost inhaling it.  Their mouths were very gentle and warm and they nuzzled us before passing on to the next handful of food.  Some of them were more curious than others.  They all had names - each year has a "theme" and so there were "pop stars" (Lulu and Blondie were singled out as being some of the few pure white reindeer born to the herd), cheeses (Blue, Ricotta...) and I'm not sure what theme Bumble belonged to, but he was definitely very naughty.

The snow was coming in so after a while stroking their deep fur, which was very cold (as it doesn't transmit heat) and reaching through it to the warm skin below, we decided to go back down.  We hoped that maybe we'd come across some roaming free across the mountains - they don't all stay in the enclosure all the time.  But so far, we haven't encountered any.

The herd was introduced by a Swedish man who visited the Cairngorms in 1947 and was amazed that no reindeer lived there, as it was ideal habitat for them.  Deciding to give the experiment a try he brought over a breeding pair  in 1952 along with some other reindeer and apparently all of them settled in right away.  We examined the vegetation, the scrub and the mountains...surely they could also do well on Rum?  A thought for the next RCA meeting perhaps...

Find out more about the reindeer at

North by north-west...

A Cairngorm - snow now also available on Rum!
Have been away for two weeks, on a small, personal odyssey through various places, finishing up with a stay in the Cairngorms - the other mountains on the far side (i.e. the east side) of the Highlands.  A different landscape - or it seemed like it at the time - complete with real snow, reindeer and a mountain funicular!  Now I'm back, though, it doesn't seem quite as different.  We don't have reindeer (although perhaps we should?) and don't need a funicular, but we too are getting the true Scottish winter.  And it seems our hundred-year-old boiler may be at death's door at last...
Snow, proper snow fell the night before last and yesterday morning the hills, fields and houses were covered.  All ferries cancelled today due to gales (gusts of up to 65 mph forecast for later on), even the crows can hardly fly against the wind.  Although this is nothing compared to hurricanes elsewhere in the world, here on the island, it has a meaning of its own.  Especially when last week the boiler broke down and there was no heating for a week - we can feel it, although we missed the worst! Colin came on to the island on Monday, after arguments with his bosses about weekend working (or he would have come sooner) and - thank you Colin! - managed to repair it.  I am so grateful, I make cakes for all the contractors (any excuse to be in the kitchen so I can get a bit warmer) - we have several, "Billy's gang" trying to shore up the castle towers before they let in more water over winter; "John and John's lad" shoring up the hostel, which really needs an entirely new roof as all the rooms are now leaking; and of course "Colin and Mike" without whom it seems we would not only be frozen but flooded too.  While we were away, not only did the ancient boiler stop working but the boiler room did actually flood - up to eight inches of water, no-one knows where from. Luckily Colin found a plug and pulled it and apparently all the water drained away.  But even with his most heroic efforts to repair the heating, being in the castle still feels like walking into a fridge.  We have been battening down the hatches, putting up thicker curtains and keeping them shut all day to keep some warmth in, keeping the oven on in the kitchen to warm it up whenever we have to go in there (the kitchen was formerly Sir George's bathroom, and has no radiator); moving into the back rooms where the heating works more efficiently; wearing more layers than actually would seem feasible while still moving...Not using the study at all, as it feels not just like a fridge but like a freezer.  Huddling in front of the open fire in the evening.  All in all, a pretty normal life - at least I find it, to my surprise, quite normal.

I remember I'm trained for winter, although London has spoilt me a bit.  This unaccustomed cold re-awakens physical memories of "real" winters.  Six-month, unrelenting Berlin winters.  Snow, ice, black ice, freezing rain, perpetual grey, temperatures rarely above zero, more ice indoors and out - good for iceskating, not so good for the inside of a kitchen.  My beloved Neukoelln flat with its wooden floors, wood-framed windows that I refused to replace with plastic (except in the kitchen, where the wood had actually rotted, hence the ice indoors) and no heating except for a giant oven in the bedroom. This oven was my pride and joy.  Unlike most Berlin ovens (I'm talking about coal/wood stoves used for heating, not cooking -  in the 1990s there were still lots of these on both sides of the ghostly wall), this was no purely functional, square, yellow-tiled "brick" sat squatly in the best corner of the room.  This was a tall, elegant, white wedding cake of an oven, so high I couldn't see into the top of it even with a ladder, with a tiny aperture at the bottom into which I would desperately stuff paper, kindling and briquettes and hope they would stay alight.  It took me about two years to learn the right technique. There was no ventilator to improve the air circulation, though luckily the room, thanks to my insistence on the old windows, was very draughty.  The chimney sweep (a regular acquaintance of many Berlin flat tenants), told me that really the oven was meant only for wood.  But wood didn't give out enough heat (I thought) and was hard to come by; anyway I couldn't imagine how you would get wood small enough to fit the oven.  Once when I was really poor I took to scavenging for bits of furniture in skips that I could break up and set fire to.  Other times, I lugged plastic nets of kindling (like giant satsuma nets) and even heavier bundles of coal up the three long flights of stairs to my flat and dumped them unceremoniously in the corner of the kitchen behind the door, which was covered in soot for most of the winter.  My fingers would bear the red weals from the bags for hours and my shoulders always ached from the cold and carrying the damn things.  I wasn't sensible or solvent enough to order half a ton of coal at the beginning of the winter, as my friend Astrid always did - somehow I never felt able to commit the money for a whole winter - what if I went away? Or suddenly didn't need heating any more?  Or it was too heavy and fell through the floor? Or perhaps I just liked the challenge, day by day, of keeping warm enough.

That was a romantic time.  I didn't think about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or even connect my regular January to March cough, chest infections and headaches with the fact I was living in a really cold place.  I loved lighting the fire.  I loved getting home in the dark, putting the fire on, leaving it to heat up the room (fingers crossed) and going out again for adventures into the sparkling Berlin night.  I loved watching the whirling snow outside my window falling on dirty Neukoelln, the ever-grey sky turning white, pink or orange.  There were times also when the fire would not light and when it was so cold in the kitchen that I would actually try to light the "other" stove that never worked and that you had to use curiously shaped "Eierkohlen" (egg-coals) for.  They would sit stubbornly at the bottom of the oven, while the paper and wood caught light around them, and refuse to even smoulder.  In my gloves and hat and scarf I would try for hours, returning to them with firelighters, more wood and paper and sheer force of will to get them to glow. Nothing doing.  But usually I didn't care.

Here, there is more than the cold to contend with.  The cold in itself is fine.  But there's no sparkle in these November nights.  People are in their houses, snuggled up, or mending things before the winter gets worse.  It is lonely.  Many people "go off" for winter although Christmas and Hogmanay are supposed to be a hoot.  Animals and birds go quieter.  It's a strange life, as if the island was gradually withdrawing even further from the rest of the world.  I'm reminded of a classic Austrian book I read (prophetically?) last year, called "Eine Frau erlebt die Polarnacht" (The Polar Night - A Woman's Story).  Written by a woman in the 1930s, it feels timeless; I wasn't sure what period of time it was referring to until I got quite a way through it.  This woman, Christine Ritter, follows her sailor husband to a hut in Spitzbergen within the Arctic Circle, after he has decided it is something he has to do to fulfil a lifelong dream.  The two of them are joined by a friend, but as the winter and 24 hour darkness approaches, the three of them know they are unlikely to see another human being, or any sunlight, for several months.  Both psychologically and physically they have made their preparations, but nonetheless, the isolation and darkness are so complete that Christine and her two companions are justifiably scared they might go out of their minds or become suicidal.  With awe and disbelief I read how instead, they managed to fend off despair and boredom by establishing a disciplined routine of housekeeping, card games, writing up scientific observations, hunting, and keeping watch for danger (polar bears were a real threat to them, and they had to kill one towards the end of the winter) by sleeping in a rota system.  Christine added knitting and clothes-making, and, of course, writing, to her "anti-despair" kit.  Nowadays they would have (probably) internet access, GPS, a variety of technology.  But not necessarily.  And this would not necessarily change the way they felt about the darkness or their physical isolation.  Christine was changed forever by the experience, describing both the beauty and horror of the dark world they lived in and the amazing feeling of seeing the sunlight come back in the spring.

I am not trying to compare our isolation to hers, although I wonder if it's possible to attain such a Zen-like acceptance of "nothing happening" - I don't think I would ever manage it.  But there is a feeling I share that to live on an island with so few inhabitants and with virtually no infrastructure, demands a different way of being - psychologically you need to be self-sufficient, resilient, maybe not too interested in other people or their needs, or what's going on elsewhere, but able to focus totally on the present.  I don't think any of that applies to me! So I'm relieved and even somewhat smug to find that in a report written about Rum in the 1970s, described in a recently unearthed archive we found, a Government adviser suggests that anyone planning to live on Rum should undergo a form of psychological testing "similar to that used for the British Antarctic Survey team" to see whether they are suitable for island living.  Ha! It's not just me who thinks it's extreme! Apart from the winter darkness, which here is only around 17-18 hours out of 24 at its worst, and the unpredictable weather, he was referring to the isolation that can be felt by those living somewhere completely dependent on a ferry and postal service for contact with other human beings.  At that time, there were far fewer people of course - and no internet or email.  It was still the "Forbidden Isle" with only SNH employees and scientists here.  Discontent, gossip and even theft were rife. 

That seems to have changed.  You can't stop gossip, but I haven't noticed anyone being discontented with Rum itself or the way they live.  They can be discontented about all sorts of other things, of course (mostly the other inhabitants).  But there is little or no crime, and from what I've seen, most people seem to be good at being here.  Forays on to the mainland seem mostly to be for short breaks or necessities, not out of desperation.   Even the contractors who come here (bless them for coming to Rum in winter), mending the castle and hostel roofs in the snow or today, a gale, seem to be philosophical about the strangeness of the island - the most they will say is "At least it's not bloody raining today, eh".  Though I feel this possibly doesn't express the whole range of their thoughts on the matter - especially when Colin woke up in the night to find his bed soaked from the leaks coming through the hostel roof...
Right, I'm off to move around a bit more and check the radiators - we have had them re-set to be on all night, to stop anything freezing and the pipes bursting.  And I need to go and get more logs from downstairs.  I can't help feeling that a hut would be easier to heat than a ten-room castle flat...


Glasses clink. A wet and muddy dog
Flits by my feet into shadows. The ballroom
Is lit up, briefly, as I glance through the night.

No light tonight but starlight, but in the castle
People are living through a summer evening.
Just beyond my gaze, someone is flirting.

The stags' wary, wild brown eyes
Look sideways at me as I move in silence
Through darkened corridors. Their gaze

Reassures and reproaches, wanders
over my head
Down time's corridor into the past
Where they are running on the rainy hills

Or where a maid, her face now hidden,
Carries the trays from drawing room to kitchen,
Passing the billiard room, where sounds of laughter

Echo behind me, talk just out of range.
Am I afraid here? No. Although I wonder
What stories I have missed, what truths,

What days have passed, what stories would be told
If I could hear the words, not just the echoes,
If I could be the ghost inside their house.

This week I have started a journey into the past.  To be more precise, I've started working in the library.

The history of this castle is not like the kind of history you usually find out about at National Trust properties or in books.  It's not tidily painted into a coherent picture by those who have come after.  Instead, people have rummaged, delved, thrown away, hidden, lost, re-discovered, re-named and wrongly identified...what? 

What would you do if you were given a stately home you didn't really want, couldn't afford to keep up and yet were not allowed to get rid of?  Well, that's been the situation here ever since Lady Monica sold the property to the Nation. The castle has been loved, loathed, lived in, snooped around in, stolen from and ignored. Bits of it have fallen down. Bits of the library have been moved, some of the inventory lost.  The most fascinating bits - George and Monica's own records - left lying casually on top of other books, at risk from damp, dust and bookworm.  But perhaps this very informality has left everything seeming so...lived in.  No bookworm appears to have penetrated the library, at least. And the table with its piles of music, photograph albums, random (or are they?) magazines and collections of Tolstoy, seems to have been left just as if George and Monica had started to tidy up but abandoned it in the middle.

Coming down to the library, you feel as if you're at the very end of the castle, hidden away beyond the once-noisy ballroom and just down from the South Wing where Lady Monica had her rooms.  You go through a special door to get to it, past the half-tarpon, the stuffed caipercaillie and the relief map of Rum made in the 1890s and still used today, through all the corridors in the semi-darkness (it's always very difficult to find the light switches in the castle even if they are working, so it's generally quicker just to not bother looking for them). It's cold. I've crept in on a dark, rainy day and although it's still a few hours to sunset, the room is already full of shadows, too dark to read except with a torch.  There are no working lights - I will have to bring a lamp next time.  The stuffed eagle and his victim, the hare, are just dark outlines against the turret window.

But despite the dark, the loneliness and remoteness, the library is a curiously homely place.  Once through the door, you see the old stuffed armchair with the velvet falling off; the faded chaise-longue in the middle of the room; the china warriors eternally wrestling each other; the stuffed eagle with its hare, not really what you'd think of first for a library decoration; and the alarming picture of John Bullough, who is ever present in the castle and on Rum generally.  John Bullough, George's millionaire, patriarchal papa, said to have been kind to his workers and cruel to his wife; John Bullough who alone of all their family is buried alongside George and Monica at Harris; John Bullough whose remaindered  "Speeches, Letters and Poems" fill the spaces behind George and Monica's books in the library, seemingly propping up the bookshelves and hardly to be avoided at every turn; looking distinctly unread.
Library on a sunnier day
Somehow this is almost a casual room, almost an afterthought. The many copies of sporting magazines and conventional Dictionaries of National Biography, Encyclopaedia Britannicas and Collected Works of Walter Scott (47 huge books!), live cosily alongside one bookcase full of "Lives" of Great Women, queens, empresses and mothers of kings, and tattered French paperback novels (which I henceforth call "Monica's Bookcase"), another bookcase full of "Great Men," huntin', shootin' and fishin' manuals and books on exotic travel ("George's Bookcase"). Some of the huntin' manuals have crept across on to "Monica's" side.  I don't suppose she minded, she enjoyed shooting and fishing and probably hunting as well. There is a whole bookcase full of English novels, too - mostly early to mid-twentieth century with surprises such as E.F.Benson (complete?) and Oscar Wilde (the collected works of).  I will have to try hard not to steal them!

Most interestingly, the bookcase behind the door has a lower shelf where more personal things seem to have "found a home" - crammed in, shoved on top of other books or just left askew in the middle of it all.  These include "Monica's Lie Book" (a notebook where Monica has invented a character, Nenette, who is writing to an imaginary "Aunt"; but Monica seems to have got bored after three or four letters and turned to identifying game birds instead).  Also a travel journal by George of travels to Madeira, with pictures and notes.  George's school books.  A Bridge book where Monica has recorded her games with Hermione (her daughter) and unidentified guests.  And the original Kinloch Castle Library inventory, written by Monica.  Her flourishing hand is now becoming familiar.
Library inventory - additions by Monica
I come across it again, I think, in a photograph album of men wounded in the Boer War and sent for convalescence to George's yacht, the "Rhouma", which he turned into a hospital ship for the second War.  Monica has labelled the photographs "patients on the S.Y. RHOUMA" and added in in the only annotation to one of the photos, "Fisher Childe's grave - found by George" (besides the pictures of patients, there are a few photographs of the South African veldt and graves of soldiers killed in action). Otherwise, the men in the photos are not identified; nor are the two boys at the end, posing with an older man and three stags' heads.    
Unknown patients on the Rhouma; the right-hand photograph labelled "Mitchell"

Boys, stags, man
I have been transcribing the Rhouma's hospital lists, that tell us about the men wounded in the war, their rank, type of injury and where it happened, before they were sent to the Rhouma to get better.  Some are fascinating: Private J. Jones (the vast majority are "Private" rank), injured at Rosebank Camp while "breaking in raw Argentine horses".  Or Private E.C. Whanstall, of the 7th Inniskill Dragoons, shot in the foot: the doctor remarks, "Bullet passed between first toes, under next two and out between little toes".  Besides "Privates", there are "Gunners", "Bugle Boys" and even one "Civilian".  It's also fascinating to see the number of "Drivers" in the new R.A.M.C.; and from how many different parts of the world they came, from New Zealand and Canada to the West Riding of Yorkshire. 

Hospital list book
I didn't know anything at all about the Boer War until I started to look at the records, but George was fascinated by it.  Although there is a collection of Winston Churchill's early works in the Library, there is virtually nothing about either the First or Second World War.  I'd never thought about the impact of the Boer War on people's lives around 1900; how important it was and how it was THE war for George's generation. (He was just too old to fight in the First World War and died just before the Second).  One thinks of Edwardians - especially these ones - as somehow complacent, living in a kind of security unimaginable after 1918.  But the men in the pictures are scarred by "their" war too, would have seen their friends die and been frightened of dying themselves. 

I wish I could understand better how people thought; what was going through their minds; what   their ideals were.  When writing about the Bulloughs some people take on a tone of implicit mockery or criticism - they were so rich, they must have been naive, decadent, bizarre.  But I want to know what they were actually like. What motivated them.  How George saw his own life - growing up rich, but "nouveau riche", part of Society through wealth not birth.  What was that like in 1900?

To try to find out I aim to transcribe all the things in the Library that George or Monica wrote themselves.  Something that doesn't seem to have yet been done in its entirety (though I may be records turn up all the time).  I want to do this.  But it's a little bit like entering into a ghost world.  Sometimes they seem more real here than I do. It was their castle, after all.  They often seem, particularly on these dark autumn days, to be just around the corner, or living in a parallel universe where it may be raining outside, but they are taking tea in their conservatory, or playing billiards in the smoking room.  Their things - their china, their chairs, their stags' heads, their tennis rackets and even their boots and George's kilt - have not been put away. I know myself that once someone is dead, their "things" are empty - but in this case it feels different, perhaps because I never knew the owners in real life. Perhaps because their things haven't been moved, or have been loved, they have kept an aura of the people who owned them.  Not as ghosts, but in the space where our imagination runs forward - or backwards - to try to understand what their things tell us. The difference between them and us is what binds us together.

3rd November - Snow and fire - time to sparkle


This morning, my hair smells of smoke and then, of snow. Hailstones have been falling down the chimney and the wind is so loud we can't sleep at night. Winter is upon us and this morning there is snow on the mountains across the bay.  The tide has gone as far out as I've ever seen it - there's a new moon.  White gulls circle the rocks and black crows follow them, ready to finish off whatever they leave.

Bonfire on the shore
Last night we celebrated Bonfire Night, warding off the storms and darkness with a giant fire on the edge of the sea. Because of the storm, it wasn't decided until 4 pm whether we'd actually go ahead with it or not and now we have, the flames are roaring and a huge shower of sparks is blowing across to the hut where the food and drink is being stored.  When we arrive I realise I'd like to have my camera and have forgotten it, so I decide to brave the road back to the castle.  There's just me and my head-torch and shadows everywhere.  Beyond the radius of the torch everything is completely invisible...Other lights come towards me - we can't see each other but say hello anyway.
Once back, we stand well away from the fire, which is (to start with) about three metres high and rapidly devouring the random bits of furniture, old bits of boat and shed planks that have been put on it.

Outside the hut, a barbecue competes with the fire, Sandy and Fliss bravely daring the flames and soot to cook us sausages.  A mysterious figure disguised in a huge yellow sou'wester and hat goes backwards and forwards in the distance setting up the fireworks - Sean.  The children are hugely excited and running about in the mud with sparklers.  Otherwise it's really difficult to tell who anyone is - everyone is wearing so many layers that it takes a while to work out who's hiding under those headtorches, macs and hats. Every now and then we run across - or through - the spark shower to grab another drink.  And every now and then the wind changes direction and we're all caught in it.  This morning I have got what looks like sunburn, but in fact is fire-burn!

The shed...luckily not on fire!
From fire to snow to hail - we are living as close to the elements as we can...

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