7th April - "The season" is nearly upon us - in more ways than one!

Nearly ready to go...but not quite there yet...Garden with our polytunnel in the background

It has been a busy week with things starting to "warm up" ("warm" is maybe not quite the right word yet) for the season to start.  The ferries have "changed over" leading to much confusion - when do I order my veg again? (Thursdays!).  Why have the trains changed but are still not coordinated?  Will we manage to organise ourselves in time for the onslaught of visitors?  First visitors arrive, looking confused and slightly daunted, while days veer dramatically between brilliant sunshine and torrential rain. Everyone is slightly tetchy, things need to be in place but they aren't all yet, we know we need to plan properly but it is daunting outside the context of a "proper job" where so much is often organised for you, or the structures are ready made.  I feel clueless much of the time, but all those years as a PA help!  I have been making plans with Debs for our tea-shop, improvisation being the name of the game so that we don't end up spending too much before we even know how our cafe will work.  We both have a vision of a really enjoyable, homely place to eat and drink really good food, home-made cakes, proper coffee (very important!), local produce, selling Debs' excellent marmalade and hopefully, other islanders' produce, even people's art work, if we can persuade them to display it.  It looks as though Mel's work along with the Visitor Management Group has paid off and the Isle of Rum is anticipating a publicity and tourism boom in spring, so we are trying to up our expectations accordingly, rather than just catering for the odd lost person or two who has got caught in the rain...

The RCA meeting where all this was discussed was very positive, although with the mood on the island last week I was dreading it...arguments seemed destined to happen, but in the end they didn't.  Everyone liked our idea, and maybe some people will even pick up the other days so that we have a tea-shop regularly.  Debs and I have asked SNH if we can use things from the old castle hostel, there is loads of stuff in the old cellar - a formal agreement will, hopefully, be signed.  Then we will have cafetières!  And ramekins! How civilised!  Planning the food orders on the other hand will be complicated - we can't just run to Tesco's or Sainsbury's if we run out, we have to think ahead, at least 2 weeks ahead.  But I feel a tea-shop is somehow my destiny, ever since I got here people have asked me to do it...so the pressure is on!

Seedlings waiting to be transplanted! 
Maybe people's moods are because of that strange time in spring when it feels like everything should happen, but it's not quite there.  So with our seedlings.  Some have come up, some haven't and I am dying to put them all out in the actual garden, but don't yet have the necessary equipment; it is proving near impossible to find anywhere that supplies stuff, at an affordable rate, to the islands.  Even reliable Johnston's in Mallaig only has a few things in (and whenever I ring up they get extremely anxious: "Er, gardening? Don't know if we've got anything this week...") and nowhere seems to sell watering cans.  I've asked on the island for any second-hand stuff, but only Mike has responded, offering us his old wheelbarrow.  I am hoping for a wheelie bin to collect rainwater, but who knows whether it will happen?  So I am getting those well-known spring urges...to visit garden centres!

Well, we are off to Inverness next weekend, so perhaps there we can visit not only garden centres but also cafes, tea-shops, gift shops (any shops are fine to be honest), museums, castles (and do a castle tour ourselves!), exhibitions about the Loch Ness Monster (Mel is giddy already), City Trails and tourist information centres! We will feel like people with lives outside the island...difficult to envisage sometimes.  Now that I nearly have a "proper job" here I understand why for Mel, being here is a 24/7 affair, not one you can put down at the end of the day.  Wherever I go I meet people who start talking about work - because nearly everything here is work - and there is never any let-up from island politics, island grumbling, island ideas and island gossip.  I feel my understanding of Miss Marple's world is deepening day by day...small communities have their own psychology, their own needs and their own developmental patterns, some of which really remind me of how village life used to be in England (or how I imagine it was).  Status anxiety, not about what you own or how big your car is, but about who you are on the island; power is always an issue no matter what kind of community you live in. People need it in different ways - some need to feel that they have their own lives in order, and can keep these private and separate, others need to feel they have some control over others, others need to feel they are influencing a community in some way, good or bad, while others just keep out of it all.  This isn't bad or good, just the way things are, and it is good to come to understand your own way of dealing with it and how you yourself fit in; I haven't quite worked it out yet, I veer between staying out of everything and wanting to be "in on" everything, while knowing that neither will work for me - I need my own niche. 

Geese relaxing, or maybe considering their position

Willow "arches" - a bit bendy
Of course, sometimes we just all relax and it doesn't matter so much, if at all.  It's nice just to sit in the sun, drinking beer or fizzy pop and staring at the sea.  It's wonderful to have time for gardening, cooking, writing and just being quiet.  And it's fun improvising...again like being eight years old, I am becoming a scavenger...as you can't buy a lot of things here from shops, you have to make it up!  I have been scrounging what I can for the tea-shop, and making the most of old tarpaulins, breeze blocks and left over bits of wood for shelves for the polytunnel.  Behind the old walled garden is an abundance of willow, which we've used to make arches for the plants.  Water is more of a problem...there's so much of it on Rum, yet it's so difficult to harness.  I need a big plastic  tub, or even a bath, to keep it in! (And not our own bath, obviously).  I hope the seedlings can bear with us until it is all sorted, and we can look after them properly.

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