Island Blog 97 – Island People


working women


Saturday is changeover day and this day is the last one in August.  It’s the time of the year when everyone in the tourist business grows weary of it all and yet has another month or so, perhaps longer still to go, before turning in for a well-earned rest.

I remember it well and I also remember how I managed to get through it all.  Not with gadgets but with people at my side; island people, who are the best sort of people, with a laugh in their mouths and a twinkle in their eyes;  their hands roughened by hard work, their arms strong enough to bat away anything unnecessary and their ability to dance new life into tired bones.

In my book, Island Wife, I sincererly hope I have honoured them all.  To be honest, I could not have managed without any of them for they taught me to laugh at myself, to take myself lightly, myself and the world around me.  They knew hard times and they knew good ones and the good ones they did know, they created spontaneously.  Where I might have seen a crack in the structure of something, like a plan, or a wall, they showed me the light inside it, and through their eyes, I learned to see it too.

Each Saturday one of us would drive down to the village to collect the problem solvers, with their sandwich lunches wrapped in paper and their smiles already in place. Together we began and ended our day, moving from one place to another, changing endless beds, laying endless fires, clearing out the old to prepare for the new.  We always worked to beat the clock, for if there was ever a ‘given’ on a changeover day, it was that nothing was sure and everything else was.

I remember one day climbing the steep track up to one cottage with a baby in the back of the landrover, snug in his moses basket, and wedged safely between two gas cylinders.  It was probably August, as I remember thinking the track had grown weary of holding itself together and was showing signs of giving up.  The early Autumn rains hadn’t helped and we bounced over stones and potholes, splashing through a tract of water that had escaped from the burn, now in spate.    After one particularly big bump, when my feet rose clean off the floor, and breakfast threatened to reappear, the back door of the landrover sprung open and one full cylinder took off into the air and disappeared down the hill making a great deal of noise.

I gasped and cried out.  For me, it was a disaster, but not for the women lined up on the back seat.

There goes the baby!  chuckled one and suddenly the vehicle was filled with laughter and light and there was no sign of any crack at all.

As I clambored out to check on the sleeping babe, I heard the rushing water, saw the copper of the bracken, the white currant bushes heavy with fruit, heard the music of the wild birds among the trees and suddenly I knew everything was alright.

Everything always was – with the Island people beside me.

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