Island Blog – A 3 Frock Day

The wind is up and my wheelies are dancing. Only yesterday I freed them from their storm restraint, a rope affixed around their bellies and secured to my fence with chandler’s hook thingies that would normally keep boats from taking off to Holland. I forget their names. I was certain the gales had stopped and it laughs me as I watch the newly freed and recently emptied bins having a blast out there. My fence is smirking at me, I know that look. As a new gust, circa 40 knots, barrels up the loch, one bin, then the next open and shut their mouths. I can’t hear what they say but they are definitely talking. Or laughing.

It’s a three frock day for me, as I cannot risk going out there with anything light and floaty. Light and floaty could bring on an exposure I would rather not experience and nor would anyone else who happened to be nearby. And yet walking in high winds is exhilarating so I will still go out to watch the skinny trees bend towards each other, towards me, creaking and groaning like old women at a WRI meeting. There’s always lots of chat on gale days. The mail might not arrive and the ferry may not run. We are used to this even if it is an infuriation to the best laid plans. Deciding to pop over to the mainland for a shopping spree can lose its shine if a person is still over there 3 days later without a spare pair of knickers and a dog shut up at home. We live dramatically on the island. Nothing is ever a given and I think that’s what makes us so enterprising and so ready to help each other out.

There was no indication yesterday afternoon that a gale was filling its lungs in preparation for a dawning onslaught. The barometer read ‘Set Fair’, and this morning it shouts ‘Hooligan’. I don’t mind so much if I have warning, the time to batten down flapping things, but coming all of a sudden is just plain rude. Birds are flying backwards or in scoops and dives and the bird seed is half way out to sea by now. The feeders swing like ships lanterns in a force 10 and any bird that dares to catch on must feel bilious. I do, just watching them and am very thankful that I can eat a poached egg from a dependably calm and static plate.

The sea-loch is a rise of spume and irritable wavelets, wind blasting over the incoming tide, a conflict of interest. Geese honk over the house and I have no idea how they manage to stay the right way up. If I was up there I would be spinning like a top. It’s hard enough to remain the right way up with two feet on the ground and 3 frocks for ballast. But the weather up here is what keeps me balanced which may sound bizarre until you understand that the capricious sudden-ness of it has become the norm. When visitors rapture on about a beautiful sunshine day of calm and tweeting, they don’t see the truth. Make the most of today, I smile at them. Tomorrow could lose someone their garden shed. They eye me as they might a crazy woman. Sometimes they decide to move up here based on the untruth and then they meet the winter which begins in November and might possibly depart mid May. Endless rain, persistent gales to excite the wheelie bins and power cuts are all a given but we who know this are usually prepared. We have nourishing soup on the hob, loads of frocks and a great attitude. Or we don’t live here at all.

I could live nowhere else.

Island Blog – November days, Petals and Butterfly wings

Today, November paid a visit, bringing with her a socking great gale and heavy rain. As I forget, mostly, the name of the month we currently inhabit, the last 3 being much the same as the one before, I did wonder, for just a moment, if everyone else knows it’s November and here I stand bare-legged in my cotton frocks feeling puzzled. No, no, don’t be a twit. You know it’s not November. But what month is it? The calendar on the wall will ground me. It’s still May, our island month of steady sunshine, warm nights, petals remaining affixed to their parent stems. Well, inside it is, but out there where maple leaves are scooting into the sky and birds are being blown off fence posts, I feel justified in my ditherment. The sweet pea seedlings I lovingly sank into the goodly ground just yesterday afternoon, the sun burning my neck, the ticks crawling towards me like I was a surprise picnic, must be very upset. I watch the seedlings flee this way and that, their roots holding, just. I had put off releasing them into the elements for way too long, thinking cheeky frost, and was understandably seduced by a few days of soft sunshine and calm. Actually it is not just the sweet peas who feel cheated. I’m feeling it too.

It has blasted on the whole day and is still blasting. This gale is enough to send boats a-scatter, lift waves into grabbing hands, turn underpinnings, left on a line in the sunshine cocoon of yesterday, into cotton-mix butterflies to land who knows where. Nobody will ever admit to owning them anyway, not once they’ve made public the size and width of the owners bottom. You could hardly Facebook’ Has anyone received delivery of a pair of baggy greys that once were white about ten years ago, or a bra with reinforced cups for the sag factor? No, indeed. I should have gone to M&S a while back.

This crazy November mayday has something to teach me. I look out through the rain-bashed windows and whisper to my newly planted seedlings, as I did to my children, so long ago, You can survive this. You can grow, you can fly and precisely because of this November gale in the May of your life. Many won’t, but you will. You might flip backwards off a fence post you thought gave you a solid base (could be a friend, a work colleague, a boss, even a route home) but you have wings. The thing about that blackbird I saw who spread his wings at just the wrong gust and who flipped like a tiddlywink into the fist of the wind, is that he knew he could fly out of it, find the temperate safety of low-below and who could gather his feathers again. We can all do that. We just need to remember we have wings too, not visible, but there anyway. The drudge listening of the factual news is all about how we will ‘cope’ after this lockdown time is done. I shake my head at all of it. Cope? Are we victims of this time? I say No. I say we are marvellous and colourful inventive humans who will find wings we never knew we had on our backs. I say we may be scared, because ‘out there’ now is not the ‘out there’ we hitched our wagons to and that is fine. It’s ok. We are so ‘flipping’ resourceful, it is almost embarrassing.

Let us consider this. In the swatch of material, that little square we cannot escape for now, the flow of colour can make new swirls; the limitations of the square will never confine us. We will out. We always did.

And we always will.

Island Blog 30 – Force 10 and Rising

'Force 10'

‘Force 10’

Photograph courtesy of James Fairbairns

Today it’s cold, sleety and wet and with a gale forecast, again, and the maudlin in me could take over if I was less than vigilant.  The thought of going for a good brisk walk, or even just driving Miss Daisy down to the shop, makes my neck sink deeper into the high neck of my big woolly jumper of which I am more than heartily sick.  Although I do need to cover myself from neck to bottom and beyond, every day from the moment I rise, wear fisherman’s socks over my chilblains and a big jacket just to feed the birds, I still look longingly in my ‘skimpy’ drawer.  Strappy tee-shirts, a pair of shorts, silly frou-frou tops, a short denim skirt.  When did I ever wear any of them?  When was it ever warm enough, or when did my pale blue skin ever allow such nudity?

It wasn’t that long ago, I tell myself, as I shut the drawer on my finger.  Fingers move slower in the cold, and sometimes, too slowly to avoid being shut in drawers or doors, or knocked painfully against surfaces that somehow seem softer in the warm sunshine.  Conversations are all about how-to-pay-the-bills and who ran up this cost anyway? And everyone I meet is aching or has lost their greenhouse, and it’s not over yet.  We are exhausted being so positive, but therein lies the key.  Whether you believe in global warming, or not, have a faith or not, there is a spirit within us all that keeps us going and we are glad of it.  We are tough cookies and built to survive, no, more than that, to laugh at ourselves, our situations, our daily disasters.  We can lift, cheer and support each other, just as we are designed to do, and it is the stuff of life.  In cheering you I am cheering me.   Whatever gales and tempests have assailed us and will assail us yet, whatever gets flattened or damaged, torn or ruined, we have ourselves and our sense of humour and we can share both every single day.

So, I tell myself, stand up girl, and be counted. This is much ado about nothing.

‘Life is either a daring bold adventure or it’s nothing at all’

I am off to bake a chocolate cake, visit someone, and tomorrow, I think I’ll wear my jumper inside out.

Island Blog 26 – Safe and Sound

They said there would be no ferries as the wind was forecast to rise beyond acceptable bouncing-over-water limits. At such times, ordinary old waves suddenly turn into the Salt-water Alps, and we struggle to hold down our children, our cars and our skirts. Words are snatched from open mouths and everyone wishes they had gone to a health spa in Basingstoke, including me. I may be married to the ocean through my family, but she and I have had plenty of disagreements over the years.  Trouble is, she is way more confident than I am and with the wind up her tail, she can batter ordinary law-abiding folk to their limits.

We decided we would set off anyway, although the ‘we’ part of that is never the result of a discussion. When I married my husband, he became ‘we’ and I remained ‘I’. So we set off because we always set off. To not set off is to be a big girl’s blouse, and we don’t do them in our house.  Even the girls don’t.  To show fear is to appear weak. To hesitate is to be run over.

We spent a happy ten minutes behind a huge mucky lorry, and, having left home a rather cute sky blue, we gradually turned brown in the spray from its many wheels.

What a lovely gentle speed, I yelled over the hysterical blapping of the windscreen wipers. One of them hesitated mid blap. This is it, I thought, and waited for it to ping into orbit.

The moment passed.

Then so did we. Well, he did. I just closed my eyes as we plunged into the brown darkness on the wrong side of a very narrow road.

We passed gritters and snow ploughs, and tourists at viewpoints, holding on to each other to avoid flying over the edge. Anoraks billowed out like kites and nobody looked like themselves, as nobody ever does in woolly hats, scarves and multi-coloured mountain jackets, their hoods pulled right up tight.  I have walked past family in the winter with no flicker of recognition. All I can see are a fistful of features peeping out from the dark.

Eventually we arrived at the ferry point and could see its beak was closed.

We were not to get home this day.

Now, settled in a warm little hotel sipping tea and watching the storm dancing through the wide windows, I find it all rather exciting.  Home will still be there tomorrow and we are safe.

I think of the homeless on the cold streets of a cold city before I sit down to write.

 

Ferry Cancelled