The Seventh Week

We are about to enter our seventh week of lockdown.

I’m getting quite used to our new normality. Of course I miss restaurants, galleries and live music a little, but the truth is that we didn’t used to do these things that often.

I find myself baking and cooking much more than normal with four hungry adults in the house. We’re going to roll out of lockdown, I suspect, based on the trays of brownies, shortbreads and breads that we’ve been eating. Whether it’s comfort eating or what, we’re certainly eating a lot.

Where I’d normally do a supplementary shop each week to top up on bread and fresh vegetables, I can’t do that now, restricted to one delivery slot a week by the online supermarkets and not wanting to send anyone out on an inessential journey.

I have to plan ahead meticulously to ensure I don’t forget anything essential. It’s made me more careful and certainly more creative, substituting ingredients where I don’t have exactly what I need.

I made a malt loaf last week, my first ever, and couldn’t get black treacle for love nor money for some reason. Baking goods such as flour, yeast, eggs and sugar have all been really tough to get. So I substituted a few tablespoons of pomegranate molasses instead and it tasted delicious. The smugness at my own ingenuity was not pretty to see.

Bread baking skills have been essential, so I’ve been baking rolls, baguettes and loaves, finding some brilliant basic recipes. The offspring aren’t fans of sourdough so there’s been less of that.

In the first few weeks of lockdown I couldn’t get a supermarket shop at all, and resorted to midnight trawling of websites to see who would deliver what. As a consequence we’ve found the worlds best sausages from a farm shop in Lincolnshire (seriously good), and a South East London butcher whose beef is to die for. Small producers, both, with care for their animals at the heart of their production.

The experience has been so good that from now on that’s where my pork, beef and sausages will come from. I think that anything that we can do to help support small farms or producers at this time is a good thing. Once up in Skye we’ll source local equivalents and eat them less often to make it affordable.

It’s heartbreaking to think of how many small makers and companies will go to the wall in these tough times.

Stay safe, and I hope that you are all managing to survive this new reality, however temporary it may be.

The kindness of strangers

We haven’t really met our new neighbours yet on the island.

Through sleuthing and other nefarious means, I’ve tracked down a few of them on Facebook and Instagram, and reached out to make connections. It’s felt like a way of keeping in touch with our dream and starting the process of getting to know people, even if we can’t be there right now.

Almost everyone has been warmly welcoming.

One particular couple have gone out of their way to send us frequent photos from our croft on sunny days, and videos of the local shoreline or the burn with the soothing sounds of water in the background to keep our spirits up.

I can’t tell you how uplifting it is to receive such kindness.

At times it seems that our whole world is on hold through this pandemic, and the thoughtfulness of strangers who send pictures and videos, along with messages of encouragement and welcome is wonderful beyond words.

Thankyou, Di and Ruud. We look forward to getting to know you better once we are on the island later this year. It’s so good to have you as neighbours.

Using the time wisely

As the weeks move on and progress inches along slowly, I try and keep my resolve strong and hold onto the dream by looking back at why we are doing this and using my time in active preparation for our new life.

Photos and videos that we’ve taken of the croft help me to reconnect. Endless lists and plans scribbled in notebooks also help. We are making progress, even if it seems painfully slow at this stage.

πŸ’We hope to have confirmed costs in this next week.

πŸ’The builder has visited the plot and is firming up initial estimates.

πŸ’We have a Quantity Surveyor appointed who is managing the activities around the build.

πŸ’We have the window and doors ordered, along with the request to start SIP panel production.

Yet somehow, until we break ground and I see something tangible, like the access road or the foundations for the house, it doesn’t seem real…

In the meantime, I re-read my books on bread making, jam making and crafts, all things that I hope to happily fill my time with once we are in our new home. I plan for years out when we have hedgerow fruits and can make blackberry wine!

I resist the temptation to peak too soon and buy demijohns, which we’d only have to cart a thousand miles to the island..

I create mood boards and source paint colours. I find floor tile and wood samples and try and decide remotely what will look best in the space and the light, balancing practicality with design.

We plan endless potential uses for the old barn on the croft. Book barn, accommodation, studio, willow weaving shed, brewery… I think we’re up to around 400 potential uses for it so far 😬. It’s become our family joke. I think it’s because it’s the only actual building on the land, however tumbledown. At least it’s real.

I think of my studio and all the things that I will create once I have the time and mental space to do so – canvases, textile works, sculptural objects, things with driftwood and beach finds. I’ve commissioned a weaving for the wall.

I dream about the croft. I think about how it will look once we have thousands of trees planted and birds and wildlife start to return to the land. I dream of those beautiful views across the sound, and the sheer magical peace of the place.

And I try and use the final months here in productive preparation. Organising the recovering of my bargain sofas for the house. Sourcing a local stone sculptor to make our house sign. Researching where we can find the cheapest scaffolding boards on the island. Thinking of buying a car suitable for the roads on Skye. Contacting the forestry commission and woodland trusts. Sourcing firewood. Registering the croft.

It’s coming, we tell ourselves. Hold on.

Urban Life Pruning

Husband and I have what I think of as a typical, complicated, overloaded modern existence, made worse by the coalition of our previous lives into one when we married three years ago.

With the relationship came lots and lots of stuff accumulated over many years from previous houses, studios and flats. Far too much stuff, to be honest.

We have multiples of everything and many thousands of books. It became clear when we started planning the move to our croft that we had to start pruning our possessions before we moved. Because what we’re building is a small house on Skye which hasn’t got a hope in hell of holding it all.

So it began this week.

To be honest, after a long, hard day at work the last thing that either of us want to do is carry boxes up from the garage and sort through them, but we’ve set ourselves the goal of five boxes a week.

Every week for the rest of this year.

We’re already looking at bulk loads of bin bags and the local charity shops are going to love us πŸ˜‚…..

It’s like a penance….

If this doesn’t cure us of a tendency to buy too much or hang onto things that we don’t need, I don’t know what will!