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A world away

Our son Mike, whose decision to relocate to Scotland and make Carradale his home was made just a few months ago, is astounding both himself and us. Unlikely though this might have seemed when he first chose to move, he has found work here, regular and enjoyable work that will keep him active and healthy. Anywhere in the world this would have been impressive. In our tiny village this is astonishing and we are proud of him and his achievements. Each morning he is picked up by Matt, whose ancient red van is well known around these parts, and the pair of them drive off somewhere and work together through the rest of the day, largely engaged on cutting lawns at the homes of our residents and the holiday homes of our non-residents. If this sounds uninspiring, then put yourself in the position of someone who has spent the last five years working in the pressured environment of a busy call centre where you are treated like a piece of furniture, where you have to ask for permission to carry out basic bodily functions and are then threatened with losing your job for talking too long with callers who may only have called Mike's haircutin for a chat in the first place. Working out of doors at a steady pace in a fresh seaside environment whilst surrounded by beautiful forests and hills is suiting him just fine, indeed it is just what the doctor might have ordered. He is finding out for himself what we too have discovered… that once they know you are here, if they like you then the people draw you in to the community and will support you just as you support them.

Oh, and Mike has cut his hair too.

Kate in Carradale Bay

I now turn to the subject I can avoid no longer – I must write about Kate.

Her recent diagnosis (skin cancer identified in a mole on her left arm) has left her with a mix of emotions ranging from fear through anger to resignation and defeat and has crashed open the door to a new phase in her life. At this stage there is no ‘treatment’ as such, it is merely a matter of close monitoring, particularly for the next two years or so, in case further instances are discovered. But the shock of the discovery of this unwanted guest is profound, to her and to those around her. Exposure to the sun’s rays, never wise for the fair-skinned, now forever carries a far greater risk for her and this must be avoided in a way never before considered necessary. To someone who loves the outdoors as she does this has all come as a dramatic blow, such that the last month has been tough, with much soul-searching and self-analysis going on. But the diagnosis leaves no alternatives, no way out. The door behind her is closed for good.

Part of what she finds most distressing, of course, is the effect of her diagnosis on those of us who are close to her, those of us who must now pass through the same door to stay with her. Having Mike living with us has helped enormously in getting her though this since his arrival has brought with it changes and adaptations inside our house, pointing the way forward. In any event we do have considerable experience of changing course mid passage when a sudden squall threatens to overwhelm us. We are plotting our way towards a new destination and making radical choices along the way.

A sailing vessel of one kind or another has been a part of our lives together almost from the start and our present one, Cirrus Cat, has brought us through storms, tidal races, tumbling turbulence and through many a rocky close shave. Finally she brought us here to our home in Scotland. But soon our lovely red catamaran is going to be on the market for sale. No matter how much we enjoy sailing, we must all accept that for Kate, exposure to sunlight both from above and reflected from the water poses too great a risk for her. Exploring the land via the sea, something we have long taken great pleasure from, is just not an option any more.

This new chapter in our lives will be different from the last but in many ways we hope to achieve the same goals. We still yearn to explore this beautiful country, to peer into its remote corners and islands, to walk ourselves into the ground trying to climb its many peaks. So since boating is no longer an option we must travel by land and this time the shell we will carry with us is a motor caravan, or as the French would say, a ‘camping car’. To my way of thinking Scotland is the ideal place, in fact the only place where I would be prepared to drive such a large vehicle simply because the roads we intend to explore will be remote and relatively traffic free. I derive no pleasure from driving when it is accompanied by the stress of high volumes of traffic, but negotiating the back roads on Kintyre and elsewhere in the Highlands is often done without meeting a single vehicle… so the pleasure remains.

Then barely had we made this radical decision when fortune suddenly smiled upon us. FrontA tip-off pointed us towards just the very vehicle we need, at a good price, in superb condition and in Carradale too! It is a former minibus (although some might say it looks more like an ambulance), converted privately by the owner before sadly he became too ill to drive, and it is deliciously quirky inside, conceived in the owner’s mind and executed by him with a high standard of care. We feel instantly comfortable with the way the van is fitted out inside and are already imagining ourselves pulling off the road and bedding down for the night with the sound of the sea shushing close by and the wind rustling the trees. Maybe we will peer out at the stars, a whole Milky Way full of them, or just close our eyes in total darkness.

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