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Scotland, one year on

A year ago on 19th March, Kate and I moved into a house in the remote village that is Carradale, a place previously unknown to us, in a country we had visited but not inhabited, and into an entirely new way of life. For most of our lives up to this point we had been what can best be described as ‘nomads’ – having neither house nor area which we could honestly describe as ‘home’, not belonging to any one place. Perhaps if you are born in a town which has a strong identity of its own then this sticks to you even after you leave – you will always be a Liverpudlian or a Londoner. Maybe those who maintain contact with old friends in the place they were brought up in find it easier to think of this location as part of their own origin. But neither Kate nor I have ever kept in touch with old school-friends and as we have moved about from one location to another over many years we have made and lost touch with so many friends that this has become more the norm than the exception.

Although many people do turn out as we have, others might regard our way of life as quite strange; they would feel comfortable only when close to ‘home’. For us, however, throughout our working lives, hardly had we begun to put down roots in one place when something would come along which caught the eye, an opportunity to change or to take up some employment opportunity, and we would grab at it and follow it across country, east to west, north and south.Birch twigs in Torrisdale1 By the time we came to retire from work we had decided, so we thought, that we would be content to travel about endlessly on our boat, settling only temporarily during the winter months to catch our breath and prepare for the next sailing season. And so it continued for the first few years, our lives orientated around sailing with escapes every so often to meet up with one or other of our widely scattered family. Then quite suddenly, twelve months ago, we woke up one day feeling unsettled by the fact that we did not have a permanent base on land to come back to…. and this is how we are now living in Carradale.

Remembering back to last year (and also reading the blog entries we posted then) Icicles above TorrisdaleI can see it was a relatively dry Carradale we arrived at with enough warmth and sunshine to tempt us out exploring along the seashore before we had finished unpacking. Both of us can recall staring in awe and wonder at the scenery around us. With the anniversary of our arrival still a few weeks away the ground still needs to warm up and it is clear to see that it is holding far more moisture this year, moisture that as I write still drops out of the clouds just as it has done for many weeks. At this point we really cannot say whether this is the norm and last year the exception or whether the reverse is true. But neither do we really care because what the last year has taught us is to regard the weather in this place as neither good not bad, but always exciting. We take comfort from the fact that the house we have bought here has stood for many years and seen off so many gales in its past that it will continue to keep us safe too. It has a pleasant solid feel to it.

Just the other day we took another plunge towards permanence here by inviting a solar power installer to fit photo-voltaic panels on our south-facing roof. More than almost anything else you can do to a property, this is a long term decision as the financial payback for the investment will not occur for many years (if ever). Nevertheless we feel that this is a change we must make; each time the sun shines it feels like we are wasting something. We know that being in Scotland, the power of the sun is less than in southern Britain, for example, and this means less electricity will be generated by our roof. To compensate, however, we live in an area which is pollution-free, our air arriving fresh off the Atlantic and often nicely scrubbed by nice clean rain. Torrisdale sheepClean air lets in more light, of course, so we can expect a better performance from our solar array than if we lived in a city. There are, so it seems, just too many variables for anyone to predict accurately how much benefit we will get once they are up and running. The best we can do is to measure what electricity we do get and smile smugly at our neighbours, most of whom will probably think we are slightly insane. One thing is certain, however. News of the installation will fly around this village like a wild rumour – news, good or bad, travels fast here – and it will be interesting to see what this leads to.

Twelve months ago Cirrus Cat languished miles away in a boatyard in Cornwall, lonely although not forgotten. This winter she rests in the marina car park in Tarbert so I have begun the long overdue task of scraping many layers of antifouling paint from her twin bottoms. Bottom scraping half doneBy any stretch of the imagination this is a miserable and thankless task as crouched between the hulls I work away with a scraper showering the ground with scrapings and filling the air with blue dust. I emerge after an hour or so stiff and sore, damp from lying on the ground and looking like an extra from a sci-fi movie. Using the tool two-handed I have to apply considerable pressure to cut my way through at least five or six layers of blue and several layers of black paint down to a white primer applied after the boat was epoxy treated many years ago. Trying to create a smooth surface whilst avoiding scratching the surface or cutting down too far, all the while kneeling or lying beneath the hull, is just about as physical a task as anyone would wish but this is the sort of punishment that all boat owners must endure for their hobby. Just part of the fun really!

The pressure is on now as we have been given a date for the lift-in, when a crane is booked, boats are lifted back into the water and the car park is restored to its summer use. Having this date will focus the minds of the owners of all the boats around us so we can expect company over the coming weeks as we all prepare for launching.

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