A hop, Skip and a Killinallan

The farm has been ‘bubbling over’ with guests and visitors this week. What a welcome back to Persabus.
Autumn happens to be one of my favourite times of year on the island. The colours are so incredibly rich and vibrant. The sky could not possibly get any bluer, and those huge, white billowing clouds, dancing across the horizon are quite simply stunning. Storms come and go and we get to experience all four seasons in a day, sometimes in an hour. Our hardy campers then appeared to have a tent straight out of the ‘Three Little Piggies’ children’s tale. No amount of ‘huffing and puffing’ from the gales swirling round their tent in the night, or the outbursts of torrential downpours that caused flooding as Lily Loch burst its banks again, curtailing our American guest’s morning jog, could blow that tent down. That tent provided a warm, cosy shelter for three nights and thankfully the happy campers had an absolute ball exploring all that Islay has to offer.
Our lambs were heading away to the market on the mainland on Wednesday, with the wild winds threatening to curtail livestock movement. The Happy Chappies from down the road were around to lend the Happy Farmer a much needed hand. The Handsome farmer and Mr Peaty were up with a trailer to collect Highland cows. They arrived just in time for bacon rolls as the Happy Farmer was holding court in the farmhouse kitchen cooking up breakfast feasts for all of our guests. The books were getting done and the roller iron was positively whirling off its hinges as laundry done, sheets were folded and pressed, as Mairi worked her magic. Archie bread called by with pies and supplies of Stornaway Black pudding, jams, butters, flour and so on as supplies were restocked. All of this energy and a happy stream of visitors called for many cups of coffee and much hearty craic around the farmhouse kitchen table. At the end of the day, just when the Happy Farmer had those wellington boots kicked off at the door, and those green woolly socked toes toasting happily in front of a roaring fire, Mr Hydro appeared, straight off the ferry, bearing gifts from the Auction Market at Stirling. A new tup for Persabus. Like lightening, the Happy Farmer was out of that seat, wellies on and into the darkness, to welcome the new arrival, and let Mr Hydro get on his way, before the commercial break was even finished.
The Pottery has also been a hive of creativity. With schools on half term break we have welcomed some lovely visitors. Gifts were being created ready for Christmas, not so many weeks away, yikes. Keepsakes were painted and I was transported along on a bubble of creativity as, with the pottery kitchen closed for winter, I too was able to experiment and create as ideas flowed through the paint brushes and onto the pottery pieces and a new range began to evolve.
The Killinallan Range captures one of my favourite corners of the island. It is a wild and beautiful inlet, where the sea flows into Loch Gruinart. It is a popular gathering place for the many seals that frequent the seas surrounding Islay. Huge groups of them lie fat bellied on the sandy banks in the middle of the Loch, occasionally belly flopping from the sand and into the sea Loch. Their barking chatter can be heard from all around. Golden sands stretch into the horizon, interspersed with small banks of seashells, which makes it a popular place for hermit crabs too. The sea is filled with cockles and razor clams, the rocks with limpets and mussels, which in turn attracts gulls and oystercatchers.
It is a beach filled with happy memories. A magical place. My excited clan would run and run along the sand, enjoying the absolute freedom, jumping down the sandy dunes on their way. With lots of fish darting about in the shallow waters, it was a place for buckets and fishing nets. Shells bleached by the sun and streams trickling across the sands all provided an exciting playground for my little ones. Sand castles were replaced, as those children grew, with life size horses being carefully sculpted into the sand.

Of course there are also the memories of the sheer hard physical effort of trying to prise tired toddlers from the shore, along with all of the assorted paraphernalia needing carried, when they simply did not want to leave their sandy haven at the end of the day. Then those rosy cheeks glowing as tired tots slept soundly the minute the car journey home began. A car filled with sand and the debris of sun cream, sunhats, damp towels, buckets and spades, as well as all of the ‘beach treasures’ their tiny hands had managed to collect that day. It was an exhausting happy time.
So when you see my splashes of colour across those painted pots, the dabbles and splodges that combine to capture my ‘Killinallan’, know that in my mind’s eye, those colours capture days spent where the turquoise seas envelope this incredibly special corner of Islay, capturing for me, the magic of an island childhood.
At Persabus we invite you to come and create lasting memories of your own. We invite you to come along, and stay in one of our cosy cottages, or have bed and breakfast in the farmhouse, and if you have the time, do pop along to the pottery, to simply browse, or I will guide you through the process of creating keepsake treasures of your very own ‘Islay time’.
Until next time…

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An Italian Happy Farmer

The blog came to a halt whilst on social media the Happy Farmer was a hot topic of conversation as he posed in his green woolly socks tucked into brogues, a perfect pairing, or so it would seem until you add the shorts!
We have taken time out. A ‘cheeky wee break’. A much-needed holiday squeezed in between a beautiful family wedding in Glasgow and then a fabulous Diamond wedding celebration on Islay.
Apologies for the silence, but how could I resist when the Happy Farmer scooped me up, popped me on a plane and whisked me away to Venice for a week of sunshine and relaxation in one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world? Hopping on a water taxi to get from the airport to our beautiful Venetian Hotel, and not a car in sight, was bliss.
We arrived in darkness and as the boat motored along the Grand Canal, the streets were twinkling with alfresco diners, lining the banks. In the morning I opened my eyes to angels on the ceiling, and at this point did wonder if the Happy Farmer had grown a set of wings in the night. Then sunshine, beautiful warm sunshine, lighting up gorgeous narrow streets, with tall, spectacular buildings, and curved stone bridges linking the alleyways and pathways between the canals. Large piazzas bustling with cafes and bars. The friendliness of the local people, and the pride they take in their wonderful city, the pasta, pizza and local wines all made for a perfect break away.
Nothing however topped the hospitality of Gimo and Jessica from Leo Vanin. I first met this lovely couple when they were visiting my little pottery studio back in February. They too are farmers and have a prosecco vineyard in Italy. When they heard we were visiting Venice a case of their lovely prosecco was shipped and waiting at our Hotel. Midweek we circumnavigated the busy Italian train system to travel to the lovely medieval city of Treviso to meet Gimo and Jessica. Our hosts treated us to a guided tour of their beautiful town, tucked away behind the high historic walls, and surrounded by a moat, the town is a maze of canals and old medieval buildings. Much to the Happy Farmer’s delight it is the home of Tiramasu and a traditional Italian dinner with Gimo and Jessica made for an incredibly special evening. Their hospitality is a lasting memory of this beautiful corner of Italy. We are already looking forward to welcoming them back to Islay where we will return their wonderful hospitality and enjoy their lovely company again.
Now no trip to Venice would be complete without stepping onto a Gondola and being taken on a magical journey through the waterways. Gondolas are a symbol of history, tradition and romance in Venice. So, sat in the low comfy cushioned seats of the narrow, flat bottomed boat, we were ably rowed by our Gondolier, our feet resting on the footstools. At this point it became apparent that the Happy Farmer had taken charge of his own holiday packing. He had not heeded my promise of a relaxing break, sitting enjoying the waterways and café life, probably wisely, as we walked over 10 miles on our first day (according to the Happy Farmer). As our legs stretched out on the Gondola my sandaled feet, complete with painted nails, were enjoying a break next to the Happy Farmer’s brogue clad feet, complete with woolly green socks. You have got to love a Happy Farmer on his holidays.
Arriving home to Islay off the evening plane on Friday, our taste buds were still tingling from tasty Italian feasts. We couldn’t resist stopping off at Peatzeria then for a few take away pizzas. Peatzeria, Islay’s Italian restaurant, is no secret on the island. Their consistently delicious food is simply irresistible. It is a regular haunt of ours and who knows just maybe that is what inspired the Happy Farmer to sweep me away to enjoy an Italian holiday.
Back at Persabus the sun was shining, and the farm was party central as the Happy Farmer’s relatives had come across on the ferry to join us for a weekend of celebrations. Islay and Margaret Campbell were celebrating sixty years of marriage with a huge party in Islay House. The family treated us all to a beautiful island ceilidh with performances from the island’s pipe band, the local Gaelic choir and highland dancers. There was singing and dancing, great company, fantastic food and hospitality and at the centre of these celebrations, a lovely Islay couple who married over sixty years ago. It was a beautiful celebration of love, romance, family and friendship.
Until next time…

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Taste Islay and Jura

It has been a week of climbing hills, giggling dogs, sunshine and smiles washed down with delicious produce from the Taste Islay and Jura food festival.

If you passed the pottery yesterday and it was closed it was because I was AWOL in Bowmore Square enjoying the celebrations and feast of flavours that the Taste Islay and Jura food festival unveiled. Hand dived scallops, harvested from the seas enveloping our island shores, seared in butter and served with crusty bread. The delicious scent of fresh, local lobster sizzling on a barbeque before being served up ‘naked’ or with a bisque or chilli sauce, thanks to the Kilted Lobster, and washed down with the nutty flavour of Colombian coffee as we were treated to the delights of local artisan Argyll Coffee Roasters who had made the short journey across from the mainland. My bag was laden with the freshest of produce from Nerabus Farm as young entrepreneurs Heather and Kevin were showcasing produce from the vegetable boxes they sell across the island and delicious strong cheese from the Isle of Mull cheese producers. Then there were the canapies from the talented foodie, Ghillie Basan, arriving on platters. Apricots stuffed with harissa paste and other delights, that left a myriad of flavours tingling on your tongue. Smoked salmon, venison and the most delicious home baked oatcakes laced with the exquisite smoky flavours of Laphroaig whisky from Emma at Glenegedale. The spicy chorizio and pork sausages from Porter’s Butchers, who were sharing new recipes as they showed off their vacuum-packed products allowing people to purchase a whole lamb for their deep freeze. A lamb born and bred on the Porter’s family farm on Islay.

In the nearby Harbour Inn it was a cocktail fest of gins, wines, whiskies and ales all produced on Islay. I was ‘driving’, and with the Happy Farmer, who would have happily partaken in sampling the ‘sweeties’ on offer, back at the farm, sailing the Good Ship Persabus, I just enjoyed soaking up the buzzy atmosphere as people huddled round the various stands enjoying sampling the best of Islay and Jura.

Back at the farm it has been a bit of a food fest too. Pheasant, casseroled with red wine, bacon, mushrooms, carrots and kale, simmering away in the Aga whilst I raced the Happy Farmer up to the top of the hill across from the farmhouse. With the cows in the fields, the dogs and I have made the most of the late afternoon sunshine and have gone for ‘after work romps’ up the hill. A hop skip and a bit of a jump and you are transported into a wilderness of hillocky terrain, a boggy burn to circumnavigate and quite a steep climb up to the beautiful panoramic views from the trig point on the farm. Our children spent their childhood playing out on the hill at Persabus. It provided a spectacular back drop for ‘Lion King’ adventures. Battles were fought with home-made bows and arrows; swords and shields made from sticks and ferns. Natural rocky outcrops were transformed into kitchens and houses in the vivid imaginations of our young family. Of course, if you are lucky enough to persuade the Happy Farmer to accompany you on the adventure you get treated to tales of memories of a childhood spent clambering up these hills to gather in the livestock. A quick ‘hello’ is necessary as we clamber past the Happy Farmer’s ‘Old Boy’, my lovely late father in law, who now rests peacefully out on the Persabus Hill.

Until next time…

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Happy Farmer Stories

The Happy Farmer has a skip in his step. We have such lovely guests staying with us on the farm just now. They love the Happy Farmer’s stories. He does seem to have his own unique way with words. I did smile listening to him sharing the story of Bramble, our collie Labrador cross, and how she is an absolute ‘pot licker’. Much to the Happy Farmer’s frustration she chooses her moment carefully to sneak away from the garden and take herself off to indulge in, what the Happy Farmer calls, a bit of fine dining, preferring the a la carte menu of the hillside. She invariably returns an hour or two later with her snout covered in soil, having spent the morning with her nose down a rabbit hole.
Or the Happy Farmer’s story recounting how a couple of German visitors called by the farm on their way to Bunnahabhain Distillery on a wet and wild day. They were absolutely ‘sodden’ and looking for somewhere to leave their kit, a couple of heavy backpacks, whilst they made their journey onwards to the distillery. In the Happy Farmer’s words they appeared with a couple of sheep each, clinging to their backs, and resembled a pair of Armadillos in the rain. He was heartened then when a few days later he bumped into the same couple in the centre of Glasgow, minus their heavy packs, and proceeded to take them to the whisky shop for some good Scottish hospitality.
Our guests this week have been enjoying the scenery and our farm location. They love animals. The Persabus menagerie have picked up on this, and as our guests admired the view from the farmhouse of the Sound of Islay, Ruby dog could be seen lying at their feet, with four legs in the air, wriggling on her back, a huge grin on her face. The cats have also found their way along to offer a warm ‘hello’. Even the Highland cows had their noses at the fence this morning to offer their welcome as our guests headed off to enjoy the north Islay distilleries just along the single-track road from Persabus.
It has been a busy time this last week getting around the logistics of our island location and relocating youngest back to university living on the mainland with her huge collection of luggage and absolute essentials. She does not believe in travelling light. We also had the logistics of getting essentials out to our son on the other side of the globe, enjoying Hong Kong living. It is great then when you have a best friend who just so happens to be stopping off for a night in Hong Kong on her way to support the Scottish rugby team in Japan. Our son seems to be getting very spoilt indeed. Last week he enjoyed fantastic hospitality from our lovely Hong Kong customers, who called by at our Islay pottery a couple of months ago. Living the high life, he was treated to an evening at a private bankers’ whisky club in one of the most spectacular buildings in Hong Kong. Such was their fantastic hospitality he now has an open invitation to call by anytime.
Islay is welcoming the world to its shores and we feel very grateful to connect with so many interesting and happy people calling by on their travels, so today if you happen to be passing, do give a wave to the Happy Farmer. He is instantly recognisable, resembling the ‘Abominable Snowman’ as he puts the finishing touches to his white washing programme, I think he must have been rolling in that paint today.
Until next time….

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Island Hopping…Islay to Macau.

With torrential rain and wild gales ferries and planes were cancelled as stormy weather arrived last week. Guests were stranded on and off the island and the farmhouse kitchen became a haven as Archie Bread and a few of the other drivers took refuge, much to the Happy Farmer’s delight. Youngest and I headed out with dogs in tow, in the eye of the storm, for a wild and woolly walk through the woods. The Loch had burst its banks and the path had become one long deep puddle, much to the dogs’ delight, as we waded our way along the track.

Then as quickly as the storm had arrived, it was gone, and on Friday we awoke to the most beautiful sunrise, and not a breath of wind. Summer had returned, allowing for the customary ‘coffee on the bench’ with the Happy Farmer, sitting for a moment in front of the farmhouse, soaking up the views across the sea, a mug of freshly ground coffee in hand, between the morning’s jobs. Islay’s answer to Starbucks in the city.

Hamishina, one of the Persabus cats, happily found her way home too, having gone AWOL for nearly a week. Eldest was home and had been out on the hillside calling to her sheep, and as they came running along, they were joined by one very happy little cat running alongside them. Eldest scooped her up and brought her back home to the farmhouse where she has remained ever since, sprawled out, sleeping off her week of adventuring and hunting out on the hill.

Today we made tracks out across the headland at Bunnahabhain. Walking along the track before scrambling through the bracken and heather, across the burn, and down to the pebble beach to see the seals on the rocks and enjoy a last bit of ‘Islay time’ before youngest heads back to university for another term.

In another world across the seas our son has been island hopping. I found myself escaping the stormy Islay weather last week when I read the article he had written for the charity he is working with…and couldn’t resist sharing his travels on the Persabus blog…he isn’t around to object after all. So sit tight and read on to enjoy his island experiences, Hong Kong to Macau.

Having been in Hong Kong for nearly two weeks, the day finally came when I had the opportunity to visit Macau. My first two weeks in Hong Kong had been an exciting, crazy, wacky (and very humid) adventure, and I had no idea what to expect from Macau. Only first hearing about it when I moved to Hong Kong, everyone that I’d spoken to had labelled it the “Las Vegas of Asia”. A former Portuguese colony, the main languages there were now Cantonese and Mandarin, and although they accept Hong Kong Dollars (HKD), they also have their own currency called Macanese Pataca (which you will receive back in change, so don’t bring $500 HKD notes with you!).

The first part of the journey involved an hour-long boat ride from Hong Kong island. Mist hung in the air that morning, and many of the undoubtedly beautiful views were hidden behind its curtain. Seeing the feint pillars of Hong Kong island and the green of some of the surrounding islands through the mist did have its own magic to it though (and I suppose the boat’s Wi-Fi and cinema-esque chairs helped as well).

The Vegas charm of Macau was evident the moment the land came into view; a grand casino sat near the water’s edge, almost welcoming us to its shores. Having never been a gambler before, I couldn’t wait to see inside a casino.

Casino-visiting, however, wasn’t the first thing on the list! Climbing aboard a local bus, we took a ride into the centre of the Macau’s old town and began our exploration. The Portuguese roots of the area were evident from the start. Getting off the bus, we were quickly surrounded by a jungle of winding, narrow roads and European-styled houses packed tightly together. The streets were bustling with people, and to say that we walked around would be a stretch, shuffling would probably be a better word to use. People crammed the pavements, whilst cars and motorbikes tried to squeeze through the narrow, single-track roads; it was a beautiful chaos.

We waded our way up the streets, finally reaching the ‘Ruins of St Paul’s’: a beautiful remnant of an old Portuguese church. It sat on a hill which gave us a beautiful view of the old town and also some of the casinos in the distance: Old and new combining into one view.

We then went to a local restaurant nearby and had food. Being in Macau, I felt compelled to have the ‘Macau pork chop bun’. I don’t think it would class as one of your 5-a-day, but it was a lovely treat!

Afterward, we waded through the crowds again, heading down the hill. On our way, we stopped by some of the shops that enticed us with smoothies and special teas (and of course, air-conditioning). One particular shop had all kinds of biscuits for us to try (I think I must have eaten 8 different biscuits, so it was a good thing that I hadn’t ordered desert in the restaurant!). Afterward, we continued to walk through Macau’s old town; admiring the architecture and walking down endless narrow streets for around an hour. Tourist obligations also led us to trying the Portuguese egg tarts, which I can only recommend!

Finally, we walked to the ‘Grand Lisboa Macau’ casino. The walk to the casino showcased to us the more modern part of Macau: winding narrow single-track roads were replaced with large city roads and old European-styled houses were replaced with awesome skyscrapers. It was interesting to see both sides of the region.

Seeing the ‘Grand Lisboa Macau’ building from afar was incredible, but the magic didn’t stop outside. Before we even reached the casino, we were all treated to a museum-like experience inside the building, with the grand golden rooms filled with all kinds of statues, water fountains, and other beautiful forms of art and architecture. Finally, we went upstairs and saw the building’s casino. It felt like it was a part of ‘Casino Royale’: An endless sea of green gambling tables, slot machines, and of course, a bar and stage where dancers performed. It was great to see, though I didn’t gamble myself! If you do decide to dabble in some gambling, though, just make sure you don’t gamble your flat deposit away!

Afterward, it was time to return home. We got the bus back to the ferry terminal and set sail for Hong Kong! I would definitely recommend visiting Macau to anyone (I will certainly be returning at some point!). Just remember to take plenty of HKDs in cash, but not in large notes unless you want plenty of Macanese Pataca in change!

Islay or Macau?

Until next time….

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Islay Magic

With its beautiful sunrises and sunsets, turquoise seas and huge sandy beaches Islay has a certain kind of magic. The charming hospitality of the island community, the fishing villages nestled by the shoreline, the peat smoke rising from the whitewashed cottages, and whisky flowing through the stills of the island’s distilleries. With an abundance of wildlife, freshwater Lochs, waterfalls and raw, wild beauty intertwined with a good helping of local characters, with their unique charm and wit, sharing stories of the landscape, the fishing, the farming and the distilling, it often leaves visitors thirsty for more, and that is just the whisky.

Wild and romantic proposals of marriage take place on these island shores. Weddings, honeymoons and betrothals, as well as simple visits for holidays and for work.  It is not surprising then that the Happy Farmer’s cousin chose Islay as the first destination to bring along his bubbly, feisty, beautiful friend who he had known for many years. A friendship, which once on Islay shores, blossomed, as the island magic worked its charm. Last week then, in a small, beautiful village church in the Scottish Borders, gathered round an old stone Anglo Saxon cross, we were so happy to hear vows exchanged and watch as this lovely couple became husband and wife.

The reception was held in a large, beautifully adorned marquee in the field behind the bride’s house. Fizz flowed, canapes were served and the most entertaining speeches were made. A huge feast of hog roast, beef and summer vegetables was laid on and followed with strawberries and meringue, home made tablet and short bread. As the day merged into evening a wedding cake made of giant slabs of various cheeses was cut by the bride and groom, before being laid out with oatcakes and grapes.

The tables cleared and the ceilidh band led the Scottish reels as the groom took his wife for their first dance. Singing was requested from all of the youngsters, daughters and cousins, as the entertainment continued. Late in the evening shuttle buses ferried revellers back to the Hotel, where the celebrations continued long into the night.

We left Islay bathed in sunshine and have returned to a wild, windswept landscape, as the rain has battered continually all day and dogs and cats have crept into various corners of the farmhouse to curl up. The fields lie bare as the sheep can be seen huddled in the hedges and the cows are sheltering in the nooks and crannies of the hillside. As autumn takes hold, a large pot of mince and potatoes are bubbling on the stove. The Happy Farmer has welcomed our Taiwanese guests to the cottage, tomorrow we are hoping for sunshine.

Until next time…

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Sowing Wild Oats

With the sun splitting the skies it appears the Happy Farmer has been out and about sowing his wild oats. I was more than a little concerned. However, before you splutter on your porridge, do realise my apprehension came from the fact that parts of his barley field were looking ever so slightly on the green side. As the Happy Farmer rolled his eyes reassurance came in the knowledge that it is simply wild oats growing among the barley, apparently wild oats can lie dormant in the ground for years. So with our farmhouse bed and breakfast in mind, watch out for the Happy Farmer’s brand of Persabus porridge in the future, never mind the barley for the whisky, although whisky and porridge is a rather good combination on a cold winter’s morning.

Aside from his wild oats experience, the Happy Farmer has not been living quietly. He has been somewhat of a film star these last few weeks. In the Pottery we have even been treated to a Kilt clad Happy Farmer as he entertained our guests. We have had a couple of YouTube bloggers staying with us on the farm. They have travelled all the way from China and chose Persabus as they wanted to experience traditional life on Islay and look at what the island offers apart from whisky. I did forget to point out the Happy Farmer’s crop of porridge oats to them.

Our lovely guests appear to have over five million followers in China and everywhere we went a camera was filming us. When I was out for an evening stroll, I realised the buzzing overhead was a drone following me along the single-track road. The Happy Farmer duly took his new friends along with him on his farming duties. They were out feeding the Highland cows. They were then filming the Singing Shepherd, the Happy Chappies from down the road and the Happy Farmer all working with the Persabus sheep, as those girls were getting dosed and the lambs were being separated from their mothers.

Keepsakes were created in the pottery and their friends, big Instagram bloggers, joined us for a few days too. After two weeks we really were quite sorry to see them go, but with promises to stay in touch, guided tours of Beijing on offer, and then a beautiful Chinese watercolour painting they had brought over specially for us, we felt very privileged indeed to welcome such interesting people to spend time on the farm.

The summer busyness continues. Our little campsite has been buzzing, with the Happy Farmer even taking up football to entertain one of our younger guests, who, was crying when it came time to leave. He had been bent double laughing when he managed to kick the football right between the Happy Farmer’s legs and into goal.

Yesterday then we took time out. With huge blue skies and the sun shining down, the barley boys were busy in the fields, as the Happy Farmer and I headed to Killinallan beach for an afternoon spent paddling in the shallow waters of the sea collecting cockles for supper.

Until next time…

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Show Time and the Yodelling Happy Farmer

You know it has been a good show day when you catch the Happy Farmer stood alone, yodelling his heart out to the tents, in front of the pottery, in the darkness of the night skies. ‘Mull of Kintyre’ the famous Wings track took on a whole new tune. Apparently in the stillness of night, the view from our little campsite, across the Sound of Islay to the Mull of Kintyre, in the shimmering moonlight, inspired this hearty rendition. A fabulous view is not always a good thing then, and the same could be said of the Happy Farmer’s singing voice.

The nights begin to draw in once the show arrives. It marks a turning in the seasons on Islay. When our party of celebrating farmers had departed late in the evening on show night, I needed to head to the pottery to sort out baking for the next day. The Happy Farmer offered to accompany me across the road in the darkness. Worryingly I lost him somewhere between the farm and the pottery kitchen, not for long though, his yodelling could suddenly be heard filling those night skies. To my amazement the campers, in the assembled tents, suddenly began joining in the yodelling too, there was a whole chorus line singing into the darkness, with any peace and quiet being well and truly interrupted. Now the Happy Farmer prides himself on his good singing voice, if I had my phone I would have happily recorded the whole event for him, even the guests staying in our cottages and bed and breakfast accommodation had been treated to this moonlit serenade, as the camping contingent were led firmly astray by my singing Happy Farmer. Luckily everyone enjoyed the entertainment and it was the main source of conversation at breakfast the next morning.

On show day itself, the sun was splitting the skies. Eldest was up at the crack of dawn doing the final preparations to get Hansel the horse ready for his appearance in the ring. The Happy Farmer was busy cooking breakfasts. The ferry man and his wife had delivered their jeep to the farm the night before. With the horse box hitched up on the back, the Happy Farmer reversed into the yard, and the guests were able to enjoy watching Hansel getting his leg guards on, before walking calmly up the ramp and into the trailer, and then they were off.

It was much later in the day when I finally made it along to the show field. With youngest’s uni pals over for a week’s camping, farmers arriving later in the day for dinner, together with guests and campers staying in our farm accommodation and then our son heading out on the evening plane for a lengthy spell in distant climes, I did get slightly delayed. I took some time out of the mayhem to take the dogs in the warm sunshine along the track to their favourite watering hole, Lily Loch. A gentle quiet walk through the shade of the trees with our son, away from the madness and busyness of the farm and the show field. The dogs love wallowing in the cool waters of the Loch and usually as Ruby bounces back out of the Loch, with a wag of her tail and a good shake and shimmy of her coat, I also get treated to a cool shower. No matter how fast I try to run away from her, that dog always manages to soak me.

By the time we reached the show Hansel had already headed for home. Eldest was chuffed, her horse won two seconds and a fourth in his classes, and considering his 27 years, he did very well indeed. He may be getting old, but that horse loves going to the show. The first inkling that he has an audience and he bows his head and daintily prances and parades around proudly.

The show field itself was buzzing with lots of happy people celebrating the very best of farming and produce on Islay. Cows, sheep and goats had been shampooed, clipped and trimmed. Dogs were walking beautifully to heel. Drinks were being poured. Burgers were sizzling away and there was a fabulous array of old tractors and cars waiting to join the parade in the show ring. It is always a lovely time to catch up with everyone and enjoy fantastic hospitality and good craic.

Much later in the farmhouse the trusty old Aga was being loaded with trays of roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, vegetables were on boiling and a huge joint of beef had been quietly roasting away in the simmering oven. A delayed departure of the plane at the airport meant I missed most of the celebrations back at the farm but arriving home to a huge crowd of farmers heartily tucking into a good roast dinner in the candlelight and I knew it had been a good one.

The Happy Farmer assures me his ‘Mull of Kintyre’ yodelling was just practice, tuning up his singing voice in preparation for his cousin’s stag party on the mainland…

Until next time…

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The Jura Chronicles

The Isle of Jura is an incredibly special place. A beautiful wilderness of stunning scenery. It has a close-knit community, and just one single track road, which twists and winds, revealing spectacular views of unspoilt loveliness, as a bounty of wildlife greet you on your way. It is where I met the Happy Farmer, and the place that first drew me to these magical islands.

A few weeks back eldest was invited to take part in an exciting Jura project. She arrived off the early morning plane from Glasgow and promptly went skipping off, guitar in hand, heading, over the sea, on the ferry to Jura.

A beautiful sunny day, she met the Camerons, distant cousins of her own. Kenneth and Gavin are working on a series of short films, The Jura Chronicles. Films providing short videos about the history of the island. Kenneth and Gavin are part of the fixtures and fittings of Jura having resided there for many generations. They are keen to record and share the history of this beautiful place, capturing stories of the clans of the island.

Gavin contacted eldest to invite her to do the vocals for a song about Jura written by the late Charles Fletcher, Laird of Ardlussa, and also a distant relation of the Persabus Fletchers. After the initial recording at The Jura Chronicles HQ it was a day of exploring beaches and hillsides as recordings were done and clips were filmed, ready for editing and producing, before the next film from The Jura Chronicles was ready for uploading.

Good old-fashioned island hospitality was served up in huge helpings and after being treated like a superstar, at the end of the day, in the family home Jessica May was treated to home baked scones with lashings of cream and jam. Eldest is at her happiest when she is on the islands with guitar in hand, or in the saddle of her favourite horse. After a day on Jura singing and filming, Hansel was saddled up, and she galloped off into the fields.

Island living at its very best.

Until next time…

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Doughball the Persabus Cat

When the ferryman arrived at the summer party with two of his home baked quiches, bursting with fresh lobster from his catch of the day, it encapsulated island living at its very best. It left a delicious lingering taste of fine seafood imprinted on our taste buds which, with a crowd of friends home for summer, led us to head over to Ian’s new Seafood Kitchen in Port Charlotte at the weekend. The meal did not disappoint as huge platters laden with lobster and clams arrived at the table, the menu proved a celebration of the very best of Islay’s ocean treasures.

It has been a sociable time. The island is bursting with life and we have found ourselves being swept into a whirlwind of work and play. Lots of fizz in the sunshine with spectacular ocean views from various homes, summer buffets and good craic. With all of the family home and the extended ‘family of friends’, a large tent is camped in the front garden, to accommodate the overflow from the farmhouse.

 It has been a bittersweet time though as at the weekend we said a final farewell to Doughball our Persabus cat.

Doughball was a cat among cats. She was part of the fixtures and fittings of Persabus life, choosing to join our family when the children were all ‘knee high to a grasshopper’.

The new tortoiseshell kitten was fondly named ‘Snowball’ which the Happy Potters quickly changed to ‘Doughball’, as she enjoyed spending a large part of her day sprawled out sleeping in front of the warmth of the kilns in the pottery workshop after several good feeds. Doughball was a very loved kitten. She got hours of attention from our young clan. They dressed her up and cuddled her until she was demented. She was one of the most photographed cats and made regular appearances in the ‘Persabus feature films’ being videoed by the youngsters. She was a trampolining, garden sliding cat, not always through choice.

Doughball liked to make her presence felt. She was an important part of the ‘Persabus welcoming committee’ on the farm and would always pay a visit to guests during their stay with us. If she found the guests to be extra special ‘cat people’ Doughball would often move into their holiday cottage and share in their holiday experience for the whole week. As a demanding cat she would of course not only expect breakfast, dinner and tea to be provided, but also a plentiful supply of cat treats.

Her trips around the island in the various cars she happened to climb into led to the childrens’ stern notices pinned on the pottery walls asking people to ‘check for cats in their car’ before leaving the premises. Once she even went for a spin on the back of the coal lorry.

In recent weeks Doughball was failing. She chose to spend those last weeks in the farmhouse, snuggled up in the chair or beside the heat of the Aga.

When we returned from our night out on Saturday she was missing. We looked high and low but there was no sign of Doughball. We spent the next day searching under every bush and hedge. It was a fruitless search, and after a night of heavy rain we feared Doughball had chosen to leave us and go quietly in her own space.

On Sunday afternoon eldest was in the shed when she heard a familiar meowling. Doughball was crying out to her from the bed she had made on top of the wool bales. Eldest, ever so gently, lifted her frail body and carried a purring Doughball back to the comfort and safety of the farmhouse, where after a lot of fuss and a small meal, she curled up on a cushion to sleep.

Late on that evening Doughball breathed her last breath with her favourite young clan stroking her gently. We love that Doughball, the Persabus cat, chose to spend the last twenty or so years of her life with us on the farm. She was the last of three musketeers, Spog (Tripod), Henrick and Doughball.

We have new musketeers though and last night Archieina managed to crawl into the tent and snuggle up among the friends and their sleeping bags, it seems she is enjoying the ‘Persabus camping experience’ on the farm.

Until next time…

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