Island Life

To reach the top took my breath away

The salty damp sea mist encompassing us from either side, and the energy of the sharp breeze hitting us as we clambered up to the exposed summit of Sgarbh Breac. Cooling our overheated bodies dramatically, after the exertion of a steep climb up those final craggy peaks.

A crumbling drystone dyke rising from the depths of the mist.  The warmth of a hot August day, way below.

Island living at its absolute best

As each step had led us higher into the heather clad wilderness, the most spectacular views had unfolded. The huge turquoise and deep blue expanse of the Sound of Islay far below. A couple of yachts, tiny white dots, tacking their way north, with the tides, gliding with ease across the waves between the islands. To the south, the hazy pinnacle of the American Monument reaching upwards in the distance.

We couldn’t linger at the top, as we reached the drystone cairn, the shelter of the eastern face of the hill disappeared and a sharp wind together with the damp mist made for a quick turnaround and was a reminder of how quickly conditions can change out on the hills.

I still can’t decide which is the toughest,

the ascent or descent of a steep incline, but rest assured those legs were positively shaking and the knees were knocking by the time we made it back into the warmth of the summer day down at the coast. The descent was so much quicker and after all the effort, our aching muscles were rewarded with a dip in the Sound. Emerging refreshed and tingling in the hot afternoon sun, with only the swans and seals for company, the warming comfort of a flask of tea and just the gentle sound of the waves lapping against the shore.

The perfect Islay Sunday. Have you booked yours yet?

Until next time…

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The Hunting Season

With the hunting season upon us

Hamishina, our beautiful tabby cat, packed her suitcases and took herself off on holiday, a hunting holiday. She checked herself into the various cat-friendly ‘hunting lodges’ around the farm, without even so much as a ‘goodbye’.

Anyone who has visited the pottery will have seen the Persabus ‘lost cat’ signs. The Persabus ‘Please check for cats in your car before you leave’, made years ago when the children were ‘children’. Over the years those pottery cats have been renowned for taking themselves off on adventures around the island.

Hamishina is particularly partial to the odd adventure

Whilst her sister Archieina likes nothing more than to curl up and laze in a sunshine spot in the farmhouse, Hamishina splits her time between ‘sojourns’ in the farmhouse, and wild hunting adventures.

Accompanying the younger members of the Persabus clan on an evening stroll along the single-track road and through the farm, as the sun was setting in the sky, she happily ran alongside before diverting off into the hedges. That was the last sighting of her. She then disappeared without a trace. At breakfast time there was no yowling, meowling from Hamishina at the kitchen window. A morning practice she has honed to a fine art, as she demands to be let in.

At the farmhouse door, there were no ‘trophies’ from a night spent perusing and hunting in the fields and hedges. Something we actually did not miss, although Ruby and Bramble, the farm dogs were slightly disappointed when these tasty morning ‘treats’ suddenly stopped.

Archieina dutifully continued to turn up daily. Quite enjoying not having to share the contents of her cat bowl with her sister. She could binge to her heart’s content, before curling up for the day on a comfy cushion, in a comfy chair. Archieina would happily never leave the farmhouse again, except for the necessary visits. She is an exceptionally clean cat, but a definite home bird.

Hamishina on the other hand…well that is another story.

Two weeks passed and we were all beginning to really miss our lovely and demanding Hamishina, wondering if our lovely tabby would ever appear over the doorstep of the farmhouse again.

We imagined her, suitcases at her side, relaxing on some far-flung beach, with a ginormous pair of sunglasses perched just above her whiskers, enjoying sunshine and a wee cocktail or two.

It has been a beautiful week on the island of late afternoon rambles

out along the headland to the pebble beaches beyond Bunnahabhain. When the sun has shone it has been warm enough to enjoy refreshing dips in the sea. Last weekend, with the tide right out, we even got to enjoy those annual ‘mermaid’ swims in the deep sandy pools among the rocks at Machir Bay.

On the damp days the pottery has been going like a fair

All within the ‘new normal’. Face masks have been donned, sanitiser at the ready, and just one group or family in at a time has made for some lovely visitors, lots of chat and suddenly we are moving on a new ‘plane’.

It is strange, but also lovely to reconnect with people again. To get the chance to welcome friends, new and old.

The Persabus ‘design’ teams have been busy working hard on their ‘pottery take-aways’ and the results have been bright, colourful and cheery, as the kiln has been firing away on all cylinders each evening, working its magic to seal those memories onto ceramics forever.

The only downside to the whole time has been the absence of our lovely Hamishina

So, last night in the late evening sun, following the lead of a possible sighting of Hamishina from Mairi the magic sheep lady, who lives just across the fields, we set out to see if we could spy our lovely tabby cat.

As we wandered through the deep grasses and wildflowers calling her name, we were just met with the bleating of the sheep. Their guttural bellows, as they happily munched away, letting us know they had not seen the cat. We imagined sneaky Hamishina, spying us from afar, and darting down a rabbit hole, her whiskers just peeping out, not yet ready to come home. We called and walked, and walked and called.

We reached Mairi’s back garden, and walked around the perimeter, looking into the polytunnels to see if Hamishina was there. We met the ducks, and the chickens and the dogs, but no Hamishina. Just as we were making our way through the waist high bracken Mairi called to us.

There, perched high on an old drystone dyke, was Hamishina, meowling loudly. Shouting across to us.

I don’t know who was happier, Hamishina or us

She skipped along at our sides all the way back along the track, across the road and up to the farm. Stopping every few paces to roll onto her back for a belly rub.

Hamishina spent the night curled up on her favourite chair in the comfort of the farmhouse. She popped out for the ‘necessaries’ and happily hasn’t left home since.

Until next time…

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Off With Her Head

Sometimes, don’t you just want to hide away?

Emerging from the depths of ‘lockdown’ has been a reawakening.

From all the ‘behind the scenes’ preparations, from the risk assessments followed by the deep cleans. From the de-cluttering, to the planning and the implementing. The restructuring and looking at ways of moving steadily forwards into the ‘new normal’.

As we opened the Pottery door once again this week

it has been beyond lovely to welcome back all our friends, old and new. The support from you all has been tremendous.

On Monday then I took what seemed like a huge step to ‘get out there’. To pop my head above the parapet. I had to dig deep, to find that courage. The Happy Farmer nearly fell of his chair chortling when I expressed my huge fear. Now I have got you all wondering. When it comes to posting on the island’s community’s noticeboard Facebook page I just want to hide. I avoid it at all costs. The Happy Farmer, shaking his head and grinning away, wanted to know what on earth I could possibly be so afraid of. What, popping my head above the parapet? Putting my little post ‘out there’. Well…I stopped…thought for a moment….before stating the obvious. That of course, in the event of posting, quite simply…my head could get ‘chopped off’.

I think dear readers, the Happy Farmer’s sniggers can still be heard echoing across the farm

I rarely venture on to the page to post though. I have always been incredibly careful to be respectful of this beautiful island and its old, close-knit community. I love being here, being a part of the island but am acutely aware that I am not a local. Thirty odd years of Islay living would never make me local. A lifetime of island living would never make me a local. The Happy Farmer on the other hand is one of the most ‘local of all locals’. He is part of the very fabric of the island, with a family history going back for many generations.

Why is it, as ‘creatives’, we lack so much confidence

in putting ourselves ‘out there’ and ‘up there’? I am more than happy to post away on our own ‘pages’, revelling in my little social media bubble. Why then, would my little posting cause me so much worry?

On Monday I ‘braved’ up then. Popped my post ‘out there’. Boldly advertising our new way of moving into the ‘new normal’ as a business.  And those lovely islanders, my beautiful family of friends, enveloped me in a huge warm hug of fantastic support, and those pottery ‘takeaway’ boxes have been flying off the shelves…and it’s only the third day.

If you haven’t booked your pottery takeaway box yet do get in touch

There is something quite magical about capturing a story onto ceramics. At Persabus we invite you to capture those memories onto pottery. We will then glaze and fire your pieces, sealing those happy, wonderful moments forever.

Until next time…

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And the Hair was Cut

‘Strike a pose’

The Persabus welcoming committee have been out in force

Ever since the lockdown restrictions were eased you would think those Highland cows had received some sort of inside knowledge. Telepathic waves between Scot Gov and those Highland ladies. They can be seen posing away, just behind the hill gate, putting on their absolute best pouts, waiting eagerly to welcome all our guests and visitors back to Persabus again. They boast the absolute best in lockdown looks. Their eyes peeping away through those beautiful long wispy fringes and windswept locks. With hairdressers re-opening once again the Persabus girls were all queueing up to get lockdown hair trimmed and coiffed.

Racing home on the ferry

on Saturday afternoon, after a whistle stop city visit to move youngest  from one student digs to another, and the Happy Farmer was managing Persabus HQ from the very portable office of the MV Finlaggan, as he sailed home across the Sound. At short notice he received the very welcome news that the clipping team were heading to Persabus later that afternoon. A few quick phone calls and the Singing Shepherd and eldest were soon swiftly organised into gathering the flock and popping them neatly into the various pens.

There is always huge excitement when the shearers arrive

at Persabus with their portable clipping station, which handily comes on a trailer towed at the back of a van. It is a busy few hours as sheep are shedded and sorted, before being loaded up the ramp in single file. The clippers, shears at the ready, harnesses on, seem to dance expertly around the sheep. Flipping them over onto their backs, as tummies are trimmed, before casting them over and onto their sides. Electric shears buzzing and shaving away. The shearers have it down to a fine art and a sheep’s fleece is removed in one piece in a matter of seconds. They make it look so easy and yet the reality is hard manual labour, testing muscles and joints to the limits. However, with a few helping hands, the whole exercise runs like clockwork as sheep can be seen squashing their way up the ramp, a quick pamper session on the platform, and those ladies are soon positively skipping and jumping back down the shoots, their cumbersome heavy fleeces shed once and for all.

Team Persabus were ‘cooking with gas’

Whilst the Happy Farmer and crew were at the sheep fank, and I was knee deep in duvets and sanitiser in the cottages, back in the farmhouse kitchen, youngest had taken over the Aga. Lots of  chopping and mixing, garlic and spices, and a huge pot of bolognaise was soon bubbling away and at the ready for ‘close of play’. Washed down with a few beers in the garden at a social distance and the ritual that has been part of farming life at Persabus each summer for generations was over for another year.

Life on the farm has upped a gear in these past few days

After weeks of living in a bubble, suddenly it has become a frenzy of guidelines, protocol sheets, spec sheets, lists and tick sheets all flying at a rate of knots from our sturdy ‘hot to trot’ printer.

PPE has been donned, cottages have been cleared of games, books, ornaments and extras. Cushions and throws have been carefully labelled and packaged away. Everything, including the Happy Farmer, has been washed, scrubbed, and polished meticulously from top to bottom, before being wiped, then re-wiped with sanitisers and disinfectants. The results are nothing short of ‘gleaming’ and as our first guests since lockdown left today with huge smiles on their faces we are indeed moving into the new normal ‘full steam ahead’.

A week of misty, wet days had not dampened their spirits

or lessened their holiday experience at Persabus. As fellow farmers, they enjoyed the chance to get away from it all, after the hectic demands of a busy lambing and calving season. Relaxing in front of the toasty Rayburn in Persabus Cottage, with a few socially distanced drinks, and they had a chance to really unwind with a good rest and a fabulous island holiday. The chat went on long into the evenings. There was a ceilidh or two and suddenly it felt so good to once again be able to welcome people back to enjoy the way of life at Persabus.

I hope you manage to ‘escape’ soon and a warm welcome awaits you on our farm if you happen to find yourself yearning for a taste of the Hebrides.

Until next time…

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Space and Time

It felt as if the world had stopped spinning when lockdown came

A mad race to get everyone safely home and suddenly everything seemed to stop. We disappeared into a bubble of family life on the farm and got a chance to really step back and appreciate everything around us.

From my very first trip to the farm,

when I had only just met the Happy Farmer, quite a number of years ago now, I was struck by the huge warmth of hospitality, the friendliness and kind hearted good humour that just encompassed me at Persabus.

The farm has such a long history in the Fletcher family and has always been a magnet for parties and gatherings. Memories of the huge pans of soup, pasta, casseroles, and stews on the go of yesteryear. Scones and home baking would flow from the oven as people came and went, family and friends, there was always a welcome, plenty of laughter and fun, and never a shortage of beds. That welcome, that hospitality, those happy times of friendship, and good craic, with food and drink flowing, making for very happy memories.

It has become a tradition that we have happily continued and prided ourselves on at Persabus.

It was just such a natural progression then, for the Happy Farmer and I to extend that welcome beyond family and friends as we began to welcome visitors and guests to our home.

Originally, we started out with self-catering lets in Persabus Cottage. Much building work later and we were soon welcoming the world, not only to the Cottage, but to enjoy Persabus Millhouse and then our Farmhouse accommodation suite. Our welcome spilling over into the pottery as more and more people called by, more and more lasting friendships were made, more happy days and evenings spent enjoying meeting so many people from so many varied backgrounds and lives, each with their own fascinating contributions and stories.

Back in the day my late father in law learnt so much of Islay’s history and his people from sitting as a young boy, at the fireplace with his old uncles who lived in Persabus Cottage.

Latterly with so many people travelling to spend time on Islay and holiday with us at Persabus, we have wined, dined, danced, and laughed our way through lots of happy gatherings and quiet evenings with some truly amazing people. People we have been lucky enough to share our island home with.

So, when the world seemed to stop, we missed the friendship, the buzz and energy of our lovely guests and visitors. We kept in touch, via social media, phone calls, zooms and emails. We kept our fingers and toes crossed and hoped so much that everyone would remain safe.

We also got a real chance to step back. To stop, and really appreciate what makes Persabus such a special place to stay.

The huge beautiful colours of the amazing sunrises of the early spring mornings. The pinks, reds, purples and oranges stretching across the sky line, just above the sea and the hills, as the huge ball of a yellow sun rises slowly up behind the Paps of Jura, spreading her rays across the turquoise waves below.

The dawn chorus and excited frenzy of the birds arriving home to the farm to build their nests, hatch their eggs and nurture their young.

We got to really appreciate the wide-open space of the farm. The views of the sea and hills. The peace and quiet, away from the hum drum of the busy world, a ‘quiet corner’, secluded among spectacular scenery, each day a myriad of different colours. Huge skies and those amazing cloud formations.

The beautiful walks from the farmhouse,

along the tracks through the woodland, past the Lochs. Up to slate bench, which sits high above the Sound of Islay, the perfect viewpoint to watch the ferry sailing down the Sound. The walks down to the pebble beaches. Watching the seals and swans.

Through the fields and down beyond the Distillery at Caol ila, to the remains of the beach houses and fisherman’s huts of bygone days.

The Happy Farmer’s good humour, craic and antics have kept us all going.

Flower beds have been tended to, and we have had time to grow a vegetable garden once again, which is now brimming with tasty treats for the kitchen.

The old barn has been cleared and the pottery workshop is getting a huge make over, which seems to be morphing into the Happy Farmer’s very own man cave, such is his excitement of moving forward in the ‘new normal’. He is already working out his safe distanced ‘socials’ as he looks forward to welcoming his friends back to Persabus once again.

Lockdown has had its highs, but also its lows, as we have had to move through these strange and uncertain times.

We now emerge into the ‘new normal’.

Keeping everyone safe is our absolute priority as we are already moving forward with excited caution, getting ready….to be able to offer you a warm and hearty welcome to come and stay on the farm at Persabus soon.

Stay safe.

Until next time…

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Easing of Lockdown

As we move forward there is supposed to be a gradual easing out of lockdown.

‘Supposed’ as the Islay whisky gods seem to be going against this latest guidance. We have been spoilt with weeks of beautiful sunshine. Just as the Scottish Government gave the go ahead for socially distanced get togethers outdoors at the weekend, the heavens opened and the rain ‘plooped’ down. The skies darkened and those midges came out to play…and the game was a ‘bogey’. Garden gatherings had to be postponed.

Distilleries need water to produce whisky and the flora and fauna need water to grow, so it would be selfish to deny those clouds a bit of a passing flutter on their way by. As blueness began to stretch across the horizon, thankfully the sunshine was on its way.

On morning runs

the fields are a blaze with a carpet of vibrant yellow buttercups and the heavenly scent of clover. The hedgerows are alive with the noisy chatter of the birds, as they swoop in and out of their new shelter belt of leaves and blossoms.

The dogs and I have a daily companion too, in the form of a dive-bombing swallow. The field below the byre where I run has become a nursery for fledgling birds. Flying lessons seem to be the new outdoor activity on offer in the fields of Persabus. The swallow’s mission is to ‘shoo’ me out of the field as quickly as possible, but I simply cannot run any faster. Of course, at this point I must pop a plug in for our ‘Below the Byre’ pottery range, based on autumn runs through this fabulous wilderness, maybe a ‘Summer Below the Byre’ range will be following soon?

The cuckoos’ ‘goodbye echoes’ could be heard across the fields this week. Such is their happy holiday at Persabus they seem to be extending their stay on the farm each spring, arriving a little earlier each year and leaving it to the last possible minute before they head off for distant shores.

On the farm we have been busy carrying out risk assessments

on all our properties and going through the new cleaning guidelines with a ‘fine comb’. Cleaning protocols have been upgraded accordingly, and there is hand sanitiser springing up everywhere, to ensure the safety of all of our lovely future visitors, guests and staff.

Lots of exciting changes have been happening behind the scenes.

Our new online pottery shop is due to go live soon.

Here you will be able to browse your way through our ranges and shop to your heart’s content, with the option to get in touch with any additional orders or commissions as usual.

Do keep an eye on our social media posts for updates’

The pottery studio will be opening shortly, for pottery sales only, and initially we would ask customers to email or phone if they wish to call by and we can arrange a suitable time for a visit.

As we move forward with the ‘new normal’, in the short term we are going to be introducing pottery ‘take aways’, replacing in-house pottery painting workshops. Boxed pottery painting kits will be available to pre order online and collect safely from our showroom. Once painted pieces can be returned to the pottery for glazing and firing. They will then be posted out, or collected a day or so later.

On the farm we have revamped the accommodation options on offer.

Do visit the accommodation pages of our website for more information and get in touch if you have any questions. We are always happy to help and will work with you to tailor make a holiday at Persabus that suits your needs.

At present we are moving forwards with caution, keeping in touch with all our guests and look forward to hopefully welcoming them back later in the season.

At this time, we want to work closely alongside Calmac and Loganair, who have supported us so well during this crisis with their lifeline service. We will await their updates and Scot Gov guidance. We definitely do not want to leave Calmac, in the Happy Farmer’s words, ‘to be the island’s sheep shedder/buffer’. Do head to their website for the latest updates.

We are looking forward to Islay being able to gradually open. It feels such a long time since we began lockdown.

Going forward, based on Scot Gov advice, Calmac and our local community we will hopefully be able to offer you a warm hearty welcome to stay on our beautiful family farm at Persabus soon, in the meantime do get in touch with any questions.

Stay safe.

Until next time…

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The Fire Starter

Two beady eyes were watching us the whole time, jaw constantly chewing away, attitude coming from every angle. This sheep was a real character…maybe the one we evicted from Persabus the other week. The one who arrived with lambs at foot, as an unwelcome guest, and proceeded to head butt the glass door of the cottage, on a recent holiday. Who knows? She looked strangely familiar though and was more than happy peering out at us from the little craggy cave, like a nosey old fish wife, stood on her doorstep watching the goings on of life.

A hike out the north east coast

and it is one of my most favourite coastlines. Huge ragged cliffs full of caves and natural arches, pebble beaches and it is teeming with wildlife. As you enter their world the seals are lolloping about on the rocks; a pair of oystercatchers are wading in the shallow waters of the pebbled beach. Eider ducks bob in the waters. The swans who nest each year on the shoreline now proudly cruise in waves, their young fluffy cygnets in tow, keeping close in behind their mother who leads the way. The proud, protective father following at the back. A large seal bobbing in the water and then there are those cheeky sheep…

The island is gradually awakening from its lockdown

The distilleries along the road from the farm are back in production. Lorries once again cruise up the single-track road to collect the casks and deliver supplies. A passing tractor trundles along heading up for a trailer load of draff to use as animal feed. Today, once again, out on the Sound, there were fishing boats and steamers bobbing along in the seas.

Back at the farm

and the happy farmer is immersed in another of his ongoing projects. The pottery workshop is getting customised and overhauled with the banging and clattering of hammers and crow bars coming from the shed. Old plasterboard is appearing out of the door and across the road there is a ‘wee’ bonfire in an old drum. All the while, behind the scenes, work is quietly going on in the jewellery workshop.

Team Building Projects

Yesterday the Happy Farmer felt the need to include our lovely jeweller in some team building strategies. This particular ‘exercise’ involved his wee bonfire that had somehow managed to involve the dry grass and the surrounding area in its own little team building project. The Happy Farmer was alerted to this bigger bonfire by a passing motorist who skilfully managed to drive through the yard with his head skewed at a 180-degree angle. The Happy Farmer was curious as to what was making for such interesting viewing on the farm. As he looked around the corner of his shed there seemed to be a surprising amount of smoke from his wee bonfire, so much smoke in fact, that he quickly realised his ‘wee bonfire’ was not social distancing as it should have been, and had indeed leapt out of the drum to party with full on flames in the long grass. Buckets of water ten to the dozen, our lovely jeweller as team member, at the water source replenishing the buckets and running a relay, as she handed those buckets over the fence to the Happy Farmer who could be seen performing his stomping fire dance whilst trying ever so hard not to set himself on fire.

I returned from my beach trip to calm

Only later did I discover my omission from the day’s team building exercise at Persabus when I enquired about the scent of smoke surrounding the Happy Farmer.
As lockdown begins to move towards easing the Happy Farmer has been ‘in training’ to grow the fabulous Persabus experience for our future guests and would like to reassure you all that thankfully his latest team building project had excellent results and all of the accommodation at Persabus is still standing.
Please stay home and stay safe as we await further guidance from the Scottish government and Calmac to a time when we can once again welcome you all back to this lovely island.
Until next time….

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Visitors that Bite

The visitors to the farm this week came in their droves. At a time when we are all meant to be following social distance rules. A time when your own personal space is something to be closely guarded and valued.

Our visitors this week took a shining to our very own Happy Farmer, they followed him around, crowding him, and then their fangs came out…

May is a month of bluebells carpeting the woodland, hedgehogs, otters, and deer are out to play interspersed with the echoes of the cuckoo. This May we have enjoyed woodpeckers arriving, the exited chatter and buzz as the birds’ nest, sunny skies, and the promise of summer to come.

As we transition into the month of June, the bluebells fade. The swans can be seen gliding across the loch with their newly hatched young family, and fledgling birds make their first clumsy steps into the world of flying. The very watchful eyes of those farm cats, following their every move, as they skulk about in the long grass. Hunting away quietly. Pouncing on their prey made up of butterflies, lizards, mice, and those baby birds.

On my morning runs our nesting pairs of swallows’ swoop and glide across my path, as the dogs bound through our very own wildflower wilderness. We have counted at least six swallows nests this year in the byre next to the pottery workshop.

Heading into June and the days seem endless, with the sun still casting its shadows across the farm long after we climb into bed. Hours of endless daylight, with spectacular pink skies late into the evenings.

The Happy Farmer continues to enjoy his new role. He seems to be getting quite adept at videoing and recording his way through life on the farm. The videos of last week proved a huge success as we celebrated lockdown birthdays. Afternoon tea of profiteroles, macaroons, salad and sandwiches, all served up on Persabus Pottery, with glasses of fizz in the hot sunshine, and for a moment we can close our eyes to the horrors of the world and escape into the bubble of island life.

So, our visitors to the farm were most unwelcome. Those visitors burst the Happy Farmer’s ‘bubble’. There he was, working diligently on one of his amazing video podcasts. Take ‘52’ I think, as this video was needed by eldest and was to involve farm animals, a quad bike, complete with singer and guitar, all to be filmed out in the open.

Take 1 and the wind played havoc with the hair. Those long blonde tresses, flying up like octopus tendrils, flying high above the head, before curling and spiralling, gathering in a huge blanket across the face, muffling the fine tunes.

Take 2 and the assembled animals, gathered with a bit of coaxing from a bucket of feed, and no amorous bull today, but Hansel horse took a liking to the guitar. With his favourite lady in tune, he could not resist vying for a place in the video. Getting ever so close, he began muzzling the guitar. The instrument seemed to be getting a bit too much attention from his favourite lady, muzzling and then threatening to bite the guitar, and the game was a bogey. Another location minus the animals led to a few more takes.

These takes were interrupted with the additional hum of a grass strimmer, being carried in the wind from the local village, and the odd lorry, passing along the road to the distilleries.

Finally, out on the hill, and the song commenced. The video began. One minute everything was going smoothly, the next our visitors arrived, quite unannounced and the Happy Farmer ‘spat his dummy out of the pram’ as the cloud descended. The almighty Scottish Midges. Fangs poised, they showed no mercy, as they tickled and bit at the Farmer’s flesh as he turned on his heels and fled for cover, a gabble of unrepeatable expletives, flowing forth and all captured perfectly on video. It has led to much guffawing, and brightened up the days no end, as it has been mercilessly played, forwarded, replayed and played again.

I am often questioned by our guests about midges. They tend not to reside at Persabus, just swooping in for the occasional ‘invasion’ when the wind drops, and the weather is damp and sultry. The farm’s  location, uphill from Port Askaig, and out in the open, away from woods, usually there is a gentle breeze which thankfully keeps those midges at bay.

During the island’s whisky festival, these midges make the most of their opportunity and have a plentiful selection of ‘prey’ to get their ‘fangs’ into with so many visitors dotting around the island. This May, those midges must have missed having their bellies filled with whisky. A few bites at the festival and they positively roll off, intoxicated by the alcohol.

Those midges must have been hunting for days until there he was, a prime target, the Happy Farmer, face, arms, and legs all fresh for the picking. Apart from the ankles of course well protected and hidden from view under those notorious socks as he works on his ‘farmer’s tan. A tan which is coming along well, whiter than snow white ankles and feet, a good, clear, ‘tan ring’ marking the sock spot. Not the tastiest target for the midges, but nonetheless, the promise of a good feed and they were on him, tickling and biting away as he fled for the shelter of the farmhouse.

You may be missing our island shores. The beautiful sandy beaches. The woodland filled with wildlife and flowers. The heather clad hills. The roaming deer, otters, and eagles. Rest assured then, our very own wee midges, with just the odd local to feast on, are certainly missing you right now.

Stay safe and we look forward to offering you a warm welcome, minus the midges, when it is safe to travel once more.

Until next time…

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The Persabus Whisky Ambassadors

With the Islay Whisky Festival happening last week, and Persabus being the gateway to the north Islay Distilleries, our very own Brand Ambassadors, were out in force, forming the welcoming party for the north Islay Distilleries. It appears no one thought to tell them that the whisky festival was only happening in a virtual world, online, this year. Completely oblivious to such a world, even though they appear regularly on it, our Highland cows stood patiently, gathered by the gate. Their hair especially coiffed for the occasion, awaiting the arrival of the VIPs from around the world to celebrate Islay’s Festival of Music and Malt.

They missed you all. We missed you all. The only camera clicking away this year came in the form of the Happy Farmer and family clicking away for a special Persabus edition lockdown birthday video. It was a week of sneakily taking snapshot clips and stalking everyone online to participate in the lead up to eldest’s birthday extravaganza. Trying to make the special occasion as exciting and special as you possibly can with lockdown restrictions in place.

The final piece was a fabulous celebration of contributions from her childhood pals, Uni friends, Winnie and Nina from the infamous The Park Bar. Uilly from Peat and Diesel, the boys from Trail West, Martin, from Skerryore, playing a few tunes on his accordion. Big Kenny on Mull, and big Angus from Skippinish, all sending their very best birthday wishes. The film featured clips with some hilarious takes on those ‘lockdown looks’, who knew your hair could resemble matted fleece that even the best sheep would be proud of? And then of course, the ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ cartoon spoof featuring the whole Fletcher family, completed with clips from the Handsome Farmer, with his dram of Octomore, and Archie Bread, in between his deliveries. Finally,…there was the Happy Farmer’s contribution….

The Happy Farmer decided that for his part he would like to feature alongside the Persabus Ambassadors, who were still gathered at the roadside. Still waiting for the festival taxis, cyclists, and walkers, still oblivious to the fact that there would be no visitors this year.

The Happy Farmer took along some feed for the assembled throng as they stood, putting on their absolute best pouts. Locks all blow dried and curled loosely from the warm sea breeze, waiting patiently. He clambered ever so carefully over the electric fence. I stood patiently, poised with camera in hand. All was going well. Even Hansel horse trotted up to make an appearance in the birthday video. Just as the Happy Farmer called for ‘action’, and the camera began to roll, it appears the bull, who, in the sunshine must have been feeling ever so slightly amorous in amongst those beautiful ladies, took the Farmer’s words quite literally. That rampant youngster began putting on his best performance too. At this point I could not speak for laughing, as amidst all the excitement, chaos broke out as those highland girls positively danced and sashayed around the Happy Farmer. He skilfully managed to dodge those huge horns and avoid the passionate advances of one Happy bull, managing to climb back over the fence without injury.

In the heat of the afternoon sun, just as the whisky festival is about weaving magic, creating camaraderie and happy memories, know that in your absence, our Persabus Ambassadors partied hard, and next spring will be delighting you with more happy calves to join their committee to welcome you all back.

We hope you enjoyed the virtual festival. You can capture it here. The usual frenetic buzz of energy that fizzes and bubbles across the island at festival time was replaced with a quiet calm as lockdown continues.

Wild storms had ravaged the island in the early part of the week. At the beach, huge waves uprooted a whole jungle of seaweed, transporting and depositing giant sculptures, resembling our very own Persabus Ambassadors, along the shoreline. It appears even the oceans were getting in on the ‘Persabus’ act, before the sun shone brightly again.

We missed you all last week, but know that once this has passed, and it is safe to travel again, a warm welcome will be waiting for you all at Persabus.

Until then stay safe and take care.

Until next time…

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Egg Nomination

Pressure is mounting. The latest lockdown craze for NHS donations involves nominated people filming themselves swallowing a raw egg, a spoonful of sugar and a large dram. The short video clips are then uploaded onto social media with more nominees being presented with the challenge.
On the island the challenge is spreading like wildfire, appealing to the hardy farmers, fishermen and distillery workers. Even the youngsters are participating, with apple juice instead of whisky. I take my hat off to them. Each evening there are more and more videos.
The Handsome Farmer completed his challenge with ease. His egg slipped down quickly and easily. He loves runny eggs, and Bruichladdich whisky. His son struggled terribly, causing much hilarity. He made the grave mistake of opting for a ‘macho’ duck egg. Duck eggs are particularly strong in flavour, with a much larger yolk. This particular duck egg just refused to go down, and, if like me you have an aversion to the very thought of raw egg, it makes for painful viewing.
Some of the clips are just too excruciating to watch. ‘Hardy people’ are reduced to quivering wrecks as they try so very hard to ‘stomach’ a gloopy raw egg.
There are also the ‘confident’ ones. The ones who actually like raw eggs. They have done this before. They delight in causing stomach churning entertainment. These contestants go for the whole egg. Mouths open wide, and in it goes, shell and all, as they wickedly crunch their way through the challenge, a cheesy grin across their face. They relish the challenge, knowing viewers, like me, will be suffering, just watching the proceedings.
I had until now sat comfortable, safe in the knowledge that there was no threat. The Happy Farmer does not ‘do’ social media. He has no Facebook account to his name. However, this week that safety net has been whipped away. Nominations have come flooding in. His friends have ‘ways and means’, and the lack of a Facebook account has not got in the way of a nomination. The Singing Shepherd, Archie Bread and our lovely best man all seem to think that the Happy Farmer would make an excellent contestant.
Pressure is mounting. The Happy Farmer however struggles to eat any kind of runny egg, be it poached, or fried, let alone raw. His eggs must be turned several times in that frying pan until they are completely hard. The very thought of munching through a whole, raw, egg causes much toe curling, stomach churning anxiety. To make matters worse, it would appear even the promise of a hearty dram to wash away the ‘pain’ of the egg is not all it seems. Our best man in his video clip, managed the egg, tried the sugar, but when it got to downing a good dram of Laphroaig, he had to make a sharp exit, as ‘everything ‘threatened to make a ‘come back’. It would appear his Laphroaig whisky was certainly giving him a very ‘peaty slap in the face’.
Today then, those eggs, the ones that were lying comfortably in the basket at the window of the farmhouse, have all chosen this moment to go into hiding. I honestly had nothing to do with it and thank goodness we do not have any breakfast guests just now as there is not an egg to be found. All gone.
The Happy Farmer is now in the ‘eggs-tra’ special position today of the possibility of an Easter egg hunt at Persabus in May, if he is indeed to participate in this challenge. Of course, the reward of such a challenge is the nominations that will follow.
A hearty donation has already been made to the NHS on his behalf. Those teams of nurses, doctors and allied health professionals do so much good work, daily, all year round. In these difficult times we cannot have enough gratitude for all that they are doing across the country to save and protect lives.
Stay safe and take care until our island is once again open for visitors. In the meantime, this week do take the opportunity to visit our online virtual Festival of Music and Malt on Facebook, as the committee, the distilleries and community come together digitally to provide entertainment to help get you through these difficult times.
Until next time….

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