People are always intrigued and want to know what it was like for me moving from the city to live on Islay.
When I first arrived here to be with my Happy Farmer I honestly didn’t know if island life was for me. It was very different to city living. We had a ‘plan B’ tucked up our sleeves in case, but that would have involved the Happy Farmer leaving his beautiful island home and way of life behind.
It was quite an upheaval and a very big change, moving from the city of London to live on a farm in the Hebrides. The internet and mobile phones had not become everyday accessories. Links to life beyond the island consisted of crackly landline phone calls and the Royal Mail, but the community here is such a friendly one and everyone offered a warm welcome. The spectacular scenery, the ocean views, the dramatic sunrises and sunsets, the fresh air and space to breathe, and the local characters. It is the people and their attitude to life that really make a place. Traffic jams consisted of a herd of cows making their way back from the milking parlour to the fields as I passed the dairy farm on my way to work. Eagles soared overhead and oystercatchers, herons and gulls fished away on the shoreline.
The rambling old farmhouse at Persabus needed serious renovation. Several generations of the family had frequented it before us. It had a warm heart, but no central heating. We relied on huge open fires and a solid fuel Rayburn. Windows needed replaced as the old wooden frames were rotting. In wild weather it wasn’t just a gentle draught breezing its way through the farmhouse, but a full on gale blowing a ‘hoolie’ through our living space.
In those early days on stormy nights in the midst of winter we would huddle in front of a roaring fire. Rosie, our flat coated retriever, would amble into the room to join us, and promptly position herself in prime location, right in the hearth, shielding us from the heat. She would then proceed to singe the fur on her nose, as she too cosied up. Curtains would be flapping horizontally around us. The power would be intermittent with frequent blackouts during lengthy power cuts. It could be damp and cold, but the Happy Farmer’s sense of humour and positive attitude buoyed us along.
I can look back with rose tinted glasses now, but at the time it was quite an adjustment from the shelter of city living.
When I wasn’t at work I would be out and about helping the Happy Farmer. I set about making friends with each and everyone of the animals on the farm, lovingly naming them after members of the family, with Rosie proving to be the most popular name. Before I knew it we had a Rosie dog, Rosie cow and then along came Rosie the horse. The cows were particular favourites. Donalda cow, was named after the Happy Farmer, as she was his favourite in the herd. We had Arraina, after the Happy Potter, and Valinda cow, after my lovely mother in law, to name a few.
When it came to calving then, it was Valinda who aptly chose a nearby ditch as her birthing pool and promptly got stuck right up to her ‘oxters’ in it. Luckily the calf survived, but Valinda lay helpless, sinking deeper into the bog. No amount of pushing or pulling could remove her. In the end it took an old heavy net, a JCB and a lot of brute force to ease her safely free. In the interim I gained a pet calf as Valinda took time to recover from her ‘ditching’ experience, having lost the power in her legs. Jeremy, my new baby, was bottle fed and followed me around the farm like a pet dog, suckling away on my hand. Each day as I drove into the farmyard after work, he would come bounding across to the car to greet me.
It was a difficult lesson, as with Jeremy growing larger, he had to eventually be sold, a pet bull bounding to meet me would be far from safe, but we did have a lot of fun during his time at Persabus.
The Happy Farmer would take me away to the bright lights of Glasgow at least once a month in those early days. We would party hard and feast on fabulous Indian meals, Glasgow curries are amazing. The frequent city visits meant I had the best of both worlds.
Thirty years on, a lot of building and renovating, and we are living our island dream, sharing it with so many lovely visitors and guests from all over the world, who come to stay with us on the farm.
Until next time…