26.05.2013 - 14.06.2013
And suddenly, out of nowhere, summer arrives. Glorious wide blue skies, a big round yellow sun, heat like I didn't think was possible on an island. The colours and contours of the landscape are changing before my eyes and as the sun remains, so the speed of the change hastens. First of all wild Aquilegia, pinks, blues, lilacs. Then it's the turn of the ferns to emerge from their hidey holes. The blackbird babies in the garden shed arrive; no longer eggs, but tightly packed bedraggled little objects in their nest, heads permanently tilted back, orange beaks wide open waiting for the next worm. Mummy and daddy blackbird perform a stirling service in ferrying food back and forth. Despite this, the young ones make a terrible racket.
It's a mad rush to get all the young plants from the cold frames and permanently into the soil. As we plant the birds seem even cheekier than before, a couple of thrushes are the worst offenders and daddy blackbird is impatient at our slow speed. The swallows have arrived to dive bomb the street in the evening and I've heard and seen my first cuckoo. On a visit to Iona I hear Corncrakes. I am surprised at how excited I get about these things.
Lunch and dinner are eaten outside everyday for at least two weeks. I can't quite believe this is really happening. I see many colours of blue which I have never seen before, I see qualities of light which leave me breathless. The water, always crystal clear and turquoise blue has now got extra pizzaz. It's like magic Disney dust has been sprinkled over the Inner Hebrides. I am constantly reminded of being in the Greek Islands.
However there is a lot of work to be done; the young plants are struggling in the heat and constantly thirsty. The gardens cover a big area and the watering is done by hand, so it's often nearly nine by the time I'm done. Part of me wants to go indoors and collapse but I can't allow myself to miss the next visual extravaganza, dusk. It doesn't begin till well after 9.30, the blue of the day taking hours to slowly melt into greys and pink and not until about eleven thirty, magenta and charcoal black. The colour show only serves to accentuate the silhouettes of all the surrounding islands. Every night is a feast. Every night I think I am in Greece. Every night I head to bed at about midnight, although the darkness has not fully descended.
One night at low tide we go hunting for mussels in this beautiful light, but return back with only a bucket load. I have begun obsessing about food. Our diet in the island is fairly basic; connected to a desire to keep things simple and I guess, limited finances. Because of the late spring, none of the crops are anywhere near ready and it seems that carrots, swedes, tinned tomatoes and lentils form the basis of our daily intake. Having been a vegetarian for nearly 29 years, my digestive system can cope, it's my taste buds that can't. Highlight of the week was any dish that had cheese in it or on it and pizza, not pepperoni I might add, carrot pizza!! It wasn't that the food was bad, it was more the lack of variety; of ingredients, textures and flavours that got to me. I began to put in shopping orders each time someone went to Mull. Cheese was generally top of the list, well, maybe joint with white wine. Then yoghurt, McVities chocolate biscuits, bumper packs of Club Oranges (it's an Irish thing), Tunnocks caramel wafers (it's a Scottish thing), I always had to have a full stash, just incase. Fresh fruit would have been brilliant, but supplies came from the overpriced and depressing ferry shop in Fhionnophort, where lifeless apples and oranges and the odd banana were the height of it. Maybe all the white wine I was drinking protected me from scurvy!
By the second week in June the ferns are as high as my knee. The foxgloves have arrived, closely followed by the yellow bog Iris. One morning the baby blackbirds are no longer in their nest. I feel strangely maternal (for someone with a medium sized bird phobia), I hope they are ok. I later see clumsy looking young birds, stupidly sitting on the grass, or low in the hedge, their feathers all puffed up rather than sleek, I think it's them. After more than a year on the move, I so value this opportunity to be in the one place; rather than dashing from here to there and back again, to be still and to observe the world changing around me. And what a place to choose to do it.
However the people around me change all the time. Whilst the permanent residents remain, one set of guests depart on a Saturday morning at about 10, the next set arrive at 11.15. Sometimes it all felt a bit much; all that having to get to know yet another set of people, people who new and needy, just as I had been in my first week. Sometimes I could not be bothered, I wanted to hide away in my house and not make eye contact, never mind conversation with someone. I was doing this for two months, I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for the permanent residents. I began to be relieved that I wasn't going to be on Erraid forever.