Early June, and we're settling into the house bit by bit. I've made myself a workroom upstairs until the studio's been emptied, but realistically it'll need a lot more than just emptying. And it's not as much of a priority as the house itself. There's an awful lot we want to do, but it'll gradually happen long-term, room by room as we save up the money to make changes. I'm refusing to even think about things like rewiring or dry rot, and placing my trust in the surveyors instead. Although I do have to keep telling myself that. Over and over...
It's funny how, during a spell of hot weather, these things seem to become less pressing. You just want to get outside and soak up the sun and smell the flowers. It's so lush and green at the moment; the air's warm and fragrant and hanging out the washing is about as strenuous as it gets. Of course, Joe requires a lot of time and energy when he's not at school but we still do so many little things together: cyanotype prints with wild flowers, paddling in the loch, trips to the castle, baking.
We even hosted our first barbecue the other evening; Jay had the smoker on the go all day and we rounded things off with toasted marshmallows. The midges have started to bite (I've already been chewed on by a tick) so some nights are better spent indoors. Others you just have to employ the repellent - which isn't particularly effective - and light a fire and hope for the best.
We walk to school in the mornings and I've found that I'm hardly using my car at the moment. Town's now over 20 miles away so there's no temptation to just 'nip in' (plus the car park's nearly always full as the tourist season is in full swing and it's only going to get busier). We have pretty much everything we need here in the village anyway so if the milk runs out we can usually find more without too much hassle.
I do drive to the cafe to run my workshops - there's another coming up soon - and at the weekend we're doing the 6 round hour trip to Inverness for essentials which can't be bought on the island. But on the whole we're just staying close to home and enjoying it.
For a week or so, we were completely offline here. No mobile signal (I haven't actually been able to use mine since December, unless we're out somewhere more populated), no landline (we're still waiting to be connected) and no internet.
This was initially frustrating - particularly when ordering the food shopping. You can't look anything up either or send emails or do your banking. You can't make arrangements with people or quickly get in touch to check things. School don't have a number to get me in an emergency.
But then you accept it. You feel freed from screen-scrolling, and the endless pings as yet more messages land in your inbox. You suddenly find yourself watching far less TV too. It's no longer switched on to provide background noise. Lunch at the kitchen table with an old magazine to re-read suddenly becomes far more appealing.
You take yourself for little ambles in between chores and writing. Late last week we had a hazy day when the bright glare of the sun was tempered by light clouds. I went out with the camera to the croft land next door and photographed the flowers. Our cherry blossom has gone now, and the yellow gorse is starting to look tired but in their places are cow parsley and bluebells.
The hawthorns are covered in white blossom too, and the cotton grass is once again dotting the grazing land with tufts which blow in the wind. Thrift too, down at the loch. It's submerged when the water comes in but reemerges at low tide, completely unaffected by a drowning and still ready to dance about again.
All this is within a stone's throw of the house. I'm really hoping that now we're back online (it's so much faster here too) the urge to stay ever-connected doesn't creep back in. Yes, I need to promote my work. I love writing the blog and being a part of the magazine. Instagram: yes, ditto Pinterest. But the rest really needs to be kept in its place.
So this is where I begin to reassess things in terms of importance. We do watch TV of an evening but that's usually something recorded (or a series on Netflix). Channel-surfing doesn't really happen. Social media is allowed but in small doses and there's going to be a cut-off point - say, seven thirty. Phones aren't allowed at the table. It's an unspoken but rigidly observed rule.
The value of pottering, reading, gardening and exploring as ways of spending time really hit home once you've been offline for a while, even if it's just a week.
It's good to be back here though...