Denise: It’s mid February, nearly 2 months from the winter solstice and at this time the change from one day to the next is accelarating: within another month or so all of nature will be in a frenzy of new growth. Right now however, there’s little to cheer us up than the brighter skies – I’ll not go as far as to say sunshine – and at last a reprieve from the windiest and wettest winter that even the oldest islanders can recall. There’s plenty of seaweed on the beaches, but right now little enough time to get out and collect it: J’s tied up with engineering and building projects and in the evenings he’s re-wiring our own house. A walk on the beach in the moonlight before bedtime his his only reprieve.
Denise: J has gone and put his foot in it again. Or rather through it. The dining room floor. “It’s a bit spongy”, I said. J investigated. With his foot. And his weight. All of it – in one go. Now we can see under the stud partition wall – and under the bath and shower on the other side. There’s not many houses that can boast so useful a feature. So now we can see exactly where and under what circumstances the previous owner’s attempts at DIY renovation expired. And why. Ten years ago. At times like this I do wonder if we did the right thing coming here. Another job on the to do list: gut bathrooom and dining room (and with it part of the hall), rip up floor, new joists (and some insulation too please!), new floor, rewire, replumb, replaster, redecorate … and recuperate. Ah, well – it will just have to wait. Other jobs for J to finish first.
Jonathan: Tilly and I head homeward, the path ahead a ragged line of darkness in a landscape powder-coated with fine snow and etched with the light of a full moon. A stillness and quiet has settled on Uist which, after the roar and rampage of yesterday’s storm – the worst since the great hurricane of January 2005, is at once reassuring yet unsettling. After so many hours suspended between dread and distraction, the senses are still on red alert. The cold air brings to the lips a salty, almost metallic tang – the minerals of land, sea and air – untold trillions of ions and molecules torn free from the surfaces to which they are ordinarily bound by electro-magnetic forces. Rock or grass, steel or concrete, alive or inert: when the wind comes a-visiting, there is no bolt so strong, nor weight enough, that the wind cannot take away the very substance of the thing itself. As we turn in at the gate, moonlight glints off the glassy surface of the Lewisian Gneiss from which the Gàrradh – the great wall around our garden – is built. For all the daily labours and life-long dreams invested in this walled garden over hundreds of years, it will inevitably erode away, ion by ion, stone by stone, hope by hope, until nothing is left but the stories of old men and a line of shadows on a moonlit night.