Jonathan: Three days of still and sun – the first this year in which we’ve felt warm without having to do some kind of active work – just stand still and soak it up; the sunshine of so early in spring is so precious! That said, we were busy, not least in collecting a full trailer load of seaweed from Smercleit Taobh a Deas for our compost heap. It was lovely to be on the beach with sound of gentle waves on the sand, the voices of many species of wading birds (the original social twitterers!) and the plaintive cry of curlews. The seaweed smelt good, it looks good pile up like that, and don’t we just know for sure that all that goodness is going to turn into the best ever potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beans …. ! Back in the garden, at the end of day, a tub of early daffodils by the front door is swaying in the breeze: a thin veil of cloud has rolled out across the sky, thick enough to dull the light, thin enough to ensure a cold night ahead. The breeze picks up as night draws in, and by the time Tilly and I are back from our late evening walk there are already broken flower heads strewn on the ground. The weather forecast is for a week of stormy weather, and with that returns a hopeless frustration of all outdoor work. Here in the islands, the consumerist economic model of contemporary life, urban and anodyne, is still utterly trumped by the forces of nature. The stormy blast, the mighty seas, the vast weight of a leaden sky, the unforgiving rocks: these are the powers that be, the forces to be reckoned with, the force majeure against which there is no claim or defense. Life here is still as earthily romantic as it was two hundred years ago, when the Outer Hebrides provided inspiration for the poets, novelists and composers of the Romantic Movement: to them the tempests and turmoils of life – auf Deutsch bekam es ‘Sturm und Drang’ bekannt – were the episodes of a life worth living. And I for one would rather this life than that of red tail-lights streaming across the the dark void between office and home, computer and TV.
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.
Jonathan: Our first Askernish guests of the year have had a week of mixed weather; but, coming from the Isle of Lewis – a hundred miles north from here, they knew how to make the best of the conditions, be they rain or shine. The garden is showing the first signs of spring, with clumps of daffodils and buds on the willow trees. It’s time now to take cuttings from the willows and plant them out, to make good the losses due to winter storms, and to improve shelter of the garden. And on the subject of the winter storms, there’s a new garden bench to buy – the old one was reduced to firewood!