Early in my week at home in Uist recently I was supposed to be taking the five Hebridean wedders/wethers to the abbatoir near Lochmaddy. The day before Denise and I agreed that the young ram lamb would have to go too, as we had no means to manage him properly. I got everything ready the day before to transport them early in the morning.
Morning came and Denise and I went over to the croft to drive the sheep into the fold and extract the sheep we’d be taking off. The sheep had other ideas! It became apparent that during my six weeks away a fault had developed with the electric fencing and not only was the dividing electric fencing not active, even when I reactivated it the sheep were completely unafraid and ducked and dived through the gaps! Even with Iain Ruaraidh’s help (a near neighbour in Bun a Mhuillin) we hadn’t a chance. We had no choice but to cancel.
Later in the week, thinking about re-scheduling the trip to the abbatoir to November, I realized we urgently needed to get the young ram out, or otherwise he’d start to take an interest in any female, his sisters or aunts or mother or whatever! In the end I asked my neighbour Seonaidh MacInnes, who not only is very experienced with livestock but also has sheep dogs, and asked his advice. No problem, he said, he could get the ram out. But rather than take him to the abbatoir, why not put him on a small island between Eriskay and Stack: he was going to take some sheep down to Stack and could drop him off on the way. He’d have to stay there until the spring (that’s the ram, not Seonaidh!) but the grazing was good, and though the weather might be wild it would at least toughen him up: Hebrideans are supposed to be a hardy primitive breed!
So, let’s hope that goes smoothly! But I’ve still yet to organize the wedders off to the abbatoir, and a tup for the ewes, all in November.
Back at the blogging keyboard for the first time for at least a fortnight. A week at home – scarcely time to think let alone distil those thoughts; then back at work in England and increasingly an environment that denies me the very things that inspire me …
But now various threads are coming together, a sense of direction is restored, and here I am …
And I think it’s been much the same for Denise, too.
Denise: I’ve now got more details on the wool yarn and needles required for the Eriskay knitting. Needles are very fine – 2 25 and made of rosewood at £18 a pair; and the yarn is an extremely fine multi-ply. However this is an important investment in a potentially high-value new area of work, and it is good to be learning something new.
Today I sold our motorhome. A few weeks ago, as I was walking up to the van, someone stopped me to ask if I was thinking of selling it, as he’d noticed it a few times and thought it would suit him and his family. At the time I was so surprised all I could say was that as I would no longer really need it from end of October, I’d let him know, and took his contact details. Back at home a fortnight ago Denise and I talked it over and agreed we would not really have a need for the van; it would just sit outside rusting away and we needed the cash more. So a few days ago I got in touch with Paul and his wife Donna, and yes they were still interested, and this morning I gave it the most thorough clean it’s had for at least a year. This afternoon they came round to look and a test drive. And yes they loved it and we agreed a price, and a hand-over on Saturday morning 30th October – less than a fortnight away. I’ve now got to fix up my journey home, and in particular the problem of getting all my goods and chattels over to Uist!
A few days ago I checked out prices for other Autosleeper Clubmans – £12k-£14k. That’s from a dealer, in average condition and mileage for age, and our van has done 85000 miles not 55000, and has quite a lot of rust spots on the cab and other blemishes, and a few defects – none too serious or too expensive to put right – inside. So the price agreed was, shalll we say, very substantially less than that average! But considering that for the past couple couple of years Denise and I have reconciled ourselves to the likelihood that we’d end up having to scrap the van, and possibly even having to pay for it to be taken away, we feel ourselves well off indeed.I really liked the people who are buying it: it’s nice to feel the van will be making a real difference in their lives, just as it has for Denise and I over the past nine years.
The photo here was actually taken in 2003 when I first started using the van for working on the mainland. If we’d never bought the van, back in October 2001, I would never have volunteered for that secondment to work in Scotland (loads of overtime to help pay for it!); I would never have seen the Outer Hebrides for the first time from Skye; we would never have gone to the islands for an extended holiday; and – having moved to the islands – we could never have afforded the costs of accommodation when working away from home. What a god-send it’s been!
Denise had a visit from the Comhairle’s (council’s) environmental health officer – a complaint about the geese again. They’ve been ‘camping’ overnight outside someones gate and leaving a bit of a mess! Strictly the geese are doing what they are entitled to do, but it doesn’t make for good neighbourly relations. I’ve been on the phone to the council and to my neighbour about this, and we’ve agreed that he should show ‘calculated aggression’ towards the geese to make them feel it is not a nice place to be (not something I can do myself – the geese would never come near me again!) and I shall do what I can – once I’m home for good – to ‘re-educate’ the geese. It’s a fine line to be drawn between holding out for my rights, and also accommodating my neighbours, even when these are in conflict. Not easy! But this is the stuff of making life as a community work.