Jonathan: We’ve just been watching, on TV, Miss Potter (2005, with Renee Zellweger in the title role). That’s the third time – and I’m quite sure I could watch it again and again! Okay I’m an old-fashioned romatic fool, but surely this must be the most touchingly romantic film ever made, all the more because the love portayed is not predicated on physical attraction, or made manifest as sentimentality, or little more than infatuation. The scene where Beatrix Potter dances alone in her room, having accepted Norman Warne’s proposal of marriage, is surely the most moving and realistic portrayal of pure happiness ever expressed on film. But the appeal of this movie extends far beyond personal relationships: it is also story of hope for those stifled or imprisoned by social expectations and circumstances ; of new life and opportunity for those whose dreams have been swept away by events.
Jonathan: … lamb? 4/4 – the second of this year’s two ‘pet’ lambs has lost interest in the Grampian Mix feed I put down for him and his half-brothers each morning. The poor confused boy!: Since he was born he’s thought he was a dog, a cat, a human, a hen, a lamb – but now he thinks he’s a goose. What a sight they are: the little black sheep with two white geese, one either side of him, heads together quietly tucking in to the little pile of whole wheat I put down for the pair of geese. I’d take a photo – but it’s still dark when this is going on. The other wedders look up from their Grampian Mix with an expression of utter disbelief.
Jonathan: Ten years ago, right now, we were busying ourselves amongst a multitude of boxes, scattered around the house, that together contained all our wordly goods. It had been a bright, cold day – just like today – and as the sun sank into the Atlantic, the house returned to the profound cold of a house that has been left empty and unloved for a long time. The previous owner – as a gesture of courtesy or generosity completely at odds with his behaviour towards us otherwise – had left some wood and coal for the wood-burning stove: I set about lighting that as Denise found the box she’d organized with all we’d need for our first meal at our new house. We’d left our old house in south-west Shropshire two days before, Denise and I, Lady, Molly and Meg (our Jack Russel Terrier and two cats, only Molly now being still with us) in the old motorhome (now also gone). The first night on the road we camped on the shores of Loch Lomond; the second was spent just down the road from here on a triangle of grass between the road and the sea. The removal took longer and was more expensive than our move in 1993 from Dalbeattie (in south-west Scotland) to Ochsenfurt in Bavaria. And emotionally this was a much more significant move: our move to Germany (and all that arose from that, even after our return two years later) taught us much about who we were not ; whereas this move was our final attempt – after so many moves of home and work – to find the place and opportunity to develop our interests, our personalities, our values and our practical skills. In short: our last-ditch attempt to live life the way we wanted to! We knew it wouldn’t achieve our goals instantaneously, and that there would have to be compromises (it’s the lack of realism that results in so many incomers returning to their old lives within a year or two). I recall having laid down a time-frame of five years to have a small business which was established and growing, and ten years until we were free of dependence on mainland income. Thinking about this now – for the first time for a number of years – I realize that we did indeed achieve those goals, though perhaps not quite as we’d imagined. In fact we now have a number of business activities, ranging from crofting and cottage industry to professional practice, all of which are important to our domestic economy. Whilst engineering and construction remain the principal source of income, that has over time – and without much in the way of nudging or steering on our part – shifted from straightforward bum-on-seat contract work, entirely away from home, to specialist designer – much in demand for major infrastructure projects across the UK and Ireland, to general civil-engineering consultancy, and now as project manager employed by private clients for their house-building projects throughout the Outer Hebrides. But today, through a conversation on the Sound of Harris ferry with someone who moved here a few months after us, I am reminded that establishing a local income is only one side of the equation, and morevoer was never the real driver for moving here in the first place: we could have done all that where we were before. Though the work is challenging and satisfying, building houses for other people is not actually what I want to do with my life. For one thing it would be good to have the time to complete the renovation of our own house, which after ten years is still in a state of disarray! It would be good to have the time to more fully enjoy the fruits (and the veg!) of our labours in the garden and on the croft (actually I’d love to have more time to spend on gardening, alongside Denise), or to have a little time to do anything or even nothing, just as we please. Like many of the fruit bushes and trees we’ve planted in this garden, we’ve thrown out roots and branches in the intersts of establishing ourselves, but some of which, through the weather and seasons have become tangled and unproductive. Winter task: sharpen and oil the garden tools: now where did I put those pruning shears?