High winds rushed November onto the Island of Islay with an almighty force. The house groaned and the windows creaked, the framework moving under my hands as I placed them against the glass. The wind in a sullen rage swept over the isle like a wildfire burning the heather. The branches on trees, which all through October had done so well to cling desperately to the warmth of their leaves, were now burnt bare. The sea spat and hissed at the coastal edge with huge waves throwing themselves at the land. The water at Port Morr swelled like the belly of a beast waiting to be fed. A handful of sheep grazed close to the edge and I waited, wondering if I were to blink mid gust if I would open my eyes to find them gone, swept away into the wild way of the Atlantic. I am quite used to this type of weather with power cuts often running alongside it, but having lived in the Hebrides for a number of years now I find no bother in them. Candles and battery operated lanterns are whipped out along with a trusty camping stove that I should really christen with a name I am that grateful for her. As long as I can fill up a hot water bottle and make a cup of something hot and strong to get me through the day’s mothering I am quite content. Bedtime black outs can be a hazard though, in small fishermans cottages already dark from tiny windows and low ceilings, becoming darker still so that seeing your own hands is impossible. There is always the hope that there is just enough hot water left in the tank to wash the day’s dirt from the bottom of the children’s feet. Although my children would be happy if it stayed there. Everything is an adventure to them, including blackouts where I will always find them making spooky shadows against the walls with hands and torch.
The summer had run through my hands like warm sand. Tourists having ebbed away leaving the campsite near the house barren and a little strange looking. No couples strolling hand in hand towards the hotel for a leisurely lunch and no happy parties abundant with children holding brightly coloured buckets and spades make their way to the water’s edge to search the rock pools. Only two campervans remained to my right and I wondered how their night had been, for certainly I had felt the anger of the weather inside my four sturdy walls and rooted foundation. The wind in all her might had raged for a good number of days with the rain lashing down in great big sheets that I could see forming and falling over the horizon out at sea. I could, without binoculars, see the rain cascading and pushing over the Oa directly opposite the living room window. The american monument standing at its tip, quietly weathering it all. Proud and unmoving against the elements, like the one member in everyone’s family who never flaps or seems to break under mounting pressure. Not everyone favours this weather, certainly I do not favour it when walking two plodding toddlers to the village primary school. I do however find deep comfort and inspiration in it. I love Scotland the most when she becomes an elemental battleground. When the wind and waves tangle themselves up in abandon like two happy drunks at a ceilidh. I think you see her truth colours that way. The steely blues of a low, moody sky and peppermint waves barreling up the water. The bell heather stained deep crimson ringing in the wind and the mountains ominous and drenched dark with sleet.
To simply watch the weather roll in and out like trains at a mainland station brings me great joy. Of course there are no trains on the islands, nothing moves that fast here apart from sheep hearing the crofters arrival. I love it. Such a simple island pastime and yet its great entertainment and the lineup is always jam packed. Either watching the wind roll the water into great barrels or watching the sun rip a seam in the heavens creating a strip of golden sun down onto the rock. There is always something dramatic to watch out of my living room window. Wildlife also is in abundance and you can imagine my excitement when Chris rang me from work one evening to tell me the dolphins were back and would be soon heading past the house. Marvellous! I rushed upstairs, camera in hand and throwing the window wide and myself out as far as we both would go, watched as the graceful beings danced their way out of Loch Indall and out far into the Atlantic ocean. I never took any pictures. Caught up in the beauty of the moment I forgot. I didn’t need to. For it was stored within my memory like so many other rough island gems of time, to keep and carry round with me forever, what treasure trove the islands are for the eyes and ears I thought. X marks the treasure’s spot and Islay is where it’s hidden.
Faithfully from Islay, Lucy
Lucy Martin is a mother of three young children who in 2017 found herself on the unexpected journey of a lifetime relocating to the Hebrides. Having never before left her childhood town in Lancashire Lucy’s journey was full of surprises. Her first experience of Harris was when the ferry docked. In 2019 her story found her again on new and unknown territory moving to the Inner Hebridean island of Islay, she had never before seen Islay either. Lucy writes about what it’s like to move, live and raise a young family in the Scottish Hebrides. You can follow Lucy’s journey at www.islandwifehebrides.com as well as on Facebook and Instagram @islandwifehebrides