Moving anywhere is stressful, but add children into the mix and the calmest of minds can transcend into utter turmoil. For some discovering new places and people is something to relish and desire, for others, it is an overwhelming process that the mind dwells and dwells upon. I am the latter. Now to those who know me, that probably does not ring true. I present myself as someone who is fairly out going and relatively confident. Ask my husband and he will confirm that I am indeed painfully shy and without a doubt an unnecessary worrier.
Our first month living in the Outer Hebrides has been wonderful and hard all at the same time. You could say its been wonderfully hard, but I’m not convinced that’s a thing! I haven’t yet to feel any homesickness, which has come as rather a surprise to both of us. I haven’t had any shock in culture change either. I rather like having only a handful of small shops on my doorstep, leading to less stuff, no noise, no complications. The peace of the place is wonderful and extremely calming. I so love listening for the soft hum of the ferry as it draws into Tarbert ferry terminal, settling in for the evening like a big restful giant. Counting how many cars ‘clink’ off the ramp too slowly halt in the distant hills and laughing – obviously having been stopped by a stubborn sheep on the road – to which there are many, sheep not roads.
The physical landscape is also taking some getting used too. Quite frequently I catch a glimpse of the hills in the corner of my eye or open the curtains in the morning and catch a tiny breath as too what they are. The landscape is breath taking, literally. An elixir of rugged Yorkshire dales mixed with the crystal seas of the Cornish coast. But with each day I do find more and more solace in their quiet presence. In the early winter evenings, the air is filled with the scent of burning fires, as tiny chimneys begin to puff and release streams of smoke into a powdery snowy sky. Chris says it reminds him of his childhood and the smell is extremely comforting.
The place itself is very comforting, probably why so many people feel compelled to return here year after year and maybe why I haven’t felt any home sickness. The place feels like home. Its undemanding and restoring, like a good night’s sleep or that peaceful space created between the four arms of an embrace. There have only been two incidents in my life in which such a feeling has been so prominent I’ve followed it without hesitation. Once when I first met a man in a pub kitchen and without even having spoken to him knew I was going to marry him and secondly when we were asked to move to Harris. Both holding the explanation as to why I moved, without worry or question and as to why I did in fact marry the chef.
Pushing myself to go and out meet new people has been a challenge, and one that I did expect to face. Some people would say that having children in tow helps meeting new people easier. I agree to an extent; however, I also know from experience that toddlers have an incredible ability to pick the worst times to have tantrums and babies live life regardless of convenience. Making the meeting process all the more stressful and sometimes embarrassing when your silently pleading with your wild child to just calm down and eat the milky buttons like they would normally! I did manage to pluck up the courage and go to the mother and baby group. Held at a wonderful soft play facility built for the children here.
Armed with overflowing baby bag, buggy, baby carrier and two rather nonchalant children, I was rather proud for putting myself out there, though it wasn’t a single effort. The kindness of those who I hadn’t yet to meet played a large roll. Other mums got in touch and asked me to join them, people have held Noah whilst I have battled with Bea, offered to make me a brew and been genuinely interested in our move here as well as who we are.
When we realised that walking with a large double pram was going to be an issue within 45 minutes a buggy was at the hotel waiting for us to make life easier. After our long and stressful journey here, we arrived greeted by a fridge full of food, flowers and a welcome card. People have stopped their cars and gotten out just to introduce themselves and welcome us to the island. We’ve even had some help with the mountain of washing produced when we all came down with a sickness bug. The small everyday gestures displayed by strangers has been heart-warming and we should never underestimate their ability to bring people together.
Its what keeps the heart of the islands beating and in thinking is what everyone needs more of? Small kind gestures and community. By that, I mean people saying hello to you when you walk past them, and the person serving you asking how you are. The pace of life here is much slower, and I whole heartedly don’t think that’s a bad thing. Rather a lot of people asked me ‘But what are you going to do lucy?’ when I told them about moving ‘What I do now. But slower’ I thought. Life here isn’t behind it just moves with more thought. One of the deciding factors that led to me exclaiming ‘WE’LL GO!’ happened around 4 weeks before the move was even on the cards. Whilst walking around a huge Tesco being bombarded by Christmas ‘wants’ and ‘needs’, and thinking is this what I really want my children to grow along with? Now in no way am I saying I don’t buy things, nor am I stating that by living here my children will never turn around and want or need things, because I’m not. What I am saying is that I feel very blessed to live somewhere where consumerism isn’t as prominent and, well, consuming. There’s an unwavering sense of community on the island, its more than just gestures, its in the air and structure of the place.
To Jennie H, who never underestimates the kindness of strangers.