I’ve never had a lot of money, but say I did, I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea as to what to do with it. So its probably just as well I haven’t. On many occasions I have looked into wishing wells and been astonished by the sheer number of one to two pound coins thrown in by people for a sheer wish. Whilst myself, having nothing to spare like that, have thrown in any penny change hoping that my particular desire would hold the same amount of weight. I’m not really one for wishing, I live more in the plan department with a little bit of ‘it will be alright in the end’ thrown in. Traits of which don’t fall from the same jigsaw box and make for interesting jigsaws as a result. There has however been times during my life in which having neither any spare change or being in actual proximity of a wishing well. I have thrown an imaginary coin into the ibis in the hope that it may somehow fall in some sunny pool or puddle at the very least. The last handful of evenings have been particularly warm in Tarbert and anyone passing will have usually gazed upon our front step to find me drying my hair in the late sun, knees tucked under chin as I steal a few minutes pages of some book or other. One evening in particular whilst biting into a cool soft peach I watched as its juice ran down the length of my arm until Shug – plucking up courage – licked it dry. Thinking to myself it must of been a good coin I got this moment from. I looked down over my feet and there – pushed down into a saucer of mud from the days play- was a single penny piece. A very good coin indeed.The daffodils have died back and in their place long wavering grasses with bruised tips and intricately faced wild flowers have covered the Harris floor like soft carpet. Flurries of tourists ebb and flow off the ferry and I find sheer delight in watching each crawling camper van, brimming family car and jeep trailing cannons and boats. Like clockwork each deciding in which direction their Hebridean journey will take them, as they reach the junction in front of our door. There’s a constant flow of people walking past and watching them has become somewhat of an important daily occupation for myself and Bea. Hikers with matching backpacks holding packed lunches and all other necessary bits for a day out in the open air. Groups of people, with children raised to the sun on strong shoulders. Along with couples in slack jeans and sandals, holding hands, walking slowly as we all should do on this earth. I find delight in all of them. All of whom hold a shiny coin to throw up to the Hebridean sun, or two.One afternoon when the rain broke after a very wet spell, we headed down to a small cove of beach. A lady passed us heading to the beach herself and clad in walking gear held a small clear plastic bucket labelled ‘Crabbing’. As she chatted away to Chris I couldn’t help leaning my body a little too much in order to study the contents of her collection. To my absolute disbelief it did truly look as if some large octopus leg was wound round the rocks and seaweed inside. Due to having a rather over active contents in my own bucket my imagination began to very much believe that this slight harmless lady was in fact carry some Hebridean sea beast. After realising I was starting to lean a little too much, a gentle nudge from Chris brought we back to the salt and sea and I decided against even telling Chris about the beast our Miss Marple figure had caught. Knowing full well what his answer would entail, myself and Shug took turns to drag each other along the shore line and Bea – doing what Bea does best – set out to find to the highest sea pink covered rock she could find. Better for throwing coins I thought. Clever girl.As the summer days have grown tall around me I have been struck by a yearning desire to be in Lancashire. Not in physicality but more the desire to hold my mothers hand or smell the salty breeze her court yard encases. One early morning as I ambled along with no particular thought, the sight of dense grass littered with wild bluebells and hyacinths made me think of the lakes and immediately I ached for my mother. I wanted to walk through her door in which a lamp regardless of season is always on – never runs out that bulb – and bury my head into her scented neck. As the familiar gold clasp hung loose from her wrist I wanted her to ask me if I wanted normal or early grey tea. I yearned to hear the comfort from the same story already previously relayed to me and the familiar words ‘did I not tell you?’ as she handed me hot triangles of toast pooled with squares of thick golden butter. I wanted in that second to go home. Not forever just a small hour. I wanted Grannie Mainland. I wanted my mum. As the summer days have tumbled on I have frequently passed that plot of untouched earth. Just past our house, behind our neighbours garden. With a small stream as a partition it is quite untouched and as a result the earth booms around it. That morning the heavy scent of woodland and water swam through the holes in my jumper making my skin patterned with the cold. Its density took me by surprised and rather reluctantly transported me back to late last summer when we stayed in the lakes for a small handful of nights. It was on that trip that I realised how utterly in the wrong place I was and whilst there threw a somewhat heavy coin into the ibis of space hoping it may somehow reach the water. It did.One sunny morning as the cars rolled by thick off the ferry and small armies of motorcyclists weaved past me. I sat on the front step with Noah in the pram as Bea flung mud around like no one’s business and filled in a small section within a magazine. Being asked to note down all the magical things I use to do as a child – I did. Staring at the page I suddenly yearned to do them. I yearned to make houses out of shoe boxes, pop up books with secret illustrations and spend hour upon hour threading small beads onto chains and ribbons. Of which most ending up embedded deep into the carpet my late grand father would exclaim ‘Lucy’s been here again!’ in sheer beaded exasperation when the hoover was asked to do its job. As I watched Bea meticulously decide which wooden spoon was best up to the job of catching woodlice I pondered a which point we loose it all? When do we stop picking out clashing clothes in abandon and getting lost in the small workings of beads and stones? When we’re told there’s more important work to do? Probably. As I watched my naked child plod quite deliberately along the lip of the house I threw a coin into the youth of the morning hoping that Bea and Noah would always find their most important work in the magic of living and I being their first teacher I would always hold the coins to make it so.We’ve done our fair share of exploring these past handful of weeks. Walking the routes of Aline community forest as well as hunting our usual beaches. Aline forest sits just before the mile road as you head along to Stornoway. With two areas separated by the road you can cross to go up into the hills or you can walk through the gate at the car park and head along the water. With a huge adventure park tucked away at the top its a brilliant place to take children or even walk your dog and sit and have a sandwich. We also found ourselves at the bottom of Harris as a lady, well known by the name of Grannie Annie opened up a new shop. Although I was excited to have a look, I’m not much of a shopper and it was in fact Annie that I was most keen to see. Having introduced herself and any help she could offer to us well before we arrived here, I was fascinated with this Hebridean figure of whom could of been a character from Mairi Hedderwicks mind. As we drove down to Rodel and came over the hill we caught sight of the distant church and hastily stopped the car as chris exclaimed ‘GRANNIE ANNIES!’ For Grannie Annie’s sat proudly off a white washed cottage, with chalk board illustrations at its entrance and its rolling tumbling name over the door.
‘I don’t know if I can go in now’
‘Oh for goodness sake lucy! Will you get out of the car and just go!’
And so, rather than admit my own defeat I slammed the car door and let myself in. Like lots of business’ on Harris, Grannie Annie’s runs upon an honestly policy. Something of which is pretty alien to me and the shopping culture I’ve grown up with. I was alone. Grannie Annie was not there and I felt as if invited round for tea I had stepped into someone’s house to early and was marvelling upon their worldly collections without their knowledge. I slowly and quietly walked up and down the small room and let each treasure and quirky detail jump out at me when it felt ready. First there was the small pillar red post box for posting honestly envelopes. Then the walls – they were covered length and width in door frames – like 3D wallpaper. Then the wooden church pews and small bags made from newspapers, creatures sewn with shells and fisherman’s nets and rich Harris tweed’s mixed with fruity liberty prints. It was and is in the truest sense of the word. A treasure trove.
I’d lost all sense that my family waited for me outside and soon a figured appeared. On whom walking through the door, shook my hand and named herself ‘Annie’.
‘Hello I’m Lucy’
‘Your Lucy! How wonderful!’ and within that small handful of ordinary words I saw all the beauty within her to make such a beautiful place. Her shoulders fell up and down with ease as she chatted answering questions and her hands fit within the pockets of her jeans like old friends. I always look at peoples hands when they put them into their pockets. I’m not particularly sure why and I cant pin point the exact time in which I started doing it, only that the ease in which its done can tell you a lot about a person.
‘Have you lived here all your life Annie?’
‘Goodness no! Only moved here five years ago! Everyone thought I was mad’
She’d thrown a coin.
‘Why did you move here?’
As her hand with as much ease of that of an otter sliding into the water moved out from her pale blue pocket. Her eyes, shifting from my face, moved to the window. She laughed and pointed as if I had asked the most obvious question of them all.
‘That. Out there!’
And in that split instant I understood everything about the appeal of the Hebrides. It was ‘That. Out there’ that made people come here and it was ‘That. Out there’ that made them stay. You don’t meet a lot of people of whom are both magical and matter of fact simultaneously. Its a rare gift. One I instantly spot. But then again you dont always discover somewhere as rare as Grannie Annie’s.As we weaved our way through the densely dappled roads of the lakes that summer tears began to prick within my eyes. Its dappled path blurred and I couldn’t help but turn towards the window to hide the stream that fell over my cheeks. ‘I’d love to live somewhere like this’ chris said and although I felt the same I couldn’t answer. For answering would of meant admitting that the busyness of our lives wasn’t working for us and more over we had no opportunity to change it. It was only upon passing a small pale yellow box selling eggs and jam with a clear glass jar placed atop for honesty change that I threw that coin, but I didn’t throw it for me. I threw it for chris and maybe that’s why it landed in some forgotten pool of sunny water. At only a penny in weight it felt light and somewhat worthless as it inaudibly clashed against the sun. I never thought about it again. As money worries come and go – as they do with all of us on this planet – its sometimes hard to imagine giving them away. I’ve never had a lot of money, but say I did, I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea as to what to do with it. So it’s probably just as well I don’t, but I do know of all the coins I have or haven’t spent on this earth its the ones I’ve given to others that have always made me richer.
To those who throw coins. Keep throwing. One will find the sun.
You can now follow our Hebridean journey on Instagram @islandwife_hebrides for daily updates and live videos. We’re over on Facebook and YouTube! @Islandwifehebrides. Grannie Annie and her treasure trove is also on Facebook @Grannieannies
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