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Archive for the month “June, 2012”

We’re all staying at home for our Summer Holiday

A few people who have made the move to Colonsay have commented that one downside is that you lose your favourite holiday destination.  So far I haven’t really felt this.  Probably because Colonsay has always felt like home to me rather than somewhere we went on holiday.  However I have felt jealous of all the holidaymakers heading off to the beach each day.  With Allan’s sister and our friends coming and my sudden freedom from the shop I decided to indulge myself with a weeks ‘staycation’.  Apparently this is becoming more and more common.  Cany Brits are shunning foreign climes in order to stay at home for a week and enjoy the British weather.  The phenomenon has become so massive that foreign holiday tour operators are in serious decline!

The first few days of holiday went swimmingly.  (Well I didn’t actually swim but one member of our party did!) The weather, although not fantastic, was at least dry for several long periods.  The highlight of Allan’s sister’s stay was our trip to Oronsay on their last day.  Oronsay is a tidal island at the south end of Colonsay.  When the tide is out there is a five-hour window where you can cross over and visit the 14th century priory on the island.  Since we had 3 very young children between our two parties and walking is a slow and painful process we decided to maximise our time on Oronsay by taking Allan’s car over.  I thoroughly enjoyed driving past all the visitors making their way across the sand.  Cheerily waving to them out of the window of Allan’s decrepit Mazda.  Allan didn’t enjoy things quite so much.  He expressed some concern as we drove through the deeper water and seemed a little distressed when the exhaust kept scraping off the rocks.  We all shared his concern when, on arriving at the Priory, the hiss of air escaping from one of the tyres was worryingly audible.  We felt slightly less smug as all of the visitors we had passed on the sand walked byt Allan while he changed the tyre!  After looking round the priory and establishing that the thermos of coffee I had brought really had melted the bar of chocolate beyond all reasonable hope of rescue we headed back to the shore and spent a pleasant half hour searching for mussels.  Allan’s sister demonstrated a rare talent for this and found more than the other three adults combined.  Indeed she became so obsessed she had to be dragged away from the rocks as the tide threatened to envelop us all.

Our second batch of visitors arrived on Monday night in time to enjoy dinner with the Swedes (mussels featured heavily on the menu along with haggis which I don’t think they will be ordering again any time soon) before they left very early on Tuesday morning.  As I previously mentioned these friends seem to be particularly out of favour with the weather gods and almost as soon as they set foot on the island the heavens opened.  We’ve done our best to keep our spirits up.  On the first day we went to Machrins beach in the pouring rain.  The children didn’t seem to mind.  Helen and their little boy looked charming in the their matching puddle suits and both paddled away and played in the sand seemingly impervious to the, at times, torrential rain.  Eventually I put Sally down on the sand too where she proceeded to try to eat the entire beach and threw herself face first into the moat that Allan had dug to hold back the encroaching tide.  We were pleased to see that we were not the only lunatics on the beach.  There was at least one other family with drenched parents  braving the elements whilst their children played happily in the driving rain.

The weather really has made things difficult though.  Yesterday we visited the fire station which was in inspired suggestion from Allan.  The two toddlers thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the fire engine although Helen expressed disappointment that she was not actually allowed to drive it.  Whilst I was preparing dinner and sweeping some of the sand out of our house the sun briefly appeared.  Our friends, ever the optimists, immediately rushed out to the beach where they were met by monsoon like rain with the addition of thunder and lightning.  I really am deeply concerned that they will never come back. To Colonsay I mean, they made it back from the beach unscathed although quite soggy.

Today dawned sunny though and after a few set backs including the unwelcome presence of a strimmer in our car we set out to walk over to Ardskenish – one of my favourite beaches.  I carried Helen on the way there and following this ordeal I plan to put her on an immediate starvation diet – that child is heavy.  Helen tried out her new wetsuit on the beach – this was made even more exciting when she announced that she needed a poo and the wetsuit had to be removed post-haste.  She did in fact leave a calling card in the sand (now buried) but sadly became hypothermic whilst the wetsuit was off and required to be resuscitated with bananas and rice cakes.  Our friend’s little boy took a perverse pleasure in knocking down sand castles faster than anyone could build them and his five-week old sister was thoroughly unimpressed by the whole outing – I’m not sure she actually opened her eyes the entire time she was there.  She made up for it with some charming smiling this afternoon though.

The problem with visitors is that spending time with them is so much more fun than carrying out the mundane day-to-day tasks which generally require to be done.  As a consequence our house is even messier than usual.  The utility room is so full of laundry you can’t really get into it.  Our new washing machine is currently assigned to be delivered to Falkirk and other than the few luxury goodies our kind friends left behind we have no food.  tomorrow is not going to be a fun day.

All in all though I have thoroughly enjoyed Colonsay as a holiday destination.  Plans are afoot for a reciprocal visit to Sweden next year but I will definitely consider Colonsay for future holidays.


Helen investigating the cloisters on Oronsay




Thank you so much for all of the lovely comments left on my blog and on facebook.  I’m sure Max would be delighted with all the attention.

I haven’t had the chance to blog much over the last couple of weeks and strangely writing about Max seems to have ended my writers block.  I suspect that the arrival of Shopbaby (very cute) and the subsequent return of Shopmeister and Mrs Shop may also have contributed to my urge to write.

I am currently sitting in my parents house waiting for Sally to wake up.  Allan’s sister is visiting from Sweden and after much debate we eventually admitted to ourselves that fitting four adults and three children into a three bedroom house wasn’t going to work.  The girls and I have decanted down here for the weekend.  Sadly Sally didn’t think much of being closeted in bathroom last night and spent much of the night in my bed poking me in the face.

Helen has already gone down the field (clad in puddle suit and wellies as of course Colonsay is putting on its best show of torrential rain for our visitors) to meet her new cousin.  She wasn’t that keen initially but soon warmed up at the promise of presents. 

I don’t have any particular topic to blog about today.  I could write another eulogy to Max.  Allan and I are still bursting into tears on a daily basis (my Dad and I had a wee cry this morning too) but I will try and remain positive and instead give a round up of current events on the rock.

  1. Sally lamb continues to thrive.  She did have a rather nasty abscess on her foot which Allan treated with the generic and all curing shot of antibiotic in the bottom.  He also squeezed the puss out which I’m told was very satisfying.  She seems to be under the impression that she is a sheepdog as she followed Allan around the hillside trying to gather the other sheep last week and today accompanied him down the filed in trusty canine style.
  2. I have a new job!!  Having given up the shop (thank God – it’s amazing how quickly a business can be brought to its knees by one persons ineptitude) I have have been appointed as Colonsay’s newest Local Development Officer.  I’m really looking forward to starting despite (or perhaps because!) I will be job sharing with my Dad.  This is probably the first job I’ve ever had where I think I may actually look forward to going to work in the morning.  We’ll see how long this enthusiasm continues.  Watch this space.
  3. As well as the visiting Swedes we are eagerly awaiting a visit from some of our best friends and their new baby.  Sadly the torrential rain is forecast to continue so I hope that they (complete with toddler and new baby) like playing Scrabble.  I am constantly amazed at peoples willingness to visit us and constantlydisappointed that the weather can be scorching hot until the boat comes in but as soon as any friend sets foot on the peir the heavens open.
  4. Sadly I will have to cut short this fascinating litany as Sally-Bee has just woken up and I need to take her down the field to be admired.  My last thought is that this little girl lives not far from us in mainland Argyll.  I know it is wrong to be jealous of a nine year old and I’m sorry that she has to eat that minging food but I’d eat almost anything for six million hits!

P.S apologies again for lack of photo – I will try and post some inspiring images soon.

The end of an era

We buried our dog yesterday.  To all you animal welfare fanatics about to comment in horror………..don’t worry he was dead.  I may sound as though I’m making light of it and maybe I am.  What else can I do? The abrupt loss of such a huge (quite literally) part of our lives has hit both of us hard.

Max became unwell on Sunday night.  He was wandering around the kitchen making the most horrific retching sounds.  My initial feeling was irritation.  We had been away over the weekend and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I assumed that the daft animal had eaten some grass or something else that didn’t agree with his (remarkably weak considering his size) constitution.  Sadly not.  I quickly recognised the signs of ‘Bloat’ a common condition in Great Danes where the stomach dilates, fills with gas and often flips on its axsis cutting off the blood supply.

We called the emergency vet in Oban who helpfully advised us to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.  Once we had established that this would be Tuesday morning she did suggest some first aid measures and Allan and I spent an unpleasant half an hour ramming a hose pipe down the poor dogs throat.  Over the course of the night it became apparent that this was not providing the necessary relief.  Max seemed to accept things too.  He gave up pacing and lay quietly in his bed.

Had the decision been down to us I think we would both have opted to have him put to sleep at this point.  Unfortunately the task of dog euthanasia on Colonsay falls to the hands of the local GPs.  Even more unfortunately it was their son’s wedding we had been at and they were still on the mainland.  We couldn’t quite face phoning up a locum we didn’t know to invite him to come and kill our dog at 2am.

We tried the emergency vet again.  She was nice and advised us to plunge a large needle into his stomach.  We decided against this.  Much like doctors I think it must be hard for vets to accept that the death of some patients is inevitable.  We were battling a condition with a low recovery rate even when treated surgically immediately.  With no veterinary help and no chance of getting him to a hospital with the next few hours we knew he wasn’t going to make it.  Deflating his stomach may have provided symptom relief but neither of us could face inflicting more agony on him, for a temporary benefit with uncertain results.

Eventually Allan sent me to bed and I slept for a few hours before it was time to get up and go to work.  I left shortly before 7:30am.  Max was lying in his bed, when I went over to him he looked up at me without lifting his head.  He twitched the tip of his tail at me.  He’s never been a morning person.  I stroked his head for a few minutes.  It would sound very dramatic to say I knew then that I would never seem him again but I didn’t.  I feared it but part of me hoped that he would hang on until the boat the next morning or he would make some sort of miraculous recovery.

When I phoned a few hours later to see how he was Allan told me he was gone.  He had remained calm until the end, simply getting up and walking outside to settle down on the path and go to sleep.

Of course Allan and I are now forced to live with the consequences of our actions.  Moving to an island with no veterinary cover.  Leaving him for the weekend while we were off enjoying ourselves.  Putting the tube down his throat.  Not putting the tube down his throat again.  Not putting the needle in his stomach.  Not getting him put down.

I feel that every time I complained about the mess he made (he made a lot of mess) or his irritating habit of needing a poo at 4am I was somehow inviting this upon us.  It’s so cheesy but I wish I had appreciated him more when he was alive.

The last few days I kept seeing his whole life flashing before my eyes.  The first time we saw him at two weeks old when Allan held him and demanded that we get ‘this one’.  Going to pick him up from the breeder six weeks later and watching him chew her living room rug…….little did we know about the sofa, shoes and wall that he would decimate in our own home.  I remember coming in from work one day and finding him sprawled across our bed on his back with a pair of my pants dangling from his jaws.

He was in the room when Allan proposed to me and it was only an intervention from my mother which prevented him from being present at the wedding too.  He trained hard with me for my first marathon and made me feel safe running through the dodgy parts of Edinburgh.  He wasn’t allowed in the living room in our house on Colonsay but sometimes he would come and stand in the doorway sighing loudly until I brought his bed over so he could lie looking reproachfully at us.  He tolerated Helen wandering through is bed a hundred times each day.  Even when she accidentally fell on top him he would just look mildly bemused.

I deeply regret every time I shouted at him (apart from when he chased sheep) and every time I forgot to feed him.  I wish I’d spent longer with him yesterday morning. I wish I’d climbed into his bed and given him a proper cuddle while I had the chance.

We buried him just outside the garden wall, wrapped in a blanket with the string of plastic sausages he used to play with as a puppy.  Helen wanted to give him one of her toys but I feared that the offer might be rescinded at a later date and I didn’t want to risk having to dig him up again.  Helen insisted on climbing into the hole with me to pay her last respects.  For a two and a half-year old her understanding of death seems fairly good.  She said bye-bye to him and didn’t complain when we covered him with earth. Today she just seemed relieved to be free of the constant risk of being flattened that playing in the garden normally brings.  This freedom didn’t last long as Sally lamb, sensing the demise of her nemesis, stormed the garden and unsurprisingly knocked Helen over.

For the last five years my life as been a constant battle against slobber, hair and general dog dirt.  Today I feel strangely unwilling to do any cleaning.  Suddenly the slobber on the wall around his bowl and the greasy mark on the kitchen wall have become shrines to him.  My Dad appropriated his bed and bowls for the other dogs but I can’t even begin to contemplate getting rid of his halti and lead.  Even the box of out of date dog biscuits is sacred.

I may never own another dog and will certainly never own another Great Dane but I’d give anything for another day with Max.

Two weeks old, who would have guessed he'd get so big.

Investigating an alien object on the croft.

Come on baby!

You know that feeling.  You’re heavily pregnant.  You’re uncomfortable, miserable and you just can’t wait for the baby to come out because however tough it is after it’s born it’s got to be better than things are as they stand.  I’m feeling exactly like that now – except it’s not my baby.

It’s been a week since the Shopmeister and his girlfriend left these shores to await the birth of the Shopbaby in a safer environment.  One week since Allan and I started looking after the shop and it seems like a lifetime.  In fact, hideous as both of my childbirth experiences were, I would happily go through both of them consecutively or simultaneously tomorrow if it would relieve me from my shopkeeping obligation.

I love being a shop assistant.  I love standing behind the till and beeping things.  I love chatting to people and I enjoy counting out their change.  My favourite game to play on quiet afternoons is scanning random items and trying to guess how much they cost.  However being a shopkeeper is much less fun.  All of a sudden I am responsible for the flow of essential items such as milk, bread and toilet paper onto the island.  We are the only outlet for these essentials and let me tell you people do not respond well to having to put UHT milk on their cornflakes.  Not only have we brought the island to its knees with a Whit induced famine (who was to know that Whit lasted a whole week and not just a weekend?) but we also seem incapable of the relatively simple task of writing people’s names on a newspaper and then not selling that newspaper to other people.  It’s strange.  You would think that people who are on holiday on a beautiful Hebridean island enjoying glorious sunshine, with miles of unspoilt beach to walk along would be able to forsake their Daily Telegraph.  You would be very wrong int that assumption.  The Tourist becomes extremely angry when deprived of his newspaper.  It’s not always my fault that the newspaper is unavailable.  When you only get five boats a week it stands to reason that newspapers are not going to be delivered seven times a week……..doesn’t it?  Surely part of the charm of Colonsay is the unavailability all the commodities we take for granted on the mainland.  If I have to explain to one more red-faced, corpulent, pompous old fool that no we don’t have todays paper I will not be responsible for my own actions.  Lets just say I’ve had to move the lighter fluid from behind the counter.  That along with all those newspapers is just asking me to commit pyrocide.

I’m rather disappointed to find that I am not the perfect shopkeeper.  I had fond imaginings of Allan and I running the shop perfectly.  We would never run out of bread and milk and the vegetable fridge would remain constantly stocked with the finest of fresh fruit and veg. I would stand behind the counter, holding court to a gaggle of admiring customers and occasionally carrying the bags of elderly locals out to their cars.  The reality is that we didn’t order quite enough milk and we’ve managed to run out of eggs.  It’s not the end of the world but we’re not going to win any awards either.  More worryingly in terms of stress levels and temper I appear to be turning into my father.   The good news is that since Shopbaby doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of coming we have plenty of time to practice.  Next week we will probably have so much spare milk we’ll all be bathing in it and surely that will be relaxing if nothing else.

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