Happy Christmas everyone, first of all - and thank you to all our friends, family and ferry services who brought us gifts, messages, warmth and friendship over what could have been a cold, lonely festive season. And the fuel arrived and was duly delivered too...
This blog post was meant to happen on Christmas Eve but not only was Santa not able to get to Rum on a boat (as they were all cancelled due to the terrific storms), but our internet connection stopped for two whole days. It was odd not to be able to check the weather obsessively, or know what was happening with the internet because of the internet not working...that's how much we depend on email! But Christmas wasn't cancelled and we had a wonderful time...
So, finally here is what was happening on Christmas Eve:
Woke up this morning after a night of storms and hail booming down the chimneys, and the predicted gale is well and truly upon us. Waves are lashing at the shore (this never happens on Rum), rain is pouring down and beyond the bay, everything is invisible. No-one is out and about at 8.30 in the morning except us, going to let the chickens out and check the powerhouse. I am accompanying Mel to see what the powerhouse actually does as I've never been in it before, and I'd rather she didn't go out on her own today as it's so windy. I am wearing a hard hat just in case, although I know that true "Rummers" would despise this caution. The powerhouse is actually three houses: one with the actual hydro, one with three rows of huge batteries sat in state, connected through to the inverters in the third house that change the direct current into alternating current. The hydro house is the most exciting, looking like a control room from a ship with various pistons, levers and switches. A scary number of computers, flashing screens and flashier lights tell Mel and Sean when things are working or not working, while an amazing remote system means you can check the diesel, power and battery status online from the office! I don't understand any of it except that it means that in terms of electricity, we are pretty much self-sustaining; something to be grateful for as when there is a three-day power cut on the mainland we're not affected. Although of course if a tree fell on the powerhouse, the generators stopped working or the computers broke down...I have no idea what would happen!
I am happy to have seen the powerhouse; it's somehow reassuring to know our technology is still working. I leave to walk around in the gale and see how big the waves actually are (quite big), and check that no other trees have come down since the other night. Surprisingly, not much new stuff has fallen. I suppose the past four weeks have nearly rooted out any trees that were weak or diseased. A crow attempts to flap from one tree to another, but is beaten back by the wind. The village is silent, but as I pass Fliss and Sandy's house on the bay, the Christmas lights come on.
|"Sarge" and the Steinway|
On Saturday we hosted Christmas carols in the castle, a brainwave as we realised that Sarge, a seldom visitor to the island, can play the piano! Vikki suggested we have a carol party, as during the modern nativity play on Thursday, lovely as it was, everyone was secretly sad that there were no traditional carols. So, we rush around all day Friday and Saturday preparing song sheets, decorating the hall and making mulled wine for our guests. Sarge appears on Friday to practise: shy at first, he soon gets into the swing of it (literally) improvising his own carols, songs and theme tunes from "Amelie". I can hear him from the flat where I am making a cardboard castle - the idea is to make it like a theatre set with lit-up windows and figures. To my amazement, it works and the effect when we put the fairy lights behind it is magical. Little Eve is amazed too - whereas several adults are possibly more dismayed that I have spent so much time making and painting a bright pink cardboard castle...never mind, it made me happy. It is now resting in the bedroom until Christmas Day.
|In the castle...|
Mulled wine was drunk, carols were sung and mince pies devoured as it grew darker outside and both castles, the real one and the cardboard one, lit up magically. And suddenly the words of the carols made a lot of sense; here on Rum we do have a bleak midwinter, the wind does lament and sometimes our courage may be at risk of failing when the gales just don't stop and things break down. So Christmas somehow means far more than when you are surrounded by the brightness and twinkly lights of the mainland, with a supermarket just around the corner. We need our lights and Christmas stories in the darkness, and I'm glad I've decided to spend Christmas here, however mad it may seem. But also glad that I am safe in a castle, our fortress against the winds, thunder and lightning. We've offered beds to those in a caravan - although they're determined to stick it out as long as they can - and we're keeping the heating on and the Christmas tree sparkly for a festive few days!
|...and in the castle!|
Thank you again, everyone, for making our Christmas special, when it could have been really hard. We've been amazed at the generosity of our friends and family - thank you all for your Christmas packages, and for sending them so early. It's good to know you are thinking of us - and we hope you know we're thinking of you, even though some of our presents probably haven't made it to you yet! Just be thankful you didn't try to get here and end up in Fort William for Christmas...