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Mulling it over


This is taken from my old blog-site originally published on 17/04/2011

One minute I am sitting in my cozy 3rd floor tenement flat in Edinburgh with a south-facing view of the Pentland hills. The next, I am freezing my nipples off in an old cottage on the Island of Mull!   How on earth did that happen? Like this…

Firstly I blame having too much time on my hands and the Internet. Having given up my job and determined to become a painter, Paul and me erected a garden shed for my studio in a corner of our communal garden with the blessings of our lovely neighbours. This along with my OU studies still allowed time for my furtive mind to cause mischief and with Paul wanting to escape wedding photography for a while, this gave me the excuse to peruse the internet for inspiration for change. Maybe we could plan our next adventure!  another big trip on our bikes pedaling off into the horizon was becoming extremely tempting.  Paul was the only one sensibly earning a living and my savings were dwindling fast so we had to do something soon as our rented flat, lovely as  it was, was costing us an arm and a leg to live in.

One day whilst drifting through websites advertising care-taking jobs I found the ‘Helpx‘ site and the beginning of an addictive daily ritual of searching for work on Homestays or organic farms in a nice, warm and sunny country.  New Zealand was on my wish list [once again] and perhaps Southern France in the Midi-Pyrenees coming a close second, oh, then maybe Portugal…or a Greek Island looked very tempting, hey! and how about Tasmania? I threw all these ideas daily over to Paul who, after a couple of weeks was ready to implode. My wacky ideas and the speed of my change of Continent was becoming all too much for him. He’s a steady guy, he needs time to ‘mull things over’.  There were times when he just stared at me in utter amazement, ‘how on earth can you decide on New Zealand one day and then almost in the next breath sing the virtues of moving to Costa Rica or Mexico the next?  Easy I say, its the alluring sunshine [it was the middle of a Scottish winter at this time]… or was I so desperate to avoid reality that I had entered the land of no return?  Hmm, well I suppose I was being a little extreme  but everywhere looked so inviting and for 20 hrs work either pruning kiwi bushes or cleaning a backpackers you had accommodation and food, it just felt so free from the stresses of trying to live a ‘normal life’.
I hold my hands up, I’m useless, just an old daydreaming airy fairy.

Paul pulled the rug, there was no way he would consider living anywhere too far away from his mum or anywhere that didn’t speak English….how adventurous is that I thought to myself and mumbled aloud.  The man I met nearly 10 years before was a travelling free spirit, so what happened to him? 10 years happened to him I concluded and instead of being the young adventurer of 30 he was now nearly 40 and looked set for pipe and slippers unless I took control of the situation fast.
The spring and summer of 2010 came and went,we took an ill-afforded trip to the Pyrenees for Paul’s 40th Birthday in July just to keep him away from the pipe and slippers and I thought that he might just catch the bug for adventure again. We had a grand time, even though I managed to contract an inner each infection before we left which gave me vertigo and a spinning head for the whole 2 weeks which was pretty scary whilst clinging to the edges of snow-capped mountains… the thought did occur to me that maybe I should get the pipe and slippers for myself as my track record for catastrophes whilst travelling were mounting high.

We returned refreshed but still in limbo for our future life plans but I had 2 weeks of catching up to do on the Helpx website. Would there be something waiting there for us I wondered? We had decided whilst away that we would hand in our notice on the flat by the end of September no matter what, it was already the beginning of September and every option I put to Paul drew a shake of the head or a scowl.
Then it appeared, a hostel looking for helpers on the island of Mull just off the Scottish west coast. Then another appeared on the Mull of Kintyre, Then to top it all and what looked the most tempting, a hostel on the island of Iona, just off the west coast of the Isle of mull. Things do certainly come in threes, This time Paul did not scowl or shake his head but had a faintly curious look with an eyebrow twitching at the Iona proposal. Unfortunately we were pipped at the post for Iona, We paid a visit to Mull and the island was a stunner, the location of the Hostel was perfect but we had to think long and hard before committing ourselves.

We returned to Edinburgh, gave in our notice and negotiated terms for moving to Mull.
We never worked at the Hostel, we ended up care-taking four holiday cottages and doing up the big main house all on the same Scottish estate as the hostel,  having a little cottage to live in as part of the package too.. God knows how that happened but it did.

We set off a week before Christmas, digging out our new and yet untried postman pat van from the 10 days of snowfall on our Edinburgh kerbside bulging at the seems and buckling under the weight of our worldly possessions we arrived  on a dark and frozen evening to slip and slide into our new home on Mull.
It is now April, the sun is shining but it hasn’t been plain sailing, we have worked pretty hard to make the cottages fit to let and the bookings were flowing in thick and fast, we shivered and froze for what seemed an interminable time having to deal with frozen water pipes, collecting water from the stream for cleaning the cottages and then when the thaw came, so did the burst water pipes. The cottages had not been cleaned for what looked like years and needed a face lift with a few dabs of paint here and there but we did them all before they were due to be let in February and are now working to a May deadline for the large main house. Its not been easy and especially for Paul who had never washed a wall before let alone scrub a whole house from top to bottom. I know that he doesn’t really feel its the thing for him and I’m sure before long, wedding photography will appear most glamorous again and after all, he is rather good with a camera.
Me I’m just a natural born scrubber I’m afraid, my own artwork has gone on the back boiler as there is no way of keeping me indoors on a day off after being in a twilight zone of cif cleaner and gloss paint for days on end.

But hey, spring is here, the days are longer and warmer at last, we live on the most scenic island with so much still to explore, we have no bills to pay except our food. I make bread and cakes again after a lapse of several years, Paul is making his home brew beer, we have plenty of free time now to enjoy and there is a long summer ahead of us. Its not quite the New Zealand experience I was hoping for but it was certainly worth mulling over.

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