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August 26, 2012

We’re busy this weekend with the wedding party of Bryce and Andrea who were married in the Abbey yesterday. I went down to their fabulous meal and party in the village hall last night with Nathalie and Sophia and it was a fine do. The food was delicious, the company fun and there were lots of French people who sang and danced the night away. I bowed out around 1pm and Nathalie and Sophia danced the band into the ground and crawled home sometime through the night.

I’ve just been granted a license to hold weddings in the hostel and on the beach. There has always been a trickle of folk wanting to be married up here (particularly on the beach) so by becoming a formal wedding venue it will make things a lot simpler for everyone. All the weddings, so far, have been in fine sunshine, however, I will be including a VERY large disclaimer on the website absolving myself of any responsibility for the weather !

There has been a blossoming of sand-art on the beach over the past few days. It started with a giant teddy bear and culminated yesterday with a large and sculptural… hole. Who knows what else will appear ? I caught the people at it -a very nice family of artists from York and Cumbria, so asked them to stand in their hole while I photographed them. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it reminded me of a section of WW1 trenches. But that’s art for you. The lovely bit, of course (and which they will probably miss) is the gradual erosion and collapse of their work. Already, the teddy is gone, a shapeless mound waiting for the next high tide to remove completely.

John and Neil Mackinnes have been up over the past couple of days cutting and baling the silage in the sun. I had a funny converstaion with Neil. He’s working in South Korea at present (oil industry), month on, month off. He was chatting about what a nice place Korea is and that the travel is such an easy routine. The conversation flipped suddenly, and he was grumbling about the distance, the shocking quality of the roads, the monotony of the journey -and it was only when he started on about the visitors in the middle of the road that I realised that he was talking about the hassle of driving his tractor the three miles from the West End of Iona to the North End…

A hard lesson with the crofting is the issue of over-capitalising on equipment. It’s all economy-of-scale stuff -and I’m tiny ! The income from a croft, for me at least, is small and against that are all the tasks that you want to carry out on your own. Nowadays, that means fairly costly machinery, much of which might be used for one or two days a year. My hay parcs are an example. Cutting hay to feed the sheep over the winter sounds simple and initially I tried my best to do this. Factor in tractor, turbo-mower, hay-bob, baler, labour and then storage (for the machinery and hay) and you come up with a particular sum, which almost certainly will be far beyond the market value of the hay. Also much grief as I could only afford old equipment which was pretty hopeless.  I then tried contracting Aeneas at Ardalanish to make small bales of haylage (which the sheep just love). Again, very expensive (in plastic wrapping alone, never mind the environmental considerations) and so now I contract John to take silage off the parcs. He uses it for his cattle and pays me for it, minus his costs. I then buy in hay as and when I need it. So, the end result is similar in that the parcs are cut and cleaned and the crop is used locally for feed, but the finances have dictated that the engagement and pleasure of producing my own crop has been lost. Which I miss. I could of course forget costs and do it for other, less quantifiable reasons -but I really don’t need another hobby !

Anyway, as I sit at the computer I can look out at the beautiful job John has done. The ground is mown and clean and in a few weeks a fresh, late summer bite will be coming through for the sheep, a gift for them before the long, hard toil of the winter sets in.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May Edwards permalink
    August 27, 2012 12:18 pm

    Hi John, I met Christian at Cromarty the other night and she told me about your blog.
    It’s delightful and there is so much of food for thought.
    Weddings and death, sculptures in the sand a beautiful tweed suit oh and basking sharks!
    I saw them a few years ago when I was walking The SW Coastal path.
    I am going on Camino in 3 weeks and I am thinking that a few daze in Iona would be the perfect end to my pilgrimage .
    I am on my way to Edinburgh until Thursday.
    I will be in touch by the end of the week once I know when and what I am doing in Oct and book the hostel for a few nights.
    Best wishes May

    • August 27, 2012 12:22 pm

      Hi May,

      Really nice to hear from you and thanks for the comments. Enjoy the Camino and I’ll look forward to seeing you sometime in the autumn.

      best wishes,

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