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September 11, 2012

A fabulous day here ! A strong westerly, with scudding broken cloud and a bracing edge to the air. The wind is a funny thing. It’s not relatively strong today -force 6 gusting 8 maybe ? But the year is turning and there is a weight behind it that there wasn’t just a few weeks ago. It’s as though with the coming autumn and winter it is gaining traction, like a boxer finding his balance to throw hard punches. It’s an exciting time, the island is quietening, folk who live here are breathing out after a busy and non-stop summer and we all look forward to the different tempo of the winter months. A time to tie-down, recharge ourselves and spend evenings looking into the fire as the winds batter beyond the drawn curtains. For many of us, we’ll be planning our escape to the sun for a few weeks or a month.

The season has a month or so to run yet so the hostel is still quite busy but fluctuating: tonight 16 guests, tomorrow 10. Most of the island closes at the end of October but the hostel stays open through the winter -a warm and welcoming refuge for the few folk travelling these short, thoughtful days . Sometimes we only have one or two people in and they sit by the stove looking out to sea as the gales’ hammer makes the gable-wall shudder: it’s a different island then. A more acquired taste, perhaps.

As I write Marc is busy with the new fence in the front parc which will allow more tree planting on the rocky outcrops to the west of the field. The rest of the trees have done splendidly this year, the older ones have noticably grown and consolidated and the ones that Rosie and Marc put in earlier in the year are doing well -and hopefully have had a sufficiently good start to cope with the scouring salt-wind of the winter that burns everything vegetable in its way. Apart from the drear municipal Escalonia, it seems. It really is two steps forward, one and a half back with tree growing here -but they do inch forward. Nathalie is busy in the hostel keeping it as lovely as ever and will probably go out to the garden for an hour or so to continue weeding and getting it in order for the autumn. Martina, from Prague, is on her day off so has vanished for the day. Pufff!  Some of you will remember her -she was here for a month four years ago (in the spring) and it’s lovely to have her back for a while.

I’m busy preparing to re-roof sections of the byre. It’s in a terrible state and will almost certainly blow off this coming winter unless I repair it pronto. The joists are also rotten so they will need replaced too. The plan is to make it into a usable space for groups coming to the hostel: for dancing, singing, painting, praying, talking, yoga-ing, meditating…whatever. I’m excited about this. I’ve never had a really suitable place for groups to use and though this will be pretty rudimentary (£££!) I’ll do my best to make it a lovely place to be.

I’ve already just about finished putting a new door / windows on the front and when I replace the corrugated tin roof I’ll put in plenty of clear panels to make it bright. Marc has painted the long wall so far and I’ll keep the original stone gable wall as it is. Of traditional Iona build (red granite boulders with horizontal slate inserts) it’s a beautiful thing to see and adds a muted warmth to the byre.

I’m currently bidding on eBay for a big wood burning stove (I’ll know in an hour !) so that will add a more physical warmth to the place too. I need to buy tons of split logs from Mull, which I’ll stack inside, probably against the stone wall. The byre was a well loved island ceilidh-place in the past and I would love to see it come back to life as a warm and inviting place for people, activities, new friendships and memories.

And to finish… a photo of my next project -the lovely old boat Clovelly, built in Stonehaven by an old Shetland shepherd.  (you’ll see a good photo of her in one of my early blogs). She’s special but in sore need of work. In a few weeks I’ll get her down into the barn and start work on bringing her back to life. Hopefully I’ll have her back in the water in the spring. And so the seasons roll on.

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