This move was at once a leap of faith and a homecoming for me. A homecoming because Scotland has always been the place where I feel closest to my true self, and a leap of faith because our new house would be more expensive at a time of a few uncertainties (which I won't go into publicly, but a few of you know what I'm talking about). Plus there is the fact that I was 24 the last time I lived in Scotland; I'm now 36. A lot can change, and be forgotten or misremembered, in 12 years.
For Hannah, this was very much a leap of faith. Faith in our shared dream to start a new and more adventurous life, faith that she can grow a new creative career, and faith in my ability to keep the Roddie finances afloat.
One of the funny things about life is that nothing ever happens exactly as you expect it will. It has taken two months for things to really settle down and for this place to feel like home. The first couple of weeks were a maelstrom of stress and chaos, and then I've had to be away for three lengthy spells of trekking down south for a book project (more on this soon). Although I love travelling and enjoyed each of these trips, it did mean that the weeks in between were spent chained to my desk, doing battle with a fearsome to-do list. Only in the last week or two have things settled into anything resembling normality.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll wind back to the first few days after moving in. I bet you're interested in that maelstrom of stress and chaos, aren't you? Let's take a look at some of the factors that knocked us sideways for a while.
- The removal van cost £2,640, about twice as much as I expected. OUCH.
- Unbelievably, it took a while after moving in before we were able to confirm our actual address. I soon realised that the address our letting agent had given us was obviously wrong, because it was the same as another house down the road. Our landlady suggested a slightly different address that previous tenants had used. Great, we thought. Except that registering for council tax – and getting home insurance – on this new address proved difficult, as it doesn't seem to be listed on any online databases (for example, Google Maps thinks that it does not exist). We got it sorted eventually, but not until Direct Line screwed us over and I aged about 15 years while trying to talk to the council (don't ask me about my new crop of grey hairs). Oh, and couriers still occasionally send our stuff to the wrong address down the road.
- We moved in – during a cold snap – to find the heating oil tank empty and the house freezing cold. Fortunately there is a log burner. We spent several days camping out in front of it until we could secure an (unbelievably expensive) emergency oil delivery.
- Getting reliable broadband installed was an epic struggle spanning more than six weeks, numerous multi-hour phone calls that tested my ability to remain calm to the limit, and involved about seven individual BT cock-ups. You've got to hand it to them, really. Short of accidentally blowing up the property during a botched fibre installation or something like that, their failure levels were just about as high as it is physically possible to achieve. True excellence! We got it sorted eventually, but due to the lack of 4G signal here I was forced to spend the best part of two weeks hunched over my laptop at Costa in town, making use of their Wi-Fi. Don't ask me about the artistic merits of the Costa 'music' playlist, either.
There were various other small annoyances (such as a faulty new washing machine that we still need to complain to Currys about), but the big one was broadband. Until we got fast, reliable internet access, I was simply unable to work from home, and this caused a lot of anxiety. Living somewhere is simply not feasible for me if I can't work from home. Good thing I have a laptop; I actually don't know what I would have done if I were still working on the old desktop machine.
Anyway, these teething problems have now been resolved, which means that we have begun to explore what it means for us to live here now. We've managed a few walks together: Kinpurney Hill, Falls of Bruar, Alyth Den, Hill of Alyth. I've even managed to sneak in a quick trip to Inverness to see my brother James and head over to Torridon to climb Beinn Alligin.
My photography is feeling rejuvenated, too: a natural consequence of having a new area to explore. I've been shooting a mixture of film and digital, as usual. Since moving here I have almost exclusively used the 50mm focal length, but have occasionally used 28 and 90 when needed.
The knowledge that big mountains and big adventures are just an hour or two away is still sinking in. Living in Lincolnshire, a visit to Torridon with James simply could not be a spur-of-the-moment decision. It required planning and schedule wrangling and would happen once a year or so if we were lucky. And the kind of walks that Hannah and I can do at weekends have most certainly seen a big upgrade, too. I am keen to help her develop her confidence as a hillwalker. That was hard to do when the most ambitious hills we could reach in a day were the Lincolnshire Wolds.
Spring is slow to unfurl this year, but a sense is beginning to unfurl with it that this is a place of greater and more frequent opportunities. In terms of getting outside and doing fun stuff, anyway. Long term this can only result in better fitness, more work (and more profitable work) for me, better mountain confidence for Hannah, and an even happier marriage as we enjoy these adventures together. I also can't wait to spend more quality hill time with James and Nicole – as well as the many friends and colleagues who live not too far away.
What of the house itself? It's on a farm, which means views into the cow shed from several of the windows, and Hannah is obsessed by the cows' antics. It also means countless swallows by day and bats by night. The house is much larger than where we were living before, too. Instead of us both sharing a single cramped study, we now have a study apiece, and they're each about double the size of the old one. Hannah needs a lot of space for craft supplies and stock, and I've been able to make more room for my growing collection of books and notebooks. I've also installed a cabinet for my cameras.
Perhaps best of all? The workshop! Yes, there is a large workshop across the yard, and it's all ours. I'm currently using it for storage and for drying tents, but in the near future it will be a bike garage and tinkering space. Plus maybe a darkroom if I ever get my act together and learn how to develop and scan my own film.
I am still learning about how this spell of living in Scotland is different to last time, and will have more to write about this elsewhere. But for now it feels like a real fresh start. I can't wait for a summer of adventure.
Oh, and please support Hannah's business, Hannah's Craft Cottage! She works hard making some incredible hand-crafted items, and since moving here she has aleady made an appearance at numerous craft fairs and is getting her stock into local shops. But the best place to buy her stuff is online. You can also follow her on Instagram @hannah.roddie.
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