S

SeaToSea

A coastal life, is a life for me - but moving from a population dense bit of seaside to a tiny village is a bit of a change to say the least. It's a different sea, but what else has changed? All the below is based on real life, but if you like my writing you can read some of my fiction on my website below

How do you clean bird poo out of a carpet?

It was uncharacteristically sunny, not warm, but not really cold either. Unseasonably mild for the latter half of November. The perfect weather really to get a bit of fresh air in the house. As I often do I opened the kitchen door wide, allowing the air to waft in as I sat at the breakfast bar on my laptop, pretending to work, or at least pretending to intend to think about starting work.

As I flick through the news online, needing no help to find a distraction, I decide my procrastination should at least be productive. I write a quick entry to post on here, I tidy the place a little, make a coffee. Ok, I think, now I really should do some work.

I check the news again. Nothing out of the ordinary was happening, just the normal depressing things, climate change and war. As if sensing my dismay a well as my desire to avoid work, Louise, my robin friend, pops to the door to say hello.

"Hello Louise," I say, she puts her head on the side - I'm not quite sure if she understands me. Still, I can tell we're friends, there is an undeniable fondness there. Despite this unwavering bond, I let her know she can't come in.

"No, you can't come in," I gently shoo her away.

I get back to my laptop, momentarily distracted as she darts back in. I sigh, I stand up, she hops out the door.

"We're not playing a game," I tell her, just in case she thinks she is being cute. She's not. Well she is, she's always cute, but the game itself was not.

No sooner had I sat down than she was in the kitchen again, but with a boldness she'd been lacking the previous times. She headed towards the stairs, so I stood up, just to remind her that she wasn't really allowed inside. She turned around and started to hop, but alas, she went behind the glass door.

Suddenly she was not so brave any more, unsure as to why she couldn't get through the glass. She tried to fly out, but could only fly up. Realising she was trapped she turned around, flying straight up stairs into the bedroom, relieving herself on the way. This was all in a matter of seconds, I rush up stairs, hearing the panicked thudding of Louise against the sky light as she tried to get out.

I opened the window wide, and she flew to freedom. Sadly I was too slow, and there was robin poo everywhere. Who knew that such a small bird could defecate quite so much. Splatter up the walls, on the carpet. It was surprisingly black.

How do you even clean bird poo out of a carpet? I grab some wipes, cleaning what I can. It was not how I had planned to spend my morning.

All in all it took about half an hour to clean things to a sensible level, and after some thorough hand washing later I open the door and sit back down, still slightly worried about Louise, hoping she'd not been too traumatised by the whole affair.

Ten minutes later and she was back, having to be reminded she can't come in.

I guess she was fine after all.

A crash, a dash, and an oh my!

It had been dark for hours and definitely felt like bed time, even if it was still not ten - I was walking down the hill and, as usual, it was raining. Thankfully at least it wasn't particularly heavy, just a light spatter, the clouds letting me know they were thinking of me. I could hear the water flowing in the nearby burn, slightly louder than normal, fed from the heavy rain just an hour ago.

The light from my torch glints off of the water running down the tarmacked road as I make my way home. I'm walking more quickly than normal, less the clouds affection turns into annoyance - you had to take advantage of the light rain, sometimes it was the closet thing to being dry you could find.

It didn't take me long to get home, no more than five minutes - I'd been up the hill to a friend's house for coffee earlier in the day. It had turned into dinner.

As I finally reach mine and turn into the gate I hear a panicked crash - my heart jumps, half startled by the noise, and half excited as to what it might be.

Slowly I turn around, pointing the torch, searching for whatever it might be. I didn't have to search long, or look far away. Right in front of me was a huge stag, massive antlers standing proudly tall.

It looks eerily majestic in the dark, gloomily lit by the torch on my phone, eyes bright from the reflected it light. It stares at me a while, checking I'm not a threat - even if it decided I am, I'm pretty sure it would do a lot more damage to me if it decided to get rid of me. The rain is picking up a little, but I stay there, watching as the deer gets used to me. I wonder what it's thinking, probably "stupid human, leave me be." I decide to leave it be, and I head to my front door.

I turn back quickly just to say goodbye, it had darted silently to the other side of the grass, now only two eyes visible in the dark.

Inside and warm the image of the antlers stay with me - and the hope that my new friend visits again.

I just hoped it wasn't going to be like it was at school

In a small village it feels like you have to make an effort to socialise - but in a very odd kind of way. Back where I used to live you would pop out for a random coffee, or go to the cinema, restaurants or a myriad of other things you could just, well, do. There were organised events of course, but you could take them or leave them, there were plenty of other things to do, and of course if you didn't feel like attending an event, you could be sure that something else would come along sooner or later.

Yet in the small village I now live in - missing an event seems like a big deal, even if there is something every week or so. It's strange, but the end result is I end up doing a lot more than I did when options abounded - maybe it's the realisation that choices are limited, or maybe it's just something about having fewer people around that makes me want to do a little more...

All of this is to say, I decided to go to the local film club - it runs once a month and shows a variety of films. It was in the village hall, and I honestly had no idea what to expect. Was there a projector and a big screen, or would they wheel in a small TV on a trolley while people huddled around? Honestly I could see it going either way.

I turned up a few minutes early, chairs were already laid out, and it was the same group of people you'd always see - not that it could really be anything else - in such a small village it's not like there were throngs of people hiding and waiting to meet you. Even if you hadn't met them yet, they'd know all about you.

I sat down, I waited for something to start.

Curtains opened, that was a good sign. It was a typical stage of a village hall, something that would not have been out of place for a school assembly. Then the moment of truth, a TV on a trolley, or a pull down projector screen...

I held my breath.

I breathed out - a screen was pulled down from the ceiling - a perfectly acceptable size to watch a film on.

A brief introduction, and the organiser disappeared to start the film. The sound system kicked in, surprisingly louder than it needed to be, then again, the crowd was getting on in age a little. The lights went out.

"Shit," exclaimed the host, "I didn't realise there were trailers."

If only I'd had popcorn.

No robin, you're an outside friend

Yes you're adorable. Undeniably cute. Hopping around, red for the whole world to see. When I'm outside you can follow me around as much as you like, in fact it's encouraged. We can be friends, we can chat, you can keep me company.

This though, this is the kitchen. It's inside. I'm pretty sure you're not meant to be in here. Go on, shoo.

No matter how many times I explain it to Louise (I'm pretty sure the robin is called Louise, though my ability to speak robin is a little rusty), she keeps coming back inside, exploring the floor, looking for any crumbs I may have accidentally spilt, and just as accidentally failed to clean up.

Louise is definitely the bravest of the birds around, none of the other small birds come in, and there are a lot of them. Ranging from coaltits to wag tails - and of course what feels like countless sparrows. The others are polite enough just to stare at me through the window. Not Louise though...

For now I'll just have to close the door, because no robin, you can't come in, you're an outside friend.

I'm sorry who are you?

There is one thing you can always be sure about at this time of year - it gets dark early. The UK is not always known as the sunniest of climes, nor the warmest, or the friendliest. But the dark, the cold and the rain? Those we have in plenty. That and sarcasm.

Right now though, especially after the clocks have changed, it starts getting dark incredibly early, and with very few street lights around if you happen to be out in early evening you very much need a torch. Everyone has one, be it on their phone, their head or a good old fashioned hand held one. I have all three, or at least somewhere. Packed amongst a myriad of boxes I have a wonderful little, but powerful head torch, perfect to have in your pocket for those times you forget, or worse, you find your phone is dead.

The uncertain battery life is not the only issue trying to navigate whilst out in the dark using your phone. As mentioned above the UK is not only dark, but also wet. Very wet at times. With the water lashing from above, the sea spraying you from the side, the last thing you want to be doing is holding out your phone hoping it survives the elements - you don't really have much choice, it's that or grope around in the dark, and ending up in the sea anyway.

Of course head torches don't win hands down either, they have the annoying habit of blinding anyone around you, the moment you turn to them. This happened to me just the other night as I head home. I had my phone, the torch on it firmly pointed downwards at the road ahead, more than enough to get me home. I see someone else across the way, they wave at me, but all I can really see is the white glow of their head torch as my night vision fades away, replaced by searing white.

Still, I want to be polite, waving back. But all I can think is "Sorry, who are you?"

Potholes, parking and periods

I only found out about it a few days ago, but really I shouldn't have been surprised. There is a village committee, and once a month they have a village meeting - open to one and all (of course so long as you're local - though I have no idea what would happen if a stranger wandered in...).

You had a mix of people, some young(ish) and some old. More old than young. It was everything you would expect, meanderings, misunderstanding and a few old people who couldn't really hear what was going on. It was, however, all well intended.

Topics ranged from going over previous minutes (yes there are minutes!) to the condition of the village hall.

"For the toilets," someone mused, "maybe we could have period products for, you know, women." I'm glad they pointed out that period products were for women, I had, until now, been confused on the whole topic.

"For free?" Someone exclaimed. The conversation quickly, although briefly, shifted to period poverty - with a general agreement that offering free products was a good addition for the public village toilet. Yes, toilet, no plurals here.

Things got momentarily awkward when it was suggested people could visit to have their period here, possibly in jest... the group quickly move on.

Half way through someone pointed out that I'd yet to be introduced to the group, and despite being here almost two months, there were still a few faces that I didn't know, and presumably didn't know me (by sight at least, I would assume they could deduce my identity given the lack of new blood).

The meeting though did take a rather exciting turn when the group moved on to pot holes. Nothing is more thrilling,or more engaging than holes in our roads. If you've ever seen the film San Andreas, or any disaster film where the ground opens up to swallow cities and its inhabitants, then you have an idea of the gravity of the situation here - or at least you'd be forgiven for thinking that were the case from the way the pot holes were spoken about.

I tried to keep a straight face.

"Any other business?"

Do I speak up, or hold my tongue? The UK, like much of Europe, is struggling with energy security - in a small and isolated place like this, I wondered if the village had any contingency plans for the prolonged blackouts that the government said might happen this winter. I figured they probably didn't have a plan, and raising it would be sensible. The trouble is, raising things can often been seen as volunteering to do them...

Still, it's better to have a plan you don't need, than need a plan you don't have.

I put my hand up.

But this... but that... we'd had blackout's back when...

It was like a mix of Yes Minister meets Midsummer Murders.

I loved it.

A gluttony of feasts

As regular readers will know, winter is coming - the weather is setting in and things are closing for off season. And this means one thing, and one thing alone...

I have to enjoy all the food while I can.

Normally I'd never eat out more than once a week, I rarely get takeaway. There are options here, but not so many that you'd never get bored. But having said that, when you know you only have a week or two left until you have to wait until the spring? Well then even a small choice starts to feel like a cornucopia of abundance.

Every other day I'm getting something, desperate to try everything while I still can. Who knows when I'll next be able to get some food I haven't cooked myself (spring), it could be years (months) so the risk is just too great not to try it while I can.

The costs start mounting up - it's really not cheap eating out.

Maybe it's a good thing after all, that everything is closing soon... my wallet can't take it much longer.

It's like Game Of Thrones, but without the bloodshed and incest

It's almost the end of October, and the weather has definitely turned the last couple of weeks. When I first got here it was stunning, the sun was shining every day, it was warm and sea was calm.

Then the rain started.

I'm not really sure it's stopped. Sometimes it's a light rain, barely noticeable as you walk down the road. Other times it's torrential, soaking you through before you even realised it's raining. The temperature has dropped, an extra layer, a nice thick jumper has been added - even at home. Sometimes outside requires two.

With the end of the nice weather and the end of October, comes, in the most part, the end of the tourists - and without tourists a lot of places close. It's already started happening, many of the shops, particularly those in hospitality have already shut their doors for quiet season, for winter. Shuttering up against both the cold and the lack of trade that goes hand in hand with living somewhere that relies on the hustle and bustle of visitors.

And for those of us that live here full time, for those of us that stay here all year round? Well it's like living in a different place. I can no longer pop down the road to grab a bite to eat, that restaurant I wanted to try isn't open again until March. The constant through put of new and interesting people to talk to? Gone until next year.

The weather is closing in, the skies are dark and the days are shortening. The ferries are less and less reliable. People no longer brave our shores.

Winter really is coming.

p.s. there are also no dragons

Oh my, could it be? Am I...?

It was dark. I was not long out the front door, it was oddly early for me. I’m rarely awake before sunrise let alone up and out of the house. I start waking.

A sole car passes me, their headlights almost destroying my night vision completely. I continue forward - waiting for the sun’s rays to pierce through the thick layer of clouds. I hear the chirp of birds, but something is off. I can’t place what it is, but there is something different, something not quite right - and not just the fact I’m up so early.

And then I see it. See them. Bats. A dozen of them. Flying around without a care in the world. Not another person in sight, the fly around me.

It was early and the whole day was ahead of me. I had stuff to do, to achieve. The bats knew this.

Could it be. Am I Batman?

The flash

One of the nice things about my new home is any time of the day I can go for a walk, I can go one direction and see people, or another and I can almost guarantee I won't see a single soul.

Well a human soul anyway. Every walk I see something new, or at least notice it for the first time. A new type of bird, a field mouse (or at least I think, either way it was tiny and adorable), a red squirrel or a bird. But on today's walk I saw something I wasn't really expecting.

A lightning blue flash shot across my field of vision, the unmistakable metallic blue of a kingfisher. Despite not being particularly rare, their bright colours always make them a delight to spot.

Now if only I could see those pesky otters - apparently there are plenty of them, perhaps they're just shy.

Always, and I mean always, carry a torch at night...

The night is dark. That shouldn't come as a shock to anyone. But for those of us who are used to living in large towns or cities, the dark, true darkness, is reserved for forest, for when you're in the middle of nowhere. Not for your walk home from the pub.

Apparently I live in the middle of nowhere.

I left the pub. All was good. I could see my hands in front of my face, I could even see the road - what an easy walk home. Every step though, the darkness encroached, as the lights of the pub were left behind. The sky was overcast, even if there was a moon somewhere, it was well and truly hiding.

It was dark. Oh so dark. No moon, no stars. The white line in the middle of the road soon disappeared, melting into the darkness of the tarmac. I couldn't see a thing, not the road, not even my own shoes. Thankfully my phone was charged, and I turned on the torch - barely impacting on the darkness, as if it was sucking the light directly from it, enveloping it in a shroud. Yet it gave me just enough to be able to follow the road, the sound of the waves a few meters away, crashing against the rocky shore.

Thank goodness I had my phone, and that it had battery left - groping around in the dark, with ditches and rocks, would not have been a fun end to the day.

Maybe it's time I find my head torch.

Trying to get home can prove a little tricky

Down the road, a fifteen minute gentle amble along the shore line is the village pub. Mind you, in my former life I was not one to pop out for to the pub in the middle of the work day, but the local pub does a surprisingly good coffee. So with travel cup in hand I head down to grab a drink, a quick break from work, a nice walk in the sun, and the possibility of seeing another human being. It won't take long, 40 minutes at most - besides, I think, I have a meeting soon, so I shan't dally.

The walk there is quick and pleasant, the sun is shining and I can hear the sea lap gently against the shore. The soothing sound interrupted now and again by the chatter of a bird. I feel the stress washing away and the thoughts of work dwindling to a mere memory...

Before I know it I'm at the pub, the inside as warm as ever, as warm as every village pub should be, a bastion against the cold wind that is oft ever present, regardless of the sun. I grab a coffee, and chat for a few minutes, it's nice to be away from my desk, from the worries of work and even more importantly, out of my head. I stay for longer than I should but it's nice to talk. I grab a second coffee, but this time I leave, after all, I have that meeting to go to - a meeting I should really prep for.

I leave the pub, the sun still high in the sky, though the temperature has dropped slightly. I zip up my top and start the short walk home. A quick fifteen minutes and it would give me a solid hour to prepare, more than enough.

Sadly the village had other plans.

Maybe it was because the sun was shining, or maybe I was just unlucky - but every few minutes I ran into someone else from the village. I tried to be polite, to let them know I had to get back to work, but they all wanted to chat, to ask how I was getting on. I'm still new, and I can't really afford to be too rude, at least not yet. So I stayed, I talked - it was only one person, even if it took five or ten minutes I'd still be fine.

"How's the house getting on," I asked, having met this local a few days ago. He was in work overalls, and clearly in the process of some hardcore DIY.

I could see the twinkle in his eye, my question was clearly a misstep - "Why don't I give you a tour?" I could feel the stress levels rising, the looming work, the rejection of my new community's attempts at making me welcome...

"I'd love to," I replied, "but I have a meeting I need to prep for."

"Ah," he replied, before continuing the conversation. I tried to hide my sense of rushing before finally making my escape and once more attempting what was starting to feel like a very difficult journey home.

Twenty more minutes and three more people and I finally made it home - with ten whole minutes to spare. On one hand it's really lovely that people are so friendly, that you can stop and chat, it certainly helps fight off the isolation. But my pace of life isn't always quiet so relaxed. Just one more thing to get used to.

Ten minutes before my meeting - I could prepare a little, or I could grab a snack to go with the coffee...

Oh well, it wouldn't be the first meeting I had blagged my way through.

The Party Bus

A message on my phone, from someone on the island no less! My social life is taking an unexpected flourish, the local "crew" is heading out. Not just to the local pub, but to town (still a village)! Of course you can't do the normal quick dash to the supermarket in a hurried attempt to get the next bus back, rather you have to get the one after that - a leisurely few hours to go for a drink. Or so I thought.

The bus is packed, a mix of people being picked up and dropped off on the way to town (nope, still a village). It's the busiest I've ever seen it, guess other people are also heading for a night out! A night out at about four in the afternoon... but hey, we're all a prisoners to bus times here, especially if you want a little drink or two (or, as I found out, a few more).

Everyone seems happy, even if the person who asked me along wasn't there, and no one else realised I was coming. "Where are you heading," asked one of them whom I'd met before. "With you!" I politely replied. "Oh great!". The first hurdle had been passed - now just to awkwardly slide my way into well knit friendship group who had known each other for years. But I was no tourist any more, I was a local - surely I was as much part of the "crew" as anyone?

A short walk, a lot of trees, and we turn the corner to a pub I'd yet to visit. In such a small place I relish the sense of newness, fully aware that it won't be long until I've run out of anything that would come as a pleasant surprise. Inside it was very much a pub, just being itself, not trying too hard to be anything else. People were, as always, friendly, everyone knew everyone's name - apart from mine... I'm still to new to be known outside of my village, let alone in town (no, definitely still just a village).

We sit down. The drinking starts. For the others, drinking didn't stop. There was laughing, frivolity, and more than a little swearing. I joined in where I could, observing where I couldn't. Introduce yourself slowly, that's the key - it's a small place, not only do you only really get one chance to make a first impression, but you also don't really have much choice in terms of friendship. Either you like the people around you, or at least like them enough to socialise, or you don't socialise at all. Thankfully this group more than fell into the former, nice enough people, funny at times, and very warm and welcoming. I guess most people wouldn't move to a place like this, so it attracts a certain kind of person. A little odd perhaps, but nice. Wonder what that says about me?

The evening draws on, it's almost six now - it's time for the usual panic. Where is the bus? When is the bus? Is there even a bus?! If you miss it, you have to hope you can get one of the few taxis, and with the relatively big group that we were, that could prove to be just a little tricky. After much back and forth, attempts at accessing the app, the odd PDF, and some good guesswork, it was decided that that bus was soon. You would have thought, with just the one bus running every few hours they'd know the timetable by now... maybe it was the alcohol. There had been a lot of it.

Then came the bargaining. The bus time was tied to the Ferry - the Ferry was late. There was even an app to see exactly where it was.

"That will give us at least another ten minutes," someone proffered. Another round it was.

Then the dash for a bus.

It was the last bus, and we were the only people on it. It was not the normal day time bus - this was the night bus, the party bus. It went at what could be only be described as lightening speed, shaving entire minutes off of the journey. It was not the normal slow and sedated bus ride home.

But home, the friend of anyone at the end of a long day.

We zoomed past.

Apparently we were going to our local - but how could we go to another pub? We'd been out for hours, it was dark, surely it was almost time for bed? It certainly felt late.

It was only 7pm.

Oh well, maybe time for one more then.

There's nothing to do in the village, yet somehow I missed it..

It's a tiny village, at least by my standards. There aren't even 200 people. It has to share a village hall. It's hardly a bustling metropolis of social activity - there are no cinemas, no shops and most certainly no fancy ballrooms.

Yet today there was an event. A pop up cafe. But I missed it? How is it, that in a tiny village, where everyone knows everyone else's business, I didn't know about the social event of the month? A pop up cafe! That's the sort of thing they have in cities!

As you can tell from multiple exclamation marks in a row, even missing it was an exciting event. Apparently it's a repeating thing, so now that I'm aware of its existence (presumably as the newest person in the village I'm the last to know), I'll probably forget and miss it next time too.

Sorry I can't attend the Teams meeting, it's raining a little...

It's 2022, even the tiny village I'm in has broadband. I can watch films and TV on all of the streaming services. I can do my work, have video calls. Amazingly, even with the video turned on.

That is until the rain starts.

At first you hear the gentle patter of rain drops falling against the skylights, rhythmic, calming almost. You wonder if the person at the other end of your video call can hear it. You think about asking, maybe even apologising for the noise. There are a couple of stutters on the call, but you think nothing of it, that's just part and parcel of it all.

The sound of the rain against the glass crescendos to a roar, drowning out the sound of the call, not that it really matters, the internet gave up minutes ago. Of course though, you only just noticed, wondering how much of what you'd so eloquently been saying had been lost to the ether.

You try and rejoin, video off this time, full of apologies for your poor connection. You make it half way through saying sorry before the line drops again. Maybe dialling in would help, possibly on 3G or even a good old fashioned call. Sadly though, it's also rather on the windy side... your signal is low.

Oh well, it wasn't a very interesting meeting anyway.

The very literal cost of isolation

I'm pretty independent. I have friends but don't often feel the need to see them. I message more than talk and always avoid meetings at work, when I do need them, my camera is always off. Sociable at times, a loner at others, generally happier alone.

Never lonely.

A small community is different - the sudden change of not being constantly surrounded by people the moment you step out of the door has made me enjoy walking and nature a lot more than I did previously. But with that came a surprising sense of isolation. There are fewer people in this entire village than were on one side of my street just a few weeks ago.

Living alone in a small village can be even more tricky. It hasn't been long, but now and again you might suddenly notice that you haven't seen another person in a few days. So you go for a walk through the village, rather than into woods or the hills, maybe you say a cheery hello to someone. It scratches a small itch, but the itch doesn't go away completely.

There's aren't enough people, and certainly not enough friends in the local vicinity just to call someone up to go out for a walk or a quick coffee. There aren't many places in walking distance that you can go for a coffee, and even then, most of those close outside of the summer months.

There is however a pub within walking distance (I may have moved somewhere remote... but it's still Britain!). They serve surprisingly good coffee, and, of course, there are people there. So in an attempt to not end up a weird, hairy and unshowered recluse I headed out to the pub to get a coffee and have a conversation with someone that didn't involve the internet.

Conversations can be expensive. Two coffees later and a loaf of bread and a few sundries that I didn't really need, I was down £14. Not a huge amount, but not sustainable either, maybe I'll have to find another way to socialise, that doesn't require spending so much money. Friday evenings, when people generally head to the pub will be even worse.

Maybe I just need to shake the stigma of having to always have a drink in hand (whether soft or something stronger) - and accept that fact that a village pub is as much about community as it is about turning a profit for the owners.

All I'm sure of is that I have to make an effort, or it is all too easy to not go out, and not see any other people for days on end. No one wants to end up being that person, do they?

Maybe we really are social creatures after all?