Moving away from civilisation.
I knew there was going to be trouble when I saw the convoy turn up. There were diggers, concrete mixers, steel and cables. Yes, it was a new phone mast to improve the reception for idiots who, for some reason, wanted to drive around my village and talk to other idiots on their mobes. I wouldn’t say our village is the prettiest in the country but it is our village and when I saw those guys putting up that mast on the top of Windmill Hill, it was the last straw.
I already had to wear my foil lined hat whenever I left the village to protect my brain from the radiation around but now I would have to sleep in it. No, I was off. I know you already think I am crazy but consider this; would you sit in the sun all day on a mid summer’s day and let yourself come up in red raw blisters from the ultra violet rays? The sun is 93 million miles away and the mast on Windmill Hill is all of 400 yards distant. I know the power of the radiation is lower but I am sure you have heard of the inverse square law of radiation propagation? My radio in the kitchen can pick up Radio 4 from the transmitter mast that is twenty miles away on the top of the escarpment and I am sure that my brain is more sensitive than that old clunker of a radio.
I sold my cottage and loaded the few possessions that I thought I would need into my old VW camper van, Daisy, and headed North. It took me three days ‘cos Daisy is getting a bit old just like me so we suit each other. I got some strange looks in my foil hat from the guys in their repmobiles, all illegally talking on their mobes but phone masts tend to live near the motorways so I had to take sensible precautions.
I eventually got over the bridge and parked in the square in Portree. After a walk around and a coffee in Mackay’s café, I found the estate agent and said I wanted to buy a small cottage, preferably with crofting rights, as far from town as possible and with no mobile reception. I put a deposit down straight away on a small croft in the country, half way between Kilmaluag and Rubha Hunish. By my reckoning it is the most Northerly habitation on Skye. Daisy and I set off along the A855 through the magnificent Trotternish scenery. I kept checking my radiation monitor – you would probably call it a mobile phone – and generally there was no signal – wonderful! I got to the telephone box at Kilmaluag and turned off onto the track that led to my new home and stopped, turned Daisy’s engine off and listened. All I could hear was the whisper of the wind in the heather and the caw of a visiting sea gull – nothing else, peace at last.
I found my new home, looking like part of the landscape with its low granite block walls and thatch and turf roof running down to the low slung eaves. What was the first thing I did? Yes, you guessed, checked for a signal on the mobe and then got out my old battery radio and could get no stations. Safe at last to take off my foil lined hat that had served me so well.
It took me most of that summer to get my plot fenced, a fox proof chicken coop built, a few pigs organised, two cows bought that had recently calved and so in full milk. I used a rotovator to prepare my veg plot before taking several trips down to the beach at Port Gobhiag to load Daisy up with seaweed ripped up from the off – shore kelp beds by the autumn Atlantic storms. I spread this over the beds to give it a chance to rot down over the winter, ready for the spring planting. I did bung in few crafty rows of early spuds so that I could have my first harvest ready for Christmas dinner.
So there I was, snug in my new home, no mobe, internet, radio, TV. Just my animals, the wild life and my shelves of books to keep me company in one of the most beautiful areas on earth. I would give myself a half day off a week and would usually go for a walk along the faint path that led from the end of the track to the cliff path down past the basalt columns to the beach facing out to the Atlantic. Was I happy? You bet!
My communication link with the outside world was the phone box at the end of the track, where it joined the A855 at Kilmaluag. I rang the mobile phone company from there about once a month to check that there was still no coverage and the same day I usually went down to the shop for my supplies that I couldn’t grow, such as flour and cereals. Also had a good gossip of course.
I got through the first winter ok, I had tied the roof down with some steel hawsers on the advice of Alec McCaig in the shop. Good advice it turned out as we had some ferocious gales. I had dug some peat from the bog towards the Point and managed to get enough of it dry to feed my fire through the winter. I love the feel and smell of a turf fire.
The first Spring was spent sowing the vegetables, milking the cows and doing all those other jobs that need doing when you are crofting, fencing, peat digging, looking after the chickens and the pigs although they were fairly self sufficient and rooted through the second vegetable plot for me with great gusto. The chickens made short work of any slugs and snails. All was going well and I had no regrets about leaving ‘civilisation’ and making a new life. I was fit and healthy from the work and the fresh, home produced food. I even got used to the weather, ‘If you can see the hills, it’s going to rain, if you can’t see the hills, it’s raining’ just about sums up the Skye weather apart from not mentioning the wind.
I had few visitors, only the postman who turned up about once a week and my neighbours dropping in on their way past to discuss crops and animals and compare notes on sowing times and the weather.
Then one day a bombshell. I was in the shop chatting to Alec over a cup of tea when he mentioned that the mobile phone company was building a mast on the mountain overlooking Kilmaluag, towards Duntulm.
‘Why on earth would they want to do that?’ I asked, descending into black despair
‘Apparently they have been getting a call every month about the lack of signal here so they thought they had better do something before they get any more complaints’
Oh well, back to wearing my foil hat.
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
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