Coming back to Shetland

The last entry was about leaving Shetland. Now I have returned and I have written nothing in between. Contrary to hopes and expectations, my life has not been my own and I have been overwhelmed by the domestic duties of running a Bed and Breakfast in a busy tourist season.
I have always believed that there is dignity in manual work and never understood why it is reasonable to have someone else to clean your loo, make your bed or look after your children. Consequently, I have taken great pride in choosing a life in which there has been a lot of physical work and for the most part enjoyed the practical side of helping to make things beautiful. Mixing plaster like a fine white sauce, just as critical to avoid lumps as when making cauliflower cheese, cooking a three course dinner with only a cold tap and a warped table or steam cleaning eighteenth century cornice full of generations of lime wash, scrubbing floors, cleaning lavatories, digging and hedge trimming. All these things have been part of my life and as far as a non political statement about how to remain self-sufficient and independent of any view the state might have about how I should spend my time, I have tried to demonstrate that there is another way. Now I am ready to take this one step further. Something has changed now I am sixty. My body needs continuous management as I develop aches and pains and I feel at last that it is time for a change.

This summer at Ard Daraich has been largely wet and I have found myself gazing out of the window, admiring the thrumming, vibrating lushness of so many greens and instead of a paintbrush with which to engage I have had an iron or a lavatory brush in my hand and the gaze becomes interrupted by the financial imperative of preparing for the next visitor. We are planning for this to change and I have arrived on Shetland with a sheaf of unfinished drawings from my visit in April, and to a place we found together when last here. This time I will not scour the islands looking for a context and a connection. I have chosen a place and I will work from here, just here, absorbing the atmosphere and the specific aesthetic. I arrived last evening and was met by a friend who kindly offered to come to the airport to meet me. On the plane I met a regular frequenter of the Shetland flight and on landing she introduced me to the airport cat. A large and ancient ginger tom asleep in the arrivals/departure lounge. My friend, a painter, had agreed to lend me drawing boards because although I had paper and materials sent by post, it seemed very extravagant to post sheets of wood! I was escorted back to my new friends house and welcomed with a delicious hot supper. Just what I needed and so kind.

I set off in my hire car, full of the smell of stale cigarettes and the white sand of Shetland beaches. I am now in the perfect cottage in the perfect location. I couldn’t describe anywhere with more atmosphere and fascination. I hope that the next two weeks will help lay some of the demons to rest as I struggle with a real paint brush rather than the one in my imagination.

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