Rhoda Meek cuts through the myths surrounding life on the Scottish isles and delivers a reality check straight from her croft on Tiree.
So you've moved to the Scottish Islands and are contemplating your first Instagram post congratulating yourselves on living the good life. Here's a handy guide to living in the islands.
Those sunny summer days that convinced you to move were just that, summer. Summer doesn't last long. The rest of us manage just fine in the winter. Put on some weight, get a good waterproof and wheesht.
Related: if you spend your winter in warmer climes, don't expect to be taken seriously by those who spent it up to their armpits in mud ensuring that the landscape remains instagrammable for you in the summer.
If you moved here for the slower pace, know that that is a myth. Island folk work hard, often in multiple roles and your insistence on telling everyone that time stops and technology stands still is frankly insulting.
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The fact that you couldn't get off the island for three straight weeks is simply that, a fact, and not a matter for the community council. Ditto the lack of street lights, presence of bulls, rams, shit on the road, smelly ring feeders outside the house and cockerels.
You'll be judged entirely on who you are and how you treat other people. We don't care what important position you held, what title you have on LinkedIn, how much your jacket cost or how much you sold three flats in London for. We do judge you for Hunter wellies.
You're best not to talk about people until you've fully ascertained who they're related to. Having lots of relations is often the butt of jokes about locals. Don't do that. We'll know. We have networks that will bite you on the ass - even if we are mid feud.
READ MORE: The child runaways who headed to the Outer Hebrides for an unforgettable summer
90% of seals will find their own way back to the sea. 99% of us have seen the beaches before, so dial back the photos in public Facebook groups - do what you want on your own timeline #soblessed
We won't be putting fluorescent collars on the cows. Or paint. Or belts. If you don't want to hit a cow in the dark - slow down. Hitting one at 40 will be unpleasant. Hitting one at 70 may be fatal.
Crofts will have rubbish on them, in them and around them. That's what happens when people work all the hours God sends and then go home to complete their croft chores in the dark and the rain. That reality often upsets the rural idyll applecart. Sorry about that.
You haven't moved to Disneyland. It's not a museum. It's a living working, messy, hard, cold, wet, windy and often frustrating place to live. It's not for everyone. If it's not for you, please don't make our lives miserable too.
If you tell us how much "potential" the place has and how you "just can't understand" why the locals don't harness it, I can tell you now that you won't get very far. Folk have seen many a project come and go and they are realists. Hold your wheesht for at least 3 years.
You will be called blow-ins. It's not an insult, it simply reflects the fact that many people blow right back out again and we have feelings that get hurt, and friendships that disappear, and so we protect ourselves until we trust you.
If the environment is your jam... Fishermen (or women) don't watch their equipment just float away and shrug. That stuff isn't cheap. Crofters don't merrily fling empty feed bags into the air. Find a way to work with local industry - it might not be their rubbish.
There are people who no longer live here who will always be more local than you or I will ever be. That's ok. It's life. You could live here 60 years and still be a blow-in.
And finally, geese are universally disliked, sports cars are ill-advised, put your perfect pooch on a fucking lead, and if we want to stop for a chat in a passing place we damn well will. The more you toot, the longer we chat.