I grew up in a truly wonderful place. I know everybody says they grew up in the best place, but when The Scotsman, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Record agree with you, you kind of have a leg to stand on – at least in terms of the UK. Here are some of the quirks of growing up on the beautiful little Scottish Island that is the Isle of Harris.
Lots of people have wellies sure, but in Harris you need a sturdy quality pair, the kind that doesn’t fall apart the second you stand in real non-city mud! If you’re in the market for a pair of wellies, we recommend yellow ones.
Due to the lovely Gulf Stream we have a tendency to catch the tail-ends of hurricanes up North so wellies and oil skins are a fashion necessity. When you leave home and move to the city, you can forget wearing anything you own when you head back home for a visit – ballerina pumps and blazer jackets just don’t stand a chance up there. It is not all bad, our heritage has shaped the fashion industry too: where do you think Harris Tweed comes from?
Due to this extreme weather we have power cuts, a lot. If it is very windy and stormy, we lose power. and it can be for days. It doesn’t even phase us anymore. You generally find most people up there have gas stove tops for this reason, and within minutes you’re texting your pals to come round just so you can make tea on the stove and play card games by candle light.
Your cousin is visiting, let’s drink. We won the football, let’s drink. It’s Monday, let’s drink. We are heavy drinkers, mainly due to having very little else to do up there, and we have no limits. We don’t have the luxury of cinemas and bowling alleys, so we gather at what is probably a Neolithic archeological site and drink. Anything you do, we will drink to it. Slainte!
Yes, you read that right. We have a wonderful novelty, in that our cinema is in the back of a lorry! I know it sounds lame and awful, but what a remarkable wee thing it is. Very cleverly constructed the Screen Machine is a legit mobile cinema that travels around the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. It extends istelf, can seat up to 80 people, and contains a big screen. Check it out.
If you lived on an adjoining island, you attended primary school there however, when the time came to enter high school there were no choices, we only have one. So all of the smaller villages and islands would have to travel attend, and in some cases, you literally had to take a ferry a short distance to the bigger islands.
I remember when we got our first ”restaurant manager” from the mainland, who waltzed in and placed scallops on the specials menu for an extortionate price. I genuinely couldn’t understand why. I ate scallops several times a week. What was special about them? Exactly. You all know what’s special about them. To me they are still something I ate 2/3 times a week growing up.
I have already mentioned the weather. We get a lot of wind and a lot of rain, and quite a lot of sun, but very little warmth. The weather is very much the same throughout the year with little change between seasons, so you really only new it was summer when the school was out.
Not having the luxuries that many city folk have of activity centres and places to go and socialise we became used to finding things to do outdoors, like finding a cliff, and jumping off it, taking pier jumping to a whole new level.
Harris is still very much a crofting community. Most people are landowners and have quite a bit of it, so many have sheep and cows and the likes. We have dogs too, and cats and goldfish and regular pets, but it is far more common to have lambs and the odd calf.
Oh our beaches! They are written about extensively, photographed often, and remembered forever. I was lucky enough to call them my playground for the first 18 years of my life. You don’t get much luckier than that.
This literally translates to “what’s going on”, and in it you will find everthing from who won a prize from a competition that nobody ever knew existed, to wedding announcements, to commercial advertising, and Fachie down the road painting his boat a different colour. Slainte, we will probably drink to that too.
A common problem in small towns is everybody knowing everyone. So any “postie’s knock’ you play on a teacher out of school, any prank you play in school, even if you are seen “down the village” doing something bad, it will most certainly get back to your parents. Without a doubt. And given the size of the Island your parents will be in the car and by your side in no more than 10 minutes.
The sound. The strength of that suck. Honestly to this day it gives me the fear flushing the toilet on the ferry. To put it into perspective for those of you who have never been on a ferry before it is very similar to that of a plane toilet, but the sound is so much louder and the suction so much more intense you can too easily see yourself been sucked down there with it.
Again, like many corners of the globe, we have more than one language, and English isn’t in fact my first, Gaighlig is (Gaelic in layman terms), and because this is a langue that is considered to be “dying out” nobody else speaks it. So then, whenever outsiders are lurking about and we wish to talk about them, we will do so in our native tongue.
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