The Summer of 2020: Part II

And then – we were to be in Scotland for weeks. We woke that first day to find bright skies and a powerful breeze; blue skies over Jura… Mavis was the first in for a swim.

I love these clear days in Scotland – the air is so different from down south; you realise why the Scottish Saltire is blue and white.

The view down the lane; the gable of the bothy in the distance. 

As so often, at any moment, there was a sense that the weather could change from sparkling sunshine to rain, and back again.  

Looking back across the Estuary to the bothy and the cottage:  Some days, the sea was mirror flat…   

On other mornings, lowering cloud huddled over Jura, hiding the mountains from view. 

But the colours of Scotland are always supremely beautiful. Imagine an interior decorated in these hues….

So many mornings we were greeted with beautiful sunshine. Sibyl is sniffing the morning air.

That morning we went for a long walk around the coast and back across the valley. 

Looking up towards Crinan and a distant Mull beyond. 

Remnants of ancient bothies can be found in the valley – only a few gable walls and fireplaces remain, emerging from the bracken.

Another morning it was still, clear, completely flat.   

We walked all the way to the end of the point – seeing the sea otter feeding on a rock ledge for the first time. 

We met our friends David and Sven at Arduaine Gardens…

And afterwards visited the astonishing St. Comghan’s Chapel, on the Kilchoan Estate, Kimelford – a beautiful new stone-built chapel, constructed in 2017-18.  It is worth a visit. 

The first week had sped by. We had to head down to Dorset briefly. Charlie wanted to spend a little time looking after the garden… and I was photographing our new William Morris & Co collection of wallpapers and fabrics. The house had been completely redecorated while we were away! It was good to be home, albeit briefly. 

The dahlias were really beginning to get going… 

Dreamy, misty morning walks… England was in the start of a heatwave.

And then, via London, and then a trip north to Cheshire and Glasgow, and late that evening I was home to the bothy. The following morning the air was hot, and perfectly still – magical Scotland. 

The sky and sea was the colour of Greece; the hillsides are covered in a multitude of wild flowers. 

We were heading to Jura for a few days. We left in hot sunshine.  

We arrived at William and Annabel’s in the late afternoon. 

Probably the most beautiful house in the whole of Scotland….   

The following day, we all went on a beautiful trip to Colonsay and Oronsay.  

Heavenly Colonsay:

And then, the mirror-flat sea as we went down to Oronsay – sea and sky merging together…

The water was clear, and warm – warmer than Dorset.

Happy Charlie – sweaters on for the boat ride home.

Crystal clear Jura.

The evenings were soft and still – for our entire trip. Incredible days. 


Lots of dogs;

Annabel’s beautiful china and shells…

Sunsets, happy days, happy evenings. 

but then it was time to return to reality…

Everyone was exhausted.

The dogs could hardly keep their eyes open on the way back over…


The next day, the weather had broken; we had lunch at beautiful Inveraray Castle. 

The following day we woke bright and early….

A walk at Taynish woods…

Like looking down over a mythical world. 

Bath time that evening.   

We had extraordinary high tides…

Beautiful sunsets…

Friends over for supper…

Long walks to clear the head…

Lunch at friends, marvelling at the views across the mirror-calm Sound of Jura again. 

A sunset walk one evening – Charlie wearing his 1970s Girl Guides poncho.

Incredible light that evening.

Incredible light in the mornings too, mist hanging in the valley.

Day after day was clear and perfectly still.

We met our friends Fee and Aldred for a beautiful day in East Loch Tarbert. 

And experienced the same extraordinary dead-flat water again; blue and white, the colour of Scotland. 

Cows came down to the waters edge while we had our picnic, pulled up on a sand bar. 

Looking south to the Isle of Arran. 

Barbecues outside the little bothy…

Perfectly flat evenings without a breath of wind…

Walking down on our shoreline that evening…

Was like entering another world.

The dream had to come to a close.  We’d been up in Scotland for nearly six weeks; the incredible consequence, not least, I suppose, of all of Charlie’s summer shows being cancelled by the virus – Melplash, Dorset County, The Yeovil Dahlia Show. It has been so sad to have such an eventless countryside this summer; but the silver lining was spending so many happy weeks exploring and discovering and pottering, and tinkering around with the cottage and bothy.

Eventually we had to come back. Charlie came down to Dorset; I made site visits to Inverness and Aberdeenshire. We’ve been up in London now for two weeks; the start of the new term.

We’ve had the quietest weekend in Dorset. The weather has been heavenly.   

Late Summer meets Autumn; we are on the turn.

The world feels unsettled; cases of the virus appear to be on the rise, but somehow there appear to be a million solutions as to what or what not we should be doing; for everyone who says ‘do this’, you’ll find another newspaper commentary saying ‘do that’. And we all just have to muddle on through. I guess none of us have a clue what the right answer is.  My new strategy is to agree with whoever I’m speaking with.

For my part, and I have a feeling I’ve written this recently before, I try and stick to my mantra of: don’t worry (too much) about the things out of your control; do worry a lot about the things in your control, and do your best to look after them. It’s surprisingly calming to look at the world in this way.

At every turn, right now, there is a sense of disquiet in the air. The American election looms just a few weeks hence; trouble seems to breathe the streets of that great and beautiful country, but – I know this is unfashionable – I believe that everything will be alright in the end.

I can’t be the only one who’s spent time this weekend thinking back to those unreal minutes, hours, days of 9/11; there I was, standing at the end of Gansevoort Street, on the West Side Highway, watching with my own eyes at the first burning tower, as the second aeroplane hurtled in. Never have we experienced such fear, and such grace; such sadness, and despair.

But time really is the great healer. Here we are, 19 years on; of course we have new troubles, just as New York had different troubles 19 years before that, and as America had troubles 19 years before then. And there will be trouble 19 years from now too. But I’m afraid I’m a believer that despite all the troubles of the world, the good outweighs the bad, a hundred, a thousand, a million times over; for everything that we are told gets worse, many, many things also get better. Problems are understood, sometimes too haltingly; solutions are found, sometimes too slowly. But the solutions are there. We all see far more acts of kindness and care than of pain; nowhere more so, I happen to believe, than in the beautiful country of America.

We will do well to remember this fact in the weeks to come, as the media bombard us all – on both sides of the Atlantic – with a diet of imminent disaster.  Here in Britain, we have our own narrative of imminent disaster playing out too, on the airwaves and in print.

And yet, and yet… something tells me that our little bothy in Scotland will still be around two or three hundred years from now; and that those beautiful waters of the Sound of Jura, will still be there, majestic, for thousands of years to come. And the troubles of today will all be forgotten. Life carries on, and so must we.


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