Thanks to Wee-sis, she and I finally made it to Islay together for the first time since we left the island in 1961. My last visit to the island where we were born was over twenty years ago although Wee-sis has been going more recently.
I spent the weeks before we went terrified I wouldn’t be able to go because cancer cells would suddenly multiply or my throat would stop working or something. In fact the worst that happened was a filling coming out (M&S salted caramel Florentines – delicious but not recommended if you have dodgy fillings). I was able to get an appointment to have a temporary filling put in.
The after our return I had an appointment to meet with the oncologist and tried, mostly successfully, to put it out of my mind and not dwell too much on the decision I knew I had to make sooner rather than later. I’ll do an update on that meeting in my next post.
It was a magical week packed full of memories. It was a week of connections old and new, of friendship, laughter, good food (pizzas by the sea, Indian curries, home cooking and posh restaurant) and drink. We were taken on a mystery tour and picnic (the most amazing potato curry and puris) one day; on another we visited the Singing Sands. We didn’t get to visit all the beaches I remember from my childhood but we managed a few and we watched seals watching us and saw thousands of Barnacle geese.
If you can zoom in on this pic the grey dots are not stones but geese!
The dentist on the island has bought the house Wee-sis and I were born in. He and his wife invited us to see it. Wee-sis doesn’t remember it (she was only three when we left) but I could still recognise the layout of the house – the front hall (which seemed so much smaller than in my memory), the curved staircase, my bedroom, Dad’s office …
In the round church in Bowmore, where we were christened, we found our names on the Cradle Rolls on display.
And I found the name of my best childhood friend, born two days before me.
She and I were the first babies the new doctor on the island delivered. She and her family left Islay some years after we did but she has relatives still living on the island and visits regularly. We managed to meet for the first time in sixty years. We would need days, probably months, to catch up properly on our respective histories.
It was a wonderful trip but exhausting. Towards the end I was definitely flagging and had to turn down an invitation to a girls’ night party, which I’d been looking forward. However, my energy levels had dipped too low. I also dropped out of a walk with Wee-sis and her dog because I was concerned I might not manage the return part. I cried as I made my way back to the car, hoping anyone seeing me would think it was the wind bringing tears to my eyes.
It was an emotional week with a feeling of a circle being completed and a final farewell made.