Someone who has known me all my life recently commented that I am socially disadvantaged because I have so many dogs. I wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed or amused. To be honest, I am neither of those things, but it has certainly made me think.
What does it mean to be socially disadvantaged? Surely it must mean that you are unable to partake in a social life, or social situations, that you would like to. So, a young mother who cannot go out to a night club with her friends must be “socially disadvantaged”. An elderly man who cannot meet his mates down the pub because he has broken a hip must be “socially disadvantaged”.
Then you have the young woman who says that being a new mother is hard work, but she wouldn’t change it – she made a choice and accepts that there are now certain limitations on her life.
Am I unable to partake in situations that I would like to? That is debatable. Perhaps it is more accurate to say I am financially disadvantaged, or time disadvantaged. But my current situation, for the most part, is my own choice.
I can no longer go on holidays like I used to when I was married, had a thriving business, and my parents were able to look after the dogs while we went away. But in those years I went on sea kayaking expeditions in Doubtful Sound and Charlotte Sound in New Zealand, went on a 10 day horse trek in New Zealand, walked the Dusky Track, took a float plane over Fjordland, sat in hot pools on a mountain side.
In Sri Lanka, we travelled round the country by train, climbed Adams Peak and saw the sun rise, stayed at the Hill Country Club, discovered the joys of good tea, watched turtles come up the beach to lay their eggs, listened to thousands of frogs singing by the ponds. India brought river boats, wonderful food, traditional ayurvedic massage (that is a story in itself!).
In the Maldives we snorkeled for hours and saw rays and sharks and clown fish, watched a bait ball, watched pipe fish on the sandy ocean floor, watched a nurse shark as it slept on the reef.
The Seychelles gave me the chance to hold hands with a wild turtle under the water, scratch the throats of giant tortoises.
We cycled round Antigua – sleeping under picnic benches, in beach huts, under bushes, and took a helicopter trip over the island of Montserrat with the money we saved by sleeping rough.
At home here in Scotland I have seen the sun rise in the mountains, seen the sunset in the mountains. Watched mountain hares, golden eagles, slid on polythene bags down snow slopes, camped in wild places, swum in the sea, the rivers, the lochs.
I could go on and on, but the gist of what I am saying is that the holiday experiences I have had remain as memories in my mind, and they will always be there.
My career has been varied, too. I have picked mushrooms, and potatoes. Worked in an ironmongery shop and a bank, went back to college, then was a secretary in the membership office of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, personal secretary to a community consultant paediatrician (that was an eye opener) and then assistant in accommodation and group services at St Andrews University.
Then I left my home and moved up to the north east to join Chris – we walked the beach at midnight as it was so light in the summer, watched the northern lights in the winter, caught our own food.
The Isle of Skye beckoned where we ran our own restaurant – very successfully. We discovered the joys of fossil collecting, finding ammonites, belemnites, a plesiosaur paddle, and part of the first dinosaurs to be found on the island.
Then we found our way (reluctantly to begin with) to the Isle of Seil where we had our hotel for 14 years. We hand fed the swans that lived locally, fed hundreds of garden birds, and ducks. We planted trees and shrubs and flowers, raised two orphan hedgehogs and eight orphan ducklings. Watched otters swimming off the garden, deer grazing in our garden, stoats on the front doorstep, found a sparrowhawk in our sitting room. I started riding again and got my first horse, then the second and a third. We lost old dogs, and got young puppies.
Nowadays, my family is my four dogs and three horses, and the small group of friends I spend some time with. I take part in the annual local pantomime, having a ball running round like a loon, I go to Zumba, I visit friends for coffee, go visit my family when time and cash allow. But on a winter's night, I am happy by the fire, knitting, watching TV, ignoring the housework. In the summer I like to be out in the garden if I can, perhaps a late walk with the dogs, listening to the birds singing.
But am I socially disadvantaged - by some people's standards and ideals, yes I am. By mine? Not so much.
I went to look for some photos, but there were just too many to choose from - here are some of my favourite memories. There's lots more.
|Abel Tasman National Park - South Island NZ|
|High above the river - NZ|
|Climbing tree roots on the Dusky Track NZ|
|Caving in a kayak, Charlotte Sound|
|River crossing on horseback|
|We have a convoy!|
|And even a hovawart in The Seychelles|
|A bit of a love-in|
|No words for this|
|Donkeys on Barbuda|
|Not quite the Titanic|
|Roe deer and rabbit|
|Humble or Pie - can't remember which|
|Mr & Mrs D52 and family|
|Our duck family waiting for supper|
|Sun bathing wild goats|
|One of my very favourite places - not telling you where!|