I'm not going to bore you with the details, because quite honestly if you haven't heard of Tavansay, and me Piers Longstay, then where on earth have you been for the last year or two? Certainly not in the United Kingdom. However, everything you will have heard has been told to you by the media, and the papers only go for the sensational, the prurient so that they can pretend to be oh so high and mighty, and the broadcast media aren't much better, sound bites and snapshots, nothing that can really tell you what went on. Just scandalmongering. I mean really, headlines about cannibalism were going just too far.
As with any story there isn't just one beginning, so I can't start there, but I'll try and weave together the various influences that led up to a series of decisions that, with the twenty/twenty vision of hind sight did not lead to the best course of action. All I can say is that they seemed right at the time.
To start with there is me, Piers Longstay, country boy who attended a grammar school towards the end of their existence, went on to university and got a good degree, and went to work in the City, by which of course I mean London. That's the bare bones. My dad was a farm worker and general handyman/builder and whatever, and mother was a tad pretentious, hence the name Piers. She was the one who encouraged me to work hard, and truth to tell I must have had some aptitude because my exam results were always pretty good, and you don't get a first without aptitude and hard work. Unless you're a genius.
By the time I got my degree I had been head hunted by a major investment bank and by twenty-seven I had earned a great deal of money, I had invested in several properties which were doing very well, and I'd made a couple of killings on share deals which, possibly, I shouldn't have done, but I dare you to tell me that given the opportunity you wouldn't have done the same. But I was close to burn out.
Along the way I'd had my share of the fair sex, small girls with small breasts, small girls with big breasts, even big girls with small breasts, because if I am anything, and to be honest I love all women and all of them, it is a tit man. Which brings me to my favourite, which is big girls with big breasts. I met Laura, my wife at a party, quite literally I spotted her across a crowded room, made my way over to her and introduced myself. She is one of the most attractive women you could wish to meet, but she is a big girl, and she does have big breasts. She is also very sensitive and enthusiastic in bed and by the next morning I knew I had met with my life partner. Fortunately she felt the same.
By the time I was twenty-seven we had been married for a couple of years or so, and despite trying to start a family from the beginning we had been totally unsuccessful, the only thing in my life to that point which hadn't gone according to plan. However, as I said, I was approaching burn out, so we decided to pack in work, sell the properties, and go and do something completely different. We considered buying a farm, but the idea didn't really appeal, and for some time we floundered before I spotted an advert for a Scottish island. Tavansay.
Thinking that we would probably not have children, the idea of being away from everything really appealed to us. Sun sea and solitude, not too much sun as it turned out, it sounded idyllic. It probably wasn't where either of us would have chosen had we had, or felt we were likely to have children. Just as we completed the sale of our last property the bottom dropped out of the housing market, banks were not unaffected either, and it looked as though I was a genius after all, but really I was just very lucky. Fortune also smiled on me from the point of view that I had my money in safe places, although the effect of this earlier drop was less than that of the 'credit crunch' in 2008. Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for the owner of the island, the poor sod had to sell in a hurry, having lost his shirt, unfortunate if you're a Lloyds 'name', and we were able to buy the island at a knocked down price. This was after one very brief visit, at which time we hadn't really understood exactly what we had got. What we did know was that we had a cottage with out buildings, walled areas and plenty of stone lying about all of which would suit our purposes very well.
After the visit we came back south to the cottage we were renting as a temporary home, to decide just what those purposes were, and what we were going to do with our new acquisition.
"We can keep sheep," said Laura, "and pigs, and chickens, and grow vegetables, and..."
"Hold on a mo," I laughed. "One thing at a time. There's little money in sheep, and I think we should try to make a living out of this, I don't think we should have a play farm. We could make sheep's cheese. Probably a good speciality market there. But for the rest, you're right, we will have to be reasonably self sufficient."
So I went off to do a course in cheese making. Laura did the full health and safety thing, hazard analysis and critical control points and all the crap that everyone thinks came from Brussels. We both did food safety and hygiene to a high level. I spent some time studying sheep and how to keep them, all the while dashing back and forth making sure that materials that I would need to do our croft up were delivered. I was a fairly hand chap with tools mainly learnt from my father who, as I have said, could turn his hand to most things.
And then we moved. I knew of course that there were four other crofts on the island, and I knew that I was now their landlord, but I hadn't realised just what this might mean, I'd been too tied up in my own affairs, and I hadn't even spent a night on the island at that point. Laura had of course, she had been there a couple of days, and had met with the other people on the island. They were mainly young like ourselves, and anxious to try to stay on the island, but equally anxious to know what we were going to do.
I went to visit with each of them, and at the end of my visits had a clearer idea of what was what, and what was wanted. To start of with there was a desperate need for some infrastructure. The water supply wasn't good and required something done, there was no electricity, not too big a problem, but it would make life easier if we had some, and then there were other, smaller things that were needed. These included a new boat for communal use. There were already individual boats, but we needed something bigger too.
We had an island meeting, probably a first for many years, in our living room. The first thing I did was break out a bottle of whisky from the case that I had brought. When everyone had exchanged toasts and was sipping from their glasses we began our discussion, largely led by the islanders. It was agreed that we would all work on the water supply, the new boat that was required, and that I would deal with the electricity supply. This, I felt sure, could be covered by wind generators, batteries and inverters.
"Well," said our oldest inhabitant, Ian Jones, yes honestly, who was about sixty, "if your ideas turn out to be as good as your whisky, I think it'll all be verra, gude. It's certainly better than yours McTavish." He looked at one of the youngest inhabitants.
They all laughed except McTavish, who looked somewhat embarrassed.
"Ah," I said thoughtfully. "An example of self sufficiency, eh? You have a still."
"I'll have to try some to compare it," I replied, to a rather relieved general laughter.
After that things went very well. We bought a new, well, not too second hand, launch, about thirty feet long, we all put in time on the water supply, as we were able in between the other jobs we had to do, and I got on with doing up our little croft, getting the pens and sties sorted, and sorting out the electricity, which turned out to be quite easy, if fairly expensive. I set up a dairy and cheese making area together with storage in new buildings that had been constructed from the stone on the island, of which there was no shortage at all, and in discussion with the others we acquired sheep, a couple of pigs and a few chickens. The dairy was set up with a milking machine for the sheep, powered by our new electricity supply, and I had piled in a lot of insulation to make sure that the chill store wouldn't take too much power. There was also, built into the hillside, a natural cold store. We did have a small generator, but I hoped that we wouldn't need it. The kitchen garden was in a walled area and was dug and planted. And then Laura dropped a bombshell. She was pregnant.
We were in two minds, well I was, as to whether we should pack it in, we were, after all, essentially city folk despite my rural up bringing. But no, she decided that we were going to stay.
The nearby big island had a hospital, and after visiting our own doctor to confirm things, that was where she went to be checked up on, scanned and whatever else they do. The scans revealed that she was expecting twins. Everyone on the island was cock-a-hoop. This was the first twin in living memory to be born on the island, well, in the nearby hospital, but that didn't make much difference, and they all reckoned it was a good omen.
.... There is more of this story ...