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Free range childhood

Looking back on my own childhood, l realise just how lucky l was. l got all the benefits of living in a big city but spent school holidays roaming with my cousins, wild and free on the Isle of Lewis. 

5 of us, the dog and our luggage would cram ourselves into a little fiesta on an epic, as it was back then, day long trip to Lewis. You could fly to America in less time than it took us to get to Lewis. The journey was part of the charm, although perhaps not for my parents. The nerve inducing drive would take us to the port of Ullapool. The cramped drive and the first whiff of sea air would bring out the crazy. Only a boat journey separated us from our freedom. 

Screentime was non-existent for us. In fact, I am struggling to remember whether my grandparents even had a tv. Instead, we climbed trees, we built rafts (but thankfully never tested them out), we went out on small boats and tried not to get swamped by the 'big' Calmac ferry, we went fishing on lochs enjoying the fruits of our labour usually that same day. We visited deserted white beaches and swam in the ocean, we fell in nettle patches and had to douse ourselves with dock leaves, we went cockle picking, we fell in bogs, we caused mischief. 

We ate heartily. A mix of old comely favourites like mince and tatties and feasts of fresh prawns, crab, lobster and grilled trout rubbed with wild garlic. Oblivious to how coveted these foods are, we would complain if given them too often. 

At Easter, we often had our own lamb to look after. Rejected by its mother, we would be responsible for bottle feeding and tending it. From the garden we could hear the constant clink of the machinery as my grandpa wove Harris tweed on his pedal operated loom. 

As a self-obsessed teenager, l rebelled against this rural idyllic, vociferously complaining if made to visit. Not till my late twenties, with parenthood looming did my love for the Scottish Highlands reignite. Now, school holidays are once again spent visiting the west coast of Scotland. Memories are made, family ties strengthened, confidence built. It trumps any material gift l could ever give my children. 

Isle of Lewis Childhood