Friday, 31 May 2013


Scottish people do not move house, they 'flit' and unlike the image of a graceful butterfly who flits effortlessly between flowers, the reality is slightly more chaotic.
There is even a saying; "You look like something off a country flitting"! - a slightly disparaging remark about a dishevelled appearance.

We are in the process of flitting. We are moving back up to the farm, we cannot live here with the stour of human waste clogging our noses, burning our eyes and mouths, making us vomit. Our family cannot risk our water being contaminated by human faeces and the indifference of the landowner who fails to provide a water tank or repair his houses.

I have lived here for ten years, the longest I have ever stayed in one house. My parents liked flitting and moved every few months so it became part of your nature to flit.

This house was a sanctuary to my daughter, Rosie and I when we first moved in. The house was delapidated and had been empty for some years but we scrubbed, painted and mended and it soon became a home.

Regardless on how much I love it here, the house is falling apart. There are rooms where the plaster has fallen completely off the walls, a thick black mold decorates the corner of our bedroom, the external door is rotten through despite being held together with bits of wood and trusty duct tape. It is impossible to heat and the oil filled rayburn which was installed by a previous occupier in the early 1960s - this is now included in my short assured Tenancy lease and I am supposed to be responsible for it.
We switched it off in 2003 as the carbon monoxide monitor would stop beeping......

We are tenants of a huge estate here, a different laird to my husband's laird but the forty or so tenants here have identical problems, houses which are not wind and water tight, no repairs, the original single pane sash windows, no insulation, chimneys with breaches in them and of course, a private water supply. We ignore the pylon just a few feet away although it is always in my mind that every household  beside the pylons has lost a female family member to cancer - uterine or breast, usually. My beloved neighbour included.
Here is a picture of a blackbird taken five minutes ago from the back bedroom.

There is no point in asking for repairs; if the two estate 'workmen' turn up, they patch. One climbed up on to the roof, forgot what he was supposed to do and climbed down again. Two years later he was back up on the roof and cheerfully announced that he had "Found the tube of sealant that he left up there"! As a result of his forgetfulness, the rainwater poured in and eventually created a hole in the roof and the plaster all fell off.
On the plus side, the bats love it and they come and go with ease.

This is a tiny community, only 11 people yet it is the place where the community once demanded that they could build their own church with the stipulation that the congregation were the preachers. They refused the laird's church and religion. Once upon a time, the lairds dictated which religion people should follow.
They employed a scribe and petitioned to have their church recognised. They even built a bridge over the river so others could worship freely.

It could have been a bigger community today; someone bought a piece of land and wanted to build some new houses on the land. The landowner refused a water supply and in one fell swoop, kept the population to a minimum.

Today, our tiny community lies under a pall of waste. Nature wears a putrid perfume, visitors to our local beauty spot hurry past and don't stop.

The nesting heron, the tadpoles which Rosie saved and released beside the stream will have been affected, the red kite, the otters. There is a very good reason why I chose this pen name but that is a story for another day.
The corncrake - he arrives each year and calls for a mate. We have not heard him this year.
The cuckoo, the red squirrels that my neighbour cared for and as a result, there are families of red squirrels in our gardens. The kestrels, bats, woodpeckers, Arctic hare, the water cress and tiny trout and salmon in the stream.....
The hedgehogs so carefully nursed back to health by which we promised to release and keep an eye on, they had to be rescued again and moved to a place of safety. Please support Hessilhead if you can. They do incredible work.

SEPA and Environmental Health are now monitoring the situation here but what took them so long? We had alerted SEPA seven years ago when the human waste started to arrive. The runoff has gone into a major salmon river, hell, a ditch was dug so the human waste runoff could pour into the river during the heavy rain; but nobody came when we asked them to.

We only received a water filter once Public Health were made aware that our family and neighbour were becoming so sick after our water was hit with faeces and lime. Rosie had to stay off school for weeks as some of the pupils are immunocompromised and we could not risk their health. Our other neighbour has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and she was wondering if the lead pipe which supplies her house could have been instrumental.....
This is the same woman who asked for repairs to her house. Basic repairs were carried out but her rent went from £440 per month to £1000. I shall reiterate, an elderly lady with Alzheimer's.

We should have been able to live on our own farm, in our own house but I thought it prudent to keep renting here until the Farmhouse At The Back of Beyond was repaired. I have never stayed at our farm in the six years that The Farmer and I have been married.

We saved and built a tiny wooden building. A grandiose name would be a 'chalet' but some visitors have seen the shed for what it is and named it thus. We are moving in to it. We are waiting for Environmental Health to collate the quotes for water filters and give the yay or nay for a grant to have them installed. Meanwhile, our family return to this house at night for showers and a place to sleep. We have done this for six years.

I feel selfish for abandoning the area and community I have grown to love but our children are affected by the human waste and we have to get them into fresh air.

The Land Reform Group do not see any problem here. Perhaps we cannot conduct estate tours, fine dining, ply them with wine and heaven knows what else. The LRRG preferred the disingenuous veneer and glitz offered by the landowners to the harsh honesty of the actual land inhabited by the common Scot.

Don't do this to our land, our tiny forgotten communities.


  1. If one were to describe your plight and change the context from Scotland to Africa (for example) 'The Guardian' would be on the case in a moment...all too depressing to realise that even the activist community has sold out.

  2. The Scottish papers certainly avoid publishing......

  3. Unbelievable, we are so not equal before the law (money/influence/power).