Recently Dave and I and two friends had a trip to England and Scotland, for ten days we stayed with my cousin at her rather ramshackle cottage in southern Scotland.
Lee’s home is six miles from the English border and is located in a very remote spot. She lives on about an acre of land which is located in the “Y” formed by two lanes converging into one. There is one other house in sight and this is a farm, so most of Lee’s neighbours are cows and sheep.
The land surrounding the cottage is a semi-wilderness of bushes and long grass. Many times her yard has been invaded by cattle so the ground is full of dips and hillocks as the usually wet land suffers at the footsteps of the lumbering cows. She has a resident male pheasant and his harem of three enjoying life amongst the weeds.
Lee loves her solitary life, never having been married she has always kept pets and she currently owns two dogs and an old cat. As she is always aware of getting snowed in or her car breaking down, she has learned to stockpile food. However, she has so much food that it is impossible to find any of it. Her pantry is stocked to the very edge of each shelf with all manner of dried goods so, to find anything, one has to empty the front stuff to see what is hiding in the back.
This same approach is used in both her fridge and freezer. To keep as much frozen food as possible in stock, she removes items from their packages and places them in plastic containers, thus saving air space that is taken up by food boxes. Trouble is that none of the stuff has directions on cooking the food so a lot of guess work is used.
In the fridge there must be all manner of things hiding out of reach, to remove any one item means rearranging another five or six food items. Lee is a definite hoarder and a compulsive shopper. She drinks neither tea nor coffee but has the latest model of coffee pot and a fancy machine for boiling water. On one counter she has a microwave oven, a toaster oven, a fancy induction oven, a toaster, the coffee pot and water boiler. To make room for all these appliances she has them standing on top of each other. To make toast, you need to carry the toaster to an available outlet, somewhere else in the kitchen.
Most of the house is crammed with furniture and our recent visit meant having to negotiate through a maze of furniture to go through any part of the house. I am not sure why but she has a total of seven dog beds in her living room, she also has a cage in which her young dog sleeps overnight, this has two cushions of its own. Between the multitude of dog furniture and five large chairs for the humans who required a place to sit, it was impossible to move in the living room. She also has a gate between the living room and the hallway, to prevent wet dogs from coming on to the carpet. Because one of the chairs was jammed into this area, there had to be a bit of extra manoeuvring when trying to enter or leave the room, especially when carrying a tray of tea cups!
Lee spent all her life with her parents, working in their restaurant and then later in a newsagent’s store they all owned together. They bought the cottage together and had a really tight family unit. When her father was found to have cancer, in his late forties, she nursed him through his illness as well as helping her mom with the store. My uncle died in his early fifties and Lee and her mom carried on together until my aunt suffered a series of strokes. They closed the store and Lee cared for her mom until she passed away in her eighties.
The ashes of both her parents have been kept in the house for many years as she wasn’t able to bring herself to saying goodbye to them. Unfortunately she doesn’t have a faith, she is a lovely person but not a believer in another life, and I think this is why she has been unable to say goodbye to her parents.
However, this year she decided that she was ready so, leaving Dave and our two friends to dog sit, Lee and I set off on a four day round trip to the very north of Scotland. This area was where the family had lived for several years and had been very happy. We stayed in B&B’s every night, so each evening we carried suitcases along with my aunt and uncle up the stairs to bed.
When we reached the very northern coast of the country we had beautiful weather and she was delighted to see that nothing had changed. I was anticipating maybe a MacDonalds or some other horror there but, luckily, nothing had changed over the years. It was a beautiful beach, clean and smooth with the turquoise water lapping along the shore. Lee finally said goodbye to her parents as the waves carried them away.
As we drove back south, she seemed light hearted and not regretting saying her farewell. I feel honoured to have been present at such a momentous occasion in Lee’s life. Several days later my friends and I said goodbye to her but my husband Dave is staying for a few more weeks as he loves the area and spends many hours hiking the surrounding hills. I am glad he is staying to keep Lee occupied and to stop her feeling a sense of loss, he is a big man who takes up a lot of space in the small cottage so will certainly keep her from feeling that the house is empty.
This isolated part of the country is where Lee chooses to spend her days, it is inconvenient to go to shops, the nearest bus service is six miles away and getting snowed in is a part of life, but to Lee it is Heaven on earth. I worry about her future if she loses her ability to drive, I really think it would be terribly hard for Lee to move into a town and leave her wilderness behind, but, for now, all I can do is hope for the best for this lovely person and her fury family.