It was only a year ago that I took myself off to the United Kingdom, in search of meaning and renewed hope. Ghosts appeared in many forms. Ghosts from my past, reminding me of what could have been, had I made different choices. Ghosts from my ancestors, reminding me of their sacrifices and strength of character. And the hardest ghosts to confront were those that I thought would always stand beside me well into my future, yet ghosted me out of their lives. It was a time of enormous change, reflection and ultimately, a new chapter.
Rediscovering my Scottish roots was a gift. Although I felt a deep connection to Bute and the lovely people that I encountered during that trip in June 2022, even I am slightly shocked at how quickly I leapt into the great unknown. Despite the obvious risks, I bought a flat in Rothesay upon my return to Australia, sight unseen - simply because it was on the same street that my Gran lived on, before she departed for Australia. I had no idea of the adventure and connections that it would bring.
On my trip in June 2022, I stayed at the Glenburn Hotel. It was grand, the staff were delightful and watching the sunset whilst enjoying a G&T was pure magic (as you can see from the very happy look on my face). This magnificent hotel is easily visible from the ferry as it enters the bay, and it is as imposing as it looks. Staying there was a very special experience and I felt right at home.
It was also on this trip last June that I discovered Trish at The Green Interiors. Only one year ago! There was something about her that I liked immediately and it was on her recommendation that I discovered two other local gems: The Isle of Bute Distillery Gin Garden and Bonnie Bling. How convenient that all three of these favourite places are now a hop, skip and a jump away from my flat!
In precisely one year, I have bought a flat in a foreign country and renovated it with my new besties, Trish and Shaun. We are so incredibly thrilled with what we have lovingly created together. I could not have imagined the unbelievable journey that would unfold during the past year - I was naive and they were patient. But, now I just feel very proud. And especially proud to count Trish and Shaun as my friends.
With the help of Isabel and the Bute Museum, I also discovered my many ancestors who lived on the island over several generations - and their homes that are easily visible from my flat. This was an unexpected outcome that somehow made my rash decision seem slightly more logical. I cannot wait to find William's grave on my next trip to Rothesay, with my Mum.
And many new friendships with locals were forged in the past year, including Gianna (my superb Scottish solicitor) and Mhairi who owns Bonnie Bling.
Even though Australia is on the other side of the world, the connection to Scotland and the UK continues to be strong. Gianna currently has two of her children in Australia - I was lucky enough to meet her beautiful daughter Zara on my last trip to Bute, who is currently in Australia. I am hoping that she will come and visit with us soon.
AND, to my absolute delight, we had the pleasure of Trish's daughter staying with us at our home in Brisbane recently. To think it was only a year ago that I met Trish, to have her daughter Eilidh stay with us was quite surreal. And it would seem the term "mini me" was coined specifically in reference to Trish and Eilidh. It was literally like meeting a younger version of my Scottish friend (albeit with an English accent), when I picked her up at the airport in Brisbane.
Like any tourist in Australia - she loved her visit to Lone Pine and the opportunity to hold a koala and feed some kangaroos. As Lone Pine is literally a 5 minute drive from our house, I think Eilidh was amazed to know that Ruby and Hamilton would frequent there on at least a weekly basis when they were younger.
Slowly introducing my family to our ancestral roots of Bute has been simply magical for me. I loved taking the kids there in April and I am excited to take my Mum there for her 80th birthday in August this year. I am also hoping that my brother Cam and his beautiful wife Tracy will visit there soon. I have no doubt that their sons Flynn and Caelan will spend time there as soon as their studies are finished.
And the first of my friends to visit and stay in the flat will arrive in late July - my friend Ange and her partner Rich. Ange and I knew each other from when I lived in England back in the 1990s and we worked together in Debenhams. It seems like yesterday! I am so happy that she is going to stay in my little flat and I hope that she loves the island as much as I do.
So, the past year has been a huge shift for me - personally and professionally. Personally, I am now at peace with the ghosts. Everything will ultimately fall into place when it is supposed to. Professionally, I continue to forge interesting business connections in the United Kingdom through my own business, so that hopefully I can create more and more opportunities to visit. By design, I am creating a life that I could previously only have dreamt of.
I had no idea that one decision a year ago would have so many positive implications. A new home, new friends, new business opportunities and a new direction in my life. An insightful soul pointed out the importance of the body of water called "Kyles of Bute" when I was looking to buy my flat. We both excitedly agreed that it was a sign - and never were truer words spoken.