In this life, I have managed to curate some of the best friendships imaginable. Many people have come into my life, enriched my existence in unique ways, and stayed for the duration. I will always happily welcome newcomers into my circle, of course. But for those who have been there for me for decades - and stayed, no matter what - you hold an extra special place in my heart.
One such individual is my wonderful friend Ange. We met back in 1992, when we were both young, carefree and happily in committed relationships. We worked together in Debenhams in Guildford (sadly, no longer a fixture on the UK retail scene) in very junior roles and quickly became partners in crime. I am not sure how we ever found time to do any work, as we were always and forever laughing at something! We both drove minis and life was pretty carefree for us back then. I often think back to those days with fondness.
Since then, I moved back to Australia, where Ange came to live for a while. I have visited the UK many times and often stayed with Ange. We have both been through challenging divorces and came out the other side intact. We both have two teenagers, roughly the same age. And we both still laugh together, a lot! Some things never change.
So when Ange and her partner Rich told me that they were keen to visit Bute, I was thrilled to bits. A plan was quickly hatched for them to stay at my place. I was excited to see what they would think, not just about Bute but also about my flat. Ange is a creative, artistic soul with an excellent eye for design. So, I was curious to see if she would love the flat that we have so lovingly restored. And of course, she did.
Technology is so much more advanced than our days in Debenhams, so we easily kept in touch during her trip, courtesy of Whatsapp. And although I curated a long list of my Bute faves for Ange, she and Rich discovered many new gems. It was like seeing the island through completely new eyes.
Ange's eye for the aesthetic was never more evident to me than in the quality of the photos that she sent me most days during their visit. They were exquisite and made me feel excited to return. I knew from the photos that she appreciated the beauty that is Bute.
Ange and Rich were out and about exploring places and activities that I am yet to experience. Everything from the newly opened Bute Yard (at the bottom of my garden, just quietly) to a voyage on the PS Waverley - where Ange apparently met someone called SuperGran from a TV show popular back in the day. It looked like they were having a total blast!
But what seemed to delight Ange and Rich the most (other than my flat) were the sunsets and beaches. One night they went out on a "sunset watching"expedition. And the results were breathtaking.
And the number of beaches they discovered were far more than I have seen! Despite my explorations around Bute, I have begun to realise that my attention has been more on my flat and its transformation than on the plentiful natural beauty that is everywhere on the island. I will need to remedy that on my next visit. Although I am not sure if I need to cosy up to that beach resident like Ange!!!
It was incredibly special to know that they loved the flat and were just as taken with the views as I am. I particularly loved this snap taken from the kitchen of the village lights.
And as I have now begun to think about renting out Kyles of Bute to lucky holiday makers (when I am not there), Ange and Rich kindly created a visitor folder, full to the brim with brochures showcasing all that Bute has to offer. I can't wait to see it, along with the bounty of sea shells that they collected from all of the Bute beaches.
It sounds like Ange and Rich contributed nicely to the Bute economy, making purchases at The Spirit of Bute and my favourite spot for Antiques, For Bute. Ange managed to find a gorgeous antique painting, painted in the year that she was born. Considering her love of beaches and the water, it is the perfect memento!
So, it isn't long now until Mum and I make the long trip to Scotland for her 80th birthday. I can't wait to show Mum the flat and introduce her to Trish and Shaun, Gianna, Mhairi and the delights of Bute! Watching Ange and Rich have such a blast has made me even more excited to get there.