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Interview with an incomer: Daryl

James (left) and Daryl (right) after dyke training

How old are you?

Daryl: 23

Where are you from originally?

Daryl: Aberdeenshire, rural Scotland.

How easy/tricky was it finding accommodation?

Daryl: are you serious?! Extremely difficult. Because the island is a tourist hot spot, there’s a lot more holiday rentals than residential lets. In addition to the financials benefits, holiday lets leaves landlords open to use the lets themselves, for family/friends.

During our first year here we’ve stayed in 2 temporary accommodations, we’ll be moving into a third this month, before hopefully moving to a long term solution in the spring. We managed to find somebody who was willing to let to tenants, but the building needed refurbishing. It’s difficult to get materials to the island, so it’s been a long wait, but we’re excited for it to happen when it does. It’s a lot of demand for rental housing here.

Why North Ronaldsay?

Daryl: James (my partner) and I came here initially to volunteer at bird observatory. We both love nature, and we picked this bird observatory because they let us come as a couple, not many bird observatories do that. The bird observatory is a hub where researchers and visitors come to observe bird migration, and undertake a long term monitoring program.

We never planned to stay long term, and we wouldn’t have if people hadn't eagerly encouraged us to. People were desperate for young people to move into the community. We loved it here, and the lifestyle made us realise that life didn’t have to be fast paced and complicated.

It wouldn’t have to be this island, but it was the gateway to enjoying island life. The coastline is supposed to be super good for mental health and there’s a lot of that here!

Daryl ringing a fulmar

What is your favourite part of the island?

Daryl: by Westness, sitting on the sea defence wall. Without even moving your head around, you can see hundreds of birds from 20 different species. It’s also nice and sheltered. I’ve never been there and not felt a strong appreciation for the island.

What is your favourite thing about island life?

Daryl: it's easy to forget what we’ve done to the planet here. Walking around in a city is not for me. You feel connected to the landscape here. I love having a community too, I don’t like the anonymity of living in a big place.

Also it forces people to be our friends because they have no other options *we both laugh*

James on a snowy beach

What is your least favourite about island life?

Daryl: you have a tendency to go slightly crazy without realising it. You do need to get away occassionally and you can easily forget about that. It’s very insular here, sometimes people don’t have a sense of the bigger picture here. It can be hard to get beyond the ways that things have always been done. And its too windy! *I nod in agreement*

What's it been like moving here during the pandemic?

Daryl: it’s been net positive. I can’t imagine being in a better place during the pandemic. The sea has been a literal physical barrier to the virus. There have been no cases on the island, and very few in Orkney which is the main place that people travel to. People rarely travel to mainland Scotland. Overall we’ve had lots more freedom that others haven't had.

But, we arrived 9 months ago and I still haven’t managed to get my things up from Aberdeen. Coordinating travel is complicated anyway, without the restrictions of a pandemic.

James on the ferry sailing to North Ronaldsay

What do you think of dyke building?

Daryl: I really enjoyed my dyke building training. It was a good time to build relationships as well as walls. Despite knee troubles it was the right amount of exertion for me. The sun was setting, and it was the most beautiful time to be outdoors with a purpose. I was able to stay in one spot and appreciate my surroundings, whilst doing something positive for that environment.

Have you started any new activities/hobbies since coming to the island?

Daryl: being so close to the coast coast has allowed me to swim regularly. I love it, with the seals watching you, birds wheeling around you. It has been very special. It’s had a positive impact on my metal health too.

James (left) and Daryl (right) post swim

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