Scotland and Africa
– one way or the other, for better or for worse –
the two great continuums of my life.
I was born in a small fishing village in the north-east of Scotland, the descendant of sea-farers, Jacobites and others of that ilk. I’ve no doubt that the sense of adventure that later overtook me was fostered by my seafaring MacPherson grandfather.
Apart from the wonderful stories of his life at sea, the travels, the characters and the dangers of the deep, he taught me most of what I know about the history of Scotland and its unsung heroes. He also showed me how to splice a rope, mend a net, and to find my way by the stars…‘so you’ll never get lost. ’
I started writing around the age of 7 or 8 – with a growing pile of jotters proudly marked ‘My Books’ as proof of my progress, complete with crossed-out passages, re-writes and holes rubbed clean through – shades of a distant editing future!
When my old headmaster heard I was about to enter the teaching profession, his face fell. ‘No, no…’ he said to my mother. ‘You should have sent her to me, I’d have changed her mind. Teaching, never… a journalist, a writer, yes.’
How wise. How right.
But then, if that was not enough, having chosen the wrong profession, I then compounded it by marrying the wrong man. Two years and two children later, after the birth of my second child, I caught the first train home, back to where I’d started.
Four years later, I was on a plane heading for Africa, along with my boys, then aged four and six, to where a three-year contract with the Republic of Zambia awaited, courtesy of the Ministry of Overseas Development, London.
As we flew over the Sahara, long past the point of no return, suspended between one life and another, I looked down at the pin pricks of Bedouin fires twinkling in the immense darkness below. All I could think of was how lucky I was. With two major errors already in my life – luckily, one down, one still to go – my ‘unwise’ choice of profession had made it possible for me to go to where I really wanted to be – about to step into a world packed to the rafters with amazing adventures yet to be lived! And I was not wrong there!
Twenty something years later, after sojourns in Zambia, Malawi and then Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya – including sorties into the unknown, the dodgy, the exhilarating, and otherwise – I made my way back to Scotland.
After taking the long way round, I’ve now come full circle back to where I started out, doing what I should have been doing all along – not with a pile of exercise books, crossed-out passages, and holey pages, but with the modern equivalent – an almost-completed trilogy: three half-written novels, several with plots waiting-to-be-written – and a head full of ideas for more!
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