While speaking to the women featured in my documentary, The Herring Quines, I was struck by the sense of history, legacy, and tradition they conveyed. In fact, these themes seemed to emerge in every discussion I had, both on and off-camera. They emerge again in this chat with my wonderful friend Lucy about how these women made ends meet, the role of mental health, and the wonderful world of fisher fashion.
Today will be known to many as Easter Monday. But the date, April 6th, is home to another celebration: Tartan Day, which marks the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. It’s commemorated in Arbroath here in Scotland with loads of themed events, and has also sparked a huge parade in New York City that brings together Scots Americans in celebration of their heritage.
I’m immensely proud of my own Scottish identity, but like I say in this piece, there is no one standard experience of a country, or one way to live a nationality. Even a small country like Scotland has space for more than 5 million different life stories to play out in the hills, by the sea, in the country and the city. These 11 Scottish books exemplify that.
I sometimes reach a point where I think, actually, what on earth have I spent my time doing? I’m not always great at keeping an up-to-date diary, and when things get busy it seems I’ve let the time pass and just existed through it, floating from day to day. Now there are busy weeks and quiet weeks, but sometimes I feel a little bit like Moss:
To cure the soggy-crisp feeling, I like to keep a list of events that took place and things that I’ve done, from milestones like turning 21, to smaller actions like learning to take breaks from social media, to show myself just how much I’ve packed in to the past 365 days. Taking stock of things like this is a good reality check, and stops me getting hung up on the (usually tiny) things I think I’ve done wrong. It reminds me that while I might not be sure of where I’ll end up, what I’ve done up to now constitutes a path I want to be on.
Among other things, in 2014 I saw a lot, read a lot, traveled quite a bit, wrote quite a bit, and snapped a load of photos. Below are some of my favourite ‘postcards’ from the year, collected on my travels around Dorset, Great Yarmouth, the Outer Hebrides, Dublin, Fife and good old Aberdeenshire. A wave of calm washes over me when I see these photographs again. I’m transported back to where I was when I took the photo, who I was with, what sort of day it was, what the scene inspired me to write. Here’s hoping 2015 brings more of the same – sometimes unexpected – opportunities and experiences as this past year. My path seems reasonably well-lit until graduation. I don’t know where it’ll lead next, but I do know the steps I take between now and then will take me closer to finding out, and form a new list along the way.
In the middle of the north east countryside, scattered with traditional farm houses, sits a retro travel-themed eatery which feels like it’s been transported from some abandoned stretch of US highway. I made a return visit last week for more delicious cooking, just to make sure I hadn’t imagined it.
I’ve eaten at a lot of cafés and restaurants in the north east, and when it comes to decor, there’s often little to shout about. This decor brought tears to my eyes. Everything is recycled, from the bus seats that form booths against the walls to the building itself, constructed by the owner using disused electricity pylons. Vintage posters and record sleeves adorn the bare wood, and oil cans at each table dispense olive oil for dipping bread. It’s ingenious. The room is filled, but not overstuffed, and every item has a purpose – like the bicycle wheel suspended from the roof, home to pots of cutlery.
You can expect a good meal in most places in Aberdeenshire: a hearty soup, standard fillings for sandwiches, home bakes. By and large the offerings are quite similar, allowing for the occasional specialty. In its menu, too, Lastbus stands apart from other eateries.
On weekdays, soups are accompanied by a selection of cakes and desserts. My first visit brought a flavoursome lentil and bean soup, the second a rich butternut squash and sweet potato soup. The sundaes are not to be missed. Stacked with yoghurt, granola, fresh pineapple, and pomegranate seeds, they’re heavy on indulgence and light on guilt.
For vegetarians fed up of bland, stunted menu offerings, and even someone like myself who is not (more just a cheapskate), Lastbus is a paradise. The menu changes frequently, but you can bet whatever’s on offer is fresh, tasty and totally meat-free.
The singular drawback is that, being nestled atop a hill behind New Pitsligo, Lastbus requires a car (or a walk from a nearby bus stop) to reach. But with fantastic, great value food in dreamy surroundings that you don’t find on just any Scottish hillside, it’s completely worth the journey.
Check out lostcafe.org for more information.