I AM moving back to Moray... saying those words seemed like the impossible had happened.
After living in London for nearly seven years, I had made the decision to return to Elgin. The move itself was probably only temporary but, still, since leaving when I was 17 I had never been home for more than a month.
London to Elgin. How would I cope? The move was not altogether sporadic. Earlier in 2011, I had decided to pursue one of my niggling ambitions – to write a play about the fishing industry and men being lost at sea. My father had been lost when I was five years old and, even 20 years later, I found myself repeating the term "lost at sea" but never really understanding it.
What did it actually mean? I had seen several plays about the fishing industry of yesteryear but nothing of latter day – how exactly had the era of quaint wooden boats I'd read about turned into the corporate industry of quotas and legislation reported on the news?
Coincidentally, I had an acting audition with Edinburgh-based Stellar Quines Theatre Company. During a chat with the artistic director, Muriel Romanes, we began to discuss my previous journalism experience and writing ambitions. I explained my idea about the fishing play; she loved it and immediately offered to mentor me throughout the writing process, including working towards a development day at the Traverse Theatre.
Similarly, the Out of the Darkness Theatre Company in Moray offered me regional support and office space. Having backing from two companies that I greatly admire was remarkable and, in a sense, gave me even more confidence in the project. I was genuinely delighted.
But there was still one major problem – to complete the necessary research and development, I would need some form of income. I knew that I would never want to write this play without being able to throw myself into it fully which would involve both time and, yes, money. Creative Scotland stepped in. I was now officially a funded playwright returning to Elgin. In an instant, it felt as though it was meant to be.
As with many of my ambitions, friends seemed to think I was either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid. I was giving up my London flat. I would be living on a meager income whilst borrowing beds from friends and relatives. I was digging up my family history, opening forgotten doors.
I was attempting to write a play about a subject matter that, although blood related, I had absolutely no knowledge of what-so-ever. Brave or stupid? Only time would tell.
But I have always believed in following my heart and my heart was leading me back to Moray. I am now several months into my research and finally beginning to write and piece the play together. I feel an enormous pressure to tell the story of the unheard voices of the North-east fishing industry, of the hundreds of men who have battled the elements, the tale of the women and families left behind. This is an important story of the oldest profession in the world; I hope I can do it justice.
Working on the play has allowed me to rediscover Moray as an area. It is beautiful; a wild treasure in the North of Scotland. I cannot understand why I never appreciated this as a teenager. I have met wonderful people, young and old, rediscovered the meaning of community and explored the history, music and culture of the area.
I have even found myself a fall-back profession should the creative industry fall through; after joining the crew of a prawn boat and sampling fishing first hand, the skipper offered me a job as a deck-hand. I think he was joking.
Moravians are unique. There is a rich, wonderful heritage here that I have only scratched the surface of. Certainly, I miss the diversity of London – the gigs, the theatres, jazz bars, cabaret nights – but I am slowly rediscovering that there is a "scene" in Elgin and many ambitious people working to create more events, showcase local talent and provide quality entertainment. I hope that I too am able to contribute to this vision and become part of a collaborative Moray.
Because of my profession, I will probably have to move again depending where the work takes me. It was always going to be a temporary arrangement. But in the meantime, I feel... at home.