So, here goes:
Assistant Warden at Braemar Youth Hostel. This was a Summer job that kept me busy during the Summers of 1985, 1986 and 1987. I loved it, meeting people from all over the world, including a divorced man twice my age I would later run away with, much to the consternation of my parents. Good move, though, given that we have now been married for over 20 years.
First Real Job:
Nanny to a little girl in Edinburgh after said running away with hostel guest.
First Role in Politics:
I guess being on the local Committee of the Caithness and Sutherland SDP when I was 16, reducing the average age considerably. I was instinctively a Liberal rather than a Social Democrat, but the SDP, with an average age in the 50s, seemed younger. That kind of mattered when I was 16…
A gorgeous little gold Mini Metro that I loved to distraction. Learning to drive became a necessity after we moved from Leith to the Nottinghamshire countryside. I was heartbroken when abovementioned man twice my age pranged it a year later – although I was relieved that he was ok, I’m not that heartless. And he has the cheek to criticise my driving! To be fair, it wasn’t really his fault. It’s undoubtedly a tribute to British engineering that a shunt at fairly low speed was enough to write off the car.
Mull of Kintyre, by Wings. How in love with Paul McCartney was I at the age of 10? That was the first single. The first album was Hits of 76 which had my favourite record of that year, I Love to Love, by Tina Charles. I am really showing my age now……
First Football Match:
Inverness Caledenian Thistle v Dundee Utd, September 2006. It was the first time former manager Craig Brewster had returned with his new team since he’d left and the crowd jeered at him with all the passion of a woman scorned. It was very funny. It was a lovely day and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I saw a different side to my lovely brother-in-law, Mike, who works for a bank and is very sweet, that day. I don’t think there was a swear word he didn’t use. After the F word, the C word and B and S words in close succession, I had to tell him not to hold back just because I was there.
No wonder I ran away with divorced man twice my age – he took me to the U2 concert at Murrayfield in 1987 for my 20th birthday. How naive was I, though? I hardly really knew him, he lived in Leith, I was in Braemar and he invited me down to stay in his flat. He said it was 2 bedroomed flat and I could stay in his spare room. He was telling the truth, but he could so easily not have been. Anyway, it was a very lovely weekend and I moved in for good less than 3 months later.
First Country Visited:
Portugal, at the age of 6. We went on one of only two family holidays we ever had to Estoril for Christmas 1973. The other one was to a cottage in Stoer, Sutherland, in 1980.
First TV Appearance:
I think it was the SDP conference in Paisley (?) in 1986. A vox pop for STV.
First Political Speech:
At the same conference, slagging the Government for cutting customs officers and so letting loads of drugs be smuggled into the country. I said at one point that drug abuse was not confined to the Central Belt and I had been aware of it in Caithness. I was subsequently described in the Press and Journal as an “all over problem”. A year later, when I was working at the Youth Hostel, the local paper, the John O’Groat Journal, rang me to follow up the story.
Feb 1984, met him at a Scripture Union training event. (How my outlook on life has changed!) He was gorgeous, 20 years old and called Rory Dobson. It was very short lived and relatively innocent, but lovely.
First Encounter with a Famous Person:
I don’t know if I was ever in the same room as him, but when I was very small, my mother ran a secretarial business in Inverness. One of her clients was Jimmy Page – so that’s a really tenuous claim to fame.
Proper famous, who’s not a politician, would probably be Jon Pertwee at a Cult TV convention a couple of years before he died. We had a bizarre conversation in Russian and he signed a photo of him in a sports car.
First Brush With Death:
Touching wood and all sorts, I have thankfully managed to avoid life threatening situations, although it may have been a mistake to challenge aforementioned man twice my age (also very tall and at that time probably 2.5 times my weight) to a drinking competition. It was the only hangover I’ve ever had which lasted more than a day.
First House/Flat Owned:
I never really owned the flat in Leith – it was the man’s bachelor pad, so the first house with my name on the deeds was the little semi we moved into in Coylton, Ayrshire a few months after we were married. We were unpacking boxes just after moving in and heard loads of sirens, and wondering what was going on. It was December 1988 and they were on their way to Lockerbie.
First Film Seen at a Cinema:
I know there must have been some before, but the first I can remember right now is Star Wars.
First Time on the Radio
A Moray Firth Radio phone in on religion and politics round about 1984/5.
First Politician I Met:
Robert Maclennan, then Labour MP for Caithness and Sutherland, who did the prizegiving at Wick High in either 1980 or 1981.
First Book I Remember Reading:
Noddy’s Adventures in Toyland, by Enid Blyton, when I was very small.
First Visit to the London Palladium:
Never been – although I did go to the Royal Albert Hall for a Star Trek convention in 1995 so I’m not entirely uncultured.
In 1983, at the age of 15, I walked into Bob Maclennan’s campaign headquarters in Wick to ask for a copy of a manifesto. I walked out with a bundle of leaflets and a map.
The election was in June, and my O Grades had finished at the end of May. There was nothing doing at school and I was bored, so I bunked off to help the campaign as often as possible. I had official permission to be off school for a whole day to attend the Caithness Music Festival, where I was doing some poetry reading. My bit was finished by 11, so I went into the nearby HQ. Bob’s wonderful wife, Helen, offered to take me canvassing far, far away. Unfortunately, one of my teachers saw me get into her car. Detention for me…….but it was worth it, and I was so boringly good that I needed to have a moment of rebellion.
It was quite an ill-tempered election as there was a lot of bad feeling from Labour over the fact that Bob had left them. One of the things he taught me, and therefore one of the first lessons I ever learned in politics, was never, ever to take any votes for granted and always to listen to people. He was always modest, courteous, decent and attentive and I still have bags of respect for him.
I’m going to tag Will Patterson, Duncan Borrowman, Neil Fawcett, Yousuf Hamid and Jennie from the Yorksher Gob, and anyone else who wants to do it.