So it has finally happened. After nearly six years, I am preparing to leave Aberdeen at the end of March. I have so much to thank this city for. Six years ago, feeling I had lost my way and needing a total change, I moved all alone nearly 400 miles north from the East Midlands to Scotland. There, I not only rediscovered myself but also found a family. First two mature Scottish cats became part of my life and then I learned to dance Ceroc and my life changed forever. On my first night, a kind and rather jolly chap called D looked after me and my friend and, well, I won’t say the rest is history – it took a while for me to realise how lucky I was – but I got there in the end.
And so I thought I would use this post as a love letter to express my gratitude and affection for this area of North East Scotland. It is probably an indulgence but if so, please indulge me and read on – so few people understand the city, imagining somewhere bleak, foreboding and industrial. It can be all of those things, but it is so much more.
I have spoken before long ago about the way the imposing granite buildings sparkle in the sunshine. Anyone who thinks Aberdeen is grey just isn’t looking properly. It truly is the Silver City. The old town is stunningly beautiful and makes me very jealous of anyone who has studied at the University based there. The glass modernity of the new University Library contrasts sharply with the ancient splendour of King’s College but is no less impressive for that. And, of course, Marischal College, the second largest granite building in the world, is imposingly beautiful.
Being a coastal city, Aberdeen also boasts a beach. Although a long way from the tourist draw it was in its heyday, Aberdonians flock there in the warmer weather to enjoy traditional seaside experiences from building sandcastles to eating locally made delicious ice cream. There are even some hardy souls who brave the North Sea to swim or paddle. I will always remember my first glimpse of Footdee, the village tucked away at the end of the Aberdeen seafront and the feeling of stepping back in time as I explored the tiny streets with its quaint houses, quirky sheds and its enduring feeling of community. For anyone wanting to go a little further afield, I used to introduce visitors the small harbour town of Stonehaven south of the city.
The city itself feels small, with the companionable warmth of a town but the vibrancy of somewhere much larger. A stunning Edwardian theatre shows everything from pantomime to opera, ballet and everything in between. The annual Spectra light show highlights our town in new and striking ways – who could forget the giant spiders in the graveyard of St Nicholas’ Church last year? And the Granite Noir crime festival enjoyed its second year last month, showcasing the best in Scottish and Scandi crime fiction.
Traditional statues of Scottish heroes like Robert the Bruce and William Wallace have been joined recently by Poised, a sculpture of a leopard done by Andy Scott, the sculptor responsible for the Kelpies further south near Falkirk. Poised never fails to move me every time I visit her (surely a female, with a grace and beauty which take my breath away). Sometimes she leaves me inspired and invigorated, with a smile on my face and a leap in my heart. Other times, in quieter moments, I feel she is speaking to me, soothing my soul in troubled times as she sits serenely above my head. She reminds me of our Princess, who can sit apparently quite comfortably on the smallest fence post, but her metallic spotted coat is indisputably that of a leopard. It is rare that a piece of art moves me to this extent and she is probably the Aberdeen landmark that I will miss the most when I leave.
Outside the city, the beautiful countryside bristles with castles, fromtraditional castles, such as Dunnottar, perched precariously on the edge of a cliff through to fortified houses which uniquely combine beauty and solid practicality in a gloriously Scottish fashion. During my first summer, I visited a different castle every weekend and, once settled into my new Aberdeenshire home, I frequently visited the nearby Castle Fraser to walk away the strains of the day in the tranquillity of the grounds. I will never forget the evening tour of the garden I took with a friend in the sole company of the head gardener, with a supper of soup and homemade bread in the greenhouse to warm us up later – it was a truly magical experience.
As well as D and the cats, I have gained lifelong friends, who I will miss terribly but who I hope will visit us in Yorkshire very soon. My job taught me a lot about myself and about building relationships with others, all of which I will take with me into my future. It was a fitting way to end a 22 year career in public libraries and I am proud of what I was able to achieve.
But now I am ready to step into the future. To embrace the change and the uncertainty with more confidence than I ever would before my Scottish life. Partly because of D’s love and support which enfolds me and gives me the courage to try something new. Partly because my Aberdeen experience has given me an inner strength and confidence and shown me that change can be a force for good. If I had never moved to Scotland, I would not have the life I lead now. If D and I had not leaped into the unknown together by moving south, we would not have the home which means so much to all of us.
There is much I will miss about Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and my life as a librarian and I will undoubtedly return to visit friends, visit Poised and remember what life in a Scottish library service is like. However, I can’t wait to start this new stage of my life. There is so much I want to do, so much waiting for me – my company is ready to be launched, I have research to do for what I hope will turn into my first book, I want to freshen the blog up for you all and there is so much out there that I want to learn too – courses in horticulture and photography beckon. Did you know you can get an actual City & Guilds-certified qualification in crochet?
Farewell Aberdeen – you will always hold a special place in my heart – and thank you for welcoming me, for giving me the space to find who I am and what I can do. Finally, thank you for guiding me to D and to our New Simple Life, in which we grow not only veg but also our very souls.
I will leave you this week with a few more of my favourite Scottish images.