A few years ago, I was chatting at the Midsummer Beer Happening in Stonehaven with a couple who had come up from Leeds for the festival.
They were stoked by Stonehaven and its many delights and asked me what it was like to actually live in the town.
“It’s like being on holiday every day,” I said. And I meant it.
Not just because of brilliant things like said Happening, and the Fireballs and the Folk Festival and that rather glorious open-air pool, but because of the fabric of the place itself.
If I walk out my front door, within 10 minutes I can be in a historic harbour, full of stories and tales and drama and glamour – and some rather dashed fine pubs and restaurants may I say.
In summer the beach is full of families in winter the place is a visual delight of crashing waves and cosy hostelries waiting to welcome you in.
Across from where I live is Dunnottar Woods, a proper enchanted forest full of magical things like the Shell Hoosie and Lady Kennedy’s Bath House. And there is an air of still calm that soothes the soul, whether it’s late summer sunshine slanting through the green canopy of the trees or crunching through autumn leaves in your boots, wrapped against the chill.
Stretch your legs a bit more and there’s Dunnottar Castle, a place woven into the fabric of Scotland’s story, never mind the north-east’s, so firmly that our nation’s tapestry would be incomplete without it.
Not to mention the views that take your breath away every time you see it. And I do mean every time.
Even the commute into Aberdeen on the train is an adventure. I have spotted dolphins cavorting in the North Sea on the way in. And on the way back there’s a stretch of coastline I always look out for, just past Muchalls where rugged cliffs stretch far into the distance like something out of Lord Of The Rings.
And that’s just me wee patch of the north-east that I call home. There is so much more out there to explore, to discover, and to love.
This is why VisitAberdeenshire and VisitScotland deserve every support for their new marketing campaign aimed at people living in the north-east to take a deeper dive into what they have on their doorstep.
Make A Day Of It is the perfect description, too. I know any visitor to Stonehaven can easily wile away the hours here, be it exploring ruined kirks, slurping yummy ice cream, or having some of the best curries you will find in the north-east.
And if living in Stonehaven is like being on holiday every day, we all know some of the best bits of a break are the day trips to see cool stuff.
So, yes, you lovely tourism folk, I do think I will go and see what other towns, villages and communities have to offer across the north-east – and not forgetting Aberdeen itself.
PS: My Leeds couple were so taken by what I told them they moved to Scotland. Job done.
‘Sorry can you say that again?’
It’s funny the things you can delude yourself over just to avoid an uncomfortable truth.
For the last while I’ve noticed people have a tendency to mumble, and at the same time the background noise in the pub has been getting louder.
And the volume on my telly is wonky. It now has to be up at 25 when before about 17 was just fine.
So it’s not my fault that my catchphrase has become “sorry, can you say that again.”
My epiphany came at a dinner where I had to cup my hand to my ear to hear the person opposite…. who looked at me knowingly and said: “You need to get these” before whipping a pair of hearing aids out of her lugs.
It was finally time to get my hearing tested.
I knew the game was up when after the test the lovely audiologist asked if I had ever been in a rock and roll band or done a lot of shooting in my time.
Yup, that’s just how steep my hearing loss graph was. Eddie the Eagle would have won gold ski jumping of that thing.
But this was no surprise. I knew I was struggling to hear. So why the resistance to get help?
Because it’s another sign I’m getting old. I can’t even claim to be middle-aged. That demographic was lost to me when my bus pass arrived.
But I’m looking forward to a new lease of life, out of the fuzzy world of “sorry, say again” and into the clarity of company.
I might even find a new hobby… like playing in a rock and roll band.
Kindness of Aberdonians restored my faith in humanity
The people of Aberdeen are good and kind and I have empirical evidence of this.
I am suffering with a painful back injury. At times I have to halt every few steps and either sit down or cling to something, doubled over in the middle of the street.
And the number of people who stopped to ask if I’m okay or if I needed anything has restored my faith in the kindness of humanity. Which is a good thing.
A better thing will be when my back sorts itself out. But until then, thanks to all the helpers out there.
Scott Begbie is a journalist and editor, as well as PR and comms manager for Aberdeen Inspired