My new husband and I went to Scotland to start anew, blessed with the courage of the young (he was only a couple of years older than me.) I had absolutely no idea of what I was headed into and was trusting that it would certainly be better than the life I had left behind. I was 17 years old and with so much having happened within the last couple of years I also hoped that I could somehow learn about and begin a ‘normal’ life.
I had visited Edinburgh in 1969 when I had joined the SO. I didn’t get to see much of the city though, as you can imagine. I remember grey…grey … and cobblestone streets. The buildings are grey, the roads are grey. And of course the skies. I wish now I had been able to really see more.
Life in a small Scottish village north of Glasgow was a tremendous culture shock. It was a beautiful place. The village was crowded around the end of the loch, wee houses with boats out front, and surrounded by the mountains. Picture postcard beautiful, with snow showing almost all year round on their peaks. The first thing that struck me was the cold. Oh my God, it was cold to a young Aussie! I wore multiple layers and suffered badly and was told scornfully by the locals the only way to be comfortable was to acclimatise.
My mother-in-law didn’t like me at all and we were living with her in a tiny council flat.
Somehow we got by. I learned to shop in the tiny local grocery. We ate lots of canned goods and instant meals as I didn’t know how to cook, and she refused to other than a family meal now and then. But when she did cook it was glorious! Lots of haggis and turnips and mash, I loved it.
The only heating in the tiny hoose was a wood fire that also heated the water tank above it. So no hot water most of the day. When I washed clothes and hung them outside they tended to freeze solid in the winter. This was amazing to me and I’d go around knocking on them.
I wanted to fit in, I had no intention of going back to East Grinstead, but it was almost impossible. I started having bad headaches and went to the local doctor. Within an hour my mother-in-law asked me if I was pregnant (and didn’t look pleased at the prospect). Apparently I had been seen by some of the locals walking away from the surgery with a green form (diet sheet) that was usually handed out to pregnant ladies! Word spread fast in that place, the curtains twitched whenever I went out. It’s funny looking back on it now.
I loved to roam the local hills above the village. The views were so breathtaking, I can remember them still, and the smell of truly fresh air. I remember going on a picnic once, a great outdoor event on another close by loch. Terrific food, good company and a million bloody European wasps. It didn’t seem to bother anyone that they were crawling all over the food.
Every afternoon at 4pm we had to go to my husband’s grandparent’s house for High Tea. This was very ritualised, with a precise number of cakes and tea. I liked them, they were very down to earth and only saw their grandson starting life with a new wife, unlike his mother. Then dinner was 8-9pm and that was a full meal.
There was a local Mission in Helensburgh, not too far away run by Sheena and Hunter Robinson. We went there a few times with the intention of working towards getting back on lines, but I don’t remember much about it and nothing came of it.
The funniest thing about my life in Scotland was that I started to mimic the accent.
“Och away wi’ya, ya daft wee hen” etc. It became so pronounced that towards the end of my time there my mother couldn’t understand me on the phone. I can still translate Billy Connolly quite well.
Life there didn’t suit me, and I soon found my husband was as crazy as you could imagine. I mean really, really nuts. He would fly into rages and have “invisible” stalkers. His mother hated me, this blonde bimbo from Australia who had taken her son. It was not fun.
I had left Scientology, left my family, left everything I had known. The relief I had felt at leaving behind the insanity started to recede in importance as I wondered what my life would become where I was. Isolated way up north, not in the country of my birth, I wanted to be with my family. But my family were in Scientology and I had fled it…..
Eventually I couldn’t take it as my husband was starting to become more and more crazy and violent in his actions, so I knew I had to get out or my life was in danger. I told him I was leaving and he threw all my clothes down the stairs and was so angry he broke off a piece of the stair railing and came after me with it. I stayed locked in a room and the next morning went to the local train station and sat there until the train came.
I travelled from one end of the country to the other and it was, for me, a terrifying experience. However I was befriended by a solider on his way back to London. I didn’t trust him at first, I was so scared but he bought me lunch, chatted quietly and calmed my fears. When the train reached London he found a cab for me back to East Grinstead and waved goodbye. I have never forgotten him, and thank him for looking after me.