I am just back from the Island Wife Book launch at Waterstone’s of Oban. Arriving off the 5pm ferry yesterday we arrived to such a wonderful welcome from Ian the manager and his lovely team who had laid out a table of drinks and nibbles and a room full of chairs, some of which were already filled with people, just waiting for me. A few, I knew, most I didn’t. There is a strange buzz about that. These people had planned to be there just to hear about me and my book. It is humbling. Gillian, from Hodder publishing was there too, full of twinkles and enthusiasm and utterly professional, as always.
I was introduced and then began to talk about how and why I wrote the book, my story. I want to say so much, all of it with a thankful heart, for it is one thing to live a life, and quite another to have it lifted into a new sky by my publisher Lisa Highton of Two Roads and all at Hodder and Stoughton. Then there is another step, when the book is printed and bound and then another when it turns into thousands of paperbacks, boxed and already being unpacked and displayed in bookshops all across the country. People who never knew me, do now, although I will only ever meet a few.
I read an extract from the book, the chapter called Isobel the Hen. Isobel was named after a wonderful friend whose impersonation of a hen laying a football made us laugh every time. She could also play the whistle and the guitar and did so often for me to sing to, after a long and busy day looking after guests, farm animals, cleaning cottages, taking visitors out to Puffin island (my name for it) or to watch for whales and dolphins. She came to us, as they all did, on a new breeze, rolling into our bonkers family life and joining it without a seam. After she left us, she took up flying (well, she would….) and sadly made a bad choice one day as she tried to gain height, and failed. She died in the pilot seat, which was where she would have been most happy. She loved the sea and she loved the sky. She taught me so many things. Her ability to laugh at life when hers had been far from easy, turned my spoilt little head, and she would always find the humour in whatever drudge we shared, with a sharp wit and an eye for mischief. She gave our guests naughty names, such as Lady Widebutt and Mr Puffnose and when two very small people from Ireland arrived, they became the Hobbits. I really had to fight to call them by their correct names, and often caught the wrong name behind clenched teeth, and only just in time.
I cannot say that my life has been a solo thing, that I am who I am because of me, because it wouldn’t be true. The people who came to visit us over all those years and who stayed, for a day or for months, even years, changed me. And it is the same now, in this new sky, as I lift on wings I never knew I had, with new horizons, new friends, and a new song in my heart.
I take nothing for granted. I am only so very happy that this book, my life, out there now in the world, can lift others as they catch sight of their own lives inside the pages, and believe that even if this life may be our only one, it is such a gift.
And it is teamwork. We are not alone, because we have each other and every one of us can fly.