Hello everybody and welcome to my blog! My name is Katie Laing and I’m a freelance writer, journalist and PR consultant — and busy mum — on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides.
I’m married to Jason, with two wee boys — Michael, six, and James, three (spot the cheeky one sticking his tongue out) — and am a stepmum too. I try not to be too wicked.
Most of my working life so far have been spent in newspapers. After graduating, I started out as a trainee reporter at the West Highland Free Press in Skye in the late 90s and then returned to my home town for a wee stint at the Stornoway Gazette. From there it was off back to Glasgow, where I worked at most of the city’s newspapers, including a few years at the Evening Times as a news reporter and four years at the Daily Record as a sub-editor.
My potted history should begin before that, though. I’m from the village of Lower Sandwick just outside Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis — I grew up one mile from where the Iolaire went down — and spent my whole childhood here, until leaving at the age of 17 to go to university. My parents are fluent Gaelic speakers but I’m not, although I’m trying to make up for it now by learning, and my children are in Gaelic Medium Education. Not for no reason are we called “the missed generation”…
I studied at the University of Glasgow and someone managed to emerge clutching an MA (Hons) in English Literature despite making the most of the arts student experience. After pulling some pints in Tennent’s Bar on Byres Road, I headed off to Jordanhill for teacher training. It was such a grim experience that, although I completed the course, I swore I would never, ever be a teacher. Well, never say never because that’s exactly what I found myself doing when I moved back home – for love – in 2009. I’m not doing much teaching at the moment but I still do the odd bit of supply and it’s quite nice to be able to do that.
Workwise, nowadays I’m pretty much all about the writing — some of it on here but much of it for PR clients. And I’ve discovered some strange things since starting this blog. After #theteachingyears it’s clear that writing is, was and always has been my first love.
Also, blogging — something I was incredibly nervous of — has been nothing but a positive experience. I cringed at the very idea of it but bizarrely it’s made me happier. It’s the ultimate free rein as a writer and, as time goes on, you get more and more comfortable with it and yourself. When you write openly, candidly and very publicly and then don’t fall on your a**e, it’s a liberating thing!
If I was to tell you more about myself, I could convey something of my character through my hobbies. But being a self-employed working mum with relatively small children, I don’t have much time for anything! There’s pleasure in the small things, though, always. I’m a coffee lover and a bit of a culture vulture — hence the blog — so the two can often be combined with a visit to An Lanntair (although I have to say they don’t make the best coffee in town; for that you should go to Kopi Java or Delights).
I like swimming and running and, while I don’t go as often as I should, I’m definitely a creature of habit. My usual swimming session will be 64 lengths which equals one mile, and I’m currently taking part in the Aspire Channel Swim for charity. My favourite run is 5.2 miles round the the Castle Grounds (a wonderful place that I blogged about in the Spring, when the daffies were out) as that is the exact loop. My husband says I have a touch of OCD. Harsh, I say — although having to come out of the pool after 62 lengths would bother me intensely!
Music is a big thing and, while I don’t play anything myself, I’m a keen listener — of all genres. From trad and folk through to pop, rock, and even opera. Good music is good music, regardless. Check out my blogs on the Ballantyne psalm singing project, trad duo Phil and Aly, Scottish Opera and HebCelt 2016, starring Runrig, for a taste of the musical road trip.
Naturally, as an English Lit graduate, writer and English teacher, I love books — but I don’t have time to read very many and these days am equally likely to be found pawing through the pages of Grazia. That said, there’s nothing like a good book. It will change your life. My father likes to remind me of something I said when I was 17. “It’s okay if I die tomorrow (!) because I have lived so much in my head!” That’s books for you. You can be anyone and do anything.
Outside of the mind, and of course my children, the most life enhancing experiences have been in the mountains. I no longer Munro bag — progress became pitifully slow – but I’ve climbed many of them, including the Black Cuillin (even the famous InPin) and most of the peaks in Glencoe. I’ve climbed them in some shocking bad weather but always in good company and had some terrific experiences.
When my children are a little bigger, this is what I look forward to going back to, and the sight of the wonderful An Teallach — regularly voted Scotland’s finest mountain — across the Minch on a clear day always cheers me on.
We’ve also got a boat in the family — The Cumbrae Lass, aka Shen’s Boat, which lurks down in Stornoway marina and chugs across the Minch a few times a year — so we’ll hopefully have some seafaring adventures ahead too.
The hills and the sea, plus the music, the literature, the language and the craic, is what makes me the kind of Hebridean and the kind of Scot that I am. The Hebridean Spirit is definitely a thing and through this blog I hope to capture something of that essence, wherever it may be found. I’ll be doing it mainly through an exploration of the arts and culture but also by asking questions about ourselves, about what we do and why we do it. Come with me!