Growing up in Scotland and then moving to England, Australia then Northern Ireland means a couple of things;
1. You have an accent for every situation, but when you are with your best mate from school you still talk like ‘Mary Doll’ from Rab C Nesbitt.
2. Irn Bru will always be a staple part of your diet, Grandpa said it was made with real iron, and he was always right.
3. Certain words you say will always trigger a snigger from work colleagues, even though that was your best attempt at covering up your Scottish pronunciation.
4. You are, and always will be, Scottish – Not Scotch.
Careers advice in the early nineties in a comprehensive school in West Lothian was lacking a certain something, advice maybe? When asked what job I would like to do, I said that I ‘wanted to go to college to learn more about horses.’ The look on the face of the careers advice lady was priceless and she muttered something about that not being a proper course and wouldn’t business or home economics be much more sensible.
So, off I went to find out for myself which colleges did offer what I was looking for and low and behold there were a couple, but not north of the border, of course. Wales, Warwickshire or Hull were my choices and following a riding holiday in Wales as a teenager where I had fallen in love with a pony called Quist – that was my obvious choice. But I decided to give all three a fair chance. I firstly had the chance to visit Warwickshire and although it looked great, for a wee girl from Scotland it was just a bit too far south for me. So I then went to plan B and boarded the train in Edinburgh and set off for York and then Beverley to Bishop Burton College – and that put the clangers on me going to Wales.
I had never seen anything like it; 78 horses to pick from, an indoor and outdoor arena, x-country course and not to mention a class room, where you could bring a horse into for demonstration purposes. Something over four years that I would do many times as I passed my BHSAI, lectured special needs children in stable management and completed an HND and BSc in Equine Science. I have some of the best memories and friends from that time and would encourage any young ‘horsey’ girl or boy to spread their wings and go away from home.
College is based on students taking their time to develop before the ‘big bad world’ takes its grip, and in the sheltered environment of agricultural college the safety net is always there. Students can take their time growing up and find themselves being taken from a teenager to an adult on their graduation day. In a way this was the environment I was trying to create for Tag, by giving him an education without the pressure of too many real demands, so he could find his feet and grow up into his new life.