Well, what’s to say? I was born in a large hospital in Dundee. I imagine the weather was freezing, it being December. I imagine my father was outside trying not to faint and my mother was inside trying not to die. I try not to imagine much more than that.
St. Andrews, Scotland
I grew up in St Andrews, in Scotland; a beautiful old medieval town by the sea. I liked it, but I also always knew I’d leave. So, as soon as I finished school, I did.
I didn’t know where I wanted to move to, just that I wanted to move. Then gradually, two places on the map started to talk to me; South America and the South Pacific. Having ‘south’ in the title was obviously an attraction. South equals warmth where I come from. Plus both places seemed exotic and a long way from home. They stirred my wandering blood.
A trip to Guatemala and Mexico (a little north of South America, but close enough) inspired me to take Spanish at University, which meant that I had to spend a year in a Spanish speaking country. Perfect! I chose Ecuador, which means ‘Equator’ in Spanish. And of course I travelled around a little afterwards, to Colombia, Uruguay, a few months in Argentina, Costa Rica… I read the South American greats – Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and my favourite, Isabel Allende – and felt inspired to write.
The South Pacific
At some point after leaving Scotland, I came to be in the South Pacific. I planned to see Tonga in 2 weeks; it took me months to leave and might have taken me forever if I hadn’t summoned up the courage to say goodbye to my Tongan family; Tema, Saumaki, Ke, Simione, Hosea, Sakea, Ana, Amelia…
In Fiji it was the same story and my three week stay lasted more than three years. To Fiji, I couldn’t say goodbye; to the country yes, to the people no. But by then there was a good reason – I’d got married to the lovely Savenaca and written a book about Fiji, Tonga, French Polynesia, Samoa, Tuvalu; all the islands and none, all rolled into one. The book is called ‘The Sea on Our Skin’ and I suppose it is. It’s on mine, the sea and the beautiful islands it washes onto. And then there’s what lies beneath; the whales and the sharks and the coral ... but don’t get me started on that.
I’m living in New Zealand now teaching English. Between classes, I write. There are more books to come, inspired by here, there and everywhere. Exciting times.