Book Week Scotland is a week-long celebration of books and reading that takes place every November. This year Book Week Scotland runs from Monday 19 to Sunday 25 November. I am delighted as always to be supporting this initiative with the support of some of my favourite Scottish Crime Writers!
Find out more about Book Week Scotland here
The theme for this year’s Book Week is #Rebel and I thought to myself, now surely a bunch of crime writers have some rebellious tales to tell me! So I asked them to confess all! So are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin! Joining me for this session is the author of “Sewing the Shadows Together and A Fractured Winter, Alison Baillie.
Until I was eighteen, I led a fairly restricted life, growing up in a small town where my parents always knew where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. But when I went away to university, I tasted freedom, rebelling against all the restrictions of small-town life.
There are some things that will remain secret forever, but one adventure I can share is the summer a friend and I went to Greece. This was an exotic destination in those days so when we saw a job advertised on a notice board at university for two girls to spend the summer working in a hotel by the sea near Athens, it looked like a great adventure, staying by the sea in a five-star hotel, with free accommodation and well-paid too.
We went to Greece by train, a journey that lasted three days, and we arrived at the hotel, it looked great. But the job was awful. We had to work nine-hour shifts at completely different times so we didn’t have any time off together, our bedroom was filled with mosquitoes and, worst of all, we were told that owing to a fall in the expected number of bookings, we wouldn’t be paid.
We’d expected to stay for two months but only stuck it out for five days before escaping from what felt like a prison. Our feeling of elation diminished when we realised that we had no return ticket, very little money and we were far away from home. We didn’t tell our parents what had happened and decided to slowly make our own way home. This was in the days before mobile phones and internet, so our parents remained in blissful ignorance of what we were doing.
Hitch-hiking, sleeping on beaches, hotel roofs and sleazy hostels, we made our way across Greece to Igoumenitsa and then got the ferry to Brindisi in Italy. From there we visited Italian cities we’d always dreamt of, Rome, Florence and Venice, getting odd jobs like distributing leaflets for a nightclub and living as cheaply as possible, using the bible of all backpackers in those days, Europe on $5 a Day. In the end, our money did run out and we hitch-hiked back to Calais through Switzerland, Germany and Belgium.
I still remember some incredible instances of kindness and generosity: the Italian man who took us home to have pasta with his family, the Swiss driver who bought us a wonderful lunch in a restaurant at the top of an Alpine pass and the Belgian brothers who rescued us at the border to Germany when the guards wouldn’t let us through because we didn’t have enough money. They drove us all the way to Brussels in the back of their tiny Fiat, with our rucksacks on our knees.
We also met a memorable range of eccentric travellers from many different countries: musicians, party people, American college boys, hippies and weirdos. When I look back now, I’m amazed that we returned home unscathed, but we did, through a mixture of luck, naivety and trust in people, in those days when we believed that ‘love is all you need’.
I lead a very respectable life now, and don’t often look back to my more rebellious past (which, of course, I never shared with my parents) but writing this, I’m overcome with nostalgia for a time when the world and people somehow seemed nicer.
I loved this story Alison, I almost felt as I was there with you! What about others, do you have a favourite rebellious holiday? I’d love to hear from you!
ALISON BAILLIE was brought up in Ilkley, Yorkshire by Scottish parents. She studied English at the University of St Andrews, before teaching English in Edinburgh secondary schools and EFL in Finland and Switzerland. Now she spends her time reading, writing, travelling, spending time with her grandchildren and attending crime writing festivals.
Alison’s books can be bought here