What a shock to realise that Meggie Duthie Tulloch, red-haired gutting girl of the North Sea, came into the world, bookishly speaking, 10 years ago today.
It just doesn’t seem so long ago to me. I still have my Elemental corkboard on the wall of the studio, with its herring and puffins and girls elbow-deep in farlins of icy fish; its shawls and creels and fishing boats; its sea-boots and gannets. They are as real to me now as ever they were, as alive as Kate’s studio in Montparnasse, as Little Jock’s family in the slums of Glasgow, as the world of the novel I’m writing now. (Which is a good deal hotter than any I’ve ever lived in, in words or in life.)
Thank you to anyone who has ever listened to Meggie’s voice on the page, to those who took her into their hearts. And to Terri-ann White and UWA Publishing, who believed in her enough to publish Elemental.
Meggie, recalling the place of her birth:
I am seeing with the eye of a bird. There’s a coastline, there are canvas sails, wee boats painted blue. Coming in closer, the boatie shore, the long stony sweep of it, and the soles of my feet are tingling. Everywhere, skinny children, barefoot on the shingle. I am blown from the shore, up the slope to a grid of four streets. Tiller Street—my street—crosses through them, rows of stone houses with their backs to the North Sea. The wind is a howl the likes of which I have never heard since. And in the air, a sea tang, fresh and sharp and rotten all at once, spiced up with old bait, fish guts, plumes from chimneys where the fish are hung to dry and smoke. I can see the stiff striped aprons of the women, the wifies. My mother’s face.
If I spoke these words to you now, lambsie, they would sound shivery-strange, all shirred up on invisible threads, clipped of the Aussie vowels my voice began to grow when I came down here to this place from the top of the world. My ink is turning to water, briny and blue. I look at her, that girl I was, at all those people with her, and I see how easily it breaks, my will to walk away from them lean and free. Because when it comes to family, you can walk from the top of the world to the bottom and still not be free.