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NICKY MARR: Not quite signing out after 22 years

By Nicky Marr

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I never set out to be a writer but 22 years ago I landed myself a wee side-line; a column with The Inverness Courier.

I’d just spent an astonishing fortnight in the Caribbean courtesy of Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland, reporting from there for MFR. HMS Sutherland was part of an international mission to intercept ‘Go-Fasts’ – small fibreglass boats illegally shifting bales of cocaine from Central America to Florida.

Nicky Marr. Picture: James Mackenzie
Nicky Marr. Picture: James Mackenzie

I returned home bursting with stories, and wondered if Courier readers might be interested in hearing about it.

“Give me 1000 words,”” said the then editor, so I cranked up our desktop computer and started to type.

Thinking that would be the only time my name would ever appear in the paper; I bought a dozen copies for family and friends. I sent one to my new pals in the Navy, and that, along with the radio recordings from the coast of Mexico and Belize, won HMS Sutherland a PR Award.

“Is there more?” asked the Courier editor, so I kept writing; travel features, arts, book, and music reviews, and about Daughter No.2’s diagnosis of Coeliac disease, when gluten free food wasn’t readily available.

It seemed to strike a chord. Could I write every week?

Nicky Marr's first article in The Inverness Courier.
Nicky Marr's first article in The Inverness Courier.

We called the column Time of My Life, renamed it Woman on Top after a change in editor, and I wrote about life as a working mum in the Highlands; the challenges, the funny stuff, and the stuff that should never have happened, but that we survived by the skin of our teeth.

Like the Highland camping holiday where we were rained out every single night, and a baby starling falling down the chimney at 2am just after we’d decorated. And I confessed about breaking the pact I’d made with my friends not to allow any of our daughters to get their ears pierced before secondary school. I had to – I’d forgotten to buy our 10-year-old a birthday present.

Around 2011 my column was syndicated around The Inverness Courier’s sister papers too, and for the past few years it has also been online. I’ve met some remarkable characters because of it, and it has opened doors to opportunities I never imagined I’d experience, including editing magazines for HIAL and Loganair.

But everything has its season, and this is the last of my weekly offerings, for a while, at least.

Which gave me an excuse to look back on what has become a weekly diary spanning two decades. Tucked in there are many moments I might otherwise have forgotten, like sneaking off to crack open a bottle of silly-expensive whisky with my favourite uncle the day we buried his wife, and firewalking at Belladrum to raise funds to build a new Maggie’s Centre in Highland.

But there is a lot that is missing too, because not everything that happened in our family was for publication. Nora Ephron lived by the mantra “Everything is Copy”. Not so the Marrs.

There are things we’ve experienced that I know would have been useful to readers facing similar challenges, but we had a rule. If anyone didn’t want their news shared, it didn’t go in my column. Editorial control belonged to all four of us. And some things are nobody else’s business.

But now the girls have both left home, and times – and I – have changed.

My work is taking me in new directions; my passion for coaching, presentation and communication training, and supporting others through the creation of peer-support groups and Action Learning Sets, is pulling me away from a desire to constantly see my name in print and online. So it’s time. I’ll still be hosting events though; the opportunity to allow others to shine or to share their stories on stage, is still strong.

Thank you to all of you who have been with me, whether for months or for the duration. Heartfelt thanks for your lovely feedback about us raising our girls, my occasional struggles with mental health, my menopause journey, and even my views on politics, Covid and Brexit, and for sharing with me the conversations and memories that my columns have sparked in your own families.

I understand – and fully expected – that my opinions haven’t always landed well with everyone. To those of you who have disagreed with me agreeably, thank you. I have occasionally changed my mind after our exchanges, especially after I wrote a piece against boxing. But to those of you who have been less than agreeable, know this – I’ve not lost a single minute of sleep, despite your unkind words.

You’ll still hear from me occasionally, but that’ll be when there’s something I’m burning to share, not just as a matter of routine, habit, or a deadline. New adventures await, and I’m looking forward to this new chapter too.

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