Kriss Nichol, aged 71. Kriss is a writer and long-serving Autumn Voices staff and steering group member. You can also read a little more about her on our steering group page.
Tell us 4 important facts about yourself:
I have had several career changes. I started out doing office work at 16 as a Civil Servant, stayed at home for 10 years looking after my children, studied for a degree then a postgraduate certificate in Teaching, and taught for 16 years, eventually becoming a head of department. I moved into management as a senior manager in Community Education before leaving to work as a volunteer for VSO in Nepal. I had ambitions to work overseas in the Aid sector, but illness prevented me from achieving that aim. On my return to the UK, I gained a Masters in Creative Writing and moved to Scotland to concentrate on writing.
The illness that drove me home from Nepal is a long-term, incurable condition called Myasthenia Gravis (MG). It’s not well known and is a neurological auto-immune condition that affects all the muscles in the body, apart from the heart. It is unpredictable and can affect different muscles in different ways at different times of the day so each day is an adventure in figuring out what I can and can’t do in the moment and being flexible enough to deal with changes.
My hobbies mainly used to be geared around outdoor pursuits – running half marathons, caving, hillwalking, windsurfing, camping, orienteering etc – and I used to enjoy all kinds of dancing: line dancing, ballroom, tap, circle, salsa, nightclubbing, country dancing, but since I’ve had to modify my life I now enjoy sewing, quilting, reading, and listening to music.
I used to play repinique drums for salsa bands in Newton Stewart and Castle Douglas, and djembe for a community African drum group in Stranraer.
What is your favourite age that you’ve been so far in life, and why?
40, because I was fit, had so much energy and a fabulous social life. I was also divorced and enjoyed the freedom of being a single parent living without a partner. I was starting a new career, felt positive, assertive and politically engaged.
Who is your favourite fictional character over 60?
I actually don’t have one, which may say something about me and my reading material, or something about the lack of positive characters in the 60-years-old bracket.
You are alone in your house (no pets). You have three minutes to get out before the house collapses and burns to the ground. What one possession would you grab and take with you?
My funeral envelope. A few years ago, I bought a funeral plot on an environmental burial site that came with an Austrian pine tree. I also paid for an environmental funeral with a cardboard coffin and instructions to have felt tipped pens available for people who attend the funeral to decorate the coffin in any way they want. There is also a CD with music that I like, a list of people for my family to contact and the contact details of a friend who is a Humanist celebrant. Some people might find it a bit morbid to be planning and paying for a funeral in advance of the event, but I didn’t want my family to be faced with a big bill before probate is settled, which is what happened to me when my mother died; there is enough sadness and things to think about without being presented with a bill.
What’s your favourite creative pastime?
Writing. I am a member of Crichton Writers, run a writing group called Curleywee Writers from my home, and used to be a member of Beltie Books Poetry Group in Wigtown before lockdown. I do less writing than I used to because my eye muscles are affected by the MG and I have to reduce my screen time, so when I can’t write, I sew lap quilts for a children’s charity, Linus – ‘for kids in need of a hug’.
Tell us something about yourself that’s surprising or unexpected:
When I was young, we moved around a lot and I attended 9 different schools up to the age of 16, was bullied relentlessly each time I moved, hated the education system and only achieved 2 O-Levels first time round. I re-sat another 3 and ended leaving school with 5 O- Levels, enough to gain entry into the Civil Service. The irony is that despite my earlier hatred of school I went into teaching at age 35 and loved it – I suppose having your own children changes your perspectives about what is important.
Tell us three ways that you are still active:
Apart from writing and sewing I enjoy walks in this beautiful part of Scotland, where from my home I have easy access to different woods and Galloway Forest Park.
I have been a volunteer for Wigtown Book Festival since moving here in 2003 and enjoy being involved with all aspects of the festival. I love meeting the authors, the interaction with people attending the events when I take tickets, and the general buzz that is all-pervasive in the town when the festival is on.
When COVID is over I shall be resuming my involvement with Drum For Fun, a community drum group in Newton Stewart for people with health problems, and attending my U3A groups of reading literature, philosophy, and family history.