We left Leconfield on Philippa's third birthday - it was a very long drive up to our new home in the far north of Scotland. I remember the journey, interspersed with a few rest stops for us all to stretch our legs and empty the potty we girls had used from time to time in the back of the car (well... it saved having to stop all the time, haha!)
I recall it was dark and my sisters were asleep, when I asked my Dad whether we were nearly there; he replied that we had a way to go yet and suggested I go back to sleep. But I didn't go back to sleep and very soon I saw a signpost for Perth and Kinross, and I remember thinking (wrongly) that my Dad had fibbed to me. (I had confused Kinross with Kinloss - the latter being where we were headed.) A long time later, we arrived at our new home.
For the first two months up there, we lived in a tiny cottage (Wester Coltfield Cottage) near the village of Alves in Morayshire. Katrina and I went to Alves Primary School, where we were the only English pupils. For me, school was weird - not just because of the strange accents I heard, with foreign-sounding words ('quinies' meaning 'girls' and 'loons' meaning 'boys' to give just a couple of examples), but my primary school teacher taught both, my class and the year above me, in the same room, each class taking up two rows of desks in the one room, and each class doing different work - it was very strange!
The tiny 2-bedroomed cottage we lived in was on farmland - Wester Coltfield Farm was situated just up the hill, behind the house, and we girls were often to be found up there, helping Mr and Mrs McIver and their children Sandra and Cameron. We would collect the eggs which were of course wherever the free range hens had laid them, or just wander around the farmland. Katrina was often to be found with their horse, and with this expanse of a playground that we had never had before, we did enjoy our brief time in Alves.
Once a quarter (military house) became available for us on the base, we moved the few miles to the South Side estate of RAF Kinloss. The camp was situated near to the town of Forres, which is situated about 25 miles from Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. We had some absolutely wonderful times there. Katrina and I changed schools during our time there. We both went to Kinloss Primary School (next door to the camp) for our first year there, then I moved to another primary school in Forres - a new one - whilst Katrina stayed at KPS but then, the following year, she also transferred to a school in Forres but a different one from the one I went to.
Both Katrina and I took up swimming as a dedicated hobby, and once she too had learned to swim, Philippa joined us in the sport, too. When we all proved to be pretty good at the sport, we joined the swimming club and soon found ourselves being coached properly and taking part in galas galore the length and breadth of Scotland - and indeed, we won some!
Huge thanks must go to our dear Dad, who gave up his own hobby of angling, once it became clear we were really good swimmers, in order to have the time and money to take us to the many competitions we took part in.
One really specific memory I have of when we lived at Kinloss was the occasion my dad came upstairs to wake me up late one night; he took me outside carrying me in his arms, and we looked up at the sky where we could see the dancing prancing Aurora Borealis. What a sight! Such beautiful colours... absolutely amazing, it was!
Another vivid memory I have of living at Kinloss is of Christmas 1971. I went with my mum to the phone box near our home (we didn't have a phone in the house back in those days). I remember ringing my Nanna who lived down south in England, and both Mum and I were wearing in our summer dresses and flip-flops, as it was so very warm; such was our Christmas that year in the far north of Scotland!
One day, after we'd been there a few years, Dad came home and asked us if we would like to live overseas. Thus began our dream of being posted to Malta.