We could have been anywhere, but we were in Montrose. At Montrose Playhouse. It was hard to believe your eyes.
The event was a screening of director Anthony Baxter’s sublime film Eye of the Storm about landscape artist James Morrison. Both men made Montrose their home and, as my friend said on the night, Baxter’s work, now nominated for a Scottish Bafta, was like a love letter to the town.
Not least, it was a tribute to the deep connection the artist had with this place. Forever entranced with the big skies that roll over the sea-level landscape, dispersing light in many curious ways, Morrison captured a type of beauty that feels unique to here.
I left this place at 18, one of those expected to further their lives and education in a big city. Of course, I was hungry to go as variety and diversity called.
But after 20 years plus of city life, I came back, seeking something else – space and cleaner air but also a need for a different experience. It all seemed a bit easy, surrounded by people of roughly the same sort of upbringing and worldview who had come together as they sought work and rewards.
It was an adjustment. Restaurants shut early, there is less choice culturally, shops don’t always have what you want. I live in a village close to Montrose where aubergines will sometimes appear like foreign objects on the supermarket shelves and pomegranates shine like jewels, such are their rarity.
But what I have found is a true mix of people, real risk takers and an independent spirit. There is a do-it-yourself culture because no one will do it for you. For my own small part, I set up a funk club with a friend as I needed a good night out.
The old swimming pool was bought for £1 and then transformed into the cinema using hard-fought public funds, secured by trustees David Paton and Kristen Alexander, both who have demanding day jobs, and hundreds of volunteer hours.
Now the seemingly impossible has been achieved for us all – and the possibilities feel endless.