In summer 2005, at the very end of my master’s year at Heriot-Watt, I attended an event at Edinburgh University where Hugh Keith and Kay McBurney spoke to us would-be translators about getting started in the profession. I recall two clear messages: one from Kay, warning us that gaining clients would be very hard and she really couldn’t provide any easy solutions. This was a depressing piece of news. The more hopeful piece of advice was to join ITI and the Scottish Network.
So, on leaving academia, I duly signed up and was invited to my first ScotNet event by Renate FitzRoy. This was the 2006 summer workshop in St Andrews, where I was asked to lead a walk along the coastal path to identify flowers for the members – based on the fact that my pre-translation career had been as a field botanist.
I attended most summer workshops thereafter – Aviemore, Oban, Perth, Inverness, Stirling, Skye, Aberdeen … I had caught the summer workshop bug. After a break of two years while living abroad, I returned to Edinburgh in summer 2015, keen to get involved with ScotNet again. My first step was to offer to organise the next summer workshop for 2016. While summer workshops prior to this had usually been organised by a translator living on the ground with the help of the Convenor, things looked a bit different, as the incumbent Convenor, Marian Dougan, was working in Germany and only across in Scotland from time to time. My suggestion was therefore accepted and I got busy with locating a venue and organising the social aspects of the weekend while Marion sourced the speakers.
This first year was in Birnam (Dunkeld), with a lovely venue and beautiful surroundings for our Sunday walk. Then an opportunity arose on the Committee when Elena took maternity leave, and I stepped into her Deputy Convenor role. So the next summer saw us heading to Boat of Garten for our summer workshop, a very rural venue with beautiful countryside and out-of-this-world catering from a local lady.
If it sounds like organising holidays rather than CPD, that is certainly how it felt! Just imagine: you can choose anywhere in Scotland, and all you need is a) a suitable venue to hold around 40 translators at an affordable price; b) enough accommodation nearby; c) catering either on site or hired in; c) a local walk of around three kilometres through varied scenery for the Sunday morning; d) somewhere to eat together at moderate cost on the Friday evening; and not forgetting e) a good ceilidh band.
By the next summer I’d taken over from Marian as Convenor and Elena had returned to be Deputy Convenor. After north we headed south, to Melrose in the Borders, in the black-and-yellow painted Melrose Rugby Club. A pretty village, very hearty catering (really fit for scrum-halves rather than translators) and, again, lovely countryside for the Sunday walk.
You might wonder whether being Convenor amounts to more than organising informative and entertaining weekends with colleagues in lovely countryside venues? Of course, there are Committee meetings, AGMs where you are obliged to stand up and do more than your fair share of talking, spring and autumn events, sundry other business and, of course, sending showers of e-mails. This year has been different and our long-planned, longdreamed-of and much-anticipated workshop in Shetland has of necessity been postponed. To try to cheer us all up, ScotNet has responded by running some informal Zoom events by members for members in the form of our Show & Tell sessions.
Was any of this difficult or stressful? Did I ever wish my Convenor time over? Truthfully, never: because ScotNet was so well set up by previous Convenors and Committees, there is a sound basis to work from and a talented and helpful Committee with whom to share the tasks. I often look back on my first hint of this great organisation and the invaluable advice I was given back then and I’m eternally grateful I “joined ScotNet”.