Getting to Know You: Ariane Burgess
What’s your earliest memory?
An early and cherished memory of mine was going to Argyll when I was a kid and staying in a very simple cottage with my family. What I loved about it was that it gave me an opportunity to have a relationship with nature, both the land and sea, without having to have an adult with me because it was a safe space to got out and roam. I spent hours on the shoreline or wandering through the woods, developing a curiosity and a love for nature.
What were you like at school?
Mixed, actually. It depended on the classroom space and the subject. In some classrooms and with some teachers, I was totally engaged and totally into it – curious but sometimes confused about what I was being made to learn. I think that’s continued into my adult life where I’ve developed my own way of learning and actually went through a phase of ‘unlearning’.
You spent a lot of time living in the US, what brought you back to Scotland?
I grew up in Scotland and left as a teenager for studies and ended up going to the States, where I lived for about 20 years. I lost my accent somewhere along the way. I came back to Scotland every year to visit family but my heart was always here. I had been living in New York City and always thought I would move upstate, but the pull back to Scotland was very strong.
Who would be your dream dinner date?
This is a bit odd for a dinner date, but it would be my dad. He died a few years ago and I really appreciate how he contributed to my growing up. He supported the idea of curiosity and questioning. Right now, as a new MSP, I really miss being able to have conversations with him. He was quite a deep thinker, but he also cared about community and did a lot of community work in Edinburgh, where I grew up.
What’s your greatest fear?
Death before I’ve done some of the things I want to do. Death is the great focuser of what’s important. When you’re born, one thing you know for sure is that you’re going to die. I want to at least see this parliamentary term out, but I hope I live a lot longer! I’m also really afraid of doing a skydive, so I better do it. The idea of jumping out of an airplane with a parachute terrifies me.
What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said about you?
I don’t know because I’ve never really paid attention to that. Yet. Maybe I’ll start getting worried about what people say as an MSP, but until now I haven’t really paid attention. There’s nothing been said that has stuck or that I’ve taken in a deeply personal way.
What’s your most treasured posession?
Being a Green, I try not to treasure possessions. I’m more into experiences. One of the things I’ve tried to do with friends and young members of my family is rather than buy people gifts for Christmas, I look for an opportunity to have shared experience.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I’d like to go back to Scotland of the 1600s. I’m very curious about the history of Edinburgh and the Royal Mile. Now that I’m in the parliament and go up and down the Royal Mile all the time, I’d like to go back to a time when there was lots of hustle and bustle, all walks of life squashed together. The craft brewers of that time were women, so I’d love to go and meet some of the craft brewers of that time!
What skill should every person have?
Everyone should know how to tend a fire – to start a fire, to look after it and put it out properly. From beginning to end, there’s a whole amazing experience in that and I think you can learn a lot from it. I think it would also help people respect nature more.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
I don’t remember things like that and I’m always really envious of anyone who can pinpoint something a teacher told them years ago.
What’s the worst pain you’ve ever experienced?
I’m really lucky that I’ve never broken anything. The worst physical pain was the migraine headaches I used to get. Full-blown migraines are awful and anyone who gets them has my full sympathy. The worst emotional pain was realising my father had Alzheimer’s and that the person I used to have those amazing conversations with was gone. Fortunately, he made it to his late 70s without any symptoms, but eventually the person I knew was gone. We still had a great time; he was confused but he was also funny.
What’s your top TV show or film of all time?
I’m not sure, although I used to work in the film industry, initially in the art department and then in production. It wasn’t big blockbusters, more smaller projects and things within the record industry. I got to work with the Rolling Stones while working for the record company on a side-shoot. I got to spend time with Earth, Wind and Fire. When I was a young teenager, disco was still happening. Years later, I got to meet them and they were amazing. I actually did the first filming ever with a very young Mariah Carey, while working for the production company attached to the record label. She was nervous; she had never been filmed before. That was a good experience.
What was the last book you read?
I’m currently reading a book about how to get your inbox down to zero!