Vibrant - with Alison Coates

Vibrant - with Alison Coates

Embracing change, making unconventional choices, and the courage it takes to be your authentic self in a world filled with expectations.



Craig Constantine and Alison Coates begin with Alison’s breathtaking view of the Kyles of Bute and the ever-changing weather patterns in a remote Scottish village. She shares how the natural beauty of the area has become an integral part of her daily life and how her move to the village has shaped her perspectives. They touch on the evolving dynamics between locals and newcomers in the community, and Alison’s potential (budding?) interest in capturing the stories of the people she has come to know. Finally, Alison reflects on her youngest child’s non-binary journey, emphasizing the importance of normalizing discussions about personal identity.

“It feels like those connections are now beginning to come together. I was reading a newsletter from the [local forest group.] It must have been published two or three years ago. And when I first read it, I thought: “that’s interesting.” And then I read it recently, and every article and person mentioned in there, I know… I now know who they are, I can put a face to those people, and I know more of their story and who they are. So there’s something brewing about the people in this community.”

– Alison (around 13:30)

Episode audio


Embrace Change: Alison’s openness to new experiences and perspectives has led to personal growth and a deeper connection with her community.

Normalize Identity Conversations: Alison’s willingness to discuss her child’s identity and her community’s reactions demonstrates the importance of normalizing conversations about personal identity.

Impact of Authenticity: By being true to oneself, individuals can find happiness and inspire others to do the same.

Build Meaningful Connections: Alison’s interactions in her village highlight the value of building meaningful connections.

Community Resilience: Alison’s observations of her village’s changing dynamics demonstrate the resilience of communities in the face of change.

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)


Craig 0:05
Hello, I’m Craig Constantine, welcome to Podtalk. Short conversations with podcast creators that are not just about podcasting because I like to take the scenic route. My guest today is Alison Coates. Welcome Alison, how are you?

Alison 0:24
Hi, Craig. I’m really good. Thank you.

Craig 0:27
Yeah, you tech problems as a show about podcasting. So we try not to hide the fact that sometimes things go horribly wrong. So this is we’re do this again. But now we’re on Zoom. So you’re the great laugh because I went to all the trouble of setting up a question to ask the question. And then Alison is just staring at me because she couldn’t hear me or see me. What I had said that you probably didn’t hear a word of was, Can you paint me a picture of your space? And I mean, that can be your home or outside? But what I’m curious about is how is like what’s going on around you? Is it energizing you or is it feeling challenging? And we’re getting into like the seasonal shoulder shift here as we head into fall. So like, what’s that picture look like for you?

Alison 1:15
It’s, it’s changed in the time we’ve been talking

Craig 1:20
was a joke about Scotland don’t like the weather. Wait five minutes.

Alison 1:23
Yep, that’s quite true. I’m on the west coast of Scotland in a little village called Tiny break. And I, I have an amazing view out of my window of the Kyles of Bute, which is a stretch of water between the mainland and the island Butte. And sometimes I can see Butte other times it disappears in the midst. And today, it’s done all of those, and at the moment, this fluffy white clouds and blue sky. But not long ago, it was pouring with rain. So we get all all the weather in a day, and in half an hour. And and I’m just noticing today that the the autumn leaves are just beginning beginning to turn, there’s a bit of bit of yellow appearing in the trees. And the temperatures definitely dropped from a couple of weeks ago, when we had that little burst of Indian summer for a week, which was quite quite a treat. But now it’s it’s back down to autumn, Autumn is coming. For you people

Read more…

Craig 2:36
for yeah, there’s something like it’s autumn and then it’s fall and then falling in autumn, like this apparently fallen autumn or different or whatever. I don’t need to be digging into words. So I’m guessing since you’re, I want to say immersed or embedded since since there’s so little between you and that those spaces that you’re describing, you know, it’s not like, oh, I have to go down seven flights of stairs and then I have to ride the subway and then I’m at the sea, since you’re so right up against that those experiences do you find? Do you find that you engage with those spaces to change your mood, you know, like, Oh, I’m in mood a and I know if I go for a walk, then I’ll be in a better mood? Or do you find that you’re just sort of have your tendrils into all that and it’s just become part of who you are? Like, I’m wondering if you use that intentionally or if it’s just an experience that you

Alison 3:36
question. It feels very much part of who I am and how my life is because I have these huge windows at the front of my house, which look out at this amazing view. So it’s it’s there all the time, except when the mist appears. And I can I can choose to go for walks in different places. There’s there’s the most gorgeous beach, which is a short drive and a walk away that it just it feels so precious to be able to go there and just wander with my dog. And, and often even in the height of summer there’s nobody else there. And it’s this huge Sandy Bay and with a view of the island barren and that that’s that’s a favorite place to go and really sort of be alone with my thoughts and contemplate nature. And I have I did have a habit of listening to podcasts and things while I was walking. And then Then one day I didn’t. And it was such a different experience. I could hear. I could hear the wind in the trees and I could It was felt so much more engaged with nature. Because I didn’t have somebody else’s voice in my head.

Craig 5:12
The Yes, I’m with you on. So I’m big fan of parama relating go out. I just just went for a parameterization this morning often I go running that I just say that while being recorded Yikes. This morning, I was like, No, I need to go for a walk. So it was out for about an hour. And I was walking through the woods on trails, there’s not a lot of large views. It’s, you know, you’re always like in stuff. But I find I found few years ago that I couldn’t, that I couldn’t. But when I was listening to podcasts, I had two problems one, podcasts, the ones I’m listening to give me ideas. And if I’m walking then I’m like a weirdo like, Ah, how do I write this down or capture it and I, I found that I was much I came back much more energized and recharged if I just went and left. Left the walk and the visual on the audio. Let that all just be space for my thinking to happen. Some totally picking up what you’re laying down about. I used to listen to podcasts while walking and it’s a completely different experience. Without it. What’s your dog’s name?

Alison 6:25
My doc. Say that again? Murdock

Craig 6:29
Murdock and mu R D O K

Alison 6:31
KC de se que voc.

Craig 6:36
I was just curious. You have headphones on so I know we sometimes if I’m feeling mischievous, I will. I will call people’s dogs named Murdock Murdock. Like, but I know you have headphones on so the dog can’t hear me.

Alison 6:49
And he’s he’s very, very old and very deaf. Oh, probably wouldn’t hear you

Craig 6:54
get along just fine. Pretty. Yeah, do you? So this is I know what’s going on anybody listening? They’re not going, why are we talking about podcasting? Nobody cares about that. But I actually am thinking about podcasting here. Because, as I say, at the beginning, I talked to indie podcasters, right, like podcast creators. And we all know that that’s a very solo endeavor. Even if you have other crazy people, you can talk to you about it, it really winds up being the only person who’s thinking about this at night, falling asleep as oneself. And I’m wondering, you mentioned that you listened, and probably still do listen to a lot of podcasts. But how has, let’s get let’s sleep this way. How has I happen to know that you haven’t been where you are currently for like ages and ages. But how has moving there changed the way you think about podcast creation? Like, did you have a vision maybe before of what you were going to do, and then through change of embedded experience? Now that’s like, doesn’t feel like the thing I want to do now I’m just I’m fishing for transitions around what you want to create and transitions around spaces.

Alison 8:13
Yeah. I’ve been here about 18 months now. And it has been, it feels like it’s been a very, very quiet time. And that I’ve been quietly absorbing the community around me. And, and I’m, I’m fascinated by by the community and, and seeing the mix of people who’ve

Craig 8:50
been there, because I’m from the state. So you know, 10 years is long. How long is that?

Alison 8:58
It’s, um, see now being tested on the history,

Craig 9:04
or I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Alison 9:09
A few, maybe a couple of 100 years, those that were probably older than that, but there’s the main village. There’s a lot of houses that were built by the rich merchants from Glasgow, who would come on the steamers to their, their big houses. And there was also a gunpowder mill where the workers worked and cut to explosions occasionally.

Craig 9:38
Sorry, I derailed your train of thought. So you were saying you’re beginning to inhale and settle into the pace of the village?

Alison 9:45
Yes, so it’s, it’s just fascinating having not knowing anybody here or anything about the village and then discovering the different, the different sort of layers of society, and who who lives here and what their stories are. And there’s two, there’s a lot of second homes. So when I first arrived in the winter, I was really puzzled as to why it seems like there’s nobody here. And I was right, there was nobody, here they were. But over the last few years, apparently more people have become permanent residents, because they’ve discovered that they can work remotely. And people have made different decisions about where they, where they want to manage their time on what matters. Yeah. And there’s various community projects that are going on in Cuba, including a community forest, and which is quite an incredible project. But there’s, there’s a lot of human stories in there that I would, I would really like to share in some way. But I’m thinking I’m building up the courage to ask people, but I’m also building connections. So it’s, and it feels like those connections and now beginning to come together that I was reading a newsletter from the forest. That was, it must have been published two or three years ago. And when I first read it, and that’s interesting, and then I read it recently, and every article and person mentioned in there, I know, I now know who they are, I can put a face to those people and I, I know more of their story and and who they are. So there’s something brewing about the people in this community. And yeah, there’s there’s interesting stories about what the, what you what it takes to be a local, that there’s people who have family connections that go back generations that people would have, their grandparents had a house here, and they came here, every holiday is a child and but they’re not local. And and then there’s the people who were born here who were local, and seemed to be very unhappy with anybody who wasn’t born here. And so there’s, and social media, particularly Facebook, there’s a Facebook group. And it can be quite with the weather news, it’s, well,

Craig 12:43
it’s gonna say that’s not the log.

Alison 12:48
But you get these Spats get like somebody come in, and then there’ll be an angry comment about these incomers who want to change everything. So but what I’ve what I’ve really noticed is, is the village and the community need everybody, we need the second homeowners and we need the locals and then everybody in between and, and the community is actually thriving now that there’s a primary school which used to have about I think you had about 40 pupils and then now over 70 So there’s

Craig 13:29
generations Yeah, ages. That’s, that’s always a good sign. When people are bringing their families and starting families there I pause I say this a lot. It’s not because I’m like, Alright, I’m done. It’s like, oh, no, I got 90 ideas I want to ask about you, that all really sounds pregnant. Like there is a podcast or a I happen to know you mentioned doing film. Like there’s a creative thing there that’s that’s not poked, it’s green shoots up yet. What’s that, like, you know, so this year reap two years out or something like that. And I feel like there is a creative pre process that you’re deeply into there and you also sound very aware of that. So my my, I’m wondering, like, How aware are you of? Because you very clearly said You know, I read this thing and then I read it again and now I’m realizing that I’m developing these relationships with these people and now these stories have meaning. And I’m wondering Are you actively like me another year from now I’m here’s the idea of the thing I’m going to create or you just hands off? Oh no, it’s been going great for 18 months let’s just not touch you know, don’t touch the soup.

Alison 14:55
Now some something is bubbling up that you it because I’ve wondered is like, Well, how did how did I end up here? And why did I end up here? And, and this, there’s some purpose to it. And it feels that it is around is around the community. And I’m still sort of formulating the idea about is it about the community seeing themselves and being able to value what, what they have within the community rather than because I get really upset when I see this tension between the locals in the income as and it it mainly isn’t that like that people are so welcoming of everybody. So get so there’s one side of it is like helping the community? Because there is there has been a lot of tension over community forest and things like that. But then the other side is well, yeah. Wouldn’t it be interesting for people outside of this community to to have a little insight into what it’s like to live in a Scottish village? That’s 45 minutes drive from the supermarket? And yeah, so I’m I’m getting braver, and I’m sort of I’ve been talking more openly with people locally about what what I have done in the past making films. And yeah, sort of sowing, sowing seeds. Looking for hearts? Yes. Who’s waiting for germination?

Craig 16:47
Who’s on my team was on Team Allison. I’m a very visual person. So I just had this question. Like, say, assume you have a high street, we’d call them a Main Street here in the state. So if you if you like when from your house, I don’t need to know exactly where you live. But like if you went from your house, and you’d like walked across the village on High Street, on a random weekday morning, how many people would you pass? And what’s the vibe when you pass them? Like, is it like in the States, a lot of times it’s always down, don’t make eye contact? Because I don’t want to get attacked, you know? Like, is it? I know, it’s not big city, but like, what’s that vibe when you walk down the high street?

Alison 17:25
Yeah, the High Street is I think it’s called High Street.

Craig 17:34
I know about the UK is a question of a high street. And it’s a nice street.

Alison 17:39
But it’s not like a high street, you might know. I think there’s, I don’t know, maybe seven, seven shops in the High Street. And yeah, I can I can go for a walk. So I I walked my dog every day. And I can see nobody or other days, I will see people but and more and more it is it guess it used to be that I could go for a walk. And I wouldn’t see anybody or I’d see someone and just sort of not Hello. So I could be listening to a podcast or talking on the phone. But now whenever I go out I I see people I know. And it’s stopping for chat and how are you what’s going on? And then, and even visitors to the village so during the summer this there’s quite a lot of visitors although apparently this summer was was quieter than it has been. And, and even then, there is always eye contact and saying hello. That’s if somebody Yeah, because I was I was in England recently. And I was quite shocked when somebody walked past me. Just didn’t even look up. Yeah, so I just got used to. Yeah, if you walk past a person, you acknowledge that I’m a person. You’re a person. Yeah, hello. How you doing? Yeah. So it’s easy to forget.

Craig 19:17
Yeah. I asked for that image, you know, because I know you well enough that you’re really good at painting those kinds of pictures I asked for that image because as as an independent podcaster. I am always walking around. It’s an audio podcast. So I have like my hands over my head. Like I’m deep in thought and I’m like staring three feet in front of me. I don’t often have my hands on my head. But like figuratively I’m in like this. I’m literally closing myself off with my hands from the world. And literally in my thinking, it’s all like, Well, how am I going to do this and what is this going to be and I have to do that and then I have to do this thing. And that’s aside from being unhealthy. That is a really tough of place, or an almost impossible place to plant fertile seeds. So we were talking about this idea that you know, this, it might be an idea, we don’t know what it is, there’s this thing bubbling up. And I was trying to get you to really unpack for us. Because I think that high street and all the rest of it that you’ve been describing, is actually energizing you. So you’re like, you’re transitioning mentally about how you’re thinking about creating because of where you’ve embedded yourself. And from what I know, the backstory, you didn’t just, you know, throw a dart at the map that there was some consideration, like, I think I’m gonna go here. So that worked out spectacularly well, I think, also sounds like, That’s lucky to be able to, to be able to, to not be so rooted in one place, you’re like, oh, like, be pretty easy for me to move. But a lot of people I know if they were going to move, it’s like this is a major uprooting to try and move locations. So I think, super mad props for being able to do that. And then being able to actually take that gift you gave yourself and do something with it. There’s no question there.

Alison 21:13
Thank you. It’s funny, it’s just hearing you just reflect that back to me it. It just feels normal to do what I’ve done. Because it’s, it’s just what I’ve done. But if I look back at I suppose previous previous stages of my life, I would have been a no, no, I was completely stuck in. No, this is where I am at, this is what I have to do. But we have by by making choices over the years that weren’t, weren’t what was expected of me. And when what other people would have done then it’s got easier to make other choices to do things differently. And, and move. Yeah, practice practice.

Craig 22:11
As a thing about profundity sorry, it’s kind of like your language is you smoked me. But I don’t want to I don’t mean like drop this big word to people listening. But if somebody says something profound, which is of profundity has appeared. There’s nothing you can say. And so what you just said was awesome. Rewind, listen to that, again. I think that talking about those. So like, in my opinion, me managing to get other people to talk about that stuff is so broad, like that’s the to me, that’s that’s how my podcast might work. Change the world? Because there have to be people who are nodding along like, Yep, I understand exactly what Ellison is talking about. And I’m in the middle of that, or I did that because I’m thinking of people who’ve been on the show, or like, their stories, like they did that kind of thing. And then they told great, you know, after afterwards, this was awesome. But I think normalizing that is super important. And we were talking about normalizing. I don’t want to like make a whole let’s make a whole nother topic everyone talks about, but I really think, normalizing profound grammar sentences, words in the pudding. I think we do a lot of good by taking the time to stop and unpack things that are actually profound. Because if they’re just normal for us, we’re like missing this opportunity to give this gift to other people like this is really profound. I’m aware that it’s profound, and I really want to share how awesome I think it is. So I really enjoy as he rambles on waives his hands. I really enjoy getting people to unpack that because I’m just like, that’s really cool. tell more people about that, which is what we’re doing. Yeah. Just tormenting you by not asking you questions, but

Alison 24:05
which was just yeah, what what you’ve been saying has made it reminded me of conversations that I’ve had with people in the village around get my youngest coming out as non binary at the end of last year, and they’re 26 now and their pronouns are they them? And and I, I decided to talk about it. And so I, I would talk to people and it was a very interesting process to hear responses and be quite surprised at how transphobic some people were and, and also So how me talking about it opened up conversations with people about either themselves or their own children about any sort of difference? Not not necessarily about non binary or trans but whether it was the incomers

Craig 25:19
versus the people who live here, like what cars? I’m just I’m like, you know, the little drone behind that conversation, and I can just see that, you know, that figurative person responding? And then being like, wow, I mean, Alison, doesn’t seem to be wigged out by this and like, just being your normal or reasonable self, like just one, you know, not specifically Eunice has really been one just being a normal, regular person. And saying, like, this is not something I usually encountered, I encountered it, and here’s what I think about it. And people that just begin that you’re normalizing reacting reasonably, which just then is a useful thing.

Alison 26:07
Yeah, because I, it was in the whole coming out process and, and how I, somehow I volunteered to, to share the news with with grandparents and other family members. Because that’s what they wanted. And I sort of got got my knickers in a twist about it. It was it was suddenly this sort of tiny little insight into how it must be

Craig 26:45
with that person, or people experiencing that to come

Alison 26:47
in. Yeah. And then I spoke to my son. And, and he was, it was just like, was just information.

Alison 27:05
For him, yeah, it’s far more normalized. Like he’s in his 20s. And it’s not that big deal. But then, me thinking about speaking to my dad, who’s nearly 90.

Alison 27:19
And having all that all of this stuff that’s going on in my head, and then okay, now, Matt says it’s just information. I remember calling my mom and saying, I’ve got some information to share with you. So she said, Oh, totally dependent paper.

Craig 27:47
Perhaps? This may be a grammar lesson, too.

Alison 27:54
I said, No, I think you’ll remember this

Craig 28:00
might want to sit down but yeah.

Alison 28:02
And yeah, I just, it was just amazing to be. And sort of looking back at it, realizing that me coming into the conversation with I’m just sharing some information. And so each person that I shared it with, just accepted that information. It’s like, get this, this is still the same person that you’ve always known and loved. It’s just, they’ve changed their name, and their pronouns are different. And it was that normalizing of it rather, because if I, if I had gone, oh, my God, this thing has happened. You’re

Craig 28:42
not gonna believe what happened, right? Yeah. As if it’s a new thing that just.

Alison 28:49
Yeah, so it’s felt so. Like, it’s so amazing to be able to speak to people and then for people to recognize something in that of themselves about whether it’s the courage to be like, the courage to be yourself. And that’s the thing that I admire most about my youngest is that despite all the transphobia out there, and it’s there’s a lot they are so much happier, being who they are. And, and yeah, I could, it makes me emotional. That to realize that they are now happy, they’re happy in their own skin. And they are. They’re easy to be with that in the past. They’ve been uncomfortable and awkward and not happy in social situations. But a couple of weeks ago, I met up with my parents. And it was just delightful because they’re happy there. actually happy being who they are. And, and it’s just feels like a message for everybody that if we can be happy with who we are and the we’re accepted, it just accepted for who? Like, who is this person in front of me? And it doesn’t, because somebody I shared a photo. And somebody assumed that they were a woman, and and then somebody else’s head will help, how do they present they present as male or female. And I said, they present a subset. And it’s I know, a lot of what you were saying earlier about being non binary is a sort of negative, it’s not describing what they are, it’s describing what they know. And, and knowing now, I’ve learned such a lot, knowing that non binary can mean it means whatever it means to that one person

Craig 30:56
doesn’t actually tell you doesn’t.

Alison 31:00
Yeah, and that there isn’t non binary is not one thing it is. It’s not, it’s not male, it’s not female. It’s something else. And yeah, but they, because I felt inspired to be more of me. By seeing this, being more of them. It’s like, wow, if you can be you then why am I not being fully me?

Craig 31:36
I’m just watching our time taken. I’m just going to say yes, is what I’m going to say. Allison, I’m so tickled that we got a chance to to actually record one of our conversations and successfully for record. So I really appreciate your taking the time out of your not busy schedule to sit down and have a chat with me. I hope you get more awesome weather and continue to awesome views and scritches for the dog. Say hi to Murdoch and I will see you when next I see you thank you so much.

Alison 32:14
Thank you Craig and it’s raining now