The thing about living in a small (22,000 people) island community is that your life is not your own. You are on display, visible - this is a bare, stark landscape in which every household and most cars come equipped with binoculars. And your whole life is likely to be the subject of scrutiny and speculation. Especially if you live semi-publically. As broadcasters and writers inevitably do.
However, in the 20 years or so I have lived in Shetland, I have never been subject to the sustained, unfounded, very personal and utterly malicious campaign of rumour and innuendo that has apparently been going on for the past while. Neither myself nor Susan knew anything about it until last week, when one colleague decided enough was enough and he was going to tell me what was being said.
It turned out to be a whole swathe of lies, about me but aimed, we think, at damaging Susan and our family generally. It was fairly easy to trace the source. But what to do about it?
Silence? Ignore it all? A few enquiries to friends revealed that they had all heard the stories, but had (and this is a Shetland community survival technique, I think) decided not to say anything.
I do not think detailing the tales here would be helpful. Suffice to say that those responsible for starting this should be aware that they are dealing in lies, and that such antics illustrate their utter moral bankruptcy, and the contemptible state of their imaginations.
As a journalist, of course, I always argued that gossip is the first draft of news, which is in turn the first rough draft of history. But gossip only becomes news when it is checked factually.
Nobody did so with these nasty stories. And can I just say this: repeating them as 'ridiculous' is just playing into the hands of their malicious orginators.
End of story.