2016 hurtles towards a close…

…taking all manner of celebrities with it. Not nice news to hear about Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Liz Smith, George Michael and Richard Adams, especially after everyone else who has gone this year. By the end of this blog, we’ll probably have lost someone else.

On a lighter note, I have had a busy but wonderful month. Since London, I have completed Nanowrimo (50,000 words written in the month of November), been to Maison de Moggy (Edinburgh’s cat cafe), been to an evening with Jodi Picoult at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, celebrated Sean’s birthday with our friend Sophie who is his birthday neighbour (at Under The Stairs), had Xmas drinks and catch ups with good friends old and new, helped run a poetry trivia night for our volunteers at the Scottish Poetry Library, seen the weird and wonderful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and headed to Dunfermline for a Jane Austen’s birthday do with the Scottish Branch of the Jane Austen Society (while there, I snuck in a quick but lovely visit to Dunfermline Abbey and Palace).

Oh, and Sean squeezed in a trip to Lisbon!

I finished work on the 21st, complete with some bubbles and pizza to send off the year, just in time for a well-earned break…but sleep is for the weak! My beloved parents and grandmother arrived that very evening to spend eight wonderful days with us. I haven’t seen these crazy kids since January 29, the day we left Australia, and after two minutes in their company, it was like no time had passed.

Edinburgh turned on her best weather for them, and by best weather I mean the stereotypically British cliche of sideways rain and wind bad enough to close Edinburgh Castle. Oh, we had fun. I can’t remember giggling quite this much since…ever! We traipsed up and down the Royal Mile and Princes St with our rain hoods up, braving the blustery Christmas Market, the slippery cobblestones, the sodden Greyfriars Kirkyard, and the very wet trek down Clerk Street to the delicious Carington Mouse’s Larder for lunch. I also took my guests to see the book sculptures, the Writers’ Museum (including the rare exhibition of J.K. Rowling’s annotated copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. We had approximately four hundred stops for coffee/tea/cake over the course of their visit and it was truly pleasurable. Scotland has some lovely places for refreshment, and Mum’s friend had given them a nice lunch at Eteaket for Christmas. Marnie and I even went to visit the sister of one of her church friends, who put on a beautiful spread for us with her husband. They were both so warm and generous with their hospitality despite having never met us before! We eventually got to Edinburgh Castle once the weather calmed down as well.

Christmas Day was spent at the AirBnb my parents had rented two streets away from our flat. Their AirBnb was a lot bigger and more comfortable than our flat, so we spent most of our time there actually! We took them to church on Christmas morning (the church I have been attending throughout the year – Pilrig St. Pauls) and then had our mates Sophie and Claire over to share all our food and Christmas cheer! Lots of food was consumed, laughter was had, television was watched, and plans were made.

Boxing Day was spent at the Royal Yacht Britannia (somewhere I had never been and had been on my list for months!) and the Princes St Waterstones store, before we awoke, FINALLY, to good weather for their final two days here.

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We picked up our hire car and hit the road, over the Firth of Forth to a tiny little place called Bandrum, up near Dunfermline. Back when I was a wee lass, my parents bought me a plot of land for my 21st birthday. It was five square feet of Scottish soil that technically makes me a Lady, purchased through this nifty website: http://www.scottishlandsales.co.uk – We found out approximately where we assumed it would be, and then trekked up and across the beautiful countryside to see the views. When we got up the top, Mum produces a crown and a flag to mark my place and many photos were taken. I can’t believe how good the weather was!!

We went to Stirling Castle afterwards, another place I had not yet been, and managed to get some photos before the sun disappeared. I will definitely go back for a longer visit next time!

The next day we drove north, stopping at Auchterarder, then Aberfeldy, then Dunkeld for walks, shopping, and more refreshments. There’s a wonderful cafe in Aberfeldy called the Habitat Cafe that Sean had recommended, but none of our choices disappointed. We raced the sun for photos, and then drove back to Edinburgh, in time to have one more meal together of authentic Scottish fish and chips.

I only cried a tiny bit while saying goodbye. They are off to Windermere today, before they visit Flintshire, Hay-on-Wye, Winchcombe, and Salisbury before heading back to Australia. So I’m incredibly excited for them, but I also don’t want it to be another thirteen months before I see them! I know I’m lucky though. The fact that I am here, and the fact that they were all able to come and see us makes me blessed indeed. I’ve already started on the itinerary for their next visit…

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More #Edinburghlyf

Our friend from Australia, Bec, is here! She has made the move, probably permanently because she has a British passport and is CRAZY LUCKY. But despite my insane jealousy it’s been delightful to catch up with her, and the two of us even went clothes shopping together, which is a huge deal for me because I hate clothes shopping with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. But now I have summery clothes and will hopefully never have to shop again!

I’ve been to a few services at the local Church of Scotland. It’s quite similar to the Uniting Church that I grew up in and the familiarity is very comforting. The people are nice and it’s good soul food for me to go and sit and listen and pray in welcoming surroundings.

I’ve also been watching movies – the new Jane Austen flick, ‘Love and Friendship’ (based on Lady Susan and not actually Love and Freindship) is brilliant – witty and clever and brilliantly acted. It’s an excellent portrayal of Jane’s work and I think will hold up to critics and fans alike. I’ve seen it once but I get to see it again this weekend! Huzzah! I’ve also watched two films based in Edinburgh to spot locations – ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Sunshine on Leith’. I’ve seen ‘Trainspotting’ before, but not for years and it was just as weird and depressing as I remember!! Good film though, even though most of it was filmed in Glasgow masquerading as Edinburgh. Sunshine on Leith was a DELIGHT. The cheesiest of cheesy jukebox musicals, celebrating the music of The Proclaimers. Such a feel-good hug of a film. And of course, we’ve been keeping up-to-date with ‘Game of Thrones’. That show is an emotional rollercoaster and I can’t get enough of it. HODOR 4EVA.

The weather has stayed beautiful, and I’ve witnessed this amazing weather phenomenon that occurs at night after a nice day. It’s something to do with the warm day and the cold sea air that rolls in over the east coast of Scotland and Northern England. It’s called ‘the haar’ and it’s a very dense, fast-moving fog that creeps in and makes everything look super spooky. But during the day I’ve been getting sunburnt. Such a land of contrasts. The other day I went for a longgggg walk through the Princes St Gardens. The lawns were covered in people sunbathing and I was listening to Harry Potter and it was perfect. Then I went to the cafe in Waterstones and had tea and cake while I looked at the view of the castle. It is wonderful to have the time to enjoy these moments.

I’ve been busy though, and getting busier. I’ve been getting super organised with my writing projects (spreadsheets, guys!), as well as doing another free online course, this time on mindfulness. It helps to balance out the busyness with remembering to slow down and be in the present as much as possible. I’m working on it. I’ve Skyped with my parents and have been collating a list of places to show them around when they are here in December, including the absolutely epic savoury French toast at Mimi’s Bakehouse which I would eat every day if I had the money. I’ve also picked up two more days of work – at my favourite place, the Scottish Poetry Library! I’ll be getting some temporary shifts over the summer there and be getting paid for it! Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

I’ve been catching up with friends for dinner, cake dates, films and, hopefully, next week for my birthday. I’ve also been to Linlithgow Palace (birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots) with the Jane Austen Society Scottish branch and we had a delicious strawberry tea afterwards. The ruin is brilliantly preserved and you can walk all over it. It’s crazy atmospheric, and the peel and loch surrounding it are beautiful. Also apparently appears in ‘Outlander’ so I will simply have to rewatch the entire thing and look out for it…