2019 thus far

…plus the tail end of 2018. A new job and a cosy Christmas with just the two of us (for the first time ever!)

Our year started with a jaunt to London to visit pals and see Company. I also took myself on a date to see Wendy & Peter Pan in Edinburgh over the Xmas/NY break. I’ve carried on with multiple Jane Austen/Richard III/book discussion groups/book launches (and having a whale of a time doing so) and am balancing this with professional development and chartership activities (the EDGE and CILIPS 2019 conferences being definite highlights)

We have visited the Dome for a fancy afternoon tea in their Georgian Tea Room, attended an open day at a friend’s apiary, and been to a dear friend’s wedding (the first of five in twelve months, including our own!) and a baby shower. To balance the culture correctly, we also went to the live recording of Hollywood Babble-On in Edinburgh. I’ve been fitting in physiotherapy, massages, and swimming, all of which has done wonders for my general wellbeing. I’ve also changed up my writing practice – instead of focusing on one project like last year, I’ve become a submitting machine. I’m aiming for 100 rejections this year (I won’t get there, but it’s a good aim!). You can see the small but important successes on my blog here. I’ve also got a solid bunch of writing mates from Story Shop (back in 2017) that have been meeting semi-regularly to chat, share work, and generally be supportive and wonderful. I’m lucky indeed.

We spent Easter in Lincolnshire and Norfolk, visiting a friend who is working down there. While there we visited South Kelsey, where the protagonist of one of my novels lived 500 years ago, and Norwich, another UNESCO City of Literature (although it was Easter Sunday and the bookshops were closed! Terrible planning on my part).

For my 30th birthday, we went camping in Dumfries & Galloway. We were completely washed out, so spent the second night in lovely Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town, where a close friend has recently bought a house – she is living the dream! They drove us all around the peninsula to some really picturesque places.

For the second year in a row, I headed down to Chawton for the very beginning of Jane Austen Regency Week, in order to meet up with colleagues from the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. This was incredibly productive, as well as enjoyable, and it was a pleasure to meet so many people in person for the first time!

And now, it is July. It is the summer holidays, though I am still contracted to work during this time (in the public library rather than the school library). I took a week of leave, however, to spend time in the Lack District (Bowness-on-Windermere, Staveley, Grizedale, Ambleside, and Grasmere) with some colleagues – a very welcome, sunny way to kick off the second half of 2019! Who knows – maybe I’ll manage another update before the end of the year.

2018 has been mad and wonderful

I’m aware it’s not the end of the year yet, but I did realise how long it has been since an update, so I feel as though I should document it all before it grows even more unwieldy. I’ve thrown chronology out the window – it’s all already happened, so the order is not important (and I’m pretty sure about three people read this blog apart from myself, so it matters even less!)

New places I have seen in Scotland (and some I have revisited) include: North Berwick, Dunbar (and the fabulous CoastWord festival), my beloved Scottish Borders (especially Scott’s View and Dryburgh Abbey), my even more beloved Loch Ness and Glencoe, and the utterly fabulous Moniack Mhor writers retreat. We have also bought a CAR (huzzah!) which means we can take leisurely drives to lovely places (such as Dalgety Bay) whenever we fancy it. We have also had visitors, which has made some of this travel even better! The Moniack Mhor writers retreat has been long-awaited, and was even better than I imagined – brilliant people, feedback for my novel, interesting stories, wonderful food, and the most beautiful surroundings to write in. I must go back as soon as I am able!

Edinburgh has continued to delight us. We have moved house yet again, but hopefully for the last time in a decent while. Our new flat is gorgeous and very spacious, but I do miss living right by the Water of Leith (especially after brand new baby cygnets were born in May that we have watched grow up!). I was lucky enough to do more cat sitting, to see the beehives that my friend helps to looks after in Polwarth, and to take advantage of the enormous range of events taking place on a daily basis in Edinburgh – including a night with Caitlin Moran, the launch of my friend’s translation of German spoken word poetry, and the many glories of the Edinburgh International Book Festival! This year I saw Ruth Jones, Greg Wise, Alison Weir, the launch of the SPL’s new poetry anthology for teachers, and I was also lucky enough to run a Nothing But The Poem session on the poetry of Charles Hamilton Sorley.

Professional development has been a joy for me this year – I was accepted into the Knowledge Exchange Week 2018 run by the University of Edinburgh in June. This conference runs for a week, and I was one of two delegates from Scotland (the rest of the delegates were from Europe or Argentina). This also included my first ever conference presentation (just a wee one) and I presented on poetry indexing. I met some amazing people and saw some truly brilliant libraries in Edinburgh that I had not had the chance to see before. I have also tried to attend as many events as possible run by ELISA and CILIPS, including the Librarians Uncorked sessions, visits to local libraries and archives (again, several I have not seen before), and have enrolled in chartership. Exciting times!

Finally, I have had two brief but enjoyable jaunts down south. In June, Sean and I went down to Hampshire to meet up with some beloved colleagues (and special guests) from the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. Seeing Chawton House through the eyes of the family that once lived there was a brilliant experience, and I even got to meet Simon Langton and Susannah Harker (the director of the 1995 BBC production of Pride & Prejudice, and the brilliant actress who played Jane Bennet in said production!) It was also a pleasure to meet my fellow JALF volunteers in person – wonderful women who I have corresponded with for months, but was not able to meet until now! Can’t wait to do it all again next year.

I also had a weekend in York, though did not get to see any of the city this time – because I was in a hotel all weekend taking part in the Bronte Society’s 2018 conference celebrating Emily’s bicentenary! What a treat – to hear some brilliant academics and speakers discuss Wuthering Heights, Emily’s poetry, and the various representations of Emily herself was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it was lovely to reconnect with some delegates I had met two years previously for Charlotte’s bicentenary conference, as well as meet new people.

Well, thats’s all for now. I am currently in the midst of a fabulous holiday with my parents and grandmother which involves traipsing all about the Highlands and other places in Scotland, but I wanted that to be its own post – hence my tardy update to bring this blog up-to-date for the rest of the year so far.

Until then!

A very late update

August has been such a bizarre, wonderful month. The Edinburgh International Book Festival was such a great experience last year, and this year I got to be part of it! I was part of Story Shop 2017, which involved reading my work in the Speigeltent one afternoon. I met the nicest people while doing this – the lovely staff at the City of Literature, my fellow Storyshoppers (all 17 of us!), and previous participants who came to support us. It was even live streamed on Periscope so my parents could watch it from Melbourne. I even met one of the judges of The Emerging Writer Award – the award I was lucky enough to win second place in earlier this year. She was watching my reading totally by chance!

IMG_20170817_211349

I also was lucky enough to chair an event. The brilliant poets J.L. Williams and Rachael Boast were appearing together and I was privileged to introduce them and ask them a few questions after their reading. We had a small, appreciative audience, and the poets signed some books afterwards.

I went to so many events! It was wonderful to see such a wide variety of writers, and I can’t possibly list them all here, but a selection of the people I got to watch/meet/chat to includes: Geraldine McCaughrean, Katherine Rundell, Amy Liptrot, Donald Smith, Beth Underdown, Kirsty Logan, the contributors to the Nasty Women anthology, Jo Baker and the nominees and winners of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Polly Clark, Annalena McAfee, Meg Rosoff, Zadie Smith, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Brian Bilston, Daniel Piper, Hera Lindsay Bird, Vanessa Kisuule, Ali Smith, Sarah Dunant, Jenny Lindsay, Rachael McCrum, Sara Hirsch, Jo Whitby, A New International, Chris McQueer, Claire Askew, Marjorie Lotfi Gill, Russell Jones, Harry Giles, Jane Yolen, and Finola Scott.

Other festival-type fringey bits:

Edinburgh International Film Festival – we went to a screening of Final Portrait, Stanley Tucci’s directorial debut starring Geoffrey Rush, Clemence Poesy, and Armie Hammer. Stanley Tucci himself was there to introduce it! We also went to a screening of Born in Flames, the 1983 dystopian film written and directed by Lizzie Borden, who was also there to answer questions afterwards!

Edinburgh Festival Fringe – I saw Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, a one-woman show that resets the poem in the American South. I wasn’t sure how well it would work, but I was pleasantly surprised. Jennifer Jewell is a wonderful performer. We also went to Lilith: The Jungle Girl at the Traverse, and it was like watching a socially-conscious episode of The Mighty Boosh onstage. Loved every weird minute of it!

Golden Hare bookshop – I went to the Hear Hare Hear event with Christine De Luca, Katie Ailes, and Iain Morrison reading. These three poets are always interesting, and it was a pleasure to chat to them afterwards (and win a prize in the raffle!). I was also a guest on Bibliophile, the podcast produced by Golden Hare, where we discussed the modernization of classic texts. It was great fun to be involved!

Travel wise, we’ve had a wee day trip to St Andrews…

…and a few days in London. It was a pleasure to go with Sean’s sister, it being her first trip there, and I spent most of it wandering around the Brick Lane market or in the National Portrait Gallery, getting acquainted with history and saying hi to the Bronte’s.

We stayed in a hostel in Swiss Cottage for a couple of nights and saw Tim Burton buying breakfast in a delicatessen, then I stayed in Soho with a lovely couple I met at the Bronte conference last year. I saw Eddie Izzard walking down Carnaby St. I finished my trip with a visit to the delightful Persephone Books.

Brace yourself for a level of nerdiness that surpasses even my own past efforts: I’ve managed to join two book clubs, three societies (Jane Austen, Bronte, and Richard III), and am looking forward to the festival finishing so I can get back into the walking group as well. The 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death was marked with a church service and another meeting involved Dr Cheryl Kinney from the USA lecturing on Persuasion and Austen’s use of illness and injury in her novels.

IMG_20170718_135947

I have also been hard at work editing Pride & Possibilities and have been loving the contributions I get to work with! I’ve done two online courses – one that tied into the book festival and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize called How to read a novel and one on the life and times of Richard III – and have been working on my professional development for the scheme I am enrolled in, including attending a seminar at the National Library of Scotland on the RDA update and a workshop at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow on libraries, social inequality, and activism. I’m also about to embark on another online course focused on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, and this can be claimed for my professional development as well, thank goodness!

And amongst all this, I have been attempting to take care of the everyday business of life, and prepare for a longer stay in Edinburgh. I had a haircut – bless the lovely hairdresser and her poker face when I told her it hadn’t been cut in almost two years.

IMG_20170811_170534

I’m going to run out of time to get my wisdom teeth out this year, but next year it will happen, mark my words! We are moving to a larger, more comfortable flat and we have booked flights back to Aus to take care of our visa requirements. I have been treasuring the Skypes and the correspondence from Australia, as well as the groups of friends I have made here – dinners, afternoon teas, and drinks have been some of the most enjoyable times in the last couple of months! We have had numerous visitors from Australia and from other parts of the UK and Europe and it’s been brilliant to revisit those friendships. Also, I am now a cat-sitter – spent a weekend last month with the handsome fellow below, and looking forward to next month when I get to sit for two kitties at once.

IMG_20170625_103350

Well, if you’ve got to the bottom of this blog post, congratulations. You must be my parents – hi, Mum and Dad! I’m off to rest my sore typing fingers in ice and to prepare for a hopefully quiet few months before we skip back to Melbourne for a visit.

A long weekend in England

Four days of the Easter weekend means the chance to drive somewhere far away! Huzzah! Bec and I headed down south with a stash of chocolate and many car singalongs.

First stop was Lyme Park – Pemberley in the 1995 Pride & Prejudice, of course!

17862297_10154380913621269_1887257515114774884_n17904124_10156160383808298_5904173940230339351_n17951970_10154380913136269_2632137471559407462_n17952000_10154380913061269_266509923809882167_n

The next morning we headed to Great Missenden, a sweet little Buckinghamshire village that houses the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre! The museum was lovely, and so was the walk we had around the sunny countryside.

Onward, then, to Leicester – specifically, to the cathedral where Richard III has been reinterred. There is a wonderful visitor’s centre there as well, where you can see learn about his life, his reign, his death, and his discovery.

York! I have never been to York, though it has been recommended to me many times. York in the spring is absolutely charming. Evensong in York Minster is incredible. The crooked, poky York Shambles, and the haunted Golden Fleece, the ancient Clifford’s Tower and the wonderful York Castle Museum.

Happy days 🙂

Nice things

St Andrews was grey and wintry and gorgeous. I went up for the Stanza Poetry Festival – only a fleeting visit where I wandered down the the shore and the ruins and had no time to see any events!

17103259_10154259317791269_4400028222441757562_n17103511_10154259317786269_4100706646968037146_n

I’ve been busy with work for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation – see my pride and joy, the Pride & Possibilities journal here. I’ve been to book clubs, wine nights, late nights at the National Museum of Scotland, lectures on the Bronze Age by Historic Scotland, and a gathering for lovely Sophie who has headed back to Aus. Basically, life has been full and wonderful. I went to another brilliant Jane Austen Society event in Dunfermline and I’m off to another tomorrow. I’ve been learning to run. It’s hard and awful but it’s doing me good and I can feel the benefit when I’m not swearing and gasping for air. I went to an event at Waterstones with Hannah Kent. She signed my copy of The Good People and I met Monica McInerney in the signing queue! I’ve been trying to read even more than usual, and my to-be-read list is growing longer every day. We’ve been tuning in every week for the new season of Broadchurch and re-watching Game of Thrones. I’ve seen two amazing pieces of theatre – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and 9 to 5 – and last night I saw the new Beauty and the Beast in all it’s gorgeous, cheesy, nostalgic glory.

How lucky we are to live in this city. How lucky I am to have a job, and a flat, and some money to travel. Here are some photos of beautiful Edinburgh.

I’m sorry this blog sounds braggy and disgusting, but honestly, it’s so easy to be dragged into melancholy and sadness by the state of the world these days. It feels nice to reflect on the nice things, when we can, instead.

 

 

To the Lake District!

It’s been a lovely few weeks since my last update filled with: Halloween excitement, Nanowrimo (25,000 words and counting), more time with friends (including a farewell for an Australian friend headed home), church, a radical book fair (including a performance from the Loud Poets), and bonfire night. I chose not to climb Calton Hill with the rest of the city to watch the fireworks, but went to a friends house and watched Pride and Prejudice and Death at a Funeral, so, you know, just as good. I am also immensely proud to finally be able to announce the launch of Pride & Possibilities, a new online journal I am editing from the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation. Our first month includes a piece from Simon Langton, the director of the BBC Pride & Prejudice, written especially for the foundation. It’s been so exciting to work on! Also, the clocks have gone back and we are well and truly into the change of season. It gets dark at 4pm!! It’s been an interesting transition, so I’m trying to embrace the cosyness and relish the warm pubs and long pajamas.

But last Friday night after work we trekked (ie drove a rental car) down to the Lake District for a friend’s birthday. After several delays, we were on our way, via the little town of Biggar for dinner before we picked up Claire’s friend from London at Carlisle Station. Our party was now comprised of six people, and Sean and Bec shared the driving down to our home for the weekend – Whitehall. This was a beautiful old manor house in Wigton/Mealsgate area – and it was simply enormous. The six of us were racing all over the three-storey building, comprising four bedrooms each as big as our Leith apartment, four bathrooms, a huge kitchen and dining room, a games room complete with ping-pong table, and a massive sitting room, cosy as all get out with squashy armchairs, an open fire and a bookcase. There was artwork and photography all over the walls, a million little nooks and crannies to store things in (and several locked doors we never saw beyond).

Saturday morning began leisurely and involved sleeping-in, massive amounts of toast with bacon and scrambled eggs, and a quick jaunt about the garden to explore the ruins that were part of the property. It was like something out of The Secret Garden – overgrown ruined walls and plants creeping through the windows, a babbling brook and the most photogenic frosty Cumbrian morning light you could imagine.

img_20161112_105336497_hdrimg_20161112_105420388_hdrimg_20161112_105430300_hdrimg_20161112_105443447_hdrimg_20161112_105546578_hdrimg_20161113_131308350_hdrimg_20161113_131907643_hdr

Then we hopped in the car and headed south. We stopped briefly in Keswick to sort out the car – refilling the fuel and attempting to solve the mystery of the unexplainable beeping noise. It turned out to be an engine overheating warning – some water in the tank sorted it out, so we were lucky nothing worse was wrong…

The drive down to Bowness-on-Windermere took about 90 minutes all up, but it was the most scenic 90 minutes I have experienced in a long time. I don’t know if it was the autumn colours, but the mountains looming over either side of the road were red! Amazing to see, and even better when we began driving alongside the lakes themselves. It’s hard to imagine people living, working, and carrying out their daily lives in areas like this, full of such overwhelming natural beauty.

img_20161112_132358074

Once we had found a car park, wayyyyy out down by the marina, we walked ever so leisurely back into the town. There was the tiniest little 12-week-old bichon frise shih tzu to coo over, as well as lots of weekend crowds to navigate. We wandered into a couple of Beatrix Potter themed gift shops and had the most delicious deli sandwiches for lunch (mine was ham, chutney, and crumbly Lancashire cheese with salad). Afterwards we bought some groceries to take home for dinner, and some delicious Keswick gingerbread. We stopped for a walk and some further photo ops on the way home and were home by 5pm.

The night was filled with the birthday girl’s DELICIOUS cooking – roast chicken, roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, scalloped potatoes and vegies with gravy, and a long, long, LONG game of Cards Against Humanity.

Then it was time to retire to the drawing room (upstairs sitting room), with a fire, some drinks, a game of cards, and a Dirty Dancing VHS. Then, midnight birthday cake and The Life of Brian. Honestly, I could get used to weekends like this very quickly indeed.

This morning we woke up late, ate lots more delicious breakfast and a cheeky pavlova cake, before we tidied up the place and hit the road. We stopped for a quick hot drink and a toastie (excellent to eat inside a warm car while it’s being hammered by rain on the outside) and were back home in Edinburgh by 6.30pm.

We are lucky sausages to have travel opportunities like this. Although we try to budget, it’s not the cheapest hobby to explore. But it’s worth the money, and I hope to do more weekends away next year.

October in Edinburgh

So much to do! A bit too much actually. I have a cough that makes me sound like an asthmatic walrus and a thumping headache, so I had the last few days off to sleep which seems to have eased the symptoms. Must stop doing so much stuff.

Easier said than done, however! I have some more hours at work – I was starting to haemorrhage money while booking future trips, so it’s nice to repair the bank account a bit.  I also took myself for a wee mental health tune up and that was not cheap (but very much worth it and I feel a lot better). The biggest problem is, I just can’t say no to invitations. I worked so hard to be as social as possible at the start of the year so we could build up some friendships, and we have a great network of friends now. So if I really wanted to, I could ease up on the socialising and save some money, but the enormous problem is that I really like our friends and I don’t want to miss out, so I keep spending money on dinner and drinks and shows and it adds up so quickly.

Major first world problems!

In addition to catch-ups/book clubs/etc with new friends, even newer friends, and some old friends from Australia, I’ve been to a night of Game of Thrones trivia (not as fun as Harry trivia, but still worth it!), Sunshine on Leith with Allegro (my first non-Fringe am-dram experience in Scotland!), Billy Elliot at the Edinburgh Playhouse (the biggest theatre in the UK!), out to Glasgow for another meeting of the Jane Austen Society Scottish Branch (at the Kelvingrove Museum), and started pilates once a week around the corner from my flat.

I’ve also been super busy with my work for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, including preparation for some exciting new ventures leading into 2017 (the 200th anniversary of Jane’s death). I’m planning to do a lot more of my own writing in November and hoping to make myself a bit of a hermit to save some money and strength while I do so.

This month we also went down to Galashiels for the night to stay with Bec – I can see why she loves it, especially coming from huge, sprawling Melbourne. You can walk around the centre of Galashiels in twenty minutes, and see hills and paddocks and the beautiful River Tweed while doing your weekly shopping. Even in the mist and rain – perhaps even more so – it is beautiful. I want to see a lot more of the Borders while we’re here. We went to a couple of pubs and had amazing breakfast the next morning, and then enormous sugary waffles for lunch. It is only a 50 minute train trip from Melbourne, so less time than the daily commute for a lot of Melburnians, and it’s a much prettier trip.

So this blog is perhaps not as interesting as some of my others, but it’s a good diary for myself to keep a record of my life over here. I know we have until January 2018 until we have to leave, but the thought of it still makes me sad. I think I’m going to miss this place like a phantom limb.