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…

 

 

Advertisements

An update on #Edinburghlyf

So much has happened since Denmark! I’ve tried to summarise the high points below, though I will undoubtedly forget something. I’m loving Edinburgh. I’m loving its people and its places and its character, charming and rough-round-the-edges as it is.

I have a job! An actual paying job in a LIBRARY! It’s at Queen Margaret University and it’s wonderful. I started my career in an academic library that was far bigger than this one – working for a smaller university with a smaller team is a breath of fresh air. It’s very quiet at the moment because it’s summer holidays, but that gives me plenty of time to get used to how things run before the crazy September new year madness. We went on a work outing to the National Library of Scotland the other day to do a behind-the-scenes tour (a fascinating place!) and went for a cream tea afterwards. The team is lovely, and the job is two days a week, giving me plenty of time for sightseeing. Obviously I’ll need to find something else to supplement my income, and I am 99% sure I’ve obtained a casual job, but I have to wait a couple of weeks to find out, so we’ll see how that goes.

We are making some good friends over here, and have been catching up for dinners and gatherings and book clubs and Eurovision nights. (Walking home from Eurovision we saw an actual hedgehog, which is perhaps the highlight of my life). I’ve also been a bit lax with Skyping home due to starting so many new things and suddenly being (somewhat) busy again, but the other day I Skyped with my bosom chum Alfie and it made my day! There is a pub about a one-minute walk from our place and they run Harry Potter themed trivia nights. I went to the last one (Prisoner of Azkaban) and these quizzes are HARD. I have to reread Goblet of Fire properly before the next one (which is handy, as Stephen Fry has been rereading them to me over the last few weeks). They do a mean boozy milkshake as well.

I went to my first Jane Austen Society Scottish Branch event and met a whole lot of lovely people, including the speaker, a brilliant scholar named Nora Bartlett. We bonded over children’s literature and libraries and creative writing, and I want her to adopt me (no offence Mum and Dad, but she could give me UK citizenship that way). I’ve also finished the first draft of a new manuscript I’ve been working on. It’s nearly 76,000 words, and it the fifth novel-length manuscript I’ve finished in my life. One of these was the greatest masterpiece to ever grace an exercise book (80,000 words of piratical adventures I wrote with my bestie in high school), one of these came close to being represented by a literary agency last year, one of them is utter shite, and one of them was 50,000 words spewed out over Nanowrimo. This latest one is…not awful. It needs a good polish, but it’s not awful. Anyway, I am thoroughly sick to the back teeth of it and need to put it away and not look at it for a year. This week I’m planning to start work on one of the many half-finished things I have floating around my hard drive. Unemployment and having no friends is a great way to get stuck into those creative projects! Now I have gained a job and friends, so hopefully I can keep the practice up…

We’ve also been doing important things like watching Parks and Recreation. I’ve seen it before but Sean hasn’t and it is a joy to rewatch. Amy Poehler is a perfect human. We also experienced the absolute mania that overtakes people when their football team wins. We live not far from the stadium where there was some sort of important sporting event, and walking through Leith that night was like walking through the end of the world. People EVERYWHERE. Most of them very drunk and joyous and singing at the top of their lungs. They held up the traffic until the police arrived, and used the actual entire weekend to carry on celebrating. It was pretty amazing.

When Sean left his job in Australia, they gave him a ghost tour as a gift! We used the voucher last week and went on a tour of the historic vaults beneath the South Bridge. It was fun to be down there, but there was so much emphasis on ghosts (go figure) and not enough on the actual history of the vaults. They are fantastic, and I wanted to know more about why they were there! Speaking of Sean, he’s a good egg. I’ve had a couple of down days, anxiety being a heartless horror that strikes when I really don’t want or need it, and he has been patient and lovely as always, and I’m feeling much better now. So relearning a few keys aspects of self-care has been important as well!

 

Finally, I’ve just come home from my third volunteer shift at the Scottish Poetry Library. This. Place. Is. Amazing. As a volunteer, I help out at events (setting up chairs, serving drinks and the like) and also take Saturday shifts to make up staff numbers so the library can be open. On Saturdays there is lots of shelving and working at the front desk and ad hoc jobs like labelling books. It’s a peaceful job in a beautiful building, and the events are always vibrant and fun to watch/take part in. I initially wanted to sign up as a volunteer to keep my foot in the library industry door, but I have found it to be such a welcoming and comfortable place as well as an interesting library. Last night I went to the retirement event for Robyn Marsack, who has been Director of the library for sixteen years. The place was full to bursting, crowded with brilliant and creative minds. Hearing about Robyn’s career was inspiring and had made me want to jump back into studying (alas, money). I’m looking forward to many more hours of work there.

Hopefully I’ll blog again soon! It’s one more thing that has fallen by the wayside now that my life is marginally busier, but I don’t plan to neglect it too much. xx

Beltane! And other news

You will never guess what I have just done. I, Emily Prince, self-professed sleepyhead and lover of beds, gave myself just three hours of sleep last night, WILLINGLY. The reason, was Beltane. The Beltane Fire Festival held on Calton Hill in Edinburgh is world-renowned, and I did not want to be missing out. The gates open at 8pm and the festival officially closes at 1.30am, but plenty of revellers continue on into the night. This morning, as part of Tradfest (festival of traditional Scottish culture involving music, dance, storytelling, and film, which includes Beltane), a Dawn Rising walk was held at 5am up Arthur’s Seat, the traditional location of ancient Beltane. Which to choose? I decided to choose both.

The festival was INSANE. First of all, the queues were horrific, but I was somewhat prepared for that. I have also been schooled in the art of racing all over the hill to get the best vantage point, a skill I will put to use next year. I spent a lot of the festival looking at the backs of people’s heads, but for those moments where I could get a half-decent view, it was entirely worth it. There’s fire – lots of fire – and amazing costumes and make-up. The procession starts on the National Monument where the May Queen is revealed before it roams all over the hill, taking a couple of hours in total, before culminating in the death and rebirth of the Green Man. Then the bonfire is lit and everyone dances the night away. Luckily, there are plenty of roving performers and things to see when the procession is not in view, though the perils of being a bit of a shorty are still apparent when watching the smaller performances. I left the festival just after midnight, when the bonfire had been lit. I could hear the drums and shouts all the way home as I walked back to my apartment. I got into bed at 12.45 and set the alarm for 4am, wondering if I would make it. I totally did. I got up, ate an apple, dressed up warmly and walked down to Arthur’s Seat just in time to meet up with the group. There was only six of us, but we met many revellers along the way who had pulled an all-nighter, lots of them still in costume and full make-up. Along the way, our guide told us stories about the hill and about the mythology of Beltane. Unfortunately, the sunrise was obscured by cloud, but we did get a beautiful view all the same. We reached the summit in our little group, with three other people present. We stood and listened to more words and poetry, before our guide gave us seeds to sow for the new summer. Completely spontaneously, a woman we met at the top sang a song, her voice quavering in the wind and we saw she was crying. It was quite magical. We made our way down the hill, stopping at the ancient well of St Anthony to anoint ourselves with Beltane dew – thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness. I was kindly given a lift home by two of my fellow climbers and walked in my door at 6.45am.

Sean is currently in Abu Dhabi for work, so he missed the fun (but I know he’ll be having a good time over there). At the time of writing, I am not yet comatose, but I can feel myself flagging. I think a nap may be in order later today…

But that is not all I have been up to! There is so much to update you on. Some of it is relevant even to the above. On Friday night I went to a monthly storytelling event, Guid Crack, and the host for the evening was the same gentleman who guided the Dawn Rising walk this morning. It was a night of music and stories and poetry, based around the theme of ‘Bloody Edinburgh’, and I saw some renowned storytellers in action, including Mara Menzies and Ana Lines. It was Mara and Ana who came on the walk this morning and gave me a lift home, so it was lovely to meet them in person and here about their storytelling experiences.

I have been keeping busy with a bit of market research temping work that I picked up. It involved standing in the freezing cold asking people exiting shops if they would do a survey about their shopping experiences, so it wasn’t the most fulfilling of jobs, but it earned me a bit of money. I have also signed up as a volunteer to the Scottish Poetry Library and helped out at my first event – a reading and talk by the poet and translator Sasha Dugdale, which was a real treat. I have also been studying – I signed up to do a free, six-week online course on the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, so for the past two weeks I have been elbow deep in actantial models and Propp’s Morphology, which has proved extremely challenging and very interesting. And I’ve been plugging way at my own creative writing, currently writing 1000 words a day which is quite manageable on days I don’t have work.

I have been making new friends – a surprisingly strange experience in your mid-twenties when you’ve up and left all your own back home. This has meant lots of coffees and walks and chats with new people and it’s been really pleasant actually. We had a small group round to our place to watch the new Game of Thrones season premiere and had lots of pizza and drinks. Excellent topic of conversation to utilise! And I’ve joined a book club, a lovely bunch of ladies who like to read and have a drink and a chat. My second meeting is this week and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve also just started my annual Harry Potter reread, once more using the audiobooks because Stephen Fry is just so damn good at it, and this way I can listen while wandering the streets of the city where the story first came to life. Yes.

We’ve had some epic Skype sessions with family back home (and Mitch in Japan!) and its always nice to hear news from Australia. I miss everyone so much, but it really helps having the internet, as well as gifts from brilliant mates like Alfie and Cara who sent me packing with a whole bunch of mystery envelopes containing various tasks and presents that have been entertaining me for weeks. The final thing I will say in this blog is that I’ve been watching a brilliant TV show called ‘Flowers’, and I recommend you look it up and watch it. It’s the best writing I have seen in a long time, and made me laugh, cry, and shiver with its utter relatibility. It’s a very black comedy, quite dark and twisty, but so, so touching.

Happy Beltane!

Celts, Jane Austen, illness, Cullen skink

I have been ill. So ill. And extremely self-pitying. But I feel like I’ve turned a corner today. I can breathe through both nostrils and I have gone approximately two hours without a coughing fit. Yass. At least I haven’t had to rush off and go to work or keep any urgent appointments. I’ve stayed snuggled up on the couch watching Parks and Recreation and Outlander (still catching up on Season One but appreciating it even more now that I live in Scotland!) and doing some creative writing. As of this morning, I have 40,000 words on a current project. Unemployment win! However, I shall not be unemployed for much longer! Mid-May, I start a two-day-a-week job in a library! I am over the moon. I would like a few more hours, but I have the chance to look for additional work now, while still knowing there will be some money coming in, and that the work is related to my career path (something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to obtain while living overseas). In the meantime, I’ve still managed to get out and about to see a few things, in between bouts of resting. Sean and I went to the National Museum to see an exhibition on the Celts. This was awesome. I could not get over the artefacts they had on display – jewellery and handicrafts and stone work that were around 2,500 years old, discovered all over Europe, and revolutionising the way historians think about the Celts as a social group. Oh, and afterwards, we found an excellent Thai restaurant and I ate my weight in soup. Sean has also been baking bread. It tastes amazing and is best when it is still warm from the oven. Not having work can be boring at times, but you get to do cool things like bake bread, so it’s not all bad. I also have made contact with the Scottish branch of the Jane Austen Society. My buddies back home actually contacted them before I left Australia and told them to expect communication from me. As a result, I was taken out for lunch by three members of the branch and we had a wonderful time talking all things Jane and eating Cullen skink, a traditional Scottish meal that tastes so much better than it sounds! The first meeting I will be attending is in May, in Edinburgh, but there are other meetings throughout the year in Glasgow, Linlithgow, and Dunfermline, so I’m looking forward to getting out and about with them. We’re currently waiting for an electrician to come and fiddle with our flat, so I’ll hop off the internet now. I’m re-reading The Kite Runner for a book club that I’ve joined so plenty to get through in the meantime 🙂

Edinburgh – the city of never-ending things to do!

The benefit of not having a job at the moment is the amount of sightseeing and exploring I have been able to do in Edinburgh! While I’d love to be working, being a lady of leisure has its perks, and I’ve made a list below of some of the things and places I’ve managed to check out over the past couple of weeks:

Walking the Water of Leith, Warriston Path, and the Botanic Gardens – long, peaceful walking tracks among beautiful flowers, a vast range of community gardens, and peppered with the occasional glimpse of squirrels! There’s also an old, run-down cemetery in Warriston that is unbelievably pretty. I’m looking forward to doing these walks again as it heads further into spring.

10644834_10153343172121269_7712941932201016892_n

The Writer’s Museum – its housed in a beautiful old building that used to be the mansion of Lady Stair, and it contains artefacts related to the life and career of three of Scotland’s most famous writers – Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson. It also has the BEST gift shop I’ve ever come across for rabid bookworms like myself.

‘Plague!’ exhibition at the National Library of Scotland – a free exhibition on the history of plague and sickness in Scotland. It sounds disgusting (it was) but it was really interesting as well!

The Scottish Storytelling Centre – I am yet to go to one of their events, but I checked out the centre itself and fell a bit in love with the idea of it – an institution devoted to the art of storytelling! It’s also connected to the house of John Knox, famous Reformer, and that’s a really interesting glimpse into the history of architecture and religion in Scotland in the one place.

Museum of Childhood – just passed this one day and decided to check it out (because it was free, hooray!). It was crazy! Five floors of exhibitions, mainly toys, but all related to the history of childhood in the UK. So many weird and cool things to see (some terrifying, like a room full of dolls), but I think my parents would love it when they come to visit – lots of model cars and Ladybird books!

Checking out landmarks on the City of Literature map – Greyfriars Kirkyard with its stories of grave robbers, Harry Potter names, and gorgeous little Greyfriars Bobby; The Deacon’s House Cafe, site of infamous Deacon Brodie’s former home and workshop where they serve hot chocolate with whisky; The Elephant House, famous for its claim of being the ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter and its HP graffiti-filled bathrooms; Parliament Hall, where Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson used to stroll in conference; and the various closes and areas that feature in books and novels.

12923300_10153373261246269_8666496884796440752_n

Easter at St Giles’ Cathedral – after receiving a chocolate-filled care package from Mum and Dad, I went to St Giles’ for a Good Friday service. It was just hymns and readings, for 45 minutes instead of the usual midday 15 minute service, and it did my soul good.

Scott Monument – the worlds largest monument to a writer (287 steps to the top!). The views were absolutely incomparable, but I would counsel against going on a weekend or holiday. It takes a long time to climb when the staircases are so narrow that you can only fit one person in at a time, and it gets real squashy up the top!

12417552_10153373257141269_88522614814397779_n

Rosslyn Chapel – a half-day trip with an Australian friend of mine. An utterly beautiful (unfinished) 550-year old chapel, with the most intricate stone carvings and a fascinating history. The visitor centre is brilliant, and (I had completely forgotten about this) it featured heavily in The Da Vinci Code, so was part of the film and had it’s visitor numbers boosted considerably. A really interesting place in a gorgeous area of countryside.

12472426_10153373271656269_542101320595353804_n12932979_10153373272291269_4315430899287742931_n

I have been a busy bee. And I’m off to the Scottish Poetry Library today, and then to a contemporary choir rehearsal, so I’ll have to dash. Thank you all for reading this far and for the response to my post about meeting J. K Rowling. Still the most exciting thing I’ve done!

 

I love living here

It has been a couple of weeks since my last update, and it feels as though we’ve been here forever. We have a tiny, lovely flat in Leith, and have more or less collected everything we need for it from the multitude of charity shops scattered through the city. We’ve traipsed up and down the Old and New Towns, taking photos, drinking hot beverages, and becoming increasingly familiar with the twisting closes and wynds that curl around the place. Here’s a quick list of some of my favourite things:

  • The Stand Comedy Club – incredibly cheap entertainment with some fantastic comics, good drinks, and a friendly, cosy atmosphere
  • Markets on Castle Terrace and Grassmarket, selling fresh produce, arts and crafts, and delicious lunches
  • Day trip to Glasgow – we checked out the Kelvingrove Museum and went for a long, sunny walk through the city
  • Leith – our neighbourhood is a place of arty, somewhat rebellious culture. There are huge green spaces, tiny cafes and bistros, and a never-ending parade of bars
  • The Edinburgh Book Lovers’ Tour – a brilliant trip through the South side of the city, hearing tales of the lives and careers of Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, J M Barrie, J K Rowling, Ian Rankin, and many more
  • Calton Hill and Holyrood Park – we climbed Calton Hill on a dark, foggy night, when we could see our breath and the silhouettes of the old buildings scared the life out of me. We climbed Arthur’s Seat and wandered around Holyrood Park in the sunshine, along with plenty of tourists, families, and dogs
  • The myriad of coffee shops and restaurants we’ve been to – including Spoon Cafe, (formerly Nicolson Cafe where J K Rowling used to write), Punjabi Junction (a social enterprise a two minute walk from our house), Mary’s Milk Bar (lovely malted chocolate on Grassmarket), and far too many more to list here

I’ve tried to carry on with my writing, but I haven’t been as disciplined as I should have been. I have been looking for paid work at the same time, and after racing around sightseeing, I have been easily tired out. I cobbled together a poem of sorts, more just a random collection of thoughts about Edinburgh so far. It needs a polish, but I like it so far.

I love …

the orderly queues at bus stops

the countryside in the sunshine

the poky little houses

the abundance of greenery

the canals, threaded like silver through the suburbs

the words – dell, grove, Morningside, Silverknowes

the way the tenements look in the rain

the bookshops and theatres, scattered across the city like treasures

the crisp layer of ice over puddles at dawn

the top deck front seat of the bus

the dogs in their winter coats

the mix of languages and accents

the names of the houses

the early spring flowers

how every part of the city competes for best view

how every street corner commemorates something

that night is blacker here

September begins and so do I.

Another asylum seeker has died in detention, and I just cannot wrap my head around how Australia let this happen. It puts my own problems into perspective. I need to remember to count my blessings when I feel overwhelmed.

I have enjoyed several weeks of not doing much at all. Well, I’m working as much as I possibly can, but when I’m not at work my activities have consisted mainly of watching Parks and Recreation and trying to finish reading books. That last assignment really took it out of me, though there is only one left, due in October, before I can collect my Grad Dip!

Now however, it is time to plunge back into actually being productive outside of working hours. There is a subject to be studied, research to be done, theatre to rehearse for (for the first time in two years!), job applications to be completed, and manuscripts to tease out into something malleable.

There is also quality time to be spent with people I love, friendships to be cherished, and kindness and compassion to be prioritised. I’m not always very good at those things, but it is important to work towards them all the same, particularly when it feels like the world’s gone to hell in a handbasket.

(Oh, and I’m slowly – SLOWLY – learning how to cook more. Yay adulthood.)