Another wee update…

Working proper grown-up hours (not even properly full-time, just a little over 30 hours a week) is the best thing ever. I love it because I have money, and a routine that I never obtained in Australia, despite my best efforts. Having set hours and not having to scrape and scramble for casual shifts is so much better for my mental health. I’m just a wee bit tired while I’m getting used to it. However, I’ve still made lots of time for socialising – meeting friends for cake dates, doing book clubs, wine and cheese nights and catch up dinners at the pub, Skyping besties, Harry Potter trivia and all sorts of lovely things that remind me why I was so overwhelmed last year. I was working and socialising too much, but I think I am learning how to strike a balance over here, working and playing and making sure I have enough sleep and time to myself. It’s a learning curve, but it’s working. I also have an appointment with a counsellor booked soon. It is more pre-emptive than anything else because I’ve been feeling so good over here, but I think of it as a bit of a tune-up.

Sean and I finally used the voucher that my parents purchased for my birthday. It was for a restaurant on the Shore called Roseleaf and it was brilliant – really cosy, cute décor, with old-fashioned hats and books and even a typewriter surrounding the tables, and lovely dishes. The menus were inside old editions of National Geographic and I ate more food than was strictly sensible…we went for a long walk afterwards to digest.

We’ve had our first proper visitor (“proper” meaning someone who is actually staying with us in our flat) and it’s actually been less claustrophobic than I anticipated. Unfortunately, our guest has been sick as a dog, culminating in a late-night appointment at the hospital to try and sort out this mysterious illness that’s kept him pretty much bed-bound for five days. Thankfully, he’s on the mend and yesterday we drove out to Kelso in the Scottish Borders to get some sort of use out of the rental car that was booked before he became ill. Kelso is a lovely little market town – it has an enormous ruined abbey that I will definitely be back to check out (it’s free to go in, but the gates were locked when we walked past). We met lovely Bec and her lovely fella for dinner at a pub that was extremely cheap compared to anything in Edinburgh, and had some really delicious meals. We walked through the town square and out past the abbey to the River Tweed, one of the most expensive and renowned salmon fishing spots in the UK. The sun was setting and everything about the way the light was moving reminded me why I picked Scotland and why I love this place so much. We drove back in the dusk, and were just commenting on how dangerous it feels to drive in country Australia at this time of night (because of the kangaroos), when a deer jumped out onto the road! We are fine, and Sean didn’t hit it or anything, because the deer hopped out of the way of the car, whereas a kangaroo would probably just throw itself headfirst at us. We also saw rabbits and what I think was a dead badger, but a deer on an asphalt road was a first for me.

Because I can’t resist a bit of good old-fashioned study, I’ve signed up for yet another online course, but this one is run through the Scottish Government Library and focuses on social media, copyright, information searching and evaluation etc. A lot of it will undoubtedly cover things I already know, but there’s a few bits and pieces that look interesting to me, and it all counts toward the professional development scheme I’m enrolled in back in Aus. It is less of a time commitment than the other study I have done this year, which is probably a good thing now that I have so much paid work to be getting on with…

 

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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…

 

 

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!

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.)

Post-quarter century news.

Got 10,000 words down for my idea set during the English Reformation, but that is piddling compared to the oodles of research I’ve been doing. Developing this idea has turned into an exercise in beast-wrangling, but it’s my own little beast which I adore at the moment, so that’s nice. (I am under no illusions as to how much I will soon hate and abhor this idea. It is part of the life-cycle of novel-writing. I will however, try and enjoy liking it while it lasts).

I have just finished three weeks of library placement and can safely say that working more would suit me down to the ground, so if anyone out there wants to give me a (preferably library-involving) permanent job that would be super helpful. I feel better in myself when I’m ‘working’, as in, not sitting at home being unemployed with only homework and my own non-revenue-generating hobbies to distract me. I’ve just turned 25. Being financially-independent seems like a super thing to be by now. Rant over.

Library placement was wonderful and educational and affirming – very relieving to discover I love it and I haven’t wasted the last few years of study on something that wouldn’t make me happy. And I’ve been so lucky in that time to travel as much as I have. I’m fully ready to be a grown-up now, guys. I’ve been saving the little money I do get, so I haven’t done much involving expenses (bring on EOFY), but I’ve filled my spare time by reading (a LOT) and watching adaptations of classic English novels. It’s been fun. Pointless, but fun.

One day I might have something interesting to blog about again!

Fun times at Shakespeare and Company

Several things happened today that are noteworthy:

1. Mum’s back! We met her at Gare de Lyon after her train came back from Avignon and had lunch and swapped stories and it was wonderful to see her again.

2. I finished and submitted my assignment. Letters of congratulation, chocolates, flowers etc can be left at my house because I’m home on Sunday.

3. We all went back to Shakespeare and Company, where I browsed for a blissful half hour, bought a book about the history of the shop, and found out about an event tonight in celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday!

4. Mum and I went back at 6.30 (Mum wanted to come with to make sure I wasn’t murdered on the metro) and we were let in to the little banks of stools inside the shop. It was tiny, and cramped, and crowded, and we couldn’t see the itty-bitty makeshift stage, and it was perfect. We sat next to an American guy who is living in Paris and we just talked and talked about books and travel for about half an hour before anything started. He was very well-read, with a very cheeky sense of humour and thought it was hilarious that I said ‘Far out’ because he hadn’t heard anyone say it since Mick Jagger did a couple of decades ago. Rude. There was about half an hour of songs and poetry performed, then two people did a scene between Helena and Demetrius. Then a bunch of people performed Tom Stoppard’s version of Hamlet that went for about 25 minutes. It was hilarious. Most of it I couldn’t see, but their cobbled together version was still very entertaining, and the dude playing Hamlet reminded me a lot of Riley which made it even better. Afterwards, they filtered us out and let a whole bunch of people in who’d been waiting outside. They gave us wine and then Mum and I walked back to metro, trained to Abbesses, and bought crepes for dessert and took some home to Marnie. It was a fairly warm, mild evening in Paris and it was a great way to spend our time – I feel very lucky to be in Paris on Shakespeare’s birthday.

Assignment writing does not a particularly riveting day make

But it’s pretty much done! I slept in a smidgen, then got up, ate something, did homework, showered, did more homework, then went for a walk with Marnie. This time we actually made it to Sacre Coeur and it’s beautiful views of the city, though it was still quite crowded. But it was a good walk, with lots of stops for souvenir shopping and admiring all the different artwork for sale in Montmartre. We bought a fresh, hot baguette, a couple more groceries, and an absolutely delightful mille-feuille pastry which turned out to be the best kind of vanilla slice. Then home again! More homework, a powernap, another walk down to check out where the post office was and to stop and sample some tea at a fancy gourmet tea store. Home! Homework! Then the sweet relief of finishing something that you have been dreading for some time. I have not submitted it yet because I may tweak a couple of things in the next few days, but it is safe and sound and there, and I don’t need to jump the hurdle of actually writing the damn thing again. Phew. So now I’m relaxing for the rest of the night!