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!

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Epic update time….

Tomorrow we head to Spain for five days, and I thought it might be nice to write a blog about our travels. I went back to check when was the last time I updated this site, and my last blog post was OVER SIX MONTHS AGO. Apols. So I thought I’d catch it up before Spain, as quite a few things have happened since then… It’s going to be less words, more pictures. A highlights reel, if you will.

London – the Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library! A two-day conference titled ‘Reformation on the Record’ at The National Archives in Kew. And finally, Keat’s House, Hampstead.

Oh yes, a wee jaunt back to Australia for eight weeks. Christmas, friends, family, new babies, beautiful Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula, Macedon, Adelaide, and surrounding South Australia. The weather, folks. The weather.

And back to bonnie Scotland – more jaunts to the Borders, including St. Mary’s Loch, my first foray to Dumfries & Galloway (Grey Mare’s Tail), the Christmas markets (technically back in 2017), two lots of cat-sitting, Stanza Poetry Festival in St. Andrews, numerous other wee events/festivals/fairs, lovely Cramond beach, and SNOW. Lots of snow.

I am a lucky woman.

September, October madness

WE HAVE MOVED HOUSE! And it’s a beautiful wee flat in the very trendy area of The Shore, in Leith. Some lovely friends were moving to Belfast and looking for tenants, and it’s worked out so well. It’s an extra few minutes on my commute every day, but it is more than made up for by the view of the water, the swans, the ducks, the gorgeous bars and restaurants and the extra space!

I’ve been very busy at work and with the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, so I have let my writing practice slide and have been procrastinating like a star with some fabulous television (Strike, The Crown, and brand new Outlander, Will & Grace, and Broad City!). I’ve also been reading up a storm, cat-sitting, studying Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, voting with a big fat YES online for that ridiculous Australian marriage law survey, attending a meeting of the Richard III society (for a fascinating discussion of Perkin Warbeck), going to an event at Waterstones with MARIAN KEYES (and managed not to cry all over her this time), rejoined the walking group (I used to be learning to run, but I prefer walking!!), and attending a friend’s baby shower (just in time – she went into labour three days later).

We’ve used the last of the ‘summer’ weather to have a BBQ at Leith Links, and two weeks ago we headed down to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders. The Tempest Brewing Co. has an Oktoberfest event, and we were lucky to have a friend from Australia visiting as well. A good day was had by all, including an excellent selection of food trucks and stalls, quality cider and gin, and one of the best cover bands I’ve heard. We also said farewell to Sean’s sister after having her floating around Europe for two months. But we’re going to be in Australia in eight weeks, so it doesn’t feel quite as devastating as the last time we said goodbye!

Finally, the lovely Bec and I took a road trip down south. We stopped in Crosby to visit Belinda & Andrew, as always, lunched in Chester at a BEAUTIFUL restaurant called The Botanist, and then headed to an absolute utopia known as Gladstone’s Library.

My parents had bought me a voucher to stay the night – it is, I believe, the only residential library in the UK. It was clean and comfortable accommodation, but the library itself was simply magnificent. Historic, quiet, beautiful, and enormous. There is a lounge for residents with an open fire, lots of squashy armchairs, and an honesty bar, where you can read or chat or play board games. They have an onsite restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea – you can basically live there full-time and you would never need to leave. They offer scholarships and bursaries, a vibrant events program, and the friendliest staff. I think it’s a magic place and I can’t wait to get back there one day, hopefully for a longer stay!

The next morning after breakfast we jumped in the car and drove deep into Wales. We stopped for photos at Llyn Tegid and headed through the middle of Snowdonia National Park to the seaside town of Barmouth. This was a gorgeous little place, even while covered in mist and a light rain. We went into cosy gift shops, had lunch in a pub, and bought a banoffee pie milkshake for the road. After this, we headed back to Betws-y-coed, a picturesque village I had visited with Marnie and Mum several years ago. Drenched in rain, it was beautiful as ever. We drove back that evening to Belinda & Andrew’s place.

After brunch and a long walk along Crosby Beach to take pics of Antony Gormley’s Another Place, we jumped in the car and drove back to Scotland. It’s always a brilliant feeling crossing the border. It feels like home.

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Oot and aboot

Newcastle – a spontaneous day trip to Seven Stories, Baltic, and The Quayside Market

Abbotsford House – home of Sir Walter Scott, nestled in the beautiful Scottish Borders

The Georgian House – an Edinburgh townhouse beautifully preserved in the heart of the New Town

I had a birthday. Edging ever closer to 30 doesn’t scare me quite as much as it used to. It was not a big celebration, but it was a fun one. And good things are happening in my life (like this) and it makes me excited for more of it.

I hope everyone is well and happy xxx

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!

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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 🙂

Anniversary adventures in London

So I have spent seven years of my life with the massive doofus that is Sean, and I love him to pieces. We wanted to commemorate this somehow so we got some cheap train tickets and went to London for the weekend!

We arrived late, checked into our cheap, slightly dodgy hotel, and headed out for dinner. The Dolphin Pub was delightful – cheap and amazing Thai food (yes, in a British pub), good drinks, nice staff, and unsurprisingly, we ate a little too much.

A walk to digest brought us around Kings Cross, stopping to take the obligatory Platform 9 and 3/4 photo at the station before continuing to Granary Square to watch the fountains. Another drink to cap off the night, and back to our room to sleep.

Dishoom, an amazing Bombay restaurant soon to open in Edinburgh, had been recommended to us by a foodie friend and it did NOT disappoint. The bacon and egg naan was amazing and the chai was perfect. The decor reminded me of the set of Rent, making for an interesting view while dining, and we were besties with the staff by the end of our meal.

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For the rest of the day, we simply wandered. We made our way down to the Tottenham Court/Charing Cross Road area, making pit stops at interesting shops along the way. We bought some cheap tickets for The Woman in Black at the box office and stumbled on a cute little church Christmas Market. The wildly enthusiastic lady out the front was too sweet to refuse – ‘we’ve got the best coffee in London and it’s only 50p!’ – and so we headed in for a lovely cup of tea, some chocolate cake, and a wee poke around the market stalls. I bought some Christmas cards and we got chatting to a lovely couple who’s daughter lives in Aus. We also met Santa and he gave us sweets!! Lucky us!

Already on track for the best day ever, we kept wandering, heading up Regent St before deciding that crowds are rubbish, so we went down to Green Park. We then promptly forgot crowds are rubbish and headed to the Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. This. Was. Insane. It’s a massive theme pop-up theme park made to look like a Bavarian village on steroids. We actually didn’t spend any money – we just wandered around looking at the rides, window shopping at all the market stalls, dodging small children, and smelling the delicious aromas of a million bratwursts, pretzels, churros, chestnuts, burgers, and other food truck fodder. We decided, eventually, to exit, and realised we didn’t know where it was (this thing was enormous). We asked a security guard who looked fearful, replied he didn’t know, and wafted back into the crowd.

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But get out we did, and then we hurried our frozen bodies into a pub for a quick drink to defrost, before braving the cold once again and hurrying back to Soho. We had read about a ramen place on Dean St called Tonkotsu, and it was another gastronomical win for this weekend. Delicious, tender gyoza and an enormous bowl of ramen with a glass of yuzu lemonade – I have missed this!!! So full we could barely walk, we made our way to the theatre for the show.

It was a great show – very scary and suspenseful, though actually not as terrifying as I expected because I had a guy with a head the size of the sun in front of me and he insisted on moving it about at regular intervals so I found myself somewhat distracted when I should have been rigid with terror. They were selling copies of the novel that were signed by the author! Naturally, my library has a new volume.

It was a long walk back to the hotel, but necessary for the ongoing digestion of our massive ramen intake. It rained a little, and London looked pretty in the watery night. I very much enjoy this city.

The next morning we went back to Dishoom for another bacon and egg naan because life is for treating yo’self, and then we hopped on the Tube for a few stops down to Liverpool Street to check out the Old Spitalfields and Brick Lane markets. We walked up and down and all around for the next few hours. I did not have money to spend, but that didn’t stop me buying things anyway (I should have known, I should have known) including some delicious raclette potatoes for lunch, some green tea, and a couple of Christmas present bits and bobs. We found a very ‘Melbourne’ cafe for a quick hot drink, then headed back to Kings Cross, visited the Wellcome Collection for a flying visit to their Bedlam: the asylum and beyond exhibition, then collected our bags and headed to the station.

We had booked a first class ticket home to Edinburgh because they had been so cheap at the time of booking. We found the first class lounge and headed up, feeling like imposters, but when we had found some seats, a lovely lady asked me if I would like a complimentary massage. So I said YES PLEASE and then nearly fell asleep under her magic hands.

We fed and watered ourselves (no charge of course), then found our seats on the train. First class seats are just that extra bit roomier than standard, and it makes all the difference on five-hour train. They came up and down with the trolleys offering all manner of beverages, along with sandwiches, cakes, and crisps that we DIDN’T HAVE TO PAY FOR. My enthusiasm felt somewhat uncultured. We got chatting to the lady across from us, who was on a year-long holiday between jobs as an expat in Dubai, who reminisced about the first-class service twenty years ago. I need to save my pennies in order to travel first-class more. Amazing.

We were home by 11pm, and it’s back to the real world this morning. It’s a cold winter day, but it’s nice to be heading out to work to make some moolah for the next mini-break. Sean is off to Lisbon in a couple of weeks and my parents arrive exactly one month from today! Lots of exciting things to look forward to. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend.