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.

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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.

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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.

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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.