With thanks… Our beautiful week in Glastonbury…

November 29, 2013 at 10:49 am (Uncategorized)

With thanks… Friday November 22… last day in Scotland…

Today I am grateful for fun Harry Potter moments 🙂 We drove along the shores of Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil, which was so beautiful, all shining mirror calm surface and sunshine and autumn leaves, to Glenfinnan Viaduct, the awesome old bridge that the Hogwarts Express goes over, and Harry and Ron fly their car through…

And I’m grateful for the pretty drive from Fort William to Moffat, along many gorgeous lochs, and through snow-covered mountains, stopping for a sandwich and a pot of tea at Orchy Bridge, laughing as the temperature dropped to zero degrees, and driving through Aberfoyle – the famous faery town – just before sunset. It was amazing, approaching the town it was all gnarled old trees that looked like little old men crossed with the darker Brian Froud fae folk, which lit up into a beautiful faery forest when the sun shone on the autumn coloured leaves, but looked altogether more dark and unwelcoming when she sun hid behind a cloud. Aberfoyle was gorgeous, all old stone building and tea rooms and medieval charm, and it was cool to drive past Doon Hill (Reverend Kirk’s reputed faery hill), although unfortunately night was pressing in by then – that spooky liminal time – and we had to press on, manoeuvring our way through Glasgow and heading down to Moffat and a cute B&B… Funnily enough, I chose Moffat because of its location, somewhere we could easily get to from Fort William, but far enough south that our drive the next day to Glastonbury wouldn’t be too arduous – but the owners of our cottages in both Orkney and the Outer Hebrides love it there, and had been recently, the first to see friends I think, and the second because of the touching memorial there both to the Lockerbie victims and the men of Lewis and other Scottish places who died in the wars.

I’m not so grateful for the shocking migraine I woke up with at 2am, which wouldn’t budge all day, despite lots of painkillers, and made everything  harder to deal with. Nor for the tomato poisoning at an Indian restaurant (or their surprising rudeness). It stopped me doing Jillian yoga, and kept me up half the night with stabbing tummy pains and mark two of the all-day migraine – but it’s a footnote, not my whole day, and I’ll focus only on the fun stuff…

 

With thanks… Saturday November 23… Scotland to Glastonbury…

Tonight I am grateful that we crossed through the mists into Glastonbury, such a magical place for us both… It was so beautiful, driving towards the town as the sun was preparing to set, the sky all pink and gold, mists shrouding the valleys, and the Tor becoming visible when we were still quite far away, lit up against a pink that perfectly matched the cover of A Magical Journey. We found our little cottage while it was still light, then wandered up the High Street to buy groceries (I was so happy to find sprouts for my salad for the first time on our England/Scotland travels). It was gorgeous, all Christmasy and festive, with decorations and trees and lights, and the air chilly against the fading late sunset glow. Then we settled down with cups of tea and cookies to watch The Day of the Doctor, the special 50th anniversary show for Doctor Who, which was so amazing and sweet and touching and happy/sad…

Today I’m also glad I got up early to do Jillian yoga before our last Scottish B&B brekkie, and grateful for the new Michael Monroe CD, and a Terrorvision best of I bought (I was reminded of them and how much I liked them while driving past Bradford and Leeds on the way north, as they were from there). It was a long drive today, from Scotland into the top of England then almost to the bottom, but we turned up the music and stopped here and there for chai (we’re not fond of Costa coffee, but they do great chai), and made it to our destination just in time to see the sky aflame. And now I’m looking forward to spending our last five days here, climbing the Tor, hanging out at Chalice Well Gardens, and catching up on my novel writing…

 

With thanks… Sunday November 24… NaNoWriMo – 3100 words… Glastonbury…

Today I am grateful for a lazy day, and rare time that I chose to curl up on the couch and read a book rather than madly writing. I’ve been rationing myself on reading, since I still have a way to go to catch up on my own novel, but today I decided I could relax for a little while – and that we kind of needed to. I’ve LOVED every single thing we’ve seen and done while on this journey, but it has been a little on the frantic side. So it was bliss to decide to just chill out today, and soak up the Glastonbury vibes from our little cottage 🙂

So I’m grateful for a fun day with Cutes, making each other cups of tea, having a few choc chip cookies, reading a bit of online news together, and finally working out how to hook up the dvd player…

And I’m glad that I got motivated in the afternoon – I did Jillian yoga level two, then half of level one just to add a few more sequences – then after grocery shopping and town wandering, dinner and Green Lantern (such a random collection on dvds in the cottage, but it was pretty cool), I sat down and wrote more than three thousand words before falling into bed… I’m getting there!

 

With thanks… Monday November 25… NaNowriMo – 7000 words… Glastonbury…

Today I am grateful for the beauty of the Tor, and the joy of climbing it and sitting at the summit, and the incredible views off in every direction – such a pretty and green and gentle landscape, where we both feel so at home and at peace… It’s the one place of everywhere we’ve been that Juz has felt a real connection to, he respects the history and the awe-inspiring nature of all the stones and cairns and mountains and Neolithic villages we’ve seen, but the place he really feels the energy and the magic is here, in my favourite place, the place where we came on our honeymoon and he surprised himself by falling in love with it. And it was so beautiful to see it weaving its way around him again – and so cute to see a raven walking up the path in front of him, hopping up the steps rather than flying, keeping to his pace, as if guiding him into the heart of the mystery. 

We sat up there for a while, just soaking it all in, then we drank some water from the White Spring, and wandered around town again too, and hung out in a café for a while, and I fell in love with a dress and Juz bought it for me for Christmas 🙂 And I ate raspberries and we drank tea and chilled out and just felt happy to be alive!

I’m glad too that I set my alarm and got up early and started writing – nothing like an impending deadline to get me motivated and get me focused 🙂 I wrote close to three thousand words before brekkie and Jillian yoga, then another thousand odd in the afternoon, then another few thousand working into the night. So I am grateful to Juz for his patience and encouragement, and that we still got to do lots together – it’s amazing how focused I can be when I have to be!

 

With thanks… Tuesday November 26… NaNoWriMo – 2100 words… Glastonbury…

Today I am so so grateful to a dear friend for coming down from Stratford to spend the day with us. We had a beautiful afternoon, meeting for lunch after the Well, then coming back to our place and drinking tea and talking and sharing and marvelling at friendship despite distance. So many beautiful moments, and such simple ones, just enjoying each other’s company, and talking, and drinking tea and eating cookies… It was so sad to say goodbye at the end of the night, but so wonderful to have shared some more precious moments…

And I’m glad I set the alarm again, and got up early to write just over two thousand words before I did Jillian yoga then wandered around town with Juz before meeting our friend. I was feeling more tired, less inspired by late tonight, so was happy I’d written enough in the morning to be happy with for my daily word count. I’m nearly there! It has been a bit harder than I anticipated, doing NaNoWriMo while travelling, partly because there were quite  few days where I didn’t write a single word, so the days when I did required far more words to keep up. But I always love a challenge, and I honestly don’t feel that I’ve missed out on anything because I was writing. And I think some of my travels have woven themselves into my tale…

 

With thanks… Wednesday November 27… NaNoWriMo – 5000 words… Glastonbury…

Today I am grateful for time at Chalice Well, sitting by the Well, walking through the gardens, admiring the beauty of the grounds in the winter – new colours, less flowers, but still just as much magic. The sky was a bit grey, but it just seemed to make everything even more vivid than usual. So peaceful and nurturing…

And I’m grateful to Juz for a very cute present. When we got to the Well at the back of the gardens, there was a little black jewellery box sitting on the stones around the lid. I figured maybe someone had left it there as an offering to the spirits of the Well, so I didn’t move it. But it turns out it was the beautiful necklace I’d really loved in one of the Glastonbury shops – a cute sneaky present for me from Juz.

I got up early and wrote two thousand words (NaNoWriMo is coming to an end, and I’m nearly there!), then did Jillian yoga, then we headed out for lunch in a sweet café, then wandered around town before going to the gardens. Then we had a lovely night at home in our little cottage, before I wrote another three thousand words… We’re sad that tomorrow is our last day, but we’ve had such an awesome time…

 

With thanks… Thursday November 28… Avebury and Stonehenge, and last night in Glastonbury…

Tonight I am grateful for our night-time walk up the Tor, which was so beautiful. We didn’t get back from our day-time adventure until long after sunset, but we figured we couldn’t leave without one last climb. I was a bit nervous (it would have sucked to fall over and break my leg, since we have to drive back to London early tomorrow, and I am clumsy), but I really wanted to do it. It was cool walking along the ivy-covered faery forest walkway to the base, then it all opened out in front of us, and there was just enough of a glow to make our way up the slopes to the misty top. So beautiful.

And I’m grateful for our little adventure to Stonehenge and Avebury today, and so happy that they are both still so amazingly impressive and awe-inspiring, even when we’ve been so many times in the past. And even when it was just a normal visit to the Henge, walking around the outside with everyone else rather than inside the circle, the stones were still beautiful, still so imposing. It was a bit odd getting there – they’re building the new visitor centre, a long way from the stones, so that eventually they can close down the road that runs right past them, and let them have a bit more space to breathe. It looks like it might take a while though 🙂 And Avebury was still gorgeous too. The sky was grey, but it just gave the whole place a more mysterious air. Such a pretty drive too, all green fields and gentle slopes…

And now home to our little cottage for our last night in Glastonbury. We’re sad to be heading home, but we’ll be back again one day… And we’re so grateful for our magical journey, for all the amazing things we’ve seen and the cool things we’ve experienced over the last month, for time together, away from work and stuff, for time with a sweet friend, for scones and cups of tea, and for working out every day even though we were on holiday. And I’m happy that I managed to write my fifty thousand words for NaNoWriMo. It was a bit of a struggle (although that’s kind of the point), but I was determined…  

 

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With thanks… the Western Isles to the Highlands…

November 24, 2013 at 1:33 pm (Uncategorized)

With thanks… Monday November 18… NaNoWriMo – 1400 words… The Western Isles…

Today I am grateful for awesome adventures and strange yet stunning landscapes…

After Bob Harper yoga we headed into Stornoway, the main town on the Isle of Lewis, and dropped off our washing (oh the bliss of a full service laundromat, after the frustrations of Kirkwall), then wandered around in the sunshine for an hour. It’s a pretty little town, on the harbour, with a castle overlooking things, an amazing forest the lady of the manor planted in the 1800s, and colourful buildings and sweet birds. We were heading to an internet café when we looked behind us – and realised a crazy black storm cloud was fast approaching, blotting out the sun and threatening to pelt us with rain. The contrasts here are amazing. We ran to the café and got there just in time – it started hailing like crazy seconds later. It was really nice to chill out for a while though, have an early lunch, drink coffee and check emails, then read for a bit while Juz checked his. Then the rain cleared and the blue skies returned, so we headed off… As we got close to Callanish we were marvelling at the blue skies on one side of the road and black on the other – then noticed a strange white thing that we were driving towards. It was like a special effect from a movie, a huge wall of white, taller and wider than we could comprehend. It was a bit freaky to be honest, and I was glad to see that a local car was driving into it rather than fleeing it, yet it was fascinating too, and we nervously continued – and drove into the wall of white, which turned out to be a rather intense hail storm. The temperature dropped to one degree, which was also a little daunting, but then it passed too, and the skies cleared again… We drove out to Uig, on the western side of the island, which was jaw droppingly beautiful and dramatic. Some of the landscapes here are almost alien, so different from Australia, and so strange, yet so amazing. I don’t think any of our photos will do it justice, but they will remind us at least of the incredible things we have seen here. The road was mostly one-laned, with passing places interspersed, which gave us the chance to jump out to take pictures fairly often, but was a little harrowing at times. We saw the sun begin its descent into the ocean, then headed back, hoping to see the full moon rise over Callanish, but alas, the rain clouds thwarted us again 😦

We headed back to our cottage for a quiet night in – and I was a bit naughty and watched a Doctor Who special instead of starting my NaNoWriMo-ing, so I’m off to do that now…

 

With thanks… Tuesday November 19… NaNoWriMo – 3600 word… The Western Isles…

Oh my gosh, best day ever! I got up early to work out – but looked out the window and saw that it had snowed! The closest I’ve ever been to snow was taking pics of the mountains on the drive up to Scotland, so I was crazy excited. I pulled on some clothes over my gym gear and ran outside to play in it. The first hints of sunrise colour were appearing in the sky above our little village’s beach, and the gorgeous full moon was sinking in the west, so I figured… snow… stones… sunrise… moonset. We jumped in the car and rushed (carefully though, as the roads were icy, and after a few pots full of hot water to get the snow off the windscreen – and yes, it was minus 1 degrees) over to Callanish. And it was amazing. Definitely my best morning ever. We stopped a couple of times on the way there to take snow pictures – snow on trees and little bridges, snow on fields, me making the world’s tiniest snowball , some adorable bunnies on the path up to the main Callanish circle – but the stones were breathtaking. They were standing there in a field of white, the sun slowly starting to rise behind them, and the sky all shades of pink-gold-lilac. I got some amazing photos , but even better was being there so early, all alone, feeling like we were the only two people in the world. It was so quiet. So beautiful. So perfect. Juz went for a wander, chatting to sheep and looking for bunnies, and left me there on my own to meander between the stones, soak up the atmosphere, breathe in the air of peace and history and connection to the earth and the stones. So so beautiful. Sadly the setting moon was hidden by clouds, but I had snow! And sunrise! So I was more than happy.

Then we went back to Callanish 2, which we’d missed cos of rain the other day, and it was cool too – five stones remain in this circle, which sits between the main complex and Callanish 3, and it was so pretty in the snow and the sunshine. It was a precipitous little path to them, with a few boggy areas to watch out for, but it was so much fun crunching across the snowy fields, avoiding water-logged bits and the big pools of frozen slushy water topped with a crust of ice (which looked like the icy pool Harry dived into to get the sword of Gryffindor, except much smaller – and let me just say I don’t think I would have dived in, sword or no sword)… Then we walked up to Callanish 3, to see it in the snow, and it was gorgeous too. There are eight stones remaining in its outer circle, and four in its inner one, and it’s awesome how each of the sites can easily see the other ones, and they’re located so beautifully around the lochs (with cute sheep grazing in their shadows)… Then we went to the Visitor Centre, which was finally open, to have brekkie (scones and tea for me, hee hee. Which I figure was okay cos it was breakfast 🙂 And I skipped the jam and cream), then go through the interpretive centre and read up on the circles and the surrounding ritual landscape, and watch the little film about them.

After that we went to another stone circle nearby, Garynahine, which also had five stones left standing, and looked so awesome as we crunched up the hill through the snow to it. It was constructed within a protective kind of ditch thing, with a wet, boggy centre (as I discovered as I leapt down into it, ha ha)… Then we headed back home – and I was still so excited about the snow blanketing everything. And the red stag we saw. And the beauty of the mountains mist-wreathed in the distance. We took the one-lane track back to Stornoway – and stopped at one passing place to build a little snowman, which was very cute, and so much fun. We went through our little village and continued a bit further north, past a beautifully creepy snow-covered graveyard (which reminded us of Godrics Hollow when Harry and Hermione visited it on Christmas Eve), then came back to our little cottage for lunch – just as the rain started. Perfect timing again! Then I rugged up and went and sat in the little glass-walled conservatory, which overlooks the snow-covered graveyard, and did some more NaNoWriMo writing – 2600 then, plus another thousand before bed – I’ve passed the halfway mark, and am confident that with a few more solid sessions I’ll make it to the finish line just in time. Hooray! It’s stormy outside now, with howling winds and intermittent rain – so nice to be all cosy and warm in the sweet cottage. We had a lovely night – had pondered going in to Stornoway for dinner, but ended up preferring to just stay home and have toasted cheesies and watch Law & Order, before Juz read and I kept writing… And nothing could have topped our awesome morning anyway 🙂

 

With thanks… Wednesday November 20… NaNoWriMo – 3000 words… The Western Isles to Skye…

Tonight I am sitting at the old-fashioned writing desk in a cute old hotel with a huge four-poster bed, grateful that we made our last ferry journey without feeling ill 🙂 It was a stormy night around Stornoway last night, close to gale force winds, with a threatening sky overhead. We packed up (after Jillian yoga), quite sad to be leaving beautiful Lewis. The cottage owner came over to farewell us, and apologised for the terrible weather – but we honestly loved every minute of our time here, wind and rain and (especially) snow and all. It was a bit of a worry though when we couldn’t open the car door because the wind was so crazy. We headed into town for a last coffee and a quick email check, then slowly made our way down to the Isle of Harris (which is not in fact another island, just another part of Lewis, but it has its own name and council and stuff), stopping off for a few last pics on the way, and making it to Tarbert in plenty of time to catch the ferry to Uig in Skye. We had lunch and drank tea, then waited in the car ferry line – I wrote five hundred words while we sat there, then another  fifteen hundred on the ferry (so happy I didn’t feel sick, as we didn’t have enough pills left for both of us). Sadly it was dark by the time we docked, so we couldn’t see any of Skye as we drove down the peninsula and found our sweet hotel. It’s a bit posh (we feel a bit like imposters), although cheaper than some of our B&Bs, and has lots of cosy lounges and stuff. We had dinner downstairs, then I wrote another thousand words before bed. A very productive writing day, which has kept me on track. Hooray!

 

With thanks… Thursday November 21… NaNoWriMo – 1000 words… Isle of Skye…

Today I am grateful for more snow! After yoga and brekkie we hit the road – and discovered that Skye is also covered in snow-topped mountains! Juz had wanted to see sea cliffs and things, so I drove up to the Old Man of Storr, which kinda looked like one in mini photos – but ended up being part of a mountain range, the tallest on the island. So when we got there and saw people walking towards it, we thought why not have a look – and ended up climbing a snow-covered mountain. (Thank goddess again, for our boots, and our beanies and gloves!). We kept saying we’d just climb to the next bit, but we always wondered what would be over the next little ridge, and went a bit further. There was so much snow the higher we got – I was so tempted to stop and make a big snowman 🙂 After about an hour, and only a couple of stumbles, we made it to the Old Man – and snow started falling on us! Only a tiny bit, but still, I’ve been in the snow now! It was so beautiful, and not even especially cold (unprepared as we were for the climb, I was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt, thin jacket, long velvet skirt (not the most practical thing, I admit) and tights… I didn’t have any water with me either, so had to slurp a bit of snow…).

Once we made our way back down we drove back to Port Righ, a gorgeous little town of coloured buildings, for lunch, then headed for the Bridge of Skye and a return to the Highlands. We stopped at Eilan Donan castle, another one the makers of Brave visited for research for Merida’s castle – and I could definitely picture her tearing down the cobblestone causeway bridge on her horse Angus. Dubbed the “most romantic castle in Scotland”, it really was pretty. Then we continued on to Fort William, at the base of Ben Nevis, for dinner in a cute pub, and a night in a little B&B hotel. And now to do some NaNoWriMo-ing… 

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With thanks… Orkney to the Western Isles…

November 19, 2013 at 2:56 am (Uncategorized)

With thanks… Monday November 11… NaNoWriMo – 1295 words… Orkney…

Today I am grateful for lying in bed for a while, listening to the waves lap around our little pier. So soothing, and gentle after last night’s wind.

We had a slow start to the morning (stupid migraine, sigh), but after painkillers and a little more sleep I got up and did Jillian yoga, then the sun came out again, and we set off for another adventure. We headed to the main town of Kirkwall first, to the laundromat (oddly enough most places we’ve stayed at have had a washing machine but no dryer, and we didn’t fancy risking all our clothes to the strength of pegs versus the Orkney winds). We explored the town for a bit as our clothes washed – there’s a pretty old cathedral, and a cute little harbour, and lots of narrow winding streets that seem like they’re just for pedestrians, but are in fact for cars. (It does my head in driving in the towns here, always terrified there’ll be another car coming in the opposite direction, and nowhere to pull over to let them pass – there’s been lots of crossing of fingers so far…). Then we had lunch in a cute café while the clothes dried, then wandered a little more. We were going to head down to the Tomb of the Eagles, but by the time our washing was done it was after 2pm, and there wasn’t a lot of light left in the day (such a strange thing to try to get our heads around!). So we headed back towards Stromness – and stopped off at Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn, an awesome old burial chamber covered with a huge grassy dome. It was a little way up the hill, so we set out, a little nervous about the steep muddy path – and so grateful for our boots, even though they look a little beaten up and muddy at the moment. It looked like there was a stone circle just above the cairn on the hill, but as we got closer we realised they were just strange stacks of rocks. But the tomb didn’t disappoint. It’s not closed off to the public like Maeshowe, which requires that you take the official tour, and which you aren’t allowed to take photos inside. This one you can go inside if you dare – there’s a torch in a little wooden box outside – and you can take as many pics as you like. The entrance tunnel is tiny though, low and narrow, and pretty long – you have to literally crawl along it in some bits to get inside, and the torch light is pretty feeble. I did pause for a moment before going in, and had to summon my courage, but I figured I’d come all this way, halfway around the world, so I may as well do it. I did send a quiet thanks to Jillian and Kenta for all the duck walking and similar in Body Revolution – it was hard to get through the tunnel, and I banged up my left knee and right elbow pretty hard, and was filthy dirty by the time I emerged back into the light, cos there was a bit of the tunnel where I had to get down on my hands and knees (the irony of having just come from the laundromat did amuse me for a moment). But it was worth it, and all part of the fun (right!?)… At the end of the tunnel I almost turned back, because the last little bit was even lower, and harder to get through, but finally I made it inside, and could stand up, and look around. There are four side chambers built into it, L shaped like Maeshowe, but it’s not as large or elaborate as that one. They found the remains of eight humans inside it when this tomb was discovered, along with the bones of several dogs, which has made archaeologists speculate on its totemic significance. And yes, it was kind of creepy being inside, but also really amazing. It was built around 3000BCE, which blows my mind. And the whole having to climb inside it yourself, in the dark, without a guide, made it even more awesome 🙂

By the time we got back down to the car it was close to dark, so we headed back to our little cottage to light the fire (Juz has made two valiant efforts with the open fire so far), and make dinner (salad again, hooray!), then drink tea and eat shortbread, before I did a little more NaNoWriMo-ing…

 

With thanks… Tuesday November 12… NaNoWriMo – 2500 words… Orkney…

Today I’m grateful for another magical day in Orkney (not so much the nasty migraine that stuck with me all day, despite a ton of painkillers, and made everything harder than it should be, but I refused to let it ruin my day)… I did Tapout while Juz did Jillian yoga, then we visited Skara Brae, an amazing archaeological site that an Aussie archaeologist, Gordon Childe, worked on in the 1920s and 30s. It’s the remains of a village that was built in 3100BCE – so it’s older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids – and it was so awesome to see it, right there by the ocean (although the ocean was further away back when it was built), and picture how it would have looked, since there’s so much more of it than at Barnhouse, and it was lots of fun to then visit the reconstruction of one of the houses back at the visitor centre, to walk inside and see where the beds were, how high the roof was, how cold it would have been in there… and kind of mind-blowing, how well they constructed things back then. Skara Brae is part of the Neolithic Heart of Orkney, along with the Ring of Brodgar stone circle and the Stones of Stenness, and Maeshowe Burial Chamber, and the newly discovered Ness of Brodgar, which is revolutionising the way archaeologists are seeing all the monuments of the Neolithic Age.

Then we headed north, up to the Bough of Birsay, which is a little island you can walk across to at low tide. Which it most certainly was not when we got there! There were gale force winds that we could barely walk around the car to take a photo in, and the sea was really stormy, which was fascinating in its own way. The sun came out when we got to the ruins of the earl’s palace, which was pretty cool, but when we got to a place called Yesabny, which on a calm day has beautiful cliffs and sea stacks, the sky turned black, the rain poured down, and the waves were flinging so much water up on us that we couldn’t get out of the car. But we liked seeing some real Scottish winter weather 🙂

I’ve also loved the moon while I’ve been here – it looks huge, and seems brighter than usual, not sure why. It was a gorgeous smiling golden crescent in Edinburgh, but up in Orkney it’s been a golden half, first quarter moon, so vivid in the skies up here, peeking out from clouds. And it will be full when we’re in the Outer Hebrides – hope we get to see some of it there, sailing over the lochs, or shining down on the Callanish Stone Circle. But here it is beautiful too…

Tonight I told myself I couldn’t go to bed until I’d reached 10,000 NaNoWriMo words… Which I just did, phew – 2500 today. Still behind, but catching up… Sweet dreams from Scotland! xxNeolithic Heart of Orkney, along with the Ring of Brodgar stone circle and the Stones of Stenness, which we visited the other day, and Maeshowe, an incredible burial chamber you can go inside… which was almost topped by the one we visited yesterday – no guide or tour – I crawled along the tiny narrow tunnel to get inside it, with the faint light of the torch left in a little box outside for anyone who’s brave enough to enter. It was a struggle to make myself go in – the tunnel is so short and narrow – and I emerged filthy dirty, from literally crawling, but it was so cool… And then tonight I told myself I couldn’t go to bed until I’d reached 10,000 NaNoWriMo words… Which I just did, phew – 2500 today. Still behind, but catching up… Sweet dreams from Scotland! xxrt of the Neolithic Heart of Orkney, along with the Ring of Brodgar stone circle and the Stones of Stenness, which we visited the other day, and Maeshowe, an incredible burial chamber you can go inside… which was almost topped by the one we visited yesterday – no guide or tour – I crawled along the tiny narrow tunnel to get inside it, with the faint light of the torch left in a little box outside for anyone who’s brave enough to enter. It was a struggle to make myself go in – the tunnel is so short and narrow – and I emerged filthy dirty, from literally crawling, but it was so cool… And then tonight I told myself I couldn’t go to bed until I’d reached 10,000 NaNoWriMo words… Which I just did, phew – 2500 today. Still behind, but catching up… Sweet dreams from Scotland! xxrt of the Neolithic Heart of Orkney, along with the Ring of Brodgar stone circle and the Stones of Stenness, which we visited the other day, and Maeshowe, an incredible burial chamber you can go inside… which was almost topped by the one we visited yesterday – no guide or tour – I crawled along the tiny narrow tunnel to get inside it, with the faint light of the torch left in a little box outside for anyone who’s brave enough to enter. It was a struggle to make myself go in – the tunnel is so short and narrow – and I emerged filthy dirty, from literally crawling, but it was so cool… And then tonight I told myself I couldn’t go to bed until I’d reached 10,000 NaNoWriMo words… Which I just did, phew – 2500 today. Still behind, but catching up… Sweet dreams from Scotland! xxrt of the Neolithic Heart of Orkney, along with the Ring of Brodgar stone circle and the Stones of Stenness, which we visited the other day, and Maeshowe, an incredible burial chamber you can go inside… which was almost topped by the one we visited yesterday – no guide or tour – I crawled along the tiny narrow tunnel to get inside it, with the faint light of the torch left in a little box outside for anyone who’s brave enough to enter. It was a struggle to make myself go in – the tunnel is so short and narrow – and I emerged filthy dirty, from literally crawling, but it was so cool… And then tonight I told myself I couldn’t go to bed until I’d reached 10,000 NaNoWriMo words… Which I just did, phew – 2500 today. Still behind, but catching up… Sweet dreams from Scotland! xx

 

With thanks… Wednesday November 13… NaNoWriMo – 1100 words… Orkney…

Today I’m grateful for another awesome day. After our Jillian yoga we headed out to the Stones of Stenness for a ranger tour. It was just the two of us in the biting cold wind, and the ranger, Sandra, who knows so much about the site, and about the whole Neolithic Heart of Orkney World Heritage Site, so it was so cool to have her show us around and talk about it all. We started down at the Barnhouse Neolithic Village, and she explained about their building techniques, what the archaeologists think would have been the purpose of each house – quite different to Skara Brae, as there is more differentiation in the size and status of the buildings. They think it was the people living here that raised the Stones of Stenness, and probably the Ring of Brodgar too – and it’s all part of the amazing area, including Maeshowe, which is right nearby as well as the newly discovered Ness of Brodgar, which they are starting to excavate, and which has heralded so many amazing new discoveries, and which is casting new light on all the monuments of Orkney. Up at the Stones of Stenness she talked more about the people of that time, and what they may have believed spiritually – lots of emphasis on the ancestors and preparing for the afterlife, and one of the buildings nearby had bones included in the foundations of the building, as though they were keeping their family with them. I got some beautiful pics of Maeshowe outlined by two of the stones – there are so many cool alignments here, matching up to each other.  By the end of our hour with her though it was really really cold 🙂

Then we headed across the island and down, into East Mainland, then further down to South Ronaldsy Island. We passed the Italian Church on the way, which has a beautiful story attached, of Italian prisoners of war building it from scrap metal during their internment. Then we finally got to the bottom of the island, to the Tomb of the Eagles. It’s another amazing burial chamber, Neolithic, which a farmer discovered on his land in the 1950s, and excavated. There was a great visitor centre, where we started, which had a lot of the things he found – skulls, pottery, bones, carvings, tools, jewellery etc – and we got lots of background on the tomb as well as the Bronze Age building they found close by. It was on the way to the tomb, and was pretty cool too. The mile long walk in the absolutely freezing wind was a bit of a challenge – but we’re never ones to shirk from a challenge, ha ha, so we kept on going, admiring the dramatic cliffs on the way. When we got to the tomb the entrance tunnel was as low and narrow as Cuween’s, but they had a kind of skateboard thing that you could lie down on, and drag yourself down the tunnel and into the tomb. It was pretty cool inside, awesome stone work, and three small chambers coming off the main chamber that were filled with skulls when the tomb was discovered, plus two end sections where the rest of the bones were. Then we battled the wind on our way back, then continued around the cliffs to the seal colony – and there were heaps of baby seals, which were so cute. They were mostly all with their mums, some of them being patted. A few of the mums looked up at us with their big eyes. So sweet. Then we headed back to Kirkwall for a late lunch, then back to our little cottage before going over for an elderflower juice with the couple who are renting the cottage to us.

I’m also very grateful for our boots, mud-caked though they are, because we would have had very cold, very wet feet if we just had our sneakers. And I’m grateful that, on a whim, I bought myself boots the day before we left on this trip, and glad I could buy Juz some (early Christmas present) in Birmingham. Orkney might have been a little on the miserable side without them…

And now to do some NaNoWriMo-ing before bed…

 

With thanks… Thursday November 14… NaNoWriMo – 1441 words… Orkney…

Today I am grateful for a magical (if a little on the freezing side) last day in Orkney. We really don’t want to leave in the morning, it’s been so amazing, but there are new adventures ahead, so I can’t be too sad…

This morning after Jillian yoga (level two), we wandered around Stromness, exploring the little village we’re staying in, and marvelling again at the narrowness of the main street, which looks like a pedestrian path (was a bit nerve-wracking every time I had to drive along it). It’s a pretty little town, on the harbour, with views out over the hills of nearby island Hoy. (Interestingly, Orkney was once one big island, before the last Ice Age and its upheavals broke it apart into seventy islands (not all of them inhabited). Then we headed down to Ophir to the Earl’s Bu, the remains of a Norse homestead once inhabited by some of the Norse Earls who were so important in Orkney’s history, and the ruins of the Round Kirk next to it, Scotland’s only circular medieval church, circa the twelfth century. Then we drove back to the Brogdar area, and visited the Unstan Cairn, which was very cool. It seemed like we were driving up someone’s driveway, and we kind of were – here lots of farmers have amazing Neolithic monuments in their garden or paddock, and are respectful of them, and allow access to those who want to visit them. This one had a slightly higher entrance tunnel than some others – we only had to crouch down to walk into the tomb, rather than crawl on our hands and knees. It was excavated in 1884, and lots of pots were found in it, as well as some skeletons. It has a new roof with a small skylight, so it’s not as spooky as some of the others 🙂

We had lunch at the Standing Stones Hotel, overlooking the loch and the stones, then went up to the Ring of Brodgar for the talk by Sandra from Historic Scotland. It was awesome to visit the stones with her, even though we spent a fair bit of time there the other day. She walked us around the circle and past the burial mounds, explaining all the information and theories they have at the moment, and approaching the circle the way they believe it was done in Neolithic times, as well as explaining its place within the greater sacred area. It was so fascinating, and added so much to our trip, and she was so lovely and knowledgeable, and so funny, and also very honest about what they don’t know about the sites – while being excited about the ongoing discoveries that are being made every year here, which adds to their understanding of the past. It was SOOO cold though – by the end of our time with her and a bit more time alone there with the stones, my lips had turned blue, and I was ready to admit that yes, it was frickin’ cold! So we headed back to the hotel for hot tea, to warm up our hands and unfreeze our faces. It’s kinda funny, when our faces go numb and it’s hard to speak. The rest of us is warm, with beanies and gloves and scarves and layers and jackets, but there’s not much we can do about our faces! Still, it’s all part of the adventure 🙂

We headed up the east coast once we’d thawed out, to the Broch of Gurness (a ness is a projecting coastline: a section of coastline that projects into the sea – it’s been bugging us all week, so I finally looked it up 🙂 ), Orkney’s best preserved broch, dating from the first century BCE, and occupied by both the Picts and the Vikings – it’s fascinating, the Norse history here, so different to the Celtic influence in the Western Isles, where we head to next… We didn’t stay long though, cos interesting though it was, it’s on the ocean, and the wind was crazy cold, and my lips started turning blue again, so we headed back to our cute little cottage for our last night. I wandered through the town again late at night, when it was dark and so calm, with no cold wind, and really pretty. And now here I am, feeling sad about leaving, but so happy that we had this precious time here – and off to do some NaNoWriMo-ing before bed, then our super-early ferry in the morning…

 

With thanks… Friday November 15… NaNoWriMo – 2500 words… Orkney to Ullapool…

Today I am grateful for beautiful views and dramatic coastlines and breathtaking lochs next to sweeping mountains. Not so grateful for the 6am ferry from Orkney back to the mainland, which made us both really ill. Note to self, don’t drink orange juice on stormy seas. Most of the passengers seemed fine, eating away at their sausages, bacon and eggs while the boat dropped over waves like a rollercoaster. Us, not so much. But we were back on dry land after 90 minutes of hell, and settled back down to enjoy the beautiful drive west across the very top of Scotland, then down the west coast to Ullapool for our ferry (um, yeah, eek!) tomorrow morning to the Outer Hebrides. It was a long journey today – the scenic route is one-laned for much of it, so there was quite a bit of me pulling over in the passing spots for people to overtake me, and lots of stopping for photos. It was rainy for a fair bit of it – not too heavy though – but still so beautiful.

We stopped off in Durness, near the most north-westerly Scottish point, for lunch in a cute little pub, and got to Ullapool in the late afternoon (three o’clock, but practically nightfall here, ha ha), and went to a little tea house for a cuppa, then had a little wander around the harbour – it’s a sweet little town – then did our Jillian yoga before dinner. Am proud of us, that we did it despite getting no sleep last night and being violently ill all morning 🙂 Then we went down for dinner in the little hotel where we’re staying, before I came back upstairs to do some NaNoWriMo-ing… 2500 words – still behind, but catching up! Poor Carlie is having a harrowing time at the moment though…

 

With thanks… Saturday November 16… NaNoW0riMo – 3250 words… Outer Hebrides…

Today I am grateful for our beautiful cottage in the Western Isles, on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides…

We got the morning ferry over from Ullapool – and thanks to anti-nausea tablets taken last night and this morning, we had no problems this time. I even wrote 2770 words of my novel, hooray!

We got to Stornoway, a sweet little harbour town that looked so beautiful in the sudden sunshine, at half past one, and the guy who lets our cottage met us and we followed him here, to a tiny village just north of Stornoway. It’s a traditional Hebridian house, two up and two down, which he bought as a gutted ruin and rebuilt when he retired from teaching. We settled in, had some lunch, then went on a drive around the island. We were intending to go straight to Callanish, where the stone circles and alignments are, but my very quick glance at the map meant we went further than intended – disappointing in some ways, but each twist and turn of the road brought a beautiful new landscape, from heather-clad hills and cute sheep to stunning lochs with mountains in the distance. The sky was amazing, the sun setting in the west, and the almost-full moon rising in the east, bigger and more golden than I’ve seen it in ages. There were occasional brief showers, but then they would clear, and a new vista would emerge. We found our way to the stone circle after nightfall, and started up the hill to visit them, thinking how magical they would look under the moonlight – but there was a bog or two on the path, and having promised Juz I would not lead him into any bogs this trip, we decided to come back tomorrow.  

So we headed home and I did a Jillian cardio workout while Juz did yoga, both so happy to have the room to stretch out, reach above our heads and move around. We loved our cosy little Orkney cottage, but we had to modify the sun salutes because the roof was so low 🙂 Then I made a big salad, and we worked out how to turn on the heaters, and now I’m off to do a little more NaNoWriMo-ing before bed (an extra 500 words). I’m suddenly not sure whether Carlie’s journey should be quite as harrowing as I’d planned though… Interesting!

 

With thanks… Sunday November 17… NaNoWriMo – 2200 words… The Western Isles… Outer Hebrides…

Today I am grateful for rainbows and stone circles and fun despite the intermittent rain…

After Jillian yoga and yoghurt, fresh raspberries and sunflower seeds (I was so excited to finally find them in the supermarket!), we headed out for the day, admiring the pretty beach where we are, and the blue skies, and the war memorial that looks over the town (and looks a little like Rapunzel’s tower). More men from the Isle of Lewis died per head of population than any other place during the first world war, which had a huge impact on the Hebrides, even today… It’s a beautiful memorial, with a stone circle with names inscribed on the stones, overlooked by a grey tower that has the names inside as well. A touching blend of new and old…

Then we made our way to the stones. We started at Achmore Circle, up on a hill with beautiful views, although sadly most of the stones are now lying down. But you can still see the slabs of rock where they used to stand, and there are alignments and sight lines to the monuments at Callanish. The next one, driving north, is Callanish 3, a cute stone circle up on another hill (and past a bog or two – it was an adventure reaching it).  

Climbing towards it the sun was blazing down, turning them to dark silhouettes against the radiant blue sky, but by the time we got to the top, dark clouds were closing in. We could see Callanish 2 at the bottom of the hill, near a majestic old ruin, but after we’d spent some time at the first one, we decided to head back cos the rain was coming. It started as we were leaving, so we ended up running down the hill, almost upended at the bog, but making it to the car before it really pelted down. It stopped as quickly as it started though, and left the most amazingly vivid rainbow I’ve ever seen – it was so incredibly bright, and was a double no less. Truly breathtaking. Then we headed for Callanish 1, the main monument, and it was stunning. Possibly my favourite stone circle ever, which is saying something. We spent a while there, marvelling at the structure, at the stone avenues leading to it, the circle within a circle, the beautiful views and different angles, some with its own rainbow over it. And then the rain approached again, and we raced back to the car – our time cut short, but we’ll return there again. I really want to go to the visitor centre too, although it’s closed Sundays (along with everything else, evens Tescos, because this is a very traditional-religious island) and Mondays.

We drove back to Callanish 2, but the rain was staying put this time, so we headed a little way north, to Dun Broch/Carloway Broch, the ruins of an amazing old structure, which the creators of Brave modeled some of the castle in the movie on. It was so cool, all blue skies and sunshine as we approached, and played inside, and explored the old stairways, then the sky coming over all grey and threatening again as we left. We continued on, stopping off for pots of tea and homemade shortbread at a hotel that thankfully flouted the closed-on-Sundays rule, then heading up to an incredible standing stone, reached through an incredible but alien landscape (I’m running out of adjectives!)… We made it back to Callanish for moon rise and sun set – but sadly the weather was against us, all grey-black clouds hiding the moon and the sun, and threatening to rain on us again. The moon peeked out a little on our drive back to our little cottage, and we had a quiet night in with salad and many cups of tea, and I read for a while (which felt naughty but luxurious), before heading upstairs to do some NaNoWriMo-ing – which I will start now (2200 words, yay!)…

 

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With thanks… Beautiful Scotland… And a tiny bit of NaNoWriMo-ing

November 11, 2013 at 11:02 pm (Uncategorized)

With thanks… Wednesday November 6… Edinburgh…

This morning it was drizzling a little, for the first time since we got here, and it was nice to see Holy Trinity Church against the grey sky, all moody and oppressive. We got up and did Jillian yoga, then packed up and sadly farewelled pretty Stratford, then headed off on our long drive to Edinburgh. It took us a little bit to get our bearings and get back to the motorway, but once we did it was fine – we’d bought the new Michael Monroe CD cos we forgot to bring any, so we turned it up loud and headed north. The countryside was so pretty – all green fields and autumn coloured trees and cute sheep with black faces, and no more than a sprinkle of rain all day. We didn’t even have to rug up when we stopped for coffee breaks. It is weird that it’s dark by 5pm though 🙂 It was full dark by the time we got to Edinburgh, but we could see the outline of Arthur’s Seat silhouetted against the sky, which was very cool. We found our little flat surprisingly easily, and discovered a sweet café around the corner, before we collapsed into bed for another early night…

 

With thanks… Thursday November 7… Edinburgh…

Today I am grateful for blue skies and sunshine, the chill in the air, and the perfect weather to explore Edinburgh. We walked into the city centre after both yoga-ing, a brisk stroll, admiring the city skyline as we went – the monuments up on Calton Hill, the cathedrals and the castle, and the small volcano that broods over the city. We walked up and down hills, through beautiful old cemeteries, past Ministers buildings and Parliament House, and Holyrood Palace, then we paused briefly to drink tea before climbing Arthur’s Seat, the main thing I’d wanted to do here. It was an awesome climb, steep and windy, and dramatically beautiful, with incredible views all around the city. There was a sweet lake low down, with swans and geese, then the ruins of a church partway up, and crazy winds that dropped then swelled as we wove our way around the sides. It was a bit higher and steeper than I’d expected, which I liked. We finally made it to the top, and it was sooo windy, and pretty cold 🙂 Amazing views though, over the harbour, around the city, as far as the bridge north, and closer in, to the castle. It’s a beautiful city. Then we made our way back down, and wandered along the Royal Mile, and up to the castle, which is so drastically set above the town. We walked for about six hours all up, which made us feel a bit better about all the scones we’ve been eating 🙂 

 

With thanks… Friday November 8… Edinburgh to Inverness…

Today I’m grateful for the magical day we ended up having. It was just supposed to be a travelling day, making our way from Edinburgh to Inverness, but it was amazing. The day dawned bright and sunny again, and we did our Jillian yoga then packed up and headed across the Firth of Forth. The sky was amazing – blue above us, but black to one side, and cloudy yet sunny to the other. The trees were so beautiful, all autumn red-gold-brown, and there were dramatic crags rising up from the fields, and lochs here and there. Then we saw a snow-topped mountain to the north, which we were excited by 🙂 We pulled over and put on our gloves and scarves and beanies, and got out to take a photo, and it was pretty chilly. And as we drove further there were more snow-clad mountains – and the temperature started dropping, from eight degrees to six, then four then three, then one point five. It was kind of cool (no pun intended) to stand outside in that, although we didn’t last long. We kept driving, and it started pouring with rain, huge black clouds overhead – before it all cleared again, the sun came out, and the temperature started to climb again.

We got to Inverness, but kept driving, down around Loch Ness, such a beautiful drive, and finally got to the Loch Ness Monster centre, and around to the ruins of Urquhart Castle, at the end of the loch. It was perfect timing, we were the last people they let in, and even though it was only 3.30pm, it wasn’t long until the sky started to colour in preparation for sunset. I love exploring castle ruins, and there were so many cool bits to see, including the dungeon under the gate house. There was a little movie afterwards, about the history of the castle and the surrounding lands, which was cool, then we headed back to Inverness in the dark, had dinner in a cute little pub, then found our cute little B&B and chilled out for a while before crashing out.     

 

With thanks… Saturday November 9… Inverness to Orkney…

Today I’m grateful for Juz, and our fun adventures. After our massive B&B brekkie we wandered around Inverness for a while, admiring the beautiful old buildings on the water, the castle looming over the town, the adorable medieval looking streets and the festive decorations. Then we headed north, across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle, across narrow bridges, past old castle and alongside lovely lochs, before stopping for lunch in Dornoch. It’s the most beautiful village, all medieval and cobblestoned, with tiny stone buildings and a huge cathedral, little green squares, old-fashioned street lamps and winding lanes. It’s also the place where the last “witch” in Scotland was burnt, in 1727. Janet Horne allegedly provided “proof” of her guilt by stumbling over a recitation in Gaelic of the Lord’s Prayer during her trial – the accusation that she turned her daughter into a horse, rode her around the town then took her to be shod by the devil would have been much harder to prove. There is a stone, the Witch’s Stone, that commemorates the place where she died – it’s in the garden of a house in Carnaig Street, which took us a little while to find, but it was a beautiful walk, past the most adorable little cottages. When we finally found it, it was really chilling. The stone just has the year written on it. Not so long ago, that such superstition and cruelty existed…

We had lunch in a little café there, then continued on our way up to the top of Scotland, to catch the ferry over to Orkney. We both felt a bit sick, so no catching up on writing for me, but we made it across, and found our little cottage on its own pier in Stromness, the little fishing village on the harbour. The streets are TINY – I was terrified a car would come the other way, cos I wouldn’t know what to do, the lanes are that narrow, with houses on each side directly on the street. But we made it without mishap, and unpacked in our cute little cottage, our home for the next week, grateful for the open fire and the heating upstairs in the cute little bedroom…

 

With thanks… Sunday November 10… NaNoWriMo – 1100 words – Orkney…

Today I am grateful for the gorgeous views from the windows of our cottage out over the harbour and across to some of the other islands – and another blue sky morning. We did our yoga then headed off to the Ring of Brodgar, an awesome and pretty massive stone circle standing imposingly on the strip of land between two lochs. There were originally sixty stones, but only thirty-six remain – enough to imagine how it was though, and create a beautiful atmosphere. And there’s a cute burial tomb behind it, all grass covered and mysterious looking. A little way down the road are the Standing Stones of Stenness, originally twelve arranged in a semi-circle, but with only five remaining today. They were still very impressive though, absolutely massive, and really imposing. Nearby is the Watch Stone, standing guard by the waterside, as well as Barnhouse Neolithic Village, which was really cool – another ancient village they’ve uncovered the foundations for, and have the bare bones of. There were heaps of swans on the lochs, and the water was like a mirror, so beautiful and calm and reflective and pretty.

Then we made our way to Maeshowe, the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe, older than the pyramids, and so amazing. I love the look of them on the outside, all green grassy mound, but going inside them is so magical, yet slightly creepy, and kinda mindblowing. It’s astounding, how they built them so perfectly, with no cement or other binding agent, just perfectly fitted stone, brought from miles away, with three L-shaped chambers inside, plus the main area and the cute little tunnel we had to stoop down and practically crawl along to get inside. So much fun, and so fascinating.

And I’m grateful for salad! I know that might sound weird, but I’ve been struggling to find healthy food – it’s hard being a vegetarian allergic to tomatoes at the best of times, but it’s been especially hard here. So this afternoon we went grocery shopping, and I made a big salad for dinner, with avocado and the best falafel I’ve ever tasted, which made me very happy. (I know, small things and all!) Then I finally got back to my NaNoWriMo-ing, and wrote 1100 words. Each one was a terrible struggle, and I’m really behind still, and kind of stuck, but at least I got some done!

Then we went upstairs to the cosiest little bedroom ever, and listened to the howling wind as it stormed around us. It was all blue skies until nightfall, then the wind picked up. It was amazing to us that no matter how strong it was (and I imagine in the dead of winter it will be crazy strong), our little house on the pier didn’t shake, the window panes didn’t rattle, not even the tiniest bit of cold air got in. Guess they know how to build for the weather here 🙂

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With thanks… Heading to Scotland…

November 7, 2013 at 11:32 pm (Uncategorized)

With thanks… Saturday November 2… NaNoWriMo – 4000 words… Flying away…

It’s been a crazy few weeks, getting everything finished so we could go away, but finally the day has come! Time to fly away! So excited 🙂

I got home from work at midnight last night, and stayed up for a few hours sorting stuff out for the trip and pondering packing, but I got a few hours sleep before getting up early this morning to do my final RushFit workout. It was a strange feeling, knowing it was the last one (for now at least) – and the last time I have to do that same 11-minute daily warm up. It’s been awesome, and I’m really grateful to my two workout buddies who did it with me – it was so much more fun doing it together, and it helped too, when it was really tough, knowing they were doing the same one, and that if they could get through it I could too. It was a brutal eight weeks, with two workouts a day at least three or four times a week, all of them super-challenging and hard, and painful too, but I’m kinda proud that we got through the advanced program, never missed a day, pushed through mental and physical challenges and finished it. I was a bit sore today, and stressed about packing and getting a story off, but there was no way I was missing the last day 🙂

Next up I had a last read through and edit of a story about faeries that I wrote for a magazine (kinda fitting as we head off to Scotland), and am happy that they really liked it…

Then it was finally time to pack, before Mum came over for lunch before taking us to the airport. I’m so glad we got to hang out for a while one last time, since I couldn’t make our dinner last night, and happy that we got to catch up a fair bit while she was here.

And then we were away! I watched Behind the Candelabra and Paper Giants: Magazine Wars, which was interesting cos I’d worked for Nene King for a while, and knew of some of the people and events in it. I was bemused by my tomato surprise vegetarian dinner (Juz gave me his salad and bread roll though, and his dessert, so I was fine), but happy that the one several hours later was ricotta and spinach sans tomato… We swapped seats so a family could sit together, which meant we had a bit of extra leg room,  but that I couldn’t get painkillers for my back cos our backs were in the overhead lockers in another section… And we read for a while, and slept for a little bit before a short break to refuel (and have a $15 coffee) in Dubai. Then, as Saturday stretched out for an extra 12 hours or so, I wrote 4000 words for NaNoWriMo, for yesterday and today, listening to Alice Cooper, Green Day, Nickelbac k and Metallica as I typed as fast as I could with the guy on my left spreading his arms over into my little seat and squishing my arms up as he snored…  Part of me wanted to watch more movies – or try to sleep – instead of writing, but I don’t want to fall behind. And when tomorrow finally arrives, we’ll be driving for much of the day, then having dinner with a friend, so I don’t want to have to write 5000 words in a single day…

The time thing is amusing/bemusing me – in Sydney it’s late Sunday night, and nearly time for bed, but we’re landing at 6am London time, so it will be another long day. But it’s all part of the adventure! Looking forward to landing, and being able to walk around a bit, and breathe in the cold invigorating air 🙂 And I can’t wait to drive up to Stratford, find our little cottage and do some yoga, but that’s still a long way off…

 

With thanks… Sunday November 3… NaNoWriMo  – 450 words… Stratford Upon Avon…

Today I’m grateful for the beautiful drive north from London, past gorgeous autumnal trees, all shades of red and gold, and green fields and cute sheep, under a beautiful blue sky and the sparkling sun. I giggled that I was standing outside the terminal at Heathrow at 7am in a t-shirt, and not freezing to death, although the wind got pretty chilly later on…

We made it to Stratford early, given our early start, so we found where our little cottage was then went for a wander through the grounds of Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare apparently lies, along the River Avon, admiring the beautiful swans and the huge geese and the occasional little swamp hen that reminded us of home. We had scones, jam and cream and a pot of tea for lunch, bought a couple of cds for the long drive to Scotland, admired the Christmas lights and decorations, then went back to meet the guy and get the keys to our cottage (called As You Like It, hee hee). We drank tea for a while, then our sweet friend popped over to say hello. We really wanted to go out for dinner with him then watch his gig, but exhaustion had finally hit 😦

I tried to write a bit more towards my NaNoWriMo word count, but my back was so sore I couldn’t sit down. I tried standing up at the kitchen bench, but even that hurt too much, and combined with my gradually drooping eyelids, I was in bed by 7.30. Guess it was 6.30am in Sydney, and we hadn’t slept for days, so I shouldn’t worry too much. I managed 450 words before collapsing into bed, in the cosy little upstairs bedroom under the low ceiling, with a view out over Holy Trinity Church…

 

With thanks… Monday November 4… NaNoWriMo – 1300 words… Stratford On Avon…

Slept a little, then got up at 4.30am and decided now was as good a time as any to do some yoga. My back still hurt, but I hoped it would help somewhat to stretch, and it wasn’t worse afterwards, which is good. It was kinda funny, I had to be careful stretching upwards in sun salutes and the rest, cos it was easy to hit the beams in the roof. Ceilings here are really low, at least in the old houses…

The hot shower afterwards was amazing, and it was nice to snuggle up on the couch with tea and yoghurt and raspberries, have a little read, then try to up my NaNo word count. But my eyes kept closing and I eventually admitted defeat and dozed off for an hour, before switching my laptop back on and getting back to it. (And yes, I know it may seem a bit crazy to be struggling through NaNoWriMo while jetlagged and exhausted and aching-backed – we had a cool pep talk from James Patterson re: the insanity of the undertaking, but it also acknowledged that it’s worth it – and that sanity is over-rated, ha ha…) So I caught up on yesterday’s word count, and will see how I go today…

Our friend came round to pick us up, and we headed off to a very cute ye olde tea room and hung out there for a while, then we headed to Warwick Castle, which was surprisingly awesome. The grounds were amazing, and we wandered along the river, up through a huge field surrounded by autumn coloured trees, into a garden with hedges sculpted into peacock sillhouettes, through which vividly coloured peacocks wandered. So pretty. Then we explored the castle, much of it set up to look as it would have done back in the day, with lots of cool info throughout. One of the Countesses of Warwick had an eight-year affair with the Prince of Wales, and was something of a revolutionary, standing for the Labour Party and supporting workers rights and the formation of unions. There was an interactive Merlin show, which was lots of fun, and a talking dragon that asked my name and told me to stay true and avoid the dark side like Morgana, hee hee, then we headed off for dinner before going home for tea and cookie with Cam and having a relatively early night…

 

With thanks… Tuesday November 5… Stratford On Avon…

I got up early to do Jillian yoga, and while I’m still a bit sore, I’m definitely on the mend…

Then our friend came over and we headed off to Birmingham, to get Juz some boots, and check out a new place we wouldn’t have otherwise. The sun was out for most of the day, which made it almost pretty, and it amused us no end how long it takes to layer up to go outside (jacket, scarf, sometimes gloves), then strip all the layers off as soon as you go inside anywhere… 

It was a lovely day, mostly sitting in cafes drinking tea and catching up and waxing lyrical about everything from the serious to the silly, and everything in between (including Duran Duran, who we have all loved for so long, and who were from here – although it was a Black Sabbath song I had in my head all day…).

No writing today – will have to catch up when we get to Orkney – but I am really grateful for friendship despite distance, and precious time to spend together…

 

With thanks… Wednesday November 6… Heading to Edinburgh…

This morning it was drizzling a little, for the first time since we got here, and it was nice to see Holy Trinity Church against the grey sky. We got up and did Jillian yoga, then packed up and sadly farewelled pretty Stratford, then headed off on our long drive to Edinburgh. It took us a little bit to get our bearings and get back to the motorway, but once we did it was fine – we’d bought the new Michael Monroe CD cos we forgot to bring any, so we turned it up loud and headed north. The countryside was so pretty – all green fields and autumn coloured trees and cute sheep with black faces, and no more than a sprinkle of rain all day. We didn’t even have to rug up when we stopped for coffee breaks. It is weird that it’s dark by 5pm though 🙂 It was dark by the time we got to Edinburgh, but we found our little flat surprisingly easily, and discovered a sweet café around the corner, before we collapsed into bed or another early night…

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