Have a nice day…

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St Gile Cathedral on a very nice day

Grey. Gloomy. Cloudy. Cold. Miserable.

This is what I was told to expect from Scotland weather. “Pack your thermals!” they said. “You’ll miss the sunshine!” they trilled. All the while I la-la-la-la’d away such unflattering portrayals of my beloved Scotland. I mean, I had spent two nights here last year in the middle of January. Yes, it had been cold, but the sky had remained a clear crisp blue whilst the sun had pinked my chilled cheeks. And let’s not forget I was a happy little mitten-wearing-Brit until the ripe age of ten. I was raised to laugh in the face of overcast!

Despite the evident preparation that was my English upbringing, I nonetheless braced myself for a sharp, icy wind and stocked up on scarves, gloves, beanies and wooly socks. I was ready to face the frosty fleshless monster!

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Welcomed to Edinburgh with a dusting of snow

And then I arrived. It snowed. It was beautiful. I watched the flakes fall from the warmth of my cosy new flat and thought nothing of gloom and misery and cold. It was the perfect welcome. And once the snow had melted away, it seemed the sun was willing and ready to resurface with a vengeance.

“It’s sunny!” shouted my flatmate one morning with great surprise and joy. She insisted we make the most of it, so we went exploring the city. Down wynds and closes we went, across parks, through royal grounds, over cobbled stone streets and always under the ever watchful eye of the castle.

The following day I awoke again to a shout of “It’s sunny!”. Again we went outside exploring.

On the third day, I heard the same declaration. “It’s sunny!” That was when I knew Edinburgh was treating me to a special kind of hospitality.

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“It’s sunny!” at Edinburgh Castle

So continued the days, always with the surprised yet blissful announcement from my flatmate that the sun was once again gracing us with its presence. I knew I was being spoiled, but I didn’t care. Some days I even stayed inside to read a book by the bay window and soak in the sun through the glass.

And then came last Sunday. We had planned an “out of city” excursion to a castle ruin that called to us from what seemed like the edge of the world.

“It’s sunny!” never came.

Instead we awoke to grey, gloomy, cloudy, cold AND miserable. We were late to get moving, but undeterred nonetheless. On the train we hopped and arrive we did to the beautiful picturesque beachside town of North Berwick. It was just past 1pm, and despite the cold grey weather, the town was abustle with dog walkers, pram walkers, and just your average walker walkers (not the flesh eating kind, to any of you Walking Dead fans out there wondering otherwise).

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A little reminder of home in North Berwick

To get to the castle we needed to catch a bus just a little further out of town. When we arrived at the bus stop we realised we hadn’t accounted for the Sunday timetable, and had missed the last bus going out. I’m not going to lie, I was cold, cranky and disappointed. Though the town itself was an attraction, the castle was the primary reason for our visit. After seeing no taxi in sight and agreeing we were both too poor for such a luxury anyway, we retreated to the closest pub to ask if the castle was in walking distance and how long it would take.

The Ship Inn was warm. It was cosy. It was so very inviting.

Then this happened:

Katy to Bartender: Hello! We’ve missed the bus to Tantallon Castle. Is it in walking distance?

Bartender: Oh aye. It’ll take ye about an hour but it’s a nice day for it.

Katy: *laughs*

Bartender: [silence. strange looks]

Katy: [looks outside at cold, grey pit of doom] I’m sorry, it’s a nice day for…?

Bartender: It’s a nice day for a walk.

Katy: [looks outside again, confused]

Bartender: [gives directions and tells us to enjoy the “nice day”]

Once back out in the cold I asked my flatmate, who has been living in Scotland for several years, whether the bartender had been joking. She kindly explained that when she arrived in Edinburgh she had been equally confused by a tendency to refer to cloudy days as “nice” days, but after a while understood that the Scots seemed to be pretty happy with the weather as long as it wasn’t raining, hailing or snowing. Anything else was considered “good weather”.

And I couldn’t help but be a little humbled. I’ve been spoiled the last 17 years in Australia, where a day without sunshine is like a day without air. We thrive off it. But to those where rainy days outnumber sunny days, of course the average cloudy day where you can leave your brolly at home is going to be a “good day”. These little pleasures are all relative and we have to take the good no matter how it comes.

And so we walked. The walk warmed us up. We enjoyed the scenery in a way we wouldn’t have been able to on the bus and I daresay enjoyed the day a great deal more. Tantallon Castle was as eerily beautiful as the pictures had indicated and to look over the cliffs at the smashing waves under dark clouds was spectacular in itself. I could almost see the sieges and pirates and smugglers and battles before me. Novel ideas were running rampant around my head.

And when it was time to go home we decided to walk.

It was, after all, a nice day.

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Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

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Crossroads at Edinburgh Castle

It’s been a while. So long in fact, I don’t really know where to begin. I half expect to hear an echo once I cast this blog post into the mysterious infinite universe otherwise known as the World Wide Web.

Hello?

Is anybody out there?

For those of you still here, hi! I’m sorry for the extended absence and sporadic posts of 2012. Life got in the way of creating, and blogging spent an unfortunate season on the backbench. I’m hoping (demanding) that will change in 2013.

2013!

Here we are. A new year full of wonderful potential and undiscovered adventure. I’m feeling particularly optimistic about this year. Not only did I survive last year’s Mayan Apocalypse (What, you too? Go us!) but I decided this was going to be a year of change. A year where I follow my instincts, take risks and try something new at every opportunity. A New Year’s Resolution, of sorts.

Some of you may remember my A-Z of Europe posts from this time last year. If you do, you may also remember me swooning over a certain castle, falling in love with a certain city, and being inspired there by the great writers who have come before me.

In light of my new found resolution to take life by the horns and ride it all the way to my own little corner of Utopia, I did something a little bit wild. A little bit spontaneous. Perhaps even a little bit crazy.

Last month I quit my job, packed my bags, said farewell Australia and bought myself a one way ticket to Edinburgh, Scotland. Yes, the place that so captured my heart last year has for the last couple of weeks been “home”.

The opportunity presented itself in a lovely series of coincidences that together shouted “KATY! THIS IS YOUR CHANCE! TAKE IT!” Everywhere I looked Scotland was wooing me. And every step I took to make it happen made it feel more and more like the right thing to do. Even as I waited at Launceston airport, indulging in a moment of self doubt, panicking at the last minute that I’d forgotten something important, my mum started quoting from The Hobbit, “Katy. Remember Bilbo and his handkerchief? You will have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, before you get to the journey’s end.” Apart from this highlighting once again just how awesome my mum is, it also made me realise that an adventure isn’t an adventure without a little risk taking, a lot of daring and a few things left behind. Like Bilbo, I was going on an adventure.

I now live with one of my best friends from Italy who I have known since I was 16, in a flat I stayed in when I visited last year, just a stone’s throw from the castle that so inspired me on my last visit. I’ve swapped Vegemite for Marmite, swimmers for scarves, routine for adventure.

It’s been just over two weeks since I arrived and I’ve already joined a 300 person community choir, been to the castle on more than one occasion, attended a contemporary dance class, learnt some Gaelic, browsed in a kazillion bookshops and spent a week in bed battling the bacteria party that was a Northern Hemisphere cold/flu.

I don’t yet know what the year will bring. Perhaps by the end of it I’ll be penniless and hitch hiking my way back to Australia. Or perhaps I won’t. All I know is I’m here, and I plan to make the most of it while I am.

To adventure! x

My new home

My new home

B is for Berlin

Graffiti in Berlin

The first thing I noticed about Berlin was the graffiti. It’s everywhere. Not just the illegible, messy scrawling kind (although there is a lot of that too), but the interesting and often quite impressive modern styles of graffiti. It adds a certain touch of contemporary character to a place of inherent history and in some ways I guess demonstrates that the modern and the young do exist alongside the historic city walls.

East Side Gallery - Berlin Wall

Berlin is not just a city of the past.

The Berlin Wall was my first ‘official’ stop, with my brother as guide. He moved to Germany some time ago, and I’ve always found it far more interesting visiting places with someone who lives there, because they usually know a lot more than you can find in a guide book. Harry didn’t fail in this endeavour.

The Berlin Wall

It was cold, raining and miserable, though to be honest, Germany failed to offer much other than that during my brief stay. It was strangely appropriate, however, when visiting the sites in Germany; a certain misery still hovers about the monuments that remain of the chaos it has seen over the centuries, so much so that overcast days still seem fitting.

East Side Gallery - Berlin Wall

Bits of the Berlin Wall can still be spotted across the city, but the most famous is the 1.3 km stretch of the wall now playing host to the East Side Gallery, an international memorial of freedom.

Artists from across the globe have contributed to the paintings that cover this large section of the wall, each depicting their own interpretations of freedom, their perceptions of Berlin, and some serving as reminders of a time before freedom existed.

Probably my favourite part of Berlin was the Brandenburg Gate. I’m always totally enamoured by towering monuments, colossal old buildings and giant statues. The Quadriga atop the gate with its horse drawn chariot is enormous, which makes it even more impressive that Napoleon Bonaparte stole it after the 1806 Prussian defeat and took it to Paris. It was of course eventually restored, but how he got it off the gate (and how they got it back!), I have no idea.

Brandenburg Gate

Another stand out place in Berlin was the Bebelplatz. The Bebelplatz was the location of the 1933 Nazi book burning. About 20,000 books that did not correspond with Nazi ideology from writers such as Hemingway and Marx were destroyed.  Today the Bebelplatz is the site of the book burning memorial. In the middle of the square there is a glass plate set into the cobbles, beneath it a room of empty bookcases to commemorate the burning.

The Nazi book burning memorial in the Bebleplatz

The thing I will probably remember most about Berlin, however, is my public transportation misfortune one night when going out for dinner. My brother Harry, my friend Hayley, and I, hopped on the train with growling tummies. About 10 minutes into the journey the train came to an abrupt stop. After a brief announcement in German and a translation by Harry, we discovered there had been an ‘incident’ involving a person on the tracks. The announcement was shortly followed by two paramedics who just happened to be in our carriage, prying open the train doors to let themselves out; thankfully being in the first carriage we had stopped just at the start of the next station’s platform.

We sat patiently for a few minutes before deciding to get off the train, a luxury the people in the other carriages behind us could sadly not afford, only to discover the paramedics crouched in front of the train, looking under it with torches.

With the sound of sirens in the distance we began to guess at what the ‘incident’ with a person on the tracks may have been.

The night followed with us thinking we could walk the remaining distance, until 20 minutes later we realised we couldn’t. We hopped on a different train line, which our tickets did not permit us to do, and had to hop off again a stop before our station due to the train controllers getting on to check tickets.

When we finally made it to dinner, it almost didn’t seem worth it. A 20 minute journey had taken about 2 hours. But alas, we ate til our heart’s content and laughed more than is polite in civilised company.

Berlin isn’t a place I think I could ever feel at home, and I’m not just saying that because I think we ran over someone on the train! It’s a place full of history and wonderful monuments and you can still see bullet holes in many of the buildings, which I find fascinating. But it’s also full of tourists and like many big cities, I felt a persistent nagging to keep moving, walk fast and push through the crowds with unmatched determination. I didn’t feel it was a city I could just stand back, observe, and enjoy, which let’s be honest, is one of my favourite things to do.

That said, I wouldn’t say no to going back one day when the sun is out and my feet aren’t wet and cold from the rain. Perhaps I’ll even be able to find a little quiet spot to watch the city unravel from afar.

Statues in Berlin

A is for Auschwitz

The spectacles of victims still remain

If there’s one place that words cannot do justice, it’s Auschwitz.

With the horrors of a place so absolutely shocking, it is little wonder so many at the time (less than 70 years ago) and others still today, refuse to believe that such monstrosities could have taken place.

I won’t get into the history of Auschwitz; there’s plenty of information out there for those who want to know more about the camp and its larger sister camp Birkenau. Suffice to say that of the 1, 300 000 people to go to Auschwitz, 1, 100 000 of them died there, 90% of them Jews.

Auschwitz Camp 1

It took about an hour from Krakow by bus to get to the town of Oświęcim where the two camps are located, and that time was spent watching a video on the liberation of Auschwitz and the countless barbarities that took place there. Whilst the video was unsettling to watch (to say the least) it wasn’t until we arrived at Auschwitz that two things became very apparent.

The first, was how recently it all happened. The buildings at Auschwitz camp 1 are are all still in fine condition, the windows intact, the wire fences showing little sign of rust or age. The camp was liberated in 1945 and since 1947 it has been a ‘museum’, which I’m sure has benefited its preservation, but still does not excuse the fact that it all happened in the lifetime of people who still live today.

The second, was the absolute organisation and coordination that took place behind the evil. It was easy for me to believe, before visiting the camps, that whilst the Jews had been so obviously maltreated and abused, that it was by the hand of a few extremists who took pleasure in unsystematic torture and bloodshed. That perhaps the intentions for the camps had been different to what actually took place.

What I saw when looking around the camp, was that I was wholeheartedly and naively mistaken.

This was just one of the many prisoner photos found when the camp was liberated. I found this man's face so interesting. Below the picture is recorded the date he arrived at the camp and the date he died there. He lived only 6 months in Auschwitz.

Every building was built with a purpose, every hole in the ceiling designed to fit the dimensions of a gas canister. Every prisoner was photographed front on, side on, and at an angle, their date of arrival at the camp recorded, as well as the day they died. Documents recorded the names of those who committed the first and every subsequent execution, signed off and stamped as if it were a class role call. There was undeniably no shame in what they were doing, and the evidence of that remains in the documents that have endured.

People were not brought to Auschwitz to be detained or imprisoned.

People were brought to Auschwitz to die.

The lucky ones got to live a little longer when they were deemed fit to work, but even then, they were used until malnutrition, disease or exhaustion killed them or had them executed when found inept.

The belongings of all the victims of Auschwitz remain in the museum. I was utterly astounded and moved by the volume of possessions that still remain, their owners never again returning to claim them. Millions of shoes are stacked high behind glass walls, pots and pans, glasses, brushes and combs, and suitcases named and addressed in anticipation of retrieval pile high.

Those deemed unfit to work were sent immediately to the gas chambers. Crutches, aids and prosthetics of wounded Polish WWI war veterans accounted for most of this particular collection.

The most distressing of these things for me was the narrow corridor lined with glass, which served as a window display to the several tonnes of piled human hair that remains at the camp. When the camp was liberated, the Soviet Army found 7,000 kilograms of human hair packed in paper bags, intended to be used in the war industry for making cloth, ropes, and even socks for the soldiers. For me, that pile of human hair may as well have been the bodies themselves.

One story that stuck with me was from our guide, who said that his grandfather had lived 50 kilometres outside of the Auschwitz Birkenau camp. None were allowed to go near the area, and most claim to not have been at all aware as to what was happening there. But his grandfather said the townspeople had noticed a distinct smell coming from the direction of the camps. It wasn’t until the liberation that they discovered the smell had been the stench of burning bodies.

Millions of shoes taken from victims still remain.

It’s a strange sensation visiting a place such as Auschwitz. Some level of disassociation is necessary to take it all in without losing your mind at the pure evilness of people. That said, there is a peculiar longing to find out more about the victims, how they suffered, how they survived, and what it must have felt like. I think this comes with a desire to make some sort of sense out of what happened, in an attempt to try and understand how such a thing could have occurred, and perhaps even in an effort to make sure it never happens again.

It feels a little crude to say I ‘enjoyed’ my visit to Auschwitz. No one can enjoy a place like that. But I am glad I visited. It’s easy to go through life and forget that bad things happen, to ignore them when they are happening, and be like the townsfolk who smelt burning bodies and were totally unaware of what was taking place on their doorstep.

Philosopher and novelist George Santayana said, “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”

I hope that the world forever remembers what happened at Auschwitz.

Barbed wire fences kept the prisoners from escaping, although accounts say that many threw themselves onto the electric fences in an attempt to 'free' themselves from the horrors inside the camp.

My A-Z Euro Trip

"Peace!" - Me in Trafalgar Square

I’m baaack! It may have taken an excruciating 50 hours to get back here, but here I am.

Thank you all for your kind wishes of bon voyage whilst I was away. I had a truly amazing whirlwind trip around Europe, with many adventures had and many memories made.

Since arriving home (hello Australian summer! How I’ve missed you!), I’ve been wondering how on earth I could possibly communicate all the assorted experiences I’ve had over the past month. I recurrently find with travel that people are so often quick to say “tell me everything!”, but when it comes to it, it’s hard to know where to start and how to faithfully convey all the emotions or people or events that made a place, moment or experience so special.

Friends and family look patiently through photos and ooh and ahh at the appropriate moments, but having been the friend and family participating in such mandatory ritual, I confess that the pictures can so often look no different to the photos in travel magazines, the accompanying captions of “it was breathtaking”, not really conveying the absolute beauty of a place or the emotions felt when there.

More often than not, it’s the quirky stories, travel disaster accounts, and unusual experiences that make “tell me everything!” an easy request to answer.

I had my fair share of travel disasters, and a few quirky stories and unusual experiences, but some of my favourite places were deemed so simply due to an overwhelming sensation of being somewhere so completely magical, unfamiliar, and diverse to any other place I had been. Photos can’t always convey that. And sometimes there aren’t words to explain it either. It comes from within, and either you’ll recognise it and know what I’m talking about, or you won’t. Either way, I’ll try my best to take you there!

As for the ‘how’, my blogging friend and talented writer, Stef, over at Dodging Commas has just made the brave and adventurous move from Sydney to Singapore. She’s been detailing her amazing adventures through an ‘expat alphabet’, with an A-Z account of her experiences (including shower toilets, kids “shi shi-ing” their pants, and making a home away from home). With her permission, I’m pinching her idea and over the next few weeks will take you on my own alphabet journey across Europe.

I’ll also be including some of the photos that I took on the trip. Naturally, I await the appropriate oohs and ahhs in anticipation.

First stop, A for Auschwitz.

Enjoy!

A Year in Review

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In the past week it has turned eerily quiet on the blogosphere. With Christmas, New Years and Holidays around the figurative corner I’m guessing you’re all enjoying a bit of good cheer, spending time with family, friends and loved ones, and taking a well-deserved break.

I’m not far behind you.

But before I wrap things up for 2011, I feel an end-of-year blog round up is warranted; 2011 was, after all, my maiden voyage as a blogger.

Storytelling Nomad began on the 20th May. I had seen a couple of friends on Facebook with blogs and thought ‘hey, I can do that. I have something to say’, and so with little more knowledge of blogging than that, my online journey began.

7 months, 119 posts, 1 blog revamp, 194 followers, 1,583 comments, 16,218 hits, 3 published articles, 1 guest post, 1 short story featured in an ebook (more about this soon) and many new friends later, here we are.

I don’t think I can truly articulate how valuable this blog has been to my creative practice. Apart from being a great place to share my thoughts and be involved in this wonderful online writing community, it has most significantly boosted the confidence I have in my own writing, which has in turned encouraged me to work harder at improving my craft.

Each and every one of your comments, feedback, ‘likes’, shares and subscriptions have played a part in this. A very, very large part. For that I thank you.

The highlights of my year included:

  • Joining my very first writers’ group.
  • Receiving my first piece of fan art (thanks Joakim)!
  • Participating in and winning my very first NaNoWriMo.
  • Having my story “The Dragon and the Moon” featured in a collection of short stories released over Christmas to raise money for Unicef (Again, more about this in another post).
  • Working at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.
  • Coming third in my state raising money for Multiple Sclerosis through the MS Readathon/Novel Challenge.
  • Having my Heroes and Heroines article published in LipMag and All that is Wrong with the World.
  • Seeing my article So, where are you from published in Biscuit Magazine.
  • Being invited by author Angela Wallace to guest post on her blog.
  • Graduating from my Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing, surrounded by beautiful friends and family.

It was a year of firsts.

As for 2012, I have just been accepted into the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University of Tasmania, where I hope to further improve my writing and complete a large work of polished fiction under the teaching prowess of Vogel award winning author Rohan Wilson. I cannot wait!

In the meantime, I will be spending the next week not only making merry and eating far too much holiday food, but packing my suitcase.

You see, a nomad wouldn’t be a nomad without a noteworthy trip to end the year with. On Dec 30th I leave Sydney for a month in Europe, where I will have the pleasure of visiting my little brother in Hamburg, Germany who I haven’t seen since he left Australia over a year ago. Other items on the itinerary include a weekend in Krakow, Poland, checking out the town and visiting Auschwitz, which I can only imagine will be a life-changing and emotional journey into the horrors of WWII. Then, a week in London, England where a particular highlight will be meeting up with my childhood best friend, who I haven’t seen since leaving England over 16 years ago.  A quick trip to Edinburgh, Scotland will see me catching up with a school friend from Italy who I haven’t seen in many years and a new Scottish friend I met at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year. The trip finishes in in the beautiful Northern town of Ferrara, Italy where I will visit my host families from past student exchanges before departing from Milan at the end of January. All this I get to share with one of my best friends, Hayley.

My upcoming European vacation

I’m going to need a holiday to recover from my holiday I’m sure.

With all these adventures planned, I predict an absence of posts in January, however, I will be active on Twitter, @katyhulme, when internet access is available.

With all that said, I leave you with my ‘Year in Review’ and again thank you kindly for your support and encouragement in 2011. I look forward to sharing my writing journey with you again in 2012.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Stay tuned for more about “The Dragon and the Moon” and the Ebook for charity.

~storytelling nomad~

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A Year in Review

In 2011…

I eliminated negative influences/people. Forgive me for quoting Oprah Winfrey, but she wasn’t wrong when she said “Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher”.

I reduced my (already pathetically low) intake of alcohol to zero. For no other reason than it feels amazing.

I stopped making excuses for not writing.

I lost my inhibitions.

I enhanced my editing skills through my Professional Book Editing, Proofreading & Publishing course. My inner nerd knows no bounds.

I started a novel.

I created my blog, Storytelling Nomad.

I loved and lost.

I was embarrassed by sharing my work and thoughts with the world.

I was frustrated by universally incorrect grammar, spelling and punctuation.

I felt crazy when I read messages of hate from those opposed to equality for all.

I regret not entering the Blogosphere sooner.

I needed more time for reading. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I missed my friends and family that live across oceans and in faraway lands.

I went to places far and near, including Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival, Sydney for Supanova Pop Culture Expo, and Gunnedah where I shot my first gun. Watch out!

I relaxed when on November 27th, I knew I was going to finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words.

I would use a magic wand to bring Hogwarts to life.

I felt gratitude when you all ‘liked’ my entry in the Facebook Short Story competition. I’m coming 10th by the way, still time to vote!

Time flew when I met James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) at Supanova.

I want to repeat this year. It had its ups and downs but for the most part it was extraordinary.

I should have done more exercise. I am terribly unmotivated.

I don’t know why I never joined a writers group before.

I felt most alive when I was creating new worlds, new characters and new stories to share with the world.

The best gift I received was an email from my favourite author Robin Hobb, with invaluable writing advice.

Physically, the biggest difference since last December is slightly shorter hair.

Psychologically, the biggest difference since last December is the focus on my writing.

Emotionally, the biggest difference since last December is my contentment and pride in all I have achieved this year.

Environmentally, the biggest difference since last December is I exchanged the sandy shores of Newcastle for idyllic Tasmania.

Socially, the biggest difference since last December is I have a whole new group of online writer friends.

My biggest ‘win’ was NaNoWriMo. Or maybe it was having an article published. No, wait. Having my short story published. No, wait! Receiving the email from Robin Hobb. Or, being accepted into my Masters course. And, graduating from my Writing course. And, and, and…!

I want more books. Gimme gimme!

The best thing I did for someone else was read as many books as I could in a month to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis.

The best thing someone did for me was sketch me a picture based on my short story.

The best thing I did for myself was believe in myself.

The one thing I learned this year is I am the master of my own destiny. I will only receive of life what I put into it.

I am most grateful for my friends and family and their unwavering support.

I look forward to 2012 being different by writing more stories and becoming a better writer.

Questions taken from Lynn Scheurel at http://secretsofhersuccess.com/articles/your-year-in-review-questions/

Mind blowing cover art

If you’ve been feeling at all like something is amiss in your life of late, it is in all likelihood due to the absence of my Robin Hobb idolisation posts. Never fear, dear readers! Today I came across Jackie Morris’s cover art for City of Dragons, the soon to be released third volume in Robin Hobb’s Rainwild Chronicles.

And can I just say WOW.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the cover art for the re-released editions of Hobb’s books.  Jackie Morris is responsible for them all, and not only are they stunning, but they also look pretty damn good on my bookshelf.  I would frame these covers and hang them on my wall if I could.

Head on over to Jackie’s blog to see the newest Hobb cover art in progress, or her website to see more of her amazing work.

Cover art for City of Dragons designed by Jackie Morris

I’m a self confessed judge-a-book-by-its-cover person. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t help but be mesmerised by good cover art and be completely put off by the less appealing covers. When the excellent quality of a book matches its cover, my life is complete.

I’m currently restraining myself from purchasing some of the new Penguin Clothbound Classics, which I already own in other editions but which are soooo pretty!  I was also lucky enough to work at Penguin with designer Daniel New when he was putting together Maggie Beer’s Maggie’s Harvest, an absolutely stunning cover.

Have you got any judge-a-book-by-its-cover moments? Favourite covers?

Penguin Clothbound Classic collection

Maggie’s Harvest by Maggie Beer – Designed by Daniel New

~storytelling nomad~

Awesome People Reading

In light of my participation in the Novel Challenge/MS Readathon*, I thought it fitting to pay homage to some awesome people who love to read.

A while back I came across this very cool tumblr blog, Awesome People Reading, and couldn’t help but spend more time than I really should have clicking through the pages admiring photos of famous and inspirational people reading their favourite paperbacks, hardbacks, comics and newspapers.

Below I’ve attached a few of my fave pics, but definitely head on over to the full site to see many many more.

* I have so far raised $180 so thank you to you special people (you know who you are) for your contributions.  I stayed up quite late last night finishing George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which was, by the way, excellent! Now on to book 3, Friday’s Child by Ian Kennedy Williams.

Marilyn Monroe

Michael Caine

Sid Vicious

Gregory Peck and Mary Badham

Elizabeth Taylor

James Dean and Marcus Winslow

Alfred Hitchcock

~storytelling nomad~

An inside look at Pottermore

Last month I received early access to the beta Pottermore website after participating in a Magical Quill challenge, which basically involved answering a question that related to something in the Harry Potter books.

I was pretty excited when I found out that I would be one of a million rewarded with early admission to the elusive site, partly because I really had no idea what Pottermore actually was.

The home page had described it as so:

Pottermore is an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.

So the new content bit sounded pretty damn exciting, but as for the rest of it…”enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books” and “explore the stories like never before”.  What the hell does it all mean!?

Well, let’s start from the beginning. First thing I had to do was choose a name for myself.  Because it’s all child friendly for the little people fans of the series, everyone gets a Harry Potter inspired pseudonym, so that the only way you can add your friends is by asking them what their pseudonym is.

Now, you don’t actually get to make up your pseudonym; you instead get a choice of five to pick from.  I chose DragonSpell167, but also had choices along the lines of UnicornHolly and SpellPatronus, both with random numbers at the end.

So with that over with I was introduced to the site.  And wow.  Really, WOW.

The first thing that hit me was the graphics, which are simply spectacular.  The site takes you though each of the books, chapter by chapter, through a number of images.  The beta version only has book one for now.

At the start of each chapter it looks something like this:

Pottermore: Chapter One

You get a small snippet of the chapter and below it three images of three scenes that are significant to the chapter, which in chapter one are entitled “Number Four, Privet Drive”, “Something Peculiar is Happening” and “Harry is Delivered”.

You then click on one of the scenes, and it takes you to that interactive image.  I say interactive, because that’s what they are.  The pictures are very subtly animated; car lights will flicker if you run your cursor over them, or owls will fly away if you do the same.

Beautiful Hagrid image in Chapter One

Each image also has three layers, and by double clicking you move further into the image from the foreground, to the middle, to the background.  In each layer, you might find objects which you can add to your trunk, or which might offer you extra character, place or scene information, content that did not make the books, or previously unknown backgrounds.  You get to collect Chocolate Frog cards, potions and spells.  Very cool.

So you go through each chapter the same way, exploring the images and finding things within them.  Some chapters may have only one or two images, others three or four.

What a lot of people have been talking about though, is being sorted into a Hogwarts house, and receiving your wand from Olivander.  The very cool thing about this, is that you get to do these things as Harry does them.  If Harry doesn’t get sorted into a House until Chapter 7, then neither do you.  But when you do, it’s a matter of answering a number of mysterious questions that really don’t allow you to cheat in order to get the house you want.

I consider myself proud (and lucky!) to have been sorted into Gryffindor!!! Woooo! You knew this already though, when I told you a while back about my time at Hogwarts.

Being sorted into the COOLEST Hogwarts house...naturally.

You can keep track of your house points, what’s in your trunk, what chapter you’re up to, your Chocolate Frog cards, your wand and everything else on your profile page, which looks like this:

Profile Page

There’s more to it as you scroll down, which unfortunately I couldn’t capture in one image, but basically it just shows your progress and gives you easy access to the rest of the site. The line of yellow dots represent each chapter in the first book, the other larger red circles to the right being the remaining six books which are yet to be opened.  The highlighted yellow dot with the cat avatar pictured above it shows the chapter I’m up to.  The cat is the pet I chose for myself (only when Harry goes to Diagon Alley of course) and which is used as your avatar.  This page also shows the details of my wand, which was likewise chosen for me after answering a number of questions.

An example of the extra content that you might discover is shown here with Professor McGonagall’s background and extra tid bits of information:

Extra content from J. K. Rowling: Professor McGonagall

It goes on to give a particularly interesting history that explains her interest in scouting Harry for the Quidditch team and her eagerness to beat Slytherin.

Finally, the other activity worth mentioning is Wizard Duels.  You can gain house points by duelling with your friends!  You can also go to the Great Hall to see how all the other houses are going in their house point tallies.

All in all, I think it is a very cool concept.  The graphics truly are amazing, and it really is a great accompaniment to the reading of the books.  It’s not until you actually get into the site that you realise how accurate the original description of it was; “an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.”  As confused as I was before, it really does make sense now.

I’ll leave you with a few more images to peruse over, including an example of how the multiple layers work in the Diagon Alley scene.  Give them a click to see them full sized.  I honestly can’t get over the graphics and their multiple layers.  In the meantime, hopefully see you there in October when it becomes available to all!

Harry recieves his letter: In this image, the letters are actually moving around the page

The Forbidden Forest with the Whomping Willow in the foreground

A unicorn slain in the forest

Diagon Alley foreground graphic

Diagon Alley middle layer graphic - the foreground images become slightly unfocused and move aside slightly to reveal what's beyond them.

Diagon Alley Background graphic - the other characters have moved aside to reveal Gringotts Bank, which you can now click on and enter

~storytelling nomad~

A Storytelling Utopia: Melbourne Writers Festival 2011

So I mentioned a few posts ago that I had a number of reasons for my recent absence, and today I’m going to share with you one of them.

In Australia there is an ongoing rivalry between the city of Sydney and the city of Melbourne.  Those who live in Sydney claim that they live in the superior city, and those who live in Melbourne claim much the same.  The general consensus, however,  is that Sydney is a financial city, and Melbourne a cultural city.  The Melbourne Writers Festival plays a significant role in this widespread understanding and the number of highly acclaimed national and international guests that attend from year to year, is testament to the festival’s success and the city’s appeal.

This year, I was lucky enough to be selected as a volunteer for the Melbourne Writers Festival.  Woo!  The festival is an annual event that has been running since 1986, and this year joined forces with four other international festivals to form the Word Alliance, now made up of:

  • The Melbourne Writers Festival
  • The Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • The Bookworm International Literary Festival in Beijing
  • The International Literature Festival in Berlin
  • International Festival of Authors in Toronto.

Totally rad.

So what kind of guests are we talking? Pretentious editors? High literature writers? Celebrity journalists?  Well yes, I suspect there are some of those, but the Melbourne Writers Festival is far more than that, and unique in that it observes all kinds of storytelling, not just the award winning, ostentatious kind.  The website elaborates:

Each year, MWF invites novelists, playwrights, poets, screenwriters, journalists, songwriters, bloggers – anyone who’s part of the world of words. We host politicians and artists, policy wonks and pop culture icons, crime writers and high culture theorists. The festival program features an enormous range of literary activity including entertaining discussions, debates, readings, film screenings, interviews, literary banquets, performances, workshops and book launches, as well as a lively schools’ program for primary and secondary students.

Festival Background

Last year they hosted Joss Whedon.  Enough said.

The Golden Ticket

So, as a volunteer I get to make sure people are being orderly, scan their tickets, give directions, have a chat, make sure the guests are comfortable and answer any questions that patrons might have.  My fellow volunteers have so far been awesome, the shifts fun and the patrons very well behaved.  I also get to wear a groovy volunteer shirt.  Win.

The major perk to this gig, however, is my volunteer pass, which gets me into any event over the entire festival.

When I attended my orientation day a few weeks ago, I was astounded at the wide array of events, panels and workshops that were taking place and began to get quite excited at the prospect of attending these events in between my shifts.

One event, the Martin Martini In(k) Concert, merges sounds and image with musician Martin Martini playing in concert whilst four artists illustrate to the tune and inspiration of the music, their images projected onto the walls of the venue.  A totally unique experience, demonstrating that the art of storytelling is far from limited to just words on paper and can be inspired and influenced by anything around you, even sound.

Author Kate Grenville

Today, I attended a session called Why I Read, featuring prominent authors Kate Grenville (pictured left), Tess Gerritsen and Chris Womersley, all discussing the books that they read growing up and the impact it had on their calling as writers.  They also discussed how reading has changed, an echoing theme throughout the festival, and how we can encourage children and teenagers to read more.

Another highlight of the festival is the collection of city walks.  From specialist bookshops to the city’s origins, the guided walks highlight the Melbourne that is inspiration for writers, readers and storytellers.  My favourite of the walks is called Melbourne’s Hidden Dragons, and it takes you on a tour of the stone guardians and silken mascots that are scattered around the city and explores the mythology of the beasts and their presence in storytelling.  Seriously cool right?

One of Melbourne's hidden dragons

And, on Tuesday evening I hope to attend Edinburgh Unbound, described as “Part reading, part gig, part party”.  Basically it is a fusion of Scottish and Australian musicians and storytellers coming together to present an evening of performance, music, film and stories in celebration of the partnership between the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Edinburgh Book Festival in our sister UNESCO City of Literature.

It is heartening to note that the attendants of the festival have so far ranged from toddlers to grannies, with no gaps in between.  I like to think this is a positive indication in light of recent discussions regarding ‘the death of the book’ and even ‘the death of the reader’, which today I was assured were both myths.  Yes, fellow writers, you can rest easy.

Young and old, we are still fascinated by the art of storytelling, whether it be through the traditional or graphic novel, music or art, the written or the spoken word.  How we tell the stories may be changing, evolving even, but the fact that we are still telling them and interested in how others tell them is what’s important and is what will keep the art of storytelling alive for a long time to come.

The festival runs from Thursday 25th August to Sunday 4th September and all the information can be found on the Melbourne Writers Festival website at http://www.mwf.com.au/2011/.

~storytelling nomad~

Book whose main character you want to marry

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 14

I have narrowed it down to two.  My sensible choice and my more imprudent, guilty-pleasure choice.

Potential future husband number 1: Mr Darcy played by Colin Firth

My sensible choice is of course, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.  A wealthy man, Darcy is not intimidated by a well-educated woman and makes declarations along the lines of; “In vain have I struggled, it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”  He also looks damn good in a top hat.

Potential future husband number 2: Eric Northman, played by Alexander Skarsgård in the television adaptation True Blood

My second, more impulsive choice, is Eric Northman from Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Novels, specifically his persona from the fourth book, ‘Dead to the World’, where he loses his memory and becomes less the vicious vampire and more the croon worthy studmuffin.  Vicious or not, however, it has to be said that his on-screen character played by Alexander Skarsgård in the television adaptation ‘True Blood’, is quite the sexy spunk.  Being a vampire and all, and a misbehaving one at that, I suspect he’s probably not the marriage type…but just look at him!

~storytelling nomad~

Living a Life Down Under

Australian Christmas Essentials

A short while ago I posted about my seasonal job working at the snow, which in Australia translates as working mid year in the June-August months, or thereabouts.  I know it’s all very confusing for those of you on the upper side of the Earth, but really it’s all very simple.  We still have the same four seasons, just in reverse.  So as you currently enjoy the warm sunshine and summer holidays, I am sitting here, wrapped in a blanket by the fire.

But what does this mean for Christmas?

At the time of my post, my magnificent blog friend, Angela Wallace, made a most valid request:

You’ll have to explain Christmas to me later, because I’m suddenly starting to feel unbalanced with the idea of hot Christmases and no hot chocolate if December is your summer…

You are not alone, Angela!  Now, as I grew up in the UK until the age of 10, I am more than familiar with a wintery Christmas.  As December approached during my school days in England, we would make Christmas cards decorated with snow flakes, snowmen and open fires.  The Christmas holidays would be spent frolicking outside in the snow, our mittens permanently attached to our fingers, and coming inside at the end of the day with red noses, rosy cheeks and a fatigue that only an entire day of absolute merriment can deliver.  On Christmas Eve we would leave Santa a mug of warm milk and a plate of chocolate biscuits.  Christmas dinner was always a feast of hot food to warm the heart (and the body) – a turkey that had been slow cooking all day, roast potatoes, parsnips and (always to my dismay) brussel sprouts.  I hold fond memories of those English Christmases and am grateful I had the opportunity to experience them as only the Europeans know how.

One winter morning in England a few years ago

An Australian Christmas is a different experience entirely.

When my parents first told my brother and I that we were moving to Australia, I was genuinely excited.  Mum had come back from a recent recon trip with a huge illustrated children’s book of Australia and a sing-along video, amongst other fascinating souvenirs, which succeeded in getting us most enthusiastic about the imminent journey to the land down under.  I honestly don’t remember once contemplating the thought of leaving my friends behind, or having to start afresh at a new school.  I was at an age where I just saw it all as very cool and a bit of an adventure.  The only time I cried was when I realised we had to leave our German Shepherd behind, and a brief moment when I found out I wouldn’t be around to participate in a skipping rope competition I had trained so very hard for.  Despite these two unhappy affairs, I never looked back.

I believe this enormous transition at such an early age truly contributed to how well I have adapted to every move since.  Back then, the internet was still in its very early days, and not yet commercially available.  Flights were expensive and snail mail was precisely as slow it sounds.  In hindsight, I was unreasonably optimistic in light of the circumstances that strongly indicated it would be some time before I saw or heard from my friends or extended family again.  But optimistic I was, and it hasn’t let me down yet.  Ever since, with every move I’ve made, I have always looked forward to what adventure awaits, unafraid of what I might be leaving behind.  I’m a strong believer that where there’s a will, there’s a way, and the technology of today is a testament to that.  Nowadays you need only an internet connection to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe, and although I have made new friends in Aus, I have since been able to reconnect with old ones in the UK.

But I digress.

In light of my optimistic attitude, I was not at all unenthused by the prospect of a Christmas without the traditional snow glazed trees and hot chocolate suppers.  Mum and dad had filled us in, and we were as fascinated by the idea of a hot Christmas as we were hopeful at spotting a koala up a tree along a suburban road, or a kangaroo hopping down the streets of Sydney. (Although this didn’t actually happen quite as we hoped, I can since assure all those non-Aussies out there, that there are plenty of places in Australia where they do exist amongst urban living.  Just the other night I took the dog outside and was greeted by an enormous kangaroo, taller than me and gawking like a deer caught in headlights.  I froze, and after a moment it took off into the night in a few huge bounds, the soft thumping sound of its feet betraying its graceful getaway.)

So what do Aussies do for Christmas?

Well, obviously every family is different, but generally speaking, Christmas Day will involve a BBQ.  It’s usually too hot to have the oven on inside, so a backyard BBQ or a barbie on the beach is the answer.  The beach?  I hear you ask.  Yes, the beach.  Aussies LOVE the beach and most beaches have BBQ’s under a nearby pergola, which on Christmas Day requires an early morning, some organisation and a basic knowledge of kung fu in order to lay claim to one.  Fresh seafood is the cuisine of choice, with prawn platters and smoked salmon followed by our national desert, Pavlova.

The 2008 Santa Claus Pub Crawl crew

A lot of Aussies will just spend the day as they would most summer days, lazing on the beach with a cool beer in hand.  The Christmas parties are never ending, and usually involve some kind of dress up theme and a pub crawl.  For a number of years I participated in a Santa Claus Pub Crawl, which involved dressing up as Mr or Mrs Claus and with a bag of candy in tow, ‘crawling’ the pubs along the Northern Beaches of Sydney, handing out candy canes to children and getting just a little bit more inebriated with each passing pub, and a little more sunburnt with each walk to the next.  I would like to take this opportunity to promote stranger danger, SPF 30+ sunscreen, and to encourage responsible drinking.

As is customary with the summer months, we too hold many summer music festivals, which a lot of people attend over the Christmas period.  Some people travel up north to the Whitsundays for even warmer weather, and some people travel down south to cool down, just a little.  Some people go camping, cruising or hiking.  As our school year ends around November, Christmas time is also a time for many to celebrate the end of their exams, school year or school life.

Whatever the occasion, Australians have this unusual knack of being relaxed, content and eager to forget all their worries and just have a good time.  Cheer and beer.  It’s their thing.  It’s our thing.

So Angela, and all, I hope this has cleared up some of the mystery behind how we manage Christmas in summer.  I do miss the white Christmases of England, but I can’t really complain about Christmas at the beach either.  We have the tinsel, the tree and the carols that come with any Christmas, we just do it a bit differently.

In the meantime, enjoy the summer, those of you all the way up there…yeah you!  I’m not jealous, because the funny thing about seasons is that they come around every year, and as it turns out we’re due for another summer in just a few months.  Now I’m going to get back to my fire and mittens, and despite the cold remain eternally content that I get to call Australia home.

N.B.  I can still rock a skipping rope.

~storytelling nomad~

Busy being a nerd

Gone Fishing.  Not really.  But had I an office door of some description, that is the sign I’d have liked to have had hanging off it, just because that’s what all the cool kids seem to do these days, you know?

But I digress.

I have been absent from the blogosphere my pretties.  How many times have I set my eyes upon those blogs apologising for their absence, listing their feeble reasons for their lack of posts, cowering on their knees, praying for mercy as they beg forgiveness? Many a time have I witnessed such a sad state of affairs and scoffed at their insolence.  “Shame on you!” I have shouted with a lofty arrogance!  And yet today, my friends, followers, minions…today I yield myself as one of those sad, unworthy bloggers.  OH THE SHAME!

Before I ask of you your compassion, your mercy, your humanity, I must first follow suit and list three reasons for my unexpected leave:

  1. Work – At the snow.  You all knew this one, and frankly, with no electricity or reception I had little choice while this was happening.  Therefore, I refuse to apologise for this you evil fiends!
  2. Supanova – Ohhhh this is where it gets interesting and I start to weep with joy at the memory of my recent trip to Sydney where I joined my fellow nerds at the annual fantasy/sci fi convention.  More about this below.
  3. The Plague – Well that’s what it feels like okay?! Apparently it’s just ye ol influenza, but if the black death gets me don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Also, it has rendered me incapable of blogging, eating chocolate, being anything other than horizontal, and has brought on a severe need of Buffy reruns (potentially also due to aforementioned Supanova trip.  Unconfirmed).

So, as you can see, the past week and a half has had moments of pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, heaven and hell…but mostly, just a lot of no blogging.  Please accept my sincerest apologies.  Are we done?  Good.  Because now I demand you share in all I have to tell you about the nerd fest that was Supanova.  If you are at all confused about this awesome event, I suggest you mosy on over to their website www.supanova.com.au and educate yourself before someone discovers your nerdy ignorance.

But before I go on, I cannot contain it any longer.  I met, talked to, and touched with my bare hands two amazing celebrities.  James Marsters aka Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (SQUEEEEEEEAAALLL!), and Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies, who, without the beach blonde hair that so befits some men/vampires – cough Spike cough – is quite the hotty.

My world is complete!

Oh James, you naughty boy!

Moving along.  It was a bit touch and go there for a while with that damn Chilean ash cloud that continues to stuff around domestic and international flights here in Aus.  Come on Chileans, can’t you keep your volcanoes under control like the rest of us?  As it turns out, last Thursday I was on one of the first flights allowed out of Tassie after a week of flight troubles…phew.  Made it to Sydney and got ready for the 3 day Supanova bonanza.

Adz and I having a few train troubles

I went with my super awesome friend Adz, who is a big nerd also.  After one train hiccup (see right), we made it to the showgrounds where the event began on Friday night.  We spent 2 hours standing in line to purchase our photo and autograph tickets for the Sat and Sun, knowing from previous experiences that this line would get much, much longer over the weekend.

On the Saturday and Sunday we spent our time meeting the celebs (Cue more SQUEALING!), scouring the merchandise stalls and staring in amazement at the as always high standard of cosplayers.  For those of you unfamiliar with cosplay, the faithful wiki dictionary defines it as:

The practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, esp. one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime.

Captain Jack Sparrow Cosplay

In other words, absolute awesomeness.  There were characters from Star Wars, Firefly, The Disney Movies, Superman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Iron Man and so many I didn’t recognise that even I at times felt an unworthy nerd…and that happens rarely.  One of my faves was a certain Captain Jack Sparrow, who looked the spitting image of Johnny Depp.  Sensational.

On the Saturday evening we had the pleasure of watching James Marsters in concert.  Yes ladies, the man can sing! My best friends Mel and Aly joined us, and we couldn’t help but start sighing and giggling every time he looked our way with a cheeky smile.  What a hunny.

On the Sunday evening, Adz and I had the added pleasure of attending a small after party with James and Gareth David Lloyd from Torchwood.  I’ve never watched Torchwood, so can safely say I know zip about the show, its characters and actors.  And yet, as eight of us sat at a table with this actor, everyone seemed relatively star struck.  Except me of course.  I was saving that for James, and well, like I said, I didn’t really know who Gareth was.  Soooo I tried to make conversation, and of course I put my foot in it when I asked “Where in England are you from”….to the WELSHMAN.  Okay okay, so I know being English and all I’m supposed to know this stuff, but I don’t.  It all sounds pommy to me! Thankfully he was most gracious about it, and after receiving many daggers from the Torchwood lovers around the table we managed to steer conversation back to safe topics such as the weather and food.  Boring!

And James, well James was just James.  Buffy is my all time favourite show so it was an amazing experience to meet and talk with him.  He is a big charmer and so interesting, and has the same laugh as Spike…by which I suppose I mean Spike has the same laugh as James? Regardless…I don’t really know how to describe the experience in words.  It was amazing, and yet also strange.  I can see how some fans could get ‘overzealous’ with their admiration (in fact, I think there was one potential stalker at our table), but even so, I find that meeting these ‘celebrities’ further strengthens the reality that differentiates the characters from their performers.  I love Spike and his character, and I ‘know’ him pretty well.  James was awesome and I could see bits of Spike in him, but he isn’t Spike.  Plus, he doesn’t have an English accent…I know, right!?  The actors were interesting, kind and gracious with us, but at the end of the day, this is their job, and meeting us is part of how they market themselves.  It was a wonderful experience, as it always is at these events, but it again reminded me how we can enjoy the shows and the characters in them, but meeting the actors isn’t meeting the characters, because sadly, they don’t exist…sob!

In any case, the night ended on an unexpected note with a lovely girl we met, Susannah, reading my Tarot cards for me after the celebs had left.  It was uncannily accurate!  I have always been interested in this sort of ‘supernatural’ thing; tarot cards and clairvoyants etc, but have never considered it seriously enough to actually try out, my inner sceptic telling me not waste my money on what might be a load of crap.  I’d love to do it again though because it really was amazing what she told me of my past, present and future.  She had me when she pulled out the card with the words: ‘THE HERMIT’.  She was in my head I tell you!

The festivities ended with me, the plague, and a terrifying few hours as the Chilean ash cloud threatened my return flight home.  Thankfully I was on one of the last flights out of Sydney before they went into shut down mode again.  Fate anyone?

Well, I think this account of my absence is long enough for now.  I shall leave you with some photographic evidence of me and my recent squeeze, James.  Here’s to the next post not taking as long as this one.  Of course, if I die of the plague then I can only apologise further and ask that you say kind, but funny things about me when I’m gone.

Me and Spike (My boyfriend, obviously)

~storytelling nomad~

I can’t move…

…my arms, my legs, my back.  Everything aches.  My fingers are even struggling to type these words.  Much editing is proving useful to making sure this post sounds as though it was written by an astute adult rather than a deformed domestic animal stepping on the keys, which, in case you’re wondering, looks more like this:

bjªfsijo¡L7 ^% )@*Ynd uy%!0-2 8ªnsv uhs$dw90la 68§∞2ey7husdG&%#_*

And yet, what a magnificent couple of days spent on the mountain.  Clear blue skies, very little wind, and many happy customers.  I woke this morning to a beautiful snowy mountain sunrise, as you can see;

Ben Lomond Sunrise

For so early in the season we have amazing snow cover at Ben Lomond at the moment, and were extremely lucky that our first open weekend was over a long weekend.  Tomorrow, this hard life (#notreally) continues as I head back up to the mountain for another couple of days at the snow.  I apologise for the brevity of this post, and the reasonable lack of content, but as soon as I can move my bones again with a respectable amount of agility for someone my age, I’ll be sure to make up for it.  If I don’t, punishment by death will ensue.

~storytelling nomad~

The money making part of my day

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It may come as a surprise to some, but on occasion I actually do work, of the paid kind.  It threatens to tear me away from my writing dreams but it also rewards me with cash that I like to throw up in the air with joy!  Well, to be honest, it is usually sent directly to my account and then swiftly spent on life’s necessities such as food, rent and books before I even see those colourful pieces of plastic…but no matter.  The important thing is I’m fed, housed and literate.  Today I will be working on a beautiful mountain, Ben Lomond, in the north of Tasmania, manning the ski lifts and selling tickets to the customers.  With little reception (read: none) and no electricity, I suspect my chances of blogging are relatively low.  How will I survive? What will this absence of posts reduce me to? Fear not, dear bloggers.  I am confident I can make it through the day, just.  In the meantime, take a look at the pretty slideshow of my Ben Lomond photos and imagine me there, in the fresh air, feet crunching in the snow, greeting the first skiers and boarders of the season.  Winter is here my friends, and it’s my favourite season.

Jacobs Ladder - This is the only way up the mountain. I took this photo only a week ago but now I am told it is covered in snow, with drifts in some places over a metre high. If you do not hear from me after this day you can safely assume I met my fate on Jacobs Ladder

~storytelling nomad~

My favourite place: Planet Earth

I consider myself lucky to have been given the opportunity from a young age to see a bit of the world.  It has made me appreciate not only what is beyond my own front yard, but has also made me recognise that you don’t need to cross oceans to find beauty in a place.  It amazes me how often people are so keen to travel overseas when some of the most celebrated destinations are just around the corner from their own home.  Such is life, it seems, that we always want what we don’t have.  I have included below four of my favourite photos, from places I have been that have taken my breath away.

The first, in the motherland, also known as England and the place of my birth, was taken from the bathroom window of my Aunt and Uncle’s early one morning just after Christmas.  Everything – the ground, the trees, the sky – was white, and it was absolutely breathtaking.

The second looks over the water at St. Helens, Tasmania.  Tasmania is grossly underrated for its beaches, which are some of the most beautiful I have seen in Australia.  The weather may be cooler than say in the Whitsundays, but the pristine crystal clear waters, definitely give Whitehaven Beach a run for its money.  Considering Tasmania is so often recognised as ‘the island’, it’s beyond me why people are surprised by the amount of beaches it has to offer.

Moving on to Venice.  I love that place so much I’ve been there three times.  It really is the most unique tourist attraction in the world.  There is no one monument, place or exhibition that draws you there, it is just the city itself.  Simply walk down any street that doesn’t head directly for the Piazza San Marco and you won’t be surprised to find yourself lost and alone…which frankly, is the best way to explore Venice.

And, finally, a place very close to my heart is Amalfi, along the Amalfi Coast of Italy.  It has to be my favourite place in Italy, quite possibly in the world.  Although, be warned, I may be slightly biased.  See my travel story Belonging in the Published Stories section to find out why.

English Countryside (view from my Aunt & Uncle's house one winter)

St Helens, Tasmania

Canals of Venice, Italy

Sunrise in Amalfi, The Amalfi Coast, Italy

~storytelling nomad~