R is for Rye

With its cobbled streets, castle, and wonderfully preserved medieval, Tudor and Georgian houses, this ancient town situated in the south east of England just so happens to be where I grew up as a little girl, as did my father before me.

Once surrounded almost completely by water, the town dates back to before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and is known historically for being an important member of the Cinque Ports confederation, its role in providing ships for the King in times of war, as well as its involvement with the smuggling trade during the 18th and 19th Centuries, achieved through vaulted cellars, secret tunnels and passageways, many of which still exist today.

The Mermaid Inn

The Mermaid Inn, one of the oldest inns in England, has played host to Charlie Chaplin, Pierce Brosnan, Andy Garcia, Johnny Depp and none other than Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and her mother.

Rye itself has produced a number of well known names, most notably being Sir Paul McCartney. I’m also proud to say that it has been a place of inspiration for a number of writers, including Henry James, Conrad Aiken, Joseph Conrad and H. G. Wells.

Bestowed with unseasonably mild temperatures and a few somewhat rare cloudless days, my Auntie and Uncle took my well-timed visit as an opportunity to accompany me around the town to strangely familiar, yet foreign places.

Little things stirred the memory of my childhood self – doorways, a clock tower, cobbled streets, the smell of fish and chips – but it was more the overall ambiance and character of this small historic town that set me reminiscing.

Rye Church and Graveyard

With a population of just over 4000, the town of Rye is about as quaint and as ‘English’ as it gets. Tiny doorways and black beams across white walls line the cobbled streets, whilst behind the medieval church a sun speckled graveyard sits rather beautifully as little red-breasted robins sing happily in the overhead tree branches.

The smell of hot coffee and freshly baked pastries pour out of charming little coffee houses, each furnished with mismatched lounge chairs, the walls lined with bookshelves and antiques.

I can’t help but find magic in the names of places: Lamb Cottage, Mermaid Street, The Mint, Wish Ward, Oak Corner, Watchbell Street. They all sound like names from a children’s fantasy story. Other places have names rooted in history; The Apothecary coffee shop was named after its former use as an Apothecary. Meanwhile, the smell of meat pies oozes from a little shop tucked away down a narrow street, its cast iron sign swinging from the roof identifying it as Simon the Pieman. 

Simon the Pieman

I think every town should have a Simon the Pieman.

As you get closer to the water, anchors, antique shops and the smell of the sea are prevalent. I see pottery in shop windows that look much like the Rye pottery we brought over to Australia with us almost two decades ago, and wonder at the lasting trade of some professions.

Meanwhile, the warm and welcoming inns provide hearty meals of roast beef, oven roasted potatoes covered in hot gravy for a late lunch.

Needless to say, I took many photos on this part of the trip and delighted my parents on my return as they scrutinised pictures of a place they once called home, much changed but also very much the same.

Even if I had not spent the first few years of my life there, I’m convinced I’d love it all the same.  It has character and charm, but it also has history. The idea of smugglers silently rowing by veil of night into hidden passageways beneath the town is a thrilling thought. Not only that, but the fact that my father recognised buildings, streets and places he used to walk by and play in as a child, is testament to the wonderfully preserved nature of this ancient town.

Yep, there is definitely something special about Rye.

Antique shop in Rye

Gravestones bow with the weight of their age

The House with Two Front Doors

Cobbled stones

Sunset down Watchbell Street

Typical houses of Rye

Old Anchor by the water

We're a funny lot, us English folk

Church Graveyard

Cobbled street overlooking Rye rooftops

Advertisements

L is for London

The London Eye

What is there, really, to be said about London that hasn’t been said before?

It’s a city that doesn’t feel like a city. Somehow Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Piccadilly, The London Eye, Trafalgar Square, they all make this modern metropolis feel like a venerable kingdom. Not to mention that English accent I once possessed and now soak in hungrily in futile attempts to retrieve it.

I mentioned in a previous post that cities intimidate me. The hustle and bustle and pushing and shoving doesn’t make for a pleasant day, in my opinion, but for some reason I always feel at home in London despite all that. There’s just an air of opportunity about it.

I get the feeling that if I was looking for something, I would find it in London.

Apart from one remarkable event, which will be detailed in another post, I have little to report on my short stay in this celebrated city. I saw the sites for the upteenth time, and for the upteenth time I enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoyed food as only the English enjoy food, stuffing myself with fish and chips, pub meals and a special outing at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Jamie’s Italian. To top it all off I was graced with unseasonably mild weather and blue skies.

For that, London, I thank you.

I am such a tourist

Clouds sweep over London

The Palace of Westminister and Big Ben under blue skies

Dinner at Jamie Oliver's restaurant

Trafalgar Square

The tube

A Year in Review

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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~

****

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/

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~

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~