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A few weeks after moving here, I kept asking FunkyPlaid what that big group of buildings looming over the city was.
Half a year after moving here, I had finally figured out what it was.
A couple of years later, befuddled tourists started asking me how to get to the castle. Me! I could hardly believe it. I must have looked like I knew where I was going, but the truth is that the only place I knew how to get to without thinking and without checking on the blue dot on my phone was home.
This is home to me. This has been my home for four years. This will not be my home tomorrow. All of these facts take their turns flitting into and out of the “inconceivable” box in my brain.
I am ready to leave, and I am not ready too. That’s the best time to go.
Writing from: a home, my home, in Edinburgh. Listening to: all of the subtle noises that I won’t hear again.
I was promised bagpipes. And there were bagpipes.
Everything else was icing.
Speaking of icing, when I set out for Holyrood Park this morning at my usual brisk warm-up walking pace, I slipped and fell. It wasn’t a bad fall, although a passer-by stopped long enough to tell me that I should be walking in the road (thanks, I think). While taking eensy baby steps the rest of the way to the starting line, I wondered if running a race was the best thing to be doing at -1°C (30.2°F). Although I was prepared mentally and had plenty of layers on, I worried a little about the state of the course.
When I arrived to my wave’s place in the starting line-up, the race organisers announced that there was nothing to fear. Plenty of grit had been placed on the course, three times over, and so I took my place and we were soon off!
Even though the first third of this particular course is all uphill, I was immediately glad to be running it. It was misty and cold but not wet. I got to see the swans in their pond one last time. I tried to peek down into Duddingston but it was so misty that I could barely make it out.
And the pipers! There were pipers at the 1k, 2k, 3k, and 4k markers. Some runners stopped to take selfies with the pipers. I asked the piper at the 3k marker if I could take his picture and he obliged. (I loved running in the slowest wave. Most of us were just trying to finish, not get any PRs, so lots of us stopped for pictures and chatted as we jogged.)
Shocking no one, I listened to the original Broadway cast recording of “Hamilton” as I ran. This was one of the best ideas I have ever had and it resulted in the following tweet:
The last bit of the course is all blessedly downhill so I got one last soar down Arthur’s Seat to the finish line. And then:
I hope I never fall out of love with this musical.
It was a slow 5k, even by my standards. I don’t even have accurate statistics because Runmeter quit at the start (due to a RAM issue that I now know how to fix) and I had inexplicably left my Garmin at home even though I remembered to bring my lip balm but it is pumpkin spice lip balm so before you question my priorities remember I’m a white girl and this is pumpkin spice lip balm we’re talking about here people.
As this is a special post doing double-duty as a race report, you get a second photo today. It’s a super-creepy selfie I took on the walk home. What is going on with my eyeballs in this shot? I’m not even looking in the right place and I’m the one taking the photo! It’s all the pumpkin spice.
When I got home, I took a very hot shower and discovered just how cold I had gotten because it was all going so well and I was warming up and then everything itched all at once like I was one giant chicken-pock. (Yep, that’s the singular of “pox”.) It was still a great shower, and a great race. No matter where I live, Arthur’s Seat will always be my favourite extinct volcano.
And thank you, anonymous person, for donating to the Joshua Nolan Foundation. Your generosity will help someone here get the mental health counselling they need.
Shortly after moving to Edinburgh, I met an extraordinary woman named Laura. She is extraordinary because she somehow picked up the pieces of her life after her son Joshua took his own life at only twenty-two years old. And after she picked up those pieces, she forged ahead to found the Joshua Nolan Foundation the very next year.
Tomorrow will be my last 5k race around Arthur’s Seat, at least for now, and I’m running to raise awareness for the Joshua Nolan Foundation. The Joshua Nolan Foundation works with their partner counsellors to fund counselling sessions for people who have been identified as ‘at risk’ of suicide. If you or someone you know has been impacted by not having access to this kind of support, please consider donating to the Joshua Nolan Foundation.
And please think fleet-footed thoughts for me around 10:00 GMT tomorrow! I’m a bit creaky but I want to finish strong for such an important cause.
In my haste to submit a story for critique by my writing group, I almost forgot all about Project 365. That means you get a hastily-snapped “here is something on my desk” photo.
While my friend Sharks was visiting last month, we spent some memorable days tooling around Edinburgh, chatting and poking our noses into various places. That whole week was charmed: the weather was good, we got on well, and there were plenty of magical moments like finding this wee black swan. She was in a type of shop neither of us normally ventures into, one with a cutesy name and frilly brassy shabby-chic knick-knacks. But there she was, and now here she is, and fond memories will come to mind every time I see her.
I would need a whole tiny menagerie to remind me of all of the wonderful things I’ve experienced in Scotland. I’ve been so lucky.
If you ever have to leave a place, I hope that right before you go, someone visits you. I hope that someone visits you and that the someone is still full of wonder and excitement about travel, about newness, about being surprised by a glimpse of a city.
Just like our guest was surprised today as we led him out of Waverley and into this city we will soon leave.
Fitting, really, that of all of the photos I took today it’d be this one that I ended up liking the best. Not the ones of the castle, or of the holiday market just about to close, or of the Royal Mile.
This one isn’t even a good photo, but it evokes the mood I feel whenever I get to lead someone out of Waverley. That first glimpse, bending into something you know is going to result in a breathless noise, not quite a word but its approach.
“If I waited for perfection, I’d never write a word.” –Margaret Atwood
Often I want to say something important in the perfect way, so I keep putting it off until I figure out the perfect way. If the perfect way never occurs to me, I never say the important thing.
The point is to say the thing because there will never be a perfect way. (Thanks, Ms. Atwood.)
So here’s the thing: in January, we are leaving Scotland to move back to the States. After getting our bearings in the San Francisco Bay Area we will likely end up in Portland, Oregon.
I have approximately thirty-seven different feelings about this move. On the whole, I think it will be the best thing for us. But Scotland has been home for four years, and there is so much I love about it, hence my wish for perfection in relating the news.
But it is better to say the thing. We’ll go from here.
FunkyPlaid will be in the States to navigate the store through the holiday season again, so I will have one last solo Christmas in Edinburgh. It will be more bittersweet this time than ever, but I am determined not to spend all of it feeling sorry for myself (or packing, even though there will be plenty of that). Plus, my favourite shark will be visiting for part of December, and I can’t wait to show her around this wonderful place.
I fear there will be no more JDB1745 updates until life evens out sometime early next year. However, FunkyPlaid’s thesis is complete! His viva voce (thesis defense) isn’t until January, though, so no calling him Doc Plaid yet.
Sunday is my last day of work at the weekend gig. Tough to believe that it has already been two years! Time to polish up the CV and start the Stateside job-hunt. Know of any wonderful libraries in the Portland area who are looking for an enthusiastic tech-loving librarian?
Amidst all of the other craziness I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo again this year. It might seem like terrible timing but considering how my mental health improves when I make time to write every day, this will be good for me. I’ve been whipping my writing muscles into shape by participating in daily “dashes” with a group in Second Life called Virtual Writers. My current pace is about 1,000 words per hour. Since my goal is 1,667 words per day during November that means almost two hours of daily writing. I’m excited.
Speaking of getting into shape, it is time for another running challenge! I’m going for a sub-30:00 in the Great Winter Run, my last race in Edinburgh. The course is once around Arthur’s Seat, and it is a great way to start the year.
The “Hamilton” musical soundtrack has been on endless repeat this month. Not much else.
I started listening to the Tanis podcast because it is produced by the same folks who do The Black Tapes Podcast, and that season is now over. I am glad there is something spooky and weird to tide me over, but I am not yet sold on Tanis. I’ll keep listening, though.
FunkyPlaid got me hooked on Dungeon Boss, a battle game with cute retro graphics.
“Homeland” and “Les Revenants” and “Downton Abbey” have all started up again now. Before they did, FunkyPlaid and I started watching “Utopia” (UK version) which is all kinds of thought-provoking and disturbing so I hesitate to call it enjoyable.
I had the huge privilege of seeing my mom in a play called “The Cheek” in Tourmakeady, Ireland – where the play was set! It was a great production and my mom gave a stunning performance. I hope to have some photos of Ireland to share soon, if I can ever stop playing Dungeon Boss.
Photo credit: Autumn arrived at my home in Second Life. I sure do love fall foliage, even the kind on virtual trees.
I wasn’t feeling particularly creative today, so I went with the Holidailies prompt, which is: “What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?”
You likely already know that I am FunkyPlaid-less this holiday season. (I am also currently Internet-less, which is nearly as dire.) Right now I am not looking forward to much about this holiday season.
Shortest. Blog post. Ever.
No, no. There are some things I am anticipating. And I think I can kickstart the holiday mood by spending more time at the European Christmas Market. FunkyPlaid and I went once the night before he left, and had a wonderful time hanging out with our friends and drinking hot glüwein. That night I was in the holiday spirit. And if I was there once, I can get there again. I just have to work at it a little.
Writing from: the drafty lounge. Listening to: “American Pie” in the background, glitching out so much it sounds more like a horror film. I guess the TV signal is going soon, too …
Stevenson Unbound is this afternoon! Here are 11 Reasons why you should go to Stevenson Unbound, courtesy of writer, musician, spoken-word performer and event mastermind Andrew C. Ferguson. (I’m reason #7, fancy that!)
More on Facebook.
Thank you to everyone who attended my Story Shop reading today at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It was an unforgettable experience. Once again I was reminded of how wonderfully supportive the Edinburgh literary community is, and I was especially grateful for everyone who took a moment out of your day to let me tell you a story.
I hope to tell you many more!
The full text and audio excerpt of my story “Leftovers” are available on the City of Literature Trust’s website.
My publications and other appearances are listed on my “Fiction” page.
I am thrilled to announce that I will be reading my story “Leftovers” for Story Shop 2014, hosted by the Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Story Shop is a series of daily 10-minute flash fiction and short story readings by local emerging writers.
My reading is on Wednesday the 13th of August at 4pm in the Guardian Spiegeltent. Drop by for a free story!
Smacked down with a jagged little head-cold. Some bits from my phone, remnants of my desultory search for spring …
A mark on a lamppost.
A squadron of daffodils besieging the links.
A shrubbery unconvinced by spring’s opening argument.
Where do you find comfort, in the beloved memories of the past or the hopeful possibilities of the future?
Meerkats at the Edinburgh Zoo: manic philosopher-kings.
This Thanksgiving edition of How I Decide Where to Sit is dedicated to reviewing all the rookie mistakes one can make when riding public transit in a new city for the first time, because it is kind of like what the Pilgrims did when they– no. Even I can’t torture that metaphor. It is dedicated to rookie mistakes because I made them all today and I need to laugh about them with you.
So really it was like riding public transit for the very first time ever! That is the spin I am going to take because I am in denial, denial that moving to a new country, even if you (sort of) speak the language, means not knowing how to do anything very well for a while and just sucking that up because the alternative is hiding in your very nice flat all the time and pretending to buy postage from the cats just so you get better at counting out the different coins. Not that I have been doing that at all.
Anyway, I had thought about doing some sort of Thanksgiving meal here, but the more I pondered approximating turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and the rest, the more homesick I felt, and then I felt disappointed about feeling so homesick. My stomach sold the rest of me out for the memory of pumpkin pie. Yesterday’s vegan baking experiment of pumpkin mini-muffins did not do the trick, although they were tasty. (I used this recipe, with a ripe banana in the place of the eggs.)
Homesickness aside, I am extremely thankful for this new home, for my family and friends, and for owning a lot of candles because this place is very dark just now. I think I will go roast some chestnuts.
HIDWtS Rating: We just debated taking turkey legs to the chip shop that will fry anything. Do you think they will do pumpkin puree?
[box type=“shadow”]I used to ride a shuttle to work. It was a really nice shuttle and the first time I had ever had that luxury, causing me to overthink pretty much every aspect of it, especially where to sit. And now I overthink where I decide to sit in every open-seating situation, so I’m writing about it in a series called How I Decide Where to Sit.[/box]
I’ve been in Edinburgh a month already! Really? Really. So I thought it might be time to draw a mental map.
The trees here don’t look anything like that. And I didn’t know how to draw the building we live in without taking up the entire lower-third of the map, so you get a Monopoly house instead.
It took a lot of willpower not to include the tram works, but I didn’t have an iPad stylus setting for “fubar”.
The good news is that my map of the immediate vicinity is very clear. I can now navigate between all places of importance, which is a list that coincides with the places I will find tea.
Additional good news: next week I start my volunteer position at the National Trust for Scotland, which means I will be reliant on public transit once more! Mental map, prepare to be … extended a few miles to the west in a very narrow corridor. With authority.