Sunday, 30 December 2012

On the eve....

So here we are, pretty much a year to the day since I started this blog and a lot has changed, and a lot really hasn't. I kept going with the blog! Ha! New Years Resolution 2012 TICK TICK TICK. It doesn't matter that the posts were shamefully few and far between since I got back from overseas, I think I averaged about one a month or something so it COUNTS.

And overseas! The best trip of my life. Health concerns not counted of course, but I have to thank God for not letting such concerns ruin my trip. I saw some of the most amazing places in the world and I have an absolute swagload of memories to share with my friends and my boyfriend, who (BEWARE: MUSH) I have grown to love properly and more than I thought possible. Not that I didn't love him before. But I now realise that love needs to be challenged in order to appreciate the strength of it correctly. We have been together for over three years now and its only recently that we experienced our first real speedbumps and I'm pretty happy that we did. Because our relationship didn't fall in a heap at the first sign of trouble. My parents have been married a few years short of three decades and I have only now woken up to the fact that all relationships take work, and no relationship - none, NIL - is always trouble-free. That's life, peeps. Okay, relationship rant is over now, but seriously, yay my boyfriend. I love him. <3

I finished a book! (I actually finished two, but one of them was so completely and utterly woeful that I stuck it in a drawer and haven't touched it since). And I sent the first bit of the decent book to an agency and they requested the whole thing!! And I'm still waiting to hear from them sooooo....*crosses fingers, toes, all manner of appendages*

I continued with my Masters and have reached the conclusion that I probably won't finish it and perhaps it is not for me. An unfortunate decision to reach after the time and money spent on it so far, but again, LIFE! No matter.

I've started a new job which I already know will not be a full-time career prospect, and it has presented its own set of challenges, but I am committed to it for as long as 2013 goes the way of suiting it in my life. I am feeling a bit crazy, as though I'm standing on the ledge over the rest of my life and I need to make some kind of important career decision before I jump into it, but there are so many things floating around my head that I can't decide which option to snatch out the air. (Hopefully) time will tell.

SO: 2013.

I don't like making huge sweeping numbers of resolutions (I used to not do resolutions purely because I didn't want the pressure of sticking to them) but I have just a couple of bits for the coming year.

1. Cook more (this I am probably least optimistic about, but dammit, it's going on the list)

2. Lose all my cortisone/holiday weight (I have the exact number in my head and a loose plan, but that's my business *sticks out tongue*)

3. Write a novel, or at least a manuscript, that I can show my grandmother/elderly friends without blushing and wishing they wouldn't read it.

4. Keep blogging, but more frequently.

And to you all, people I love and hold near and dear, people I don't know too well, those I don't much like at all, and to anyone I have not yet met, I wish only the best and brightest things for you in 2013. Have a great year. xoxo

Friday, 16 November 2012

Meeting another literary hero

So a couple of nights ago I went to see Kate Morton speak at the State Library. For those who don't know, Kate Morton has four books published (the newest, and the reason for the book tour, is The Secret Keeper), is one of the best paid Australian authors (so I've read), looks like a supermodel and is just about the sweetest person in the world. I have read all her books and I really enjoyed them, but The Secret Keeper was extra special, just as good as her first offering and my all-time favourite, The Shifting Fog.

Kate Morton
Elyse and I were the youngest people there by about 30 years, but I'm sort of used to that, having made author-stalking a sort of hobby. Kate Morton spoke beautifully. She is one of the most articulate people I've ever met, incredibly lilting in tone. Her accent is Australian, with the 'properness' of a British accent thrown in and it makes for delightful listening, particularly when she reads her own prose.

She spoke about the writing process, and how she allows herself 3-4 months of research, where she reads books, watches films, locates diaries and other sources from the time period and just generally gets to know the era. Then it takes her about 10 months to write the book. The whole thing sounded heavenly. Imagine having the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in a period of history that you loved, then invent some amazing characters and storylines and play with them for a year or so? That is why I'd like to be a writer, so if anyone could manage to make that dream come true for me, that would be great. Thanks.

She spoke about things in her life that influenced her work, and what it was like living with another creative soul (both working from home) and how she does motherhood and writing. She told us about the false starts in her writing career which gives me hope for my own. Afterwards she signed our books and I turned into a blushing, stuttering person with crazy eyes but she was really sweet. I told her that I loved the new book and that I had wanted to read it before hearing her speak because I'd been to author talks when I hadn't read the newest book and I wished I had a frame of reference to what they were talking about. And then she agreed with me and Elyse told her that I had introduced Elyse to her books and Kate Morton said I was a good friend and I blushed some more and grinned like an idiot and then we left and I could breathe normally. It. Was. Awesome.

And I'm totally reinspired to write.

Yes, I know it's backwards. I took it in the webcam. Geez.
It says 'For Emily, A pleasure to meet you - happy reading!'

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Macfadyen VS Firth

Okay...okay...I'm just going to come out and say it because there is no easy way to build up to this.

I believe Matthew Macfadyen (henceforth to be known as MM) was a better Darcy than Colin Firth.

*shields self from inevitable barrage of pointy objects*

Look, I've had this argument many a time with fellow P & P enthusiasts whose line of Firth defense is more or less to stick their fingers in their ears and go 'LA LA LA LA LA LA' very loudly until I stop poisoning the air with my crazy talk.

The more articulate amongst them are blinded by the brilliance of the 1995 adaptation in which Mr Firth so brilliantly starred. Notice I said brilliantly? He was brilliant. There is no question about it - Colin Firth is an excellent Darcy.

However.

MM's portrayal was mired in the less successful 2005 adaptation and it seems his performance is tainted by association (at least, in the eyes of many Firthians).

While the 1995 miniseries clocked in at nearly six hours, Joe Wright attempted to squash the story into barely 120 minutes. Things were going to be altered, excluded, changed, as is the case with pretty much any film adaptation of a text of its size. No one complains nearly as vocally about Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility and this is because there was no miniseries of the 1995 P&P calibre to compare it to. Poor MM never stood a chance. No one was able to appreciate his performance because they were too busy comparing the production as a whole to the vastly more detailed 1995 one.

There is no question that Colin Firth was an inspired choice for the portrayal of Jane Austen's most famous gentleman character.

Exhibit A

But here are my main three reasons for thinking MM did it better:

1. He is closer in age to the character as he was written. 

Boom. Colin Firth was in the longer adaptation and could speak more of the dialogue, but MM was THE RIGHT AGE. And as for attractiveness, well that's perhaps the most subjective factor of all. I think both men were aesthetically appropriate for the romantic lead in a Regency era film. They are both tall, dark and handsome and to say one is better-looking than the other is a wee bit too shallow for me to endeavour.

2. He is vulnerable, and you can see it.

Upon beginning the text, one would be forgiven for thinking Mr Darcy was a stuffy, snobby douchebag with a pole up his arse. As the story unravels, we witness his shyness, and the fact that he is somewhat socially inept becomes endearing. What Elizabeth perceives as his 'pride' comes less from self-absorption and more from self-preservation. His arrogance is a mask, and one he uses to protect what he is feeling from anyone who may not be suitably intimidated. I like MM's depiction of this because he let's the audience glimpse it, just momentarily, before the mask comes back up and he goes on the defensive. This is probably best displayed in the proposal scene in the rain (and YES, I know they took poetic license with the rain, I'll talk about that in a sec).

3. The scene at Pemberley with Georgiana.

I think when Elizabeth observes him with Georgiana, and the effect she has on him, this is the moment her feelings change for real. I know it's hard to argue with the lake scene from 1995 (and THAT is why you cannot complain about the rain scene in the 2005 version), but MM at Pemberley showed Lizzie his most human side, even after she had rejected him. And that, more than anything, proves to her that she was wrong about his pride.

From the way I've been describing him, it sort of sounds like MM has been dropping his guard all over the joint, but rest assured this is not the case. He is still quintessentially Darcy, using his moments of vulnerability to provide the audience with a glimpse into his psyche, in an adaptation that isn't long enough to include telling lines of his appreciation for 'fine eyes'. The whole world is perfectly at liberty to prefer Colin Firth, but these are the iron clad reasons for my own opinion.

Isn't it amazing that I procrastinate SO HARD on my assignments and manage to come up with this instead of doing any work? I really need to get a life.





Oh. And, um...





PS. Another reason to hush up about the rain scene...

So there.


Saturday, 29 September 2012

Edgar


This is from a Facebook note I wrote last year. But I'm posting it here because it feels more important here :D

I have often wondered what I would do if I found an injured animal on the side of the road. (Sadly, they've all been dead so far. Cold, dead roadkill.) If it were someone's pet, a domesticated animal like a dog or a cat, obviously the answer is 'Help it.' But possums and birds and other assorted wildlife are a different story. I have some friends who would think it the height of stupidity to ignore them and insist on driving around in their car with old blankets and cardboard boxes in case such a situation arises. I have other friends who would think it absolutely moronic to give them a second glance as they are 'just a bird' or 'just a possum'. But if you've ever seen an animal in pain and have been in a position to do something about it, you'd have to be pretty heartless for the thought not to cross your mind.

Today I was driving to my boyfriend's and saw a dead bird in the middle of the road. But five minutes later when I was driving back along the same road, I saw that he in fact wasn't dead - he'd moved himself to the kerb and was lying there, his breathing very shallow and with his wing all bent up behind him. This has happened one other time, but as soon as I opened the car door to check on him, the bird got up and flew away (otherwise known as 'the time Emily got punk'd by a bird'), so I was aware of shock and how quickly birds can recover from it. In this case, I decided just to wait a little to see if he would recover. Stupid, inconsiderate, mentally-impaired drivers were screaming past with no regard for him, their tyres missing him by centimetres, so I parked my car close to him so they'd have to drive around me and couldn't get as close to him. As I waited, calling my Dad to ask him about the RSPCA, some neighbouring honey eaters started divebombing the injured bird so I got out of the car and stood near him. The poor little guy was following me with his eyes, but he didn't look like he could move his head. He looked like a crow (but I later found out he was a raven, and have christened him Edgar). I called the RSPCA and they told me they accept injured wild birds if you bring them to their Burwood headquarters. Apparently the notion that it's unsafe to touch birds is an old wives tale and the woman on the phone said just to get a towel and a cardboard box to drive him in. I had no such materials with me so I called my boyfriend's house. 

After establishing that my boyfriend's parents now think I'm some sort of slow hippie for wasting my time with a bird, I drove back to his place to borrow a towel and by the time I got back to Edgar, he still hadn't got up. He let me walk right over to him and crouch down next to him. At this stage he'd been lying there at the mercy of cars and other birds for a good thirty minutes so I figured an appropriate time to wait had elapsed. I v-e-r-y slowly put the towel around him. He looked at me suddenly like 'EXCUSEMEWHATDOYOUTHINKYOUARE- oh, you're not squishing me. Cool'. I wrapped the towel around him and lifted him up and he sat very still in my arms, just watching me. I moved him into the passenger seat of my car and put him on a little nest made from a reusable shopping bag. It was a long drive down Burwood Hwy and I probably pissed off all manner of drivers because I didn't go very fast, but my car is uncomfortable and juddery at the best of times so I didn't want to make it any worse for Edgar. I talked to him the whole time about stupid things and he just stared at me, making sure I didn't do anything freaky like touch him or anything. I also considered the possibility that he may suddenly regain his strength, fly out of the towel and peck me to death before I could get out of the car, so I kept an eye on him too.

WHATCHU LOOKING AT?

We got to the RSPCA and despite all my gentle driving, the bump over the driveway made him sort of shimmy out of his towel. Even though he was free of the towel, he seemed content to just sit on the seat. I parked the car, and opened the door and went to pick the towel up. He stood up and hopped onto my dashboard. 'YOU'RE ALIVE!' I yelled ecstatically. He looked at me grumpily, sitting wedged between the dashboard and the slanted windscreen. 



I opened both doors of my car and the back windows. 'Come on sweetpea! Time to fly!' He continued to stare at me and not move, so I held up the towel and nudged him with it. He hopped down onto the seat and let me push him out onto the driveway. He sat there for a bit, his wing still looking a bit bent, but he'd proven he was able to hop around. He didn't want to go back in the towel. Every time he saw me lift it, he'd hop away, but he wouldn't fly. I put my hands on my hips and told him in no uncertain terms that if he didn't want me to put him back in the towel he'd have to show me he could fly. The honey eaters were already divebombing him again (seriously, what is it with those birds?) and he wouldn't fly away. Just hopped around looking lopsided because of his wing. So I threw the towel over him and wrapped him up again. He looked so fuzzy and cute and grumpy just sitting in my arms, but his breathing seemed a lot calmer. 



I took him into the RSPCA building and they put him in a cosy little box. They took my details and gave me a ref number if I wanted to follow up on how he was doing and I went on my merry way. 

Maybe if I was running late for something, or even had something to do that I could have been late for, I wouldn't have done it, but I know I wouldn't have felt great about leaving him there. So maybe I am a dumbarse for wanting to help a wild bird but poop to anyone who says it. Sometimes it's nice to feel like you saved a life.



Friday, 21 September 2012

The F word.

I am a feminist. Now I know that many people who read this, whether you know me personally or not, whether you've stumbled across this blog by accident, whether you typed in a random series of keywords which somehow lead you here, or whatever, will have already formed some kind of opinion of me based on that one sentence: I am a feminist.

This intrigues and scares me. What will your opinion be of me? What tasty morsels of personality will that word - feminist - have triggered in your mind? It is a tragic but true fact that many people these days - men, women, children, transsexuals etc - will perhaps blanche, nay, flinch a little, at the word FEMINIST. The negative connotations this word evokes automatically encourage people to distance themselves from it.

'Oh, I wouldn't call myself a feminist. I believe women should have equal rights and men are no better or worse, but really, I'm not one of those, like, crazy feminists.'

Ahem.

No one can say it better, so please drink in the words of the brilliant and inimitable Caitlin Moran:

"a) Do you have a vagina? and b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist."

While ensuring I didn't make a knob of myself by misusing the word 'inimitable', I typed the word 'feminism' into my nifty computer dictionary thingy and was presented with this definition:

'the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men'.

By this definition (and let's face it, the nifty computer dictionary thingy is a pretty credible source), anyone who supports the idea of feminism is a feminist, and not just women.

So I say to you all, men, women, children, transsexuals etc, do you believe women are men's equals? Yes? Bang. You're a feminist. Brava! Do not be frightened! Being a feminist does not make you any of the following: crazy, angry, strident, vocal, stupid, radical, anarchic, hysterical. It doesn't mean you cannot be any of these things and more (and these people are often quite fun to be around), but it does mean you are automatically a million times LESS LIKELY to be any of the following: a Neanderthal, a  sexist pig, a misogynistic throwback to the freakishly recent Mad Men-esque* era of sexual politics.

Being a feminist also does not mean you have to agree with everything Caitlin Moran, Germaine Greer, Mary Wollstonecraft and Emmeline Pankhurst have said and written. These ladies and their contemporaries are mouthpieces for the generations, but as part of the institute of free speech and the ability to string a coherent thought together, you are entitled to form your own opinions! Yay for free will! There is no 'one type' of feminism. You do not have to align your beliefs on fashion, abortion, lesbianism, body image, religion, lifestyle etc in order to present one set of ideas with all the other feminists. That is the beauty of individuality.

I'm sure people will read this and resist the urge (or perhaps give into it) to roll their eyes. Go right ahead, I can't stop you (there enters our cheeky friend, Free Will, once more). Maybe those people will think I am wasting my time and energy by typing this ("But Emily, women can vote and work and drive and be the boss of people and everything. We're all equal already, dammit"), but the more I read and think about this, the more I notice the sexism and inequality that plagues the female race STILL, in today's day and age.

You only have to look at advertising (particularly photographs), listen to various popular music (see a crapload of hip-hop and rap), look at some of the zingers the potential future leader of Australia Tony Abbott has come up with, or let comedians defend each other on the use of 'harmless' rape jokes. It's our responsibility, not just as feminists but as human beings to start pushing for more respect. I'd like my grandchildren to view us as a generation of happy and respectful citizens and for that to happen, there needs to be a higher standard of esteem for our fellow homosapiens.

And now I need to go to work. Maybe I will continue this another day, maybe not.


*I enjoy Mad Men and it's satirical nature as much as the next person. So don't be hatin'.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Spring :)

So it's spring! YEOW! Pretty excited by the sunshine that has started peeking out. I'm still taking my Vitamin D tablets, but hopefully I can come off them if the weather keeps up and just stand out in the sun instead!

My library hermit activities have continued and I think I may have a serious addiction to books. At least I'm not spending heaps, but seriously. I borrowed 9 books in two days last week and am going back again today. I've been trawling the internet for recommended YA authors and have let myself discover a lot of American authors I hadn't seen before like Elizabeth Scott, Courtney Summers, Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman and Sarah Dessen. It's nice to see the different topics people incorporate into fiction, and it is helping with my own writing because I am seeing what authors can get away with in the YA genre. Up until this year I had tended to stick with Australian YA authors (not a conscious decision, just how my reading habits ended up evolving) like Melina Marchetta, Maureen McCarthy, Jaclyn Moriarty and Markus Zusak. Maybe I should change one of my initials to M, as it seems to be the go to letter for successful Australian authors :D

I went to the Melina Marchetta/Morris Gleitzman seminar that was part of the Melbourne Writers Festival and came away awed and inspired. I have seen Ms Marchetta talk before, and enjoyed it just as much this time. I was completely enamoured by Morris Gleitzman. I've read many of his books (what young Australian bookworm hasn't?) but am now resolved to read all of them. What a genius of a man. I also went to see Vikki Wakefield talk at the State Library about Friday Brown. I am pretty darn excited to read this book. I enjoyed All I Ever Wanted, but from the sound of it, Friday Brown is going to mess us up even more. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy.

In the meantime, I am just working, watching Breaking Bad, new Doctor Who and Shameless. I am trying to organise myself to start my next assignment early but procrastination is far more appealing at the moment, so we'll see. Still have not heard back from either literary agent I submitted my manuscript to, but I've decided no news is good news, as it's not a rejection yet :)

I'm going to go for a walk in the sun to the library now. I am going to try and remember these kind of perfect, cruisy days when I am freaking out about working full-time (one day, distant future).

Ciao for now xo

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Whelp...

It's been so long since my last blog post. I think I'm averaging about one a month. But hey, at least I've continued with it...somewhat...

I got a job! Yay, finally! Through a lovely set of friends of mine, I am now an accounts assistant for a small business fairly close to my house. It's not really like any type of job I've had before, but the people are lovely and are really good at teaching me. It's just nice to be establishing a little bit of routine.

I finished my manuscript and sent it to a literary agent, as you may or may not already know, and have now finished my latest assignment, so I plan to slowly send it out to more agents in the hope that I will get a response. Even if it is to say 'no thanks', I'd just like them to say why not. I know they are busy people and the last thing I want to do is come across as an amateur. So here's hoping I can look a bit spesh!

I have become a bit of a library hermit. I know this doesn't make sense, but I've never really used libraries for leisure before. Just study. I don't know why I used to break my bank so regularly, buying stacks of books I couldn't afford and then not even reading them. Until I get a bit more earnings behind me (yay for new job!) I will just stick to the library as I work through my LONG AND EXPANDING list of stuff to read.

Also, my show is nearly over! Three more performances, then an apparent break. I auditioned for a very funny play, but wasn't successful. Ah well, next time. In the meantime, I am just enjoying doing a show with a big bunch of friends.

And tea. I like it, and I bought lots of it. Mmmm camomile.

xxx

Monday, 16 July 2012

Masters

To study, or not to study? I found out about this brilliant sounding Masters of Creative Writing, Editing and Publishing at Melbourne Uni on the weekend and got uber excited about applying. Only thing is, I'M ALREADY DOING A MASTERS AND WHHHHYYYYY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO ADD MORE WORK TO THEIR LIFE? My current Masters is pretty much a librarianship and is quite boring at times. Working in editing and publishing sounds a lot more fun. But it would be a two year full time course, on campus. Whereas my current course is two years part time and off campus. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do. Sigh. Well, there is one thing I could do, and that is stop thinking about it. Yay!! So here's more stuff that's happening in my life that is fun. I'm earning a bit of money (always good) and I've been on a massive Jane Austen bender over the last few weeks. I'm looking forward to someone doing Pride and Prejudice (provided I get cast as a Bennett sister), so all you amateur theatre companies in Melbourne - get on it! I've also been reading the Peter and the Starcatchers series which is quite cute and enjoyable. It doesn't hold a candle to the original, but it isn't trying to, and that endears it further to me. I have finished Offspring, getting through True Blood s05 and about to start Breaking Bad s05. Lots to fill up my time. Should I study? Probably. But what??? SIGH.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

If you want something done, ask a busy person.

Tis been quite a while since my last entry and in that time I have continued to write up a storm. I start my Masters again in about 9 days after a good 8 months of time off. I am looking forward to getting back into it because it will hopefully feel like I am DOING something with my life, but am also quite concerned about its tendency to chew up all my free time. So I am writing crazily, trying to get a second full manuscript complete. That way I will have two full first drafts languishing in my drawer, waiting for my next opportunity to edit them. I have also been squashing all the episodes of Offspring and The Borgias into my viewing schedule and am nearly finished, again, just in time for Masters. And I've been back to work! Am working at two jobs that I used to have, before Borders even, and am liking them just fine :) It's good to have a little bit more of a routine, though it does chop out a lot of writing time. I have been to the rheumatologist after about 7 weeks on cortisone (in which I have gained a lot of weight...not happy) and she is now slowly weaning me off it to see if my joints can take it. Cross all appendages for me please! I have made a decent dent in my bookcase, trying to get through a sizeable amount of books I own but haven't read, and have made some nice discoveries in the process. Currently reading the latest Dexter novel and it is suitable witty and gruesome. About to start on the Fables graphic novels, courtesy of my best mate. Also doing a variety show with a bunch of awesome peeps, and trying to fit as much decent sleep into my schedule as life permits. Adios until next time folks!!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

One down...

So yesterday I actually finished a first draft of my novel. One small keystroke for me, one giant manuscript for my burgeoning career. I've organised my bookcase so I have all the books I haven't read grouped together, and I think I will tackle 'Floundering' by Romy Ash next. I'm excited about this because a) Romy Ash is Australian, b) 'Floundering is a debut novel and c) everyone is loving the crap out of it, so I'm guessing it's going to be great. I also just recently finished 'How I Live Now' by Meg Rosoff which blew my mind to pieces and I am so ashamed I didn't read it sooner. Now to read everything else she has written. Amazing book. In the meantime I have been watching 'Game of Thrones' and whittling my resumé and cover letter into streamlined and (hopefully) more efficient versions of their former selves. There is a truly amazing looking job I have my eye on, so fingers crossed for me please! Last weekend I went to see 'The Way', a film by Emilio Estevez with some friends from my church. The film was a great little outing, all about a walk across northern Spain called the Camino de Santiago. It has now been added to my list of stuff to do on my worldwide travels. I'm planning a trip to Japan in April with my Dad to see the cherry blossoms in Kyoto, and this is helping with my cabin fever and the itch to get back overseas. Until next time! xx

Friday, 1 June 2012

Chello!

Who has two thumbs and 46,000 words on their first draft? Me! *points to self with two thumbs* Over the last few weeks I have managed to stick (95% of the time) to the 2000 word limit a day I have set myself. Some days it is easy, some days it feels like pulling teeth with no anesthetic, but I DO IT ANYWAY. CHYEAH. I have also been back to the rheumatologist and although we still don't quite know what's up with my arthritis, the cortisone is working as an excellent painkiller and I have been given the green light to find work...soooooo if anyone out in the blogosphere wants to give me a job, hit me up :) Looking for a job is one of the most soul-crushingly depressing processes, so I am hoping it ain't too painful this time, but I need money. Working in a library has been a dream of mine for a while now, and it's the kind of place that could allow me to keep writing on the side... One day. One day.

Also, first rehearsal for a new show last night - the first in a year for me, and it was so much fun. Helped with the cabin fever too! Oh and I have new bookshelves. It looks like there is a library in the corner of my bedroom. It's amazing. Oh and a new phone! Well, a lovely second hand one that used to belong to the lovely Sean, but its heaps of fun to play with. In the meantime I have been watching Community and going to a couple of events for the Emerging Writer's Festival.

Yes. Life is good :)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Boredom and it's results

Some of you may know, that since I have been home I have been largely housebound due to the pain in my legs. I'm seeing a rheumatologist tomorrow, but my GP thinks it is probably inflammatory arthritis. This has meant I haven't been able to get out or do much without the assistance of other people. I have incredibly generous family and friends and a lovely boyfriend who have all helped me heaps, but I still have a lot of time to myself. I can't begin a job search until I have worked out how much mobility is too much etc. and I'll need the doctor's help for that. I have watched A LOT of television and films. What I SHOULD be doing, is writing. Using the time I have to write stuff I would usually never have time to do. But I'm lazy and self-pitying and its much easier to lie there and mindlessly absorb whatever is on the screen. So I think, after today, I will make myself a deal. 500 words of writing, then an episode of 'House'. And we'll see how far I can get by the end of the month. That's when the Emerging Writer's Festival comes to Melbourne and I'd like to have a substantial lot of this particular idea on paper. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

All good things...

Mayhaps, dear reader, this shall be the final blog entry of my overseas adventure. I am sitting in a hotel near Feltham station, very close to Heathrow Airport. I have just had my first shower in nearly 60 hours and am feeling fresh as a daisy, and Sean is out gallivanting with Will for a final hurrah. It feels really, really odd to know that this time tomorrow we will have been flying for a few hours, and even weirder to know that a few hours after that, we will be home. I have missed Melbourne and all my friends and family back there, but I will miss the UK/Europe dearly as well. Some of the most memorable moments of my life have occurred in the last 14 weeks and I have been stunned and amazed by the people I have met and the experiences I have had. Meeting up with friends and family was a great way to break the trip up and, injuries aside, I wouldn't change a moment of our itinerary. I am literally down to about 3 pounds (I may weasel some breakfast money from Sean tomorrow) and have chucked a whole bunch of clothes/toiletries that I don't need clogging up my suitcase on the way home. Today was busy, but in a good way, beginning with actually chatting to the girls in our dorm and finding out they were actually really nice, then meeting Will at The Globe so I could do a quick, final shop, before having some drinks and talking about everything Shakespeare. We made our way to the hotel with no trouble and right now I am luxuriating in a comfy bed, a clean, private bathroom and our own space before we are herded into economy class tomorrow (fingers crossed for decent seats. I plan to use the crutches to elicit sympathy). Thankyou everyone for all your support and good wishes and joy in our experiences through Facebook, Skype, this blog and everything else we have managed. I shall see ya'll shortly!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Matilda!!!

Okay, so last night we went out to a really delicious Indian restaurant for dinner and then decided (after a brief pub stop) that we wanted to see a movie. The only movie we seemed to agree on was The Hunger Games, so we headed to Camden. We stopped at The Cultured Cow for some tastily hipster frozen yoghurt, and witnessed a bag-snatch. So uncool. I felt really bad for the customer, it had just been sitting on her table right next to her arm, but the guy was so quick. Ugh. Anyway, The Hunger Games turned out to be better than Sean and I expected (possibly because as we were entering, a guy came out complaining loudly to his girlfriend 'That was TWILIGHT! I just watched bloody TWILIGHT!'). We were back at the hostel just after 12 and our roommates, who we have not met, were already asleep, and got rather snippy when we woke them. Might I point out, we were not bashing around the room like elephants, we were tiptoeing and kept the lights off in order to be respectful. Geez Louise. Anyway, they got up and left for the day at, I kid you not, 3.30 in the morning. And both Sean and I managed to keep our mouths shut when they woke us. Sigh.

Anyway, today we got up and found a hotel near Heathrow to spend the last night of our trip in. We are both too tired to put up with being uncomfortable the night before we get on a plane, so hopefully this means a god night's sleep and a decent shower. Yay! Then we headed to Covent Garden to see Matilda. My goodness. I don't know if I have ever seen a better show. First of all, I love the book, and I think Roald Dahl was a sort of genius. And all my favourite bits of the novel were included! Tim Minchin is also a sort of genius, and this is reflected in the amazing soundtrack. But it was the kids who completely won me over. Not just Matilda, though she was obviously the standout, but Lavender and Bruce and little Eric, and all the other children were so full of energy and character and when Amanda Thripp got thrown by her pigtails I thought I would die of laughter. And then there were the adult performers. First of all, the extremely funny Michael Wormwood was played by the same actor I saw four years ago on the West End in the Lord of the Rings musical. He played Samwise Gamgee and it was BIZARRE to see him as this tv-obsessed dumbo who couldn't string a sentence together. Mama and Papa Wormwood were wonderful - extremely funny and ridiculous and completely owning every second of it. And they were so rude to poor little Matilda, but they didn't hold back and neither did she. Miss Honey was suitably gentle and sweet, with a perfect voice and a really lovely stage presence, but, perhaps obviously, Miss Trunchbull was the best. Played by a dude, but he didn't play it as a joke 'drag' routine. He just played her as a complete sadist, with a very quiet, dangerous voice, very true to the book. Absolute WINNER of a costume too :) The script included many of my favourite Dahl-ian insults and a couple of extra characters thrown in that really added to the stage version. I would recommend this to everyone, whether you are a theatre fan or not. You will laugh (oh, you will laugh) and you may even shed a tear, as I may or may not have. Oh, and the set involved hundreds of books and alphabet letters. So. Awesome. Anyway, still buzzing off the feeling of Matilda, we went to Masala Zone for our second curry in two days and had a great dinner. Now we're back at the hostel. 2 more sleeps til we hop on the plane!!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Back to Londontown

Yesterday I was extremely lazy. I pretty much read, watched television and ate yummy mozzarella, tomato and avocado salad that Anna made. We went for a walk to the pub for dinner and then went for another walk to another pub for a pint. Anna and Nige and Sarah-Jane have been such great hosts. We left just before lunchtime today and hopped on a train back to London. It was our last National Rail trip for the holiday...weird. Now we're in Generator hostel in London. The next couple of days will be interesting ones, but its not long now until we hop on the plane. That will be interesting to, with my legs being the way they are. Attempts to get moved to a seat with better leg room haven't proved too fruitful. The quest continues...

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Tynemouth

We got up this morning (myself a lot slower than Sean, as usual) and Nige, Anna and Sarah-Jane kindly took us in the car to Tynemouth Market. We went on a biiiig walk, with some beautiful views of the river and looked through the market which conveniently included a book fair...before having lunch in front of the ruined castle and priory, all in brilliant sunshine. We drove home along the coast and it reminded me of the more beautiful parts of the Mornington Peninsula.

I had a nap when we got home, and Sean and Sarah-Jane had slinky tournaments down the stairs. The girl is only five and is being taught about Monet, and has thus produced a vast quantity of Impressionist drawings. Amazing stuff. Nige's parents came over and we went down to their allotment, which is their plot in the community gardens where they are growing heaps of vegies, herbs and even hops! (Nige runs a micro-brewery). Then Nige's sister and brother came over and we all had Sunday dinner with vegies from the allotment, and rhubarb crumble, also made from allotment grown ingredients! Nige's mum used to be the children's librarian for Newcastle and knew authors like Jacqueline Wilson before she was famous. Sarah-Jane and I made Lego masterpieces and later we watched Crazy Heart (SJ was in bed by then) before I headed upstairs myself. In another staggering display of generosity, Nige and Anna have insisted we stay another night, free of charge. Bless this house!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

South Shields and Newcastle

After a day in which Sean went exploring and I stayed home because of my swollen knees (but I found Pottermore and then it wasn't so bad), we had Chinese food and red wine with Nige and Anna and chatted and laughed at bad TV. Then this morning, we headed into South Shields. South Shields is not far from Newcastle (about half an hour on the metro) and Sean's grandfather is from there, so it was a special place to visit. We had a great time hobbling up the very trendy shopping district until we got to the ferry docks. We went for a walk along the waterfront, and Sean took lots of pics, before we got stuck in a rainstorm and ducked into a nearby pub. We then whiled away the next hour or so, chatting to the bartenders and two regulars about travelling and the UK and Aus and history and leather repair (Dad!) and beer and all manner of things. There were also some old photographs around the pub of what the area used to look like, which was pretty special. Once we made our farewells, we went for a bigger wander, all the way down to Ocean Rd, stopping to look in the pet shop, and even a small museum of South Shields (though it was closing and we only got as far as the gift shop). At about 6, we met up with Michael, Sean's great-cousin. He was really, really lovely. It's always weird meeting up with someone you have never seen before, but he was really warm and inviting. We had a few beers (cider for me) and talked for at least a couple of hours. On the way home my knees packed up from a day of walking. Even with crutches and compression bandages they couldn't stick it out the whole way home, so I went back to the house and Sean went and got us delicious Indian food for a late dinner. Cheers!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Singin' In The Rain

I have now sent home 7 packages, and I hope that will be it! Yesterday we did some routine errands - finding a post office, booking Matilda tickets, calling Sean's relatives in South Shields - before heading off to the West End to see Blood Brothers. The box office people were kind of unhelpful, but to cut a long story short, we didn't get to see it. No matter, we wandered down the street, just to see, out of interest, if there were any reasonably priced seats available for Singin' In The Rain. Neither of us had ever seen the movie or the show - I know, terrible of us, really terrible - but we ended up getting seats for 25 pounds (they were classed as 'restricted view', but we had no trouble with the view at all). After an insanely delicious dinner at a Mexican place, we took our seats in the auditorium. I loved it!! The dancing and the chorey were just mental. I'm not a dancer, but I know mind-blowing steps when they're done in front of me and this stuff was so good it hurt. Particularly, of course, the climactic numbers in the actual rain. The first four rows of the audience got a generous soaking, but we were safe back in row H. The girl who played Kathy was the standout, but we saw the Lina Lamont understudy and she was wonderful. I'm so glad that our first Singin' In The Rain experience was a production of such quality and magnitude. Afterwards, we hightailed back to Shepherd's Bush to make sure we got in before Tim and Helen went to bed. We thanked them for having us, though there is no way we could possibly repay them for their kindness, and wished them luck for Egypt (exciting!) before dropping into bed. This morning we got up, packed up and headed to King's Cross where we caught a train to Newcastle. We are staying in South Gosforth in a place we found on airbnb. Our lovely hosts are Nigel (away at the moment) and his lovely wife Anna and their beautiful daughter Sarah-Jane. And their cat, Buttons, who I shall be taking back to Aus with me. Sean and I went for dinner at a nice Italian place, had a quick pint at the pub, and came back for an early night. Phew!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Potter, potter, pott-er, POTT-ER!!!

Okay, so it's been another few days between blogs, but that is because I haven't done too much. My days have pretty much consisted of lying down at Tim and Helen's and watching television and reading books and hobbling around Shepherd's Bush just for 20 minute stretches and this is because my legs are still really freaking painful. Sean came back from Germany on Monday after a brilliant weekend at Volksfest in Nuremberg and I'm really glad he got to do that, because it sounded like he had a brilliant time. Volksfest is a beer drinking festival, which makes me glad I didn't go, because there would have been very little for me to do! Anyway, yesterday we had to actually get up and out of the house because we had booked a tour for the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of the HARRY POTTER FILM SETS!! It was pretttttttty exciting. We took the train and then a big Harry-themed shuttle bus out to Leavesden. It was packed. You walk into a giant foyer with enormous prints of all different characters around the side of the wall. I had paid for a digital guide, so I collected it and promptly realised while they call it a 'digital' guide instead of an 'audio' guide. It's an iPod touch, filled with stacks and stacks of photo galleries and audio tracks and short films and visitor's information, covering everything you could possibly want to know while you are there, from how they trained the animals, to the costumes designer's sketches for the Yule Ball, to where the toilets are and the souvenir shop.

After lining up for ages, you enter a room where they show you a short film about the producers and the development of the films and how they swept the world. Then you get led into a cinema, where they show  you another short film featuring the three main actors and their stories of 'growing up' in the studios. It is full of scripted cheesiness and I loved every second of it. And then, AND THEN, the curtain rises and you see the doors to the Great Hall. You enter through these and then you are there. The Great Hall. Where it all began. I nearly wet myself. All throughout the hall (and the rest of the exhibition) there are mannequins wearing the actual costumes used in the films. The actual props adorn the actual sets and the floor of the Great Hall is made from actual stone. Such. A. Cool. Place. For anyone thinking of going (and I highly recommend it to you all), make sure you book a relatively early time. Bearing in mind it takes a while to get to Leavesden, I would book a tour before midday. We booked ours for 4pm and the place closes at 7.30. It's not long enough. Not if you want to see everything, read every placard, watch everything playing on every screen, do the Quidditch photo op, watch each and every item on your digital guide and have time to look in the souvenir shop. It is easily and definitely worth your money, but if you are one of those people who needs to go through it slowly and thoroughly, you will need a long time. Once you head out of the Great Hall, you go through a giant room with all the interior sets (it used to be an aircraft hangar, that should give you an idea of the size of this room). We saw make-up and costume stations, the Hogwarts gates, the Yule Ball table dressings, the Gryffindor boy's dormitory, the Gryffindor Common Room, the Mirror of Erised, the Fat Lady's portrait, all the featured character's wands, props from Lupin's classroom, not to mention an enormous cage filled with props and set pieces from all eight films (including brooms, books, suits of armour, chandeliers, Horcruxes, the Time Turner, the Deluminator - pretty much any prop you can think of was available to see). We then continued on and saw Dumbledore's office (one of my favourite and most detailed sets), the Potion's classroom, the Burrow, the Portrait Wall, Hagrid's Hut, the animal training station, huge doors including the ones to the Chamber of Secrets, the vault in Gringotts and Hogwarts Castle itself, Mad-Eye Moody's chests, the Gringotts vault mobile thingy, Sirius's flying motorbike and plenty of Quidditch props and brooms. We saw the Triwizard Cup, the Golden Egg, and the Goblet of Fire. We saw sets of the Ministry of Magic atrium, Umbridge's Office, the Magic is Might statue, and the Vanishing Cabinet. There was also an enormous set of shelves with issues of the Quibbler and the Daily Prophet, all manner of textbooks and Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes products, even the letter from Lily Potter to Snape. Also in this section is an opportunity to get a photo on a broom. It's all against a greenscreen and they really make it look like you're flying and all. But we couldn't do that bit. Sad face :(

Once you finish in this epic hangar of Potter-awesomeness, you head out to the backlot where they have more big pieces of set/props, including ones you can actually sit in eg the Ford Anglia, Hagrid's motorbike and the Knight Bus. They also have number 4 Privet Drive, the house at Godric's Hollow, a huge piece of Hogwarts Bridge, Tom Riddle's gravestone and the giant chess pieces. Also...they sell Butterbeer!! We had to buy some, even though it was too sweet to even finish a cup (I think it may have been creaming soda...with cream...). Once we mined the backlot for every photo op possible, we headed back inside and went through the model rooms. This is where they created all the masks for the goblins, all the animatronics and movable things, as well as all the models for the special effects. So (get ready for another list), we saw Inferi, the Death Eater model that the DA used for practice, Bathilda Bagshot, Fenrir Greyback, mermaids, werewolves, Dobby, Robbie Coltrane's animatronic face for his size double (creepy), dead Voldemort baby thing from King's Cross (creepier), Hedwig, the Monster Book of Monsters, all the models of people's bodies for when they were dead/cursed/underwater, Aunt Marge blown up, Charity Burbage, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail, Thestrals, Buckbeak, and giant spiders among a million other things. There was an informative short film playing with some of the people in charge of making these models, with Warwick Davis who played various roles. Then, onto the final part of the set displays - Diagon Alley. You walk up the cobbled street between the shopfronts that you've read about and seen on the screen and a piddly little camera simply cannot do it justice. But seeing all these places, dressed to look just perfect, makes you feel happier than ever that you've read the books and seen the films. Ugh. Harry Potter is the best thing ever. EVER. Anyway, once you're out of Diagon Alley, you head through some rooms with some really stunning art on the walls. There are not just sketches, but full-blown, enormous paintings and sculptures that were used while developing concepts for sketches. The exhibition finishes with an enormous, ENORMOUS model of Hogwarts. It's filled with fibre-optic lights and real stone and all manner of things that make the detail simply extraordinary. Again, there is no way to possibly do this justice with a camera, so you'll all simply have to visit yourselves. Cool. I didn't buy anything from the shop, amazingly, but I have a souvenir guidebook that I paid for with my ticket to remember it by, as well as about 4 million photos, which are now on Facebook. Enjoy!!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Portobello Market

So the last couple of days I have been chilling at Tim and Helen's apartment, which has been really relaxing. Sean jetted off to Germany for a few days yesterday and I went for a walk around Shepherd's Bush and watched lots of episodes of 'New Girl' and 'Grey's Anatomy'. Today however, I went to Portobello Road Market! I have been wanting to do this for years, and I thought I may as well go today, when I had the whole day free and could go at my own pace. It was really lovely weather, all warm and sunshiney and I managed to not spend very much at all - I bought a couple of tiny things and some tasty food from the stalls. They had some beautiful clothes and handbags, reeeeaaaallllyyy difficult to resist buying, not to mention some wonderful pieces of jewellery, but I managed to stick to my policy of just looking at the majority of things. There were plenty of antique bookstores, which were nearly my undoing, but I have to remind myself of baggage weight limits as well as cost. One guy had a stall with some early editions of Peter Pan and Wendy. He was asking around 85 pounds for each, but my goodness, editions like these were priceless. One day. When I'm a millionaire. I stopped for lots of rests and read Room by Emma Donoghue, which is brilliant, and had dinner and conversation with Tim and Helen when I got home. I am tired, but in a comfy way, not a meanly exhausted way. Until tomorrow, folks!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Oxford :)

Alrighty then! Big update to handle here, I will just start by saying that we are now safe in London with Tim and Helen. People's generosity just bowls me over sometimes, and I have definitely experienced that with Tim, Helen, Belinda, Andrew and many other people we have met on this trip. We drove from Oxford to Liverpool this morning, after Louis sent us off with a great breakfast and plenty of food, then Andrew picked us up from the car hire place, took us to lunch with Belinda, then dropped us at Lime St Station where we caught a train to London and made our way to Tim and Helen's. Phew! However, the previous few days were spent in Oxford and went something, like this:

After Sean woke up on Monday feeling better - he slept for over 12 hours - we got up and had a late breakfast with Louis. He drew us up an itinerary which we could stick to, or just use as a loose guide, and it proved to be extremely helpful. Right before we left, I got a phone call from Dad and it was really, really good to hear his voice. I hadn't spoken to my family for quite a few days so it was a lovely surprise. We hopped on the bus and began our day with a visit to the uni souvenir shop, just 'cos, and a quick drop in to the tourism centre to get a map. I had my heart set on a walking tour of the city, but alas, it was not to be as my knee was still extremely painful and I couldn't walk too quickly. We headed to the Radcliffe Camera and after a few snaps we went to the Bodleian Library, where the Divinity School and the Duke Humfrey's Library were both used as locations in the Harry Potter films! We booked a short tour (30 minutes) for later in the afternoon, and headed off to the Turf Tavern (via Oxford's very own 'Bridge of Sighs'). After a quick drink and a sit, we went back to the Bodleian Library where our tour guide took us into Duke Humfrey's Library. I can't possibly remember all the interesting facts that were crammed into this tour, just know that it was extremely historical, in a room used as the Hogwarts Library. The books on the shelves were over 400 years old and all users of the library (including Kings of England) have never been permitted to remove a book from the library. You can see the ancient cataloguing systems and chains which they used to attach the books to the shelves. After this, we went into the Divinity School (some of you may recognise this as the Hogwarts infirmary and that hall where Ron danced with Professor McGonagall). Again, we were bombarded with history, and were taken through the symbolism in the room's architecture, but I can hardly remember any of it! It was terribly interesting though, particularly the room's history as an exam hall. The student would stand on one podium, the tutor on the other, and the Regent Master sat between and would grade the student. The student could be asked any question - any - from the course they had just finished, even if it was a seven-year course or longer. The student had to answer, as though they were writing an essay, and the Regent Master would pick their answer to shreds to see how they could defend their argument. Exams could last as long as three days and the public was let in to view, and were permitted to heckle. Funnnnnn times. It has now been used, for many, many years, as the hall in which the students prepare to graduate.

Once we finished here, we walked to the Eagle and Child pub for some quick pics. This was the pub where the 'Inklings' (who included C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkein) would meet to discuss what they were writing. Extremely exciting history for a literature nerd like me! We finished off our sightseeing with a quick peek in Waterstones, before taking the bus back. Louis came to Wetherspoon's with us for dinner and then we had a nightcap, chatting very late into the night before crawling into bed again!

 On Tuesday we were up pretty late again (we're on holidays! We're allowed!), but once we had bussed into the city centre, I posted another package home (Mum, Dad, that's six in total!) and went to Alice's Shop, which is famous for being the place where Alice Liddell bought her sweets. Alice Liddell was the real-life inspiration for Alice in Wonderland, and the shop is full of beautiful souvenirs. I got some earrings...Yay! Then Sean headed off to the Pitt Rivers Museum (which he highly recommends) and I headed into Christ Church College. I saw the famous meadow and the beautiful cloisters, as well as the dining hall and the staircase leading up to it. Both of these locations have also been featured in Harry Potter as the Great Hall and the staircase where McGonagall receives them in the first movie. Hyyyyyyperventilation ensued! I also saw the cathedral again - despite going for Evensong on Sunday night, I wanted to walk around properly, and saw some beautiful windows and monuments as a result. The shrine of St Frideswide was a definite highlight (as was the toilet in the bottom panel of the stained glass window depicting her life. Somehow I doubt a Saxon princess had plumbing that advanced...see facebook for evidence). I lit a candle for my family, and I saw the watching loft, and the window of Jonah and Ninevah, George Bell's cross and the window in which Edith Liddell (sister of Alice) was allegedly used as a model for one of the figures. There was also a video showing on the history of the college and a gift shop, in which I managed to restrain myself. I walked out, past the library, which was sadly closed to non-members.

I then wandered back up the street, stopping to buy The Big Issue and look in a really beautiful stationery shop, before visiting the church of St Mary the Virgin, where the Oxford Martyrs, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley were tried. The church was having renovations done, but was still worth a visit. I then walked through the Covered Market and the Golden Cross Shopping Centre, stopping for a truly delicious banana and nutella milkshake from Shakespeare's Milkshakes, before meeting up with Sean again. We went down Cowley Rd, searching for the highly recommended Atomic Burger, before discovering it was closed (but I bought books from an op-shop, so it wasn't a total waste). We grabbed a pizza for dinner and then met Louis and jumped in the car. He took us to a rehearsal for Blood Wedding, a show put on by the Oxford Theatre Guild who are an amateur company. Louis builds sets for them and the show opens next week and we saw a full run. In addition to being wonderful because it was like being back at home - they rehearsed in a church hall, there was a long production meeting and everyone goofed around when they were offstage - it was a stunning show. Some brilliant, BRILLIANT actors. And some really great staging decisions. I'm only sorry I couldn't see the finished product at the Oxford Playhouse! After that, we headed back for cheese on toast and more chats, far too late, having a marvellous night. Dad called me again and it put me in a great mood. I am really grateful to Louis for his hospitality!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Dreaming spires

Firstly, for anyone who might be interested, but more for myself, a sort of 'virtual souvenir' if you will, here is the website for Thynghowe, an ancient Viking meeting place discovered in Sherwood Forest. The darling woman who took us through St Mary's Church yesterday is on the committee who look after it.

http://www.thynghowe.org.uk/

So! Today we woke up and had breakfast. Sean, thankfully, is feeling a bit better. He was still very tired and sore today, which for anyone who knows him, is not like him at all, but he still managed to drive us from Edwinstowe to Oxford after bidding farewell to Liane and Sunnyside B&B, as well as the two other lovely guests (Liane also cooked the most amazing devilled mushrooms on sourdough. I could have eaten six helpings). Once we arrived in Oxford, we met our host (who we found over airbnb, but he also uses couchsurfing,com). His name is Louis and he is the most lively, friendly and accommodating person. He lives alone in his semi-detached house that is crammed full of books and desks and decoration and life. He has a really lovely and comfy room upstairs for us, and endless knowledge of Oxford and the area surrounding it. He is taking us to see a final rehearsal for a theatre company he is in and is a keen cyclist, who also has a bad knee and is adamant cycling will help it. We couldn't have asked for a nicer welcome.

Once Sean had had a bit of a rest, we jumped on a bus into Oxford city centre. The bus drivers were all really helpful when we got confused with tickets and stops and everything, and Oxford's reputation as one of the friendliest cities we have visited was cemented by the porter at Christ Church College. He asked us where we were from and then proceeded to tell us about a dear friend of his, an Australian who he had met while working - she was a tourist - and he had then gone to stay in Brisbane with her for a month. Once I had spent money on unnecessary books, we made it back to Christ Church College for Evensong. Gah. So much beauty. The choir sounded - and yes, I'll say it, because it's true - heavenly. It was in the stunning cathedral and I was awed by the sound of the music. It didn't matter that we were almost too tired to hold our heads up, or that my knees were sore from standing up constantly. I am so glad we went. I got my fix of soul food, and it was particularly important being Easter. Simply glorious.

Afterwards we had a quick wagamama dinner, being very careful of Sean's stomach, before jumping on the bus back home and climbing straight into pajamas and straight into bed. It is ten PM here and Sean is already snoring. Bizarre!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Edwinstowe

(PS. Yesterday we drove through the Pennines and there was snow everywhere and it was stunningly beautiful)

However, today was also wonderful. We were up early to take advantage of the enormous and delicious breakfast provided by our lovely host, Liane, over which we chatted to the other people staying here, a retired couple from the seaside (so quintessentially English and adorable). Afterwards, we got ourselves ready for the day and headed back to the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre. We watched a video on the history of Sherwood Forest, which covered everything from pretty much the Bronze Age, Robin Hood's time, through the Dukeries, right up until today where efforts are being made to preserve old customs and conserve the remaining forestry. Then we walked up to the Major Oak again and took more photos, went through the walk-through exhibition they had on the folklore of Robin Hood, grabbed a drink at the Forest Table restaurant and went back to the Major Oak where I had a go at shooting a longbow. I missed the target every time, until we were told to shoot a deer and I got it right in the business end. Also, I was probably older than everyone shooting by about 15 years. That's how much I wanted to have a go and I'm so glad I did. While I ran - hobbled - around being an outlaw, Sean tagged along because he's lovely. I bought up big at the gift shop and then we drove back into the main village to grab a small lunch, because we were still quite full from our enormous breakfast. We walked to St Mary's Church on the High Street, rumoured to be the church in which Robin Hood married Maid Marian. We took some photos of the churchyard, and just as we were leaving, the sweetest, friendliest little old lady came up the steps with the altar cloths over her arm and asked if we'd like to come in and look around. She let us in and took us on a tour, showing us the difference in the walls and the arches that mark the various additions to the building over the centuries.  There has been a church on the site since 633 AD and the first stone was laid for the current structure in 1175. She showed us the hidden face in the stained-glass window and a Parish Map, constructed by the local community and it looks like a big quilt. Her passion for her church and her country's history was obvious, but so was her passion for people. I love these moments while travelling the best, when a completely unplanned and spontaneous interaction with a stranger can make your day.

After we got back to the B&B and had a wee rest, we hopped back in the car and drove another 1/2 mile in the opposite direction to Edwinstowe and went to Rufford Abbey, an old monastery and country house. It's fallen into disrepair, but it is now possible to walk around the ruins and the grounds. We didn't have too long here because we went quite late in the day, but we still saw plenty of it and it was quite beautiful. After this we drove down towards Clipstone. Several people have told us about Time Team coming to do an episode on the ruins of King John's castle, located in a paddock off the main road. People said it was nothing special, but it was worth a photo, so we parked and walked a little way back to see it. It really just looks like an ancient wall sticking out of the field. But y'know. Still older than any building in Aus! We headed back to the B&B because Sean was starting to feel a bit sick. We thought it might have been the sausage roll he had for lunch. I think it might have been that exactly, because it's a few hours later and the poor guy has been thrown up several times. I got him some ginger ale and water, but there's not much else we can do for now. He feels a little better now after bringing it up, so here's hoping for a good night sleep. Cross your fingers for us, everyone!


Friday, 6 April 2012

Robin Hobble and her band of slightly maimed men.

Our last couple of days in Liverpool were lovely. Sean and I walked around - hobbled around - Crosby and we went out to wagamama for dinner with the McGuiness clan on our last night. The next day Andrew and Luce took us to pick up a hire car and we got a zippy little Renault Megane and Sean drove us to Manchester! We stayed in a really nice little hotel in Radcliffe for the night, and took a tram into the city centre to meet Aaron, Katie and Kimberley for dinner. This was excellent. Aaron and Katie had offered to take me round Manchester while I was in Liverpool but I ended up being too crippled to take them up on it, so last night we went to Pizza Express and caught up with their wedding plans and with Kim's eventful stay in Derry. Manchester seems like a really nice city and I was sorry we couldn't spend longer there, but we checked out this morning and drove to Edwinstowe, right on the edge of Sherwood Forest. After getting a bit lost a couple of times, we arrived at the Sunnyside View B&B, which I highly recommend to anyone wanting to visit the area. It is so friendly and personal and our room is GORGEOUS. It's like something out of a novel. I insisted we drive to the Sherwood Forest Visitor's Centre, but I've saved most of it for tomorrow. Today, we just looked in the gift shop and walked to the Major Oak, where Robin Hood and his Merry Men used to meet up to steal from the rich, give to the poor, and be general outlaw types. The tree is freaking enormous, but you can't get very close to it, because of the erosion caused by too many visitors. Also, in April, too many trees are bare. I really want to come back in the height of summer when everything is leafy. But it was a nice walk, and I want to do it again tomorrow to shoot a bow and arrow....

For dinner tonight we walked for about two minutes to a pub called 'The Robin Hood' and we had heaps of food for a pretty decent price. Then we sat at the bar for ages and talked to the staff because it was a crazily quiet night. They were really lovely and welcoming and we'll definitely go back tomorrow. We got home and I discovered my knee has pretty much doubled in size again. This sucks because the pills I am taking are killing the worst of the pain, but they are also meant to be anti-inflammatory. Instead, my knee is getting bigger. And the doctors told me to stay active to help my back, so that's why I've been walking on it so much. GAH. Really getting on my nerves now. But at least the pain is being treated.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Recovery

I had a really nice couple of days, just not doing anything except taking painkillers and resting. My hip feels so much better. My knee is still swollen, but not as painful. Yesterday, Sean arrived from London!! It was so good to see him again and we have been busy trying to work out the remaining weeks of our trip and what we will do. This morning I went to the hospital again, for a session with the hospital physio. She gave me some exercises to do to strengthen my legs and back and advised me to not rely on the crutches. So I ditched them for today and it's been surprisingly easy. Not perfect, but far less painful than I would have expected. Also today, Luce arrived back from New York! We went to a really cute and quaint little cafe and Crosby while she told us about it and we were served by the most friendly, cutest, lovely little man, who was extremely attentive and wanted to make sure everything was just perfect for us. Lovely :) Bedtime now!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Better

Today was much better than yesterday. I didn't take the codeine, so I didn't throw up, but the painkillers I did take have been pretty effective regardless. We went for a long drive to Southport to buy some paint and screws for Belinda and Andrew's bathroom renovations and Andrew's woodworking (including a marvellous set of cupboard doors he whipped up and which I have admired greatly and frequently despite claims to the contrary). Southport is a lovely, beachy town full of Victorian architecture and beautiful promenades. We went to The Courtyard for lunch and I had wonderful broccoli and cheese soup and delicious ginger beer and cake to wash it down. Then we came home, stretched out in a patch of sunlight to read and snooze, and then watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (and the Titanic mini-series but it wasn't very good). Bliss :)

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Vomit

I had an extremely lazy day today, just resting and taking tablets like the doctor told me. I finished a Jodi Picoult novel and watched some television and ended up vomiting quite a bit, probably because of the codeine, which I haven't done for quite a long time. It was just as disgusting an experience as I remember, but Belinda and Andrew took really good care of me. So I possibly will go without codeine for the rest of my (fingers crossed) recovery. I shall soldier on. Yahoo.

Friday, 30 March 2012

H-h-hospital

Luce went to New York at 1am this morning!! Exciting :) Later on this morning I woke up bright and early to get ready for a really fun weekend that Belinda and Andrew had kindly planned. We were going to see Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice and then go to Sherwood Forest and stay overnight in Edwinstowe, the rumoured home of Robin Hood. Then we were going to stay Saturday night in York. Instead, I got up and pretty much couldn't walk, or dress myself, or get down the stairs. It's finally caught up with me. So I rang the physio and Andrew drove me there at 9am. The physio helped me a little with my hip and then took one look at my knee and ankle and told me to see a doctor. So we drove to the doctors surgery and made an emergency appointment and waited, and then the doctor took one look at my hip and told me to get to casualty to get it x-rayed. So then we all drove to the hospital.

We arrived at about 1pm and left at about 8pm. It was an incredibly long day and Belinda and Andrew waited with me the whole time because they are lovely. Apparently there was a bit of confusion as to what department was going to look at me which accounts for the long wait, but once they'd got blood pressure and drawn blood and wheeled me off to a nice doctor who poked and prodded me for a bit, they took me for x-rays which came back....completely normal. The doctor was, in her words, flummoxed, but they gave me some realllllllly strong painkillers and sent me home with a sufficient supply and some crutches and told me to rest up. The painkillers seem to be working, so hopefully I'll feel better in the next couple of days. Belinda and Andrew bought me fish and chips for dinner and I need to go to bed now because the painkillers have made me really tired.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Electrical pulses

Apologies for the lack of blog over the last few days. The charger to my netbook has died and I am trying to conserve the battery power. Sean, being the lovely man he is, has arranged for a new one to be sent and it should arrive sometime today, so fingers crossed! The last three days we have had a continuation of utterly gorgeous weather. Weather that is too hot to wear jeans in, with completely cloudless skies and a very faint breeze. It's been unbelievably beautiful and I wish, wish, WISH my back/legs were feeling better because it's the kind of weather that makes you want to run around in a park. The last three days I have been for walks around Crosby, completing various errands, then coming back to the house and putting frozen peas on my knee and trying to stretch my hip. On Tuesday I went to a physiotherapist and he was pretty amazing. He gave me a very painful massage to loosen up my back and then put a machine on my back that sent electrical pulses through my muscles. The machine went for 15 minutes and it was about the most bizarre sensation I have ever experienced. My back felt like someone else's when I stood up afterwards, and for the next hour, I could still feel the same sensation after I left the physio's, but it definitely felt better than it had. I'm going back on Monday for a follow-up. Belinda and Andrew have been the perfect hosts, and it's been so nice to have home-cooked meals and a place that is not full of strangers while I am feeling so rotten. Don't get me wrong, I love meeting new people, but pain makes me anti-social. Since I had the crazy electric therapy, I have felt quite good once the day gets going. Mornings are the worst though, and that is what I am hoping will get better. Sean is having a great time with Tim and Helen and seeing a show every day. I miss him but I am really pleased he's getting to see stuff at his own pace rather than have to constantly be waiting for me. Today I plan to do much of the same - walk, sun, read, ice my knee, stretch. Until my next blog!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Crosby times

The last two days have been very relaxing and really good for my back. I have spent a lot of time lying down on a camping mat, reading and watching British television, but we went for a long walk today along Crosby Beach. It's difficult because I should be staying active to stretch out my back, but the pain in my knees and hips make it hard. Yesterday we went to lunch at The Courtyard (Mum, Dad, next time you visit Liverpool, you need to go here for lunch, it's gorgeous). Crosby is lovely because it's really close to the city centre, but it's also on the beach, and you only need to drive ten minutes or so to get to the country. It's the best of all worlds; all it needs is a nice mountain range. I hear Sean has been having an awesome time at the Dr Who convention, hopefully the weather in Cardiff is as nice as it is here. Brilliant sunshine the last two days - real beachy, t-shirt-and-shorts type skies. A really nice change from wintry grey :)

Friday, 23 March 2012

Liverpool again :)

I said goodbye to Kim and Sean today! Big hugs all round. The delightful Derry taxi system showed up for me without me even phoning. I had mentioned to a driver yesterday that I was going to the airport at 10am this morning and he told me to phone him. I was literally getting to my feet to call him this morning when there was a knock on the hostel door. It was a different taxi driver. The man I spoke to yesterday had been called away to something but he wanted to make sure someone was there to pick me up at 10. These people are so considerate and lovely. I had a great chat to the taxi driver on the way to the airport. We talked about Australia and Ireland and snow and our families mainly, and when he pulled up at the airport, he took all my luggage into the terminal because he could see I was having trouble with my back. It was a really lovely way to start the day.

Derry airport is tiny. It's about the size of the toilet blocks at Tullamarine. There were two gates, and the tiniest little lounge, and everyone was really friendly. I chatted to the nicest Liverpudlian who told me all about her family and her city and how much she loved it. The plane trip to Liverpool took 40 minutes, but I closed my eyes briefly and then felt this almighty crash. I thought it was the most mental turbulence I'd ever encountered, but I opened my eyes and we had actually landed, so I can only assume I drifted off to sleep as it felt like we'd been in the air for 10 minutes.

I took a bus to the city centre and Andrew picked me up and drove me to their house in Crosby. It's really nice to be back. I scared the living daylights out of Luce when she got back, but after that we spent the afternoon chatting, with me sprawled out along the floor which has become the custom. The lovely Belinda bought me fish and chips for dinner and we watched Sport Relief 2012. It feels hideously selfish to be whinging about a bit of back pain when children are dying of the most pointless and treatable illnesses. It really puts it into perspective. And I need to donate some moolah.

Later kids!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Lying on the floor for two days and other activities

The last two days have involved long stretches of lying on my side on the floor while reading. Not terribly exciting, but unfortunately, necessary. Nevermind, I am still managing to surf a lot of Net and read a lot of books. I've also done a lot of other boring jobs like washing, posting stuff home and printing off my boarding pass to fly to Liverpool tomorrow. I've had AMAZING curries for dinner both nights at the Wetherspoons pub which is this uber cheap and tasty chain throughout the UK, and last night we went to the Peader O'Donnell's pub for some traditional Irish music. It's full of Irish people who are excited to see tourists and they are really friendly and chatty. I got a kiss and told I was a 'gorgeous gal'. Ah, Ireland :)

This afternoon we went on a walking tour around the Bogside and the city walls. I did the same tour about 4 years ago and from what I can remember it was really different, and just as enjoyable. Tomorrow I am headed back to Belinda and Andrew's and Sean is headed to Cardiff, then London. It will be weird to be separated from him after living in each other's pockets for 9 weeks, but we'll be meeting up in Newcastle in ten days to visit his family, so it's not for long!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

I am the pincushion. Coo coo cachoo.

This morning I went to a physio about my back pain. It has been impacting too much on my plans and I need to do something, so today I took a taxi to the Back Pain Clinic. The taxi cost me 4 pounds and arrived at the hostel within 3 minutes of me calling them. Lift your game, Melbs! The physio was really nice, made me stretch a bit, then mentioned that he used acupuncture quite a lot, and did I mind? I asked if it hurt, he said you feel a bit of a pinch, like a normal needle. I said, well okay. I was seriously willing to try anything. So he stuck 4 needles in my hip and left them there. He was right, I did feel a bit of a pinch. A damn painful pinch with every needle, but then you sort of relax and the pain goes away. But I tried to move at one point and that hurt, so don't move if you ever had it. Then he went away for about 15 minutes and I got Sean to talk to me to distract me because I didn't want a repeat of the blood donation, where I thought about the fact there was a needle in me and cried. Yay. But Sean talked to me and I was pretty relaxed, and then the physio came back to turn the needles. That bit also hurt. Quite a lot. But again, only for a few seconds, then the pain faded. He gave me a really vigorous massage along my spine afterwards, and then stood me up. He wasn't happy with what he saw, so he put the needles in again, but this time only for about 30 seconds, then we tried again. It was really amazing. The pain in my back has improved significantly and he showed me some tricks with posture and core strength to help me manage it. Unfortunately, the pain in my legs is still quite bad, but I have a follow-up appointment on Thursday morning so I'll mention it if it's unchanged.

He told me to avoid sitting, and to stay standing and active if I could. Because of the swelling in my knee it's not too possible right now, so I pretty much have to lie on my side for long periods of time if I need to sit down. It's only temporary, but it's frustrating to say the least. Sean and I walked back through Derry in an attempt to stay active and found some cool shops, then I spent most of the afternoon lying on the couch reading. I got up to go to a restaurant for dinner with Sean then we had a drink with Kim when she finished her volunteering duties. We don't have any major plans for tomorrow, just washing and posting stuff home, but if we get that done, it'll be a big weight off my shoulders!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Derry!

So this is an update for the last two days. I didn't write one yesterday because there was not much to say! We got home from St Paddy's day to discover my knee had swelled to the size of a grapefruit. Because of the back pain, I was favouring my right leg, and apparently it didn't like being favoured for seven straight hours on St Paddy's day. So I spent the day sitting down, uploading photos and reading and watching Gavin and Stacey (great show!). It wasn't a bad day, but it wasn't terribly exciting (except for Skyping Mum and Dad. It was wonderful to hear their voices!!). I went out that night with Kim and Sean to buy a book and have a pub meal, then went back to the hostel and eventually, to bed.

This morning we slept in, checked out and went to the main bus terminal in Dublin, Busarus. Again, I had to sit and read, but this time I chucked some frozen peas on my knee which helped with the pain a little. Then we got on a bus to Derry, which took about 4 hours. I sat next to this gorgeous woman, originally from Northern Ireland, but she'd lived in America for 30 years. She sounded completely American, but had moved back to Northern Ireland finally to get work. We chatted for most of the trip and during the bus ride she got a phone call offering her a job from an interview she had done last week. It was wonderful. She was so excited and began ringing all her friends and family to let them know and it was just so brilliant to see something work out so well for someone else. Once we got to Derry we took a 2 pound fifty taxi to our hostel and settled in. Paddy's Palace is a really nice place and it's a real shame I won't be here for the whole two weeks I had planned with Kim. We met some great people - volunteers and travellers and the Paddywagon tour coming through. A guy from our Haggis tour is on the current Paddywagon tour and it was great to bump into him again. We all went out to a great, cheap pub for dinner and had lots of food and conversation. I am pretty tired now, but I think I will head to bed and try to get an appointment at a physio tomorrow.

Blog soon! xx

Saturday, 17 March 2012

St Patrick's Day!!

This was it. The reason for my entire trip! Two Christmases ago I sat opposite Kimberley at the table and said 'Do you have any plans to be in Dublin for St Patrick's Day 2012?" 'No', she replied, 'Do you?'

And thus, the trip was born. We both planned our entire holidays around the fact that we would meet up in Dublin in the middle of March, in time to see the parade on the 17th. And we totally pulled it off like bosses. We were up more or less when our alarms went off this morning, in time to make breakfast and get ourselves greened for the festival of all festivals. There really is nothing like it in Melbourne. NYE comes close, but it's worldwide and of an enormous scale everywhere. St Paddy's feels like one big NYE in daylight, that stretches for a couple of days - and everyone is in costume. We used facepaint, temporary tattoos and big green hats to doll ourselves up before heading to O'Connell St, along with what felt like half the population of the world. We weasled our way into spots as close to the barrier as we could get and planted ourselves there for the next two and a half hours to wait for the parade. We met a gorgeous Irish woman who was so cheeky and entertaining. She stood with us the whole time and chatted to us about all things Irish and Australian and the time flew by much faster. We watched various Irish TV and sporting personalities walk past, and our new friend pointed them out to us. One very bright and bubbly TV presenter was impressed to learn we had come all the way from Australia just for the parade (I didn't mention the other 14 weeks...).

The parade began with a convoy on bikes and a car dropping off the Irish Prime Minister at the Grandstands, which we were steps away from. Then there was a marching band and after that I really couldn't tell you what came when. The next hour and a half was a huge flurry of colour and costumes and music and puppets and bands and dancers and flags and floats and fire-twirling and stilt-walking and all manner of cool things carnival. My feet and hips and legs and back were so sore by the end but I hardly noticed it because the spectacle was so enthralling. We were pretty much in the second row, pressed against the barriers with a wonderful view. I took heaps and heaps of photos and about two-thirds of the way through the parade my memory card filled up and my battery started to die so I had no choice but to ignore the camera and just absorb as much as I could of it.

When it finally finished it felt a bit bizarre, like, okay, where do we go now? First things first: back to the hostel to grab a warmer jacket. We had in fact been blessed with rare Dublin sunshine (and one brief, but heavy, rainshower), but it was now starting to get a bit colder. We sort of collapsed for half an hour or so while our feet slowly throbbed back to normal, and then we set off again, grabbing a kebab after a half-hearted check to see if there was any room at the pub. There was, in fact, none. We headed back to O'Connell St where we met Aaron and Katie, Kim's mates, and their friend, also named Aaron. We took a long walk down O'Connell St and then south of the river until we found a slightly less crowded pub. There was still no room to sit, so we stood again for the next couple of hours while we had some drinks and chatted more. Our limbs protesting fiercely, we finished the drinks and stepped outside to find somewhere to sit, but ended up just standing on the sidewalk and talking more! Great company and conversation meant that we didn't notice the pain in our legs too badly until we finally said our goodbyes and headed back. We stopped in briefly at Eason's, a huge bookshop on O'Connell St, but they were about ten minutes from closing time and we couldn't stay. We bought some groceries for dinner and headed back to the hostel, and I pretty much have not moved from the bed or the couch since. It was a wonderful, wonderful day and I am so glad it worked out so well. I don't think I have the energy to go out again tonight, but neither does half the city by the look of it!

Friday, 16 March 2012

St Paddy's Day EVE

This morning we didn't set an alarm and we all slept until 11. But I don't care, we clearly needed it! Then we got up and set off our separate ways. I aimed for the Writer's Museum, but the buses were delayed and my back was too sore to walk there and then a bird pooped on my jacket, so I ended up just waiting for a new bus and jumping on to do the round trip. The commentary is very entertaining, and it's peaceful letting yourself be driven around. I hopped off at Christchurch cathedral and went inside where I bumped into Sean. We saw 'Tom and Jerry' - the mummified cat and rat who were trapped inside one of the organ pipes for centuries. We saw the crypt and some beautiful architecture inside the church, then we met Kim outside.

Kim and I went to Dublinia, a historical museum that chronicles Viking Dublin, Medieval Dublin and archaeology and restoration in Dublin. We were a bit too tired and delirious to take much in but my goodness it was fun. It pretty much consisted of us wandering round looking at pictures, too exhausted to read anything, then finding a helmet or some chainmail or some stocks to step into and take photos of. Then I bought earrings in the gift shop. Oh yeah! Kim and I jumped back on the bus for another half-circuit and then got off to bookshop browse on our way back to the hostel. The highlights of this part of the day included Burger King and a book signing by Sugar Ray Leonard. I washed my hair when I got back to the hostel (exciting! It was truly rank beforehand) and then spent a good hour on the internet looking for shows to see. Then the three of us went for a huge walk through O'Connell St, Dame St, Temple Bar, Trinity College, Grafton St - and it was all packed and busy. We found an excellent little tucked away ice-cream store (I think it was called Murphy's?) and I had Baileys ice-cream and brown bread ice-cream. Both some of the tastiest ice-creams I have ever had. We bought some supplies for tomorrow and headed home. We need to set an alarm and be up bright and early tomorrow so I'm off to bed now.

Toodles!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Fell asleep on a bus today.

This morning we were meant to go to the bus station at 10am. We were there just after 11, minus Sean because he was still showering, but it meant I caught up with all my photos! Yay :) We sorted out what we needed to do to get to Derry on Monday and then headed off to do our own thing. I planned to go to the Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship museum, but my back was sore and my legs were sore and there was really no reason why I absolutely had to go, so I went back to the hostel and did more of my photos and journal entries. I walked to the Old Jameson Distillery (and along the way found a great discount bookstore) and then met Kim and Sean to do a tour of the distillery. The tour was nothing exceptional, but the tour guide was lovely and Sean was on a team of volunteer tasters who compared different whiskies. We all got a glass of complimentary whisky, which I have never really enjoyed, but I had mine with cranberry juice and it was quite nice. We were going to head to the Guinness Storehouse but Kim and I were nearly falling asleep on our feet. So instead, we jumped on the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus that goes round the city with a running commentary. That was really enjoyable, but I managed to fall fast asleep anyway, in a big noisy bus heading down the centre of Dublin. After the bus we went to a small pub near the hostel for dinner and watched a football match, not something I have ever done, but I really got into it! Then we came back to the hostel and have literally spent the last three hours talking to a guy from Ireland and a guy from Morocco. Great times, hazy days. It's been a good day, and I am trying to psych myself up for a bigger day tomorrow!