the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Busy bees

June has been packed with activities! As we only have a fortnight left until we leave for London, we’re trying to make the most of our remaining time in Edinburgh. My son visited last week and we went on a couple of outings which involved obligatory photos:

A view of Arthur’s Seat from Blackford Hill
Jonny and David in Circus Lane, Stockbridge
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At a loose end around 10:30am today (BST)?

Why not tune into Suzie Grogan’s Talking Books radio show on 10Radio (or use your usual world steaming service) to find me giving away the inside story on writing This Much Huxley Knows and much more. Alternatively, if you’d prefer a breath of Scottish air, here are some photos from our walk in the Pentland Hills (south west of Edinburgh) yesterday.

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First week in Edinburgh

We’re tuning into city vibes and finding life in Stockbridge very agreeable. We’ve stayed in the one-bedroomed flat many times before and like the locality. Step outside the front door and to the right is Raeburn Place with its many independent shop, cafes and restaurants. Turn left and there’s the Water of Leith Walkway which goes down to the sea at Leith and inland towards the Pentland Hills. We’ve discovered a route where the Water of Leith passes under the Union Canal at Slateford Aqueduct which makes a great circular walk. There’s also the chance to go along wider footpaths which were once railway or tram tracks. We followed one to reach the Colinton Tunnel where there’s a fabulous community project to decorate the tunnel with murals.

Volunteers have illustrated the words of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem From a Railway Carriage which describes a child’s first journey by train. Here’s an image of the exit to the tunnel.

I was on special look out while walking to the tunnel for a spot where it’s possible to go wild swimming. Although most of the Water of Leith is shallow, here’s an area of deeper water. Who knows – I might don my costume one day for a dip.

There’s a great stopping off point too, at Saughton Park where the cafe serves the best breakfast rolls I’ve come across.

And I mustn’t forget a shout out for the Edinburgh Botanic which we’ve visited once already and we’re looking forward to popping back regularly to watch the plants bloom as the season warms up.

There’s not much to report on the writing submission front although I’m still joining Writers’ Hour each weekday morning at eight o’clock. It’s one way to keep the new novel barrelling along.

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A few delights from Edinburgh

We’ve been in Edinburgh for three weeks and are coming to love the city more and more. Previously, we’ve been here during the Edinburgh Book Festival and the Fringe in August, so spending spring in the city is a new experience. Edinburgh seems such a chilled place outside the summer rush. And the real pleasure has been discovering the walkways and paths that crisscross the city. Here are a few of our adventures.

On my sixtieth birthday, we walked to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. (This is the main peak from an ancient volcano that overlooks the city.) It’s very craggy at the top and I had to scamper up like a mountain goat. The views are spectacular. When we were walking down the other side, we met an elderly woman carrying a shopping bag who was on her way up. We stepped aside to let her pass and my husband told her she was nearly at the top. She replied, ‘Och, I know that. I’m taking a short cut home from my Tai Chi class.’ If I’m that fit at her age, I’ll be very happy.

We are renting a flat in Stockbridge which is a few minutes from the walkway of the Water of Leith. From there we can stroll to the sea or go further around the city. The paths are like nature reserves although recently there’s been a distinct pong from the wild garlic. (The figure in the water is by Anthony Gormley.)

Today we walked along the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal then took a turning back to Stockbridge along the Water of Leith.

Who knows what walking joys await us next week.

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White Stuff, Edinburgh

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Besides the fringe shows and book festival events I found a wonderful distraction in White Stuff on George Street, Edinburgh. When I went to try on a jumper I found an amazing passage of wardrobes with each door leading into a changing room uniquely decorated.

There was the Havisham room with a discarded wedding dress hanging from a peg.

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Behind another wardrobe door was a potting shed complete with equipment.

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This is my favourite, a 1950s kitchen.

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The changing room entered through the yellow wardrobe door was the last one I visited.

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I had to laugh when I saw what was inside.

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Following me into the changing room, the assistant warned me that the toilet was not plumbed in. I wonder if they’ve had accidents in the past!

In case you’re wondering, I did buy the jumper.

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Anniveraries – who’d have them?

This time last year I was offered the post of Service Manager for a teaching team working with Dorset County Council. Now my colleagues, who are all on teachers’ pay and conditions have finished and I’m left  with no-one to manage. It’s not too bad – I am allowed to work from home during the summer and the end is in sight. I’ll receive my final salary and redundancy package on 30 August.  With the end to a new position only one year after starting, it makes the anniversary something of a bitter-sweet event. Bitter owing to the end of a career in local government that I’ve loved  and sweet due to the new beginnings it provides. I’ve secured part-time work with an educational charity to start in September and I’ve the MPhil in Writing to begin in October, so things are looking positive. A new start and studies that may lead to a new career.

My wedding anniversary falls in August but we’re long past the point of celebrating with cards and gifts. Indeed, this year we’ll be travelling to Edinburgh for a family holiday with our teenage children. I’ve visited the Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh International Book Festival previously and enjoyed my time so much, I decided to return again with my family. I have tickets for a couple of events at the Book Festival including a session offered by Ronald Frame. He was a tutor at an Arvon course I attended in 2011 and he’s been wonderfully supportive of my writing. So it’ll be a pleasure to see him again, especially as he’ll be talking about his most recent book, Havisham (read a review here) which imagines the life of Catherine before she appears in Great Expectations. It’s well worth reading.

The anniversary that I’ve most enjoyed of late came at the weekend. We we unexpectedly offered tickets to attend the Anniversary Paralympics where Hannah Cockroft and David Weir won their races and Richard Whitehead amazed the crowds on his golden blades.  The wonderful achievements of the athletes from 2012 was certainly an event worth celebrating.

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Which anniversaries do you celebrate?

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