I know I’ve been really slack in posting, but I swear I’ve been SO busy having a good time that I have an excuse. I HAVE been pretty good at uploading pictures of the places I’ve been going though, so if you want to see, have a look here. That link will take you to a page with my photo albums on it, so you can have a selective look if you like! I really don’t expect anyone to look at them all :)
After being in Devon for a week, I caught the train down to Portsmouth. I’d wanted to visit ever since they had named a street there after one of my favourite authors books (The Ocean at the end of the Lane), and there was a ferry going to the Channel Islands (which I had also wanted to visit for ages) leaving from Portsmouth so it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss!
I had had real trouble finding somewhere to sleep for the 2 nights I was there as I hadn’t realised school holidays started that weekend but I found somewhere on airbnb (a new experience for me!) and got there about 7pm. I had some dinner and then had an early night.
The next day I left fairly early and walked down to The Ocean at the end of the Lane, as I had some guerilla knitting I wanted to put up there. No hassles, one person asked what I was doing was part of an organisation as they had apparently seen a few other people doing it that day too!
As you can see, the guerilla knitting isn’t my best as I wasn’t sure how tall the posts would be, so I had to do all the words separately.
After sewing the knitting up, and taking a few pictures, I wandered down to the beach and started walking towards the historic docks. It was a pretty nice day – a bit windy (heaven forbid it NOT be windy at the beach!), and there were lots of people out as there was a running event on that was going on on the road running parallel to the beach. I meandered along, taking lots of pictures (there’s a ton of memorials down there!), and eventually got to Portsmouth Castle.
It’s free entry so I went in and had a look around. It’s a fascinating castle, and I spent a while wandering through, and chatting to a woman working there about Portsmouth.
After I’d had enough of a look, I decided to go to the D-Day museum, as it’s basically directly opposite the castle, and I figured I could always learn more about D-Day! The D-Day museum was well worth a visit! I particularly enjoyed the Overlord Embroidery, which is 43 separate panels depicting the progress of Operation Overlord (the code name for the invasion of Normandy).
After I had finished at the museum, I was ravenous, so continued along the waterfront in search of something to eat. I eventually ended up in a shopping centre close to the Historic Dockyards, and had a curry for lunch.
As it was getting dark (it was a very late lunch!), I quickly headed over to the Dockyards to have a brief look around.
I had a bit of a look around the Mary Rose gift shop, but I didn’t really have enough time to go inside and have a proper look (something for another day), then went and bought some food for dinner and the boat the next day, then walked back to my accommodation.
I just realised that I’ve left a bit out of my report of Devon, and figure it’ll be easier to write an addendum rather than edit it!
When I was working in the Scottish Borders, one of the kids kept asking me to knit them a teddy bear. At the time I was knitting something that still hasn’t arrived yet, so I can’t name it, but needless to say I didn’t have any extra yarn with me.
However, once I had finished the gift that must not be named, I still had a heap of some of the yarn left, so I figured I could go ahead and knit a teddy bear. Unfortunately, when I went to start the bear, I realised I hadn’t downloaded the pattern, and there wasn’t any wifi where I was, so I had to adapt another pattern slightly. Hence, the creation of the Cyber Teddy! Part Cyber Man, part teddy bear (hopefully the Cyber Man won’t try and convert the teddy part!). Also unfortunately, the green is slightly zombie-ish, but I think I worked around it!
Once I had finished knitting this amazing creation, I had to decorate it, and this happened in Devon. Happily, T is also a crafter and so had buckets of buttons and ribbon to choose from, and I eventually went with these!
I’m told that it’s now been named “Ted”!
Immediately after being in Aberaeron, I got the train down to Devon (no holiday in between this time!). The trip down was fine, apart from a small snafu where the train I was booked on didn’t exist anymore (not sure how I managed to book myself onto a train that didn’t exist, but at least I wasn’t the only one). Luckily the platform manager at Wolverhampton was super helpful, as was the conductor on the train, so I got in to Newton Abbot not too much later than I was supposed to.
I was picked up by E, and taken back to the house, which wasn’t far away. I was shown my unit (T (E’s wife) & E own a bed and breakfast, and I had my own truly gorgeous unit). I dumped all my stuff and headed over to the main house. E & T had dinner guests, and T had made a really nice vegetarian curry for dinner. Everyone was really friendly and we had a nice evening, talking about places people had travelled to.
I was there to help clear some things out of the house (ironically, given how bad I am at throwing my own stuff out), but as the rubbish skip wasn’t arriving until Monday (the following day), on Sunday morning T & E’s guests left not too late, and we (T, E, and I) went to an apple pressing festival being held at Cockington Forge. There was lots of stuff on and we had a good wander through some of it (you had to pay to get in to part of it, but as you could hear what was going on outside, and we weren’t that keen, we didn’t go into that bit). Lots of crafty people there, and I bought a tiny giraffe button that I’ve yet to do anything with, but enjoy looking at!
When we’d had enough of the festival, we went and had a cream tea (something I wouldn’t feel right leaving Devon and not having done!). I found out that I apparently have my cream tea the Cornwall way (scone with jam and then cream, scone with cream then jam is the Devon way!). We then drove down to the beach and went for a bit of a walk.
The next day the skip arrived, and we got to work loading it up. Apparently I have quite the skill in getting your moneys worth in terms of how much stuff you can get into a skip with no space left! By the end of the week, we’d completely filled the skip up, and it was almost perfectly flat on top!
While I was in Devon we also did a few trips out. The first was to Coleton Fishacre, a jazz era home owned by the D’Oyly Carte family (patrons of the Gilbert and Sullivan). I think this is one of the newest National Trust buildings I’ve visited (I usually stick to the older ones), but it was interesting nonetheless! The gardens were still looking pretty good (despite it being the end of October, and they had beautiful sea views (although not from the house).
We also did a trip out to Greenway, which was once Agatha Christie’s holiday home. This was also really interesting, and was definitely my favourite of the 3 properties I visited here in Devon! There was a fantastic orchard, and we picked some chestnuts off the ground in the parking lot (my first experience with whole unpeeled chestnuts!).
I also did a short walk down to Compton Castle, once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh’s half brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert. As I knew basically nothing about HG, it was interesting to find out more!
Reviews: my review of them:
“I had a truly awesome time with T and E helping out in their b&b! They were kind, friendly, funny, and a real pleasure to be around. I helped E to do a bit of clearing out. They were lovely enough to show me around Paignton, and took me to 2 of the National Trust buildings around where they live. The work was relatively easy, and the food was great! I had my own unit to live in, all meals provided (I had breakfast in my own unit with presupplied cereal, toast, and fruit). I worked different hours each day depending on what T and E had on, and as previously stated they took me on outings when I wasn’t working.
I would not hesitate to go back!”
Their review of me: “If you are looking for a helper who is hard working, willing, cheerful, easy going and fun to have around then look no further email DL and snap her up!
DL has just spent a week with us helping my husband E clearing rubbish from the garden and generally helping out. Whatever we asked her to do it was done willingly and with a smile, she is fun to have around and is very good company. We would have DL back any time and there is an open invitation for her to come back, we hope she does! Bon Voyage DL x “
After getting the bus back to Edinburgh, I spent the shortest amount of time I’ve ever spent in Edi waiting an hour or so for the train to Cardiff. Train down was uneventful, weirdly I had a seat reservation from Newport to Cardiff (about 15 mintues on the train), but not the previous 2 hours! The train wasn’t busy though, so I just stuck with my seat (isn’t my life exciting lol) until I got to Cardiff. I only had a couple of days in Cardiff, I spent one looking a few historic buildings for Markeroni, including having a look through the Cardiff Story museum at the information centre (super interesting), one doing not very much at all (it was raining in my defense!), and then the last day went for a look around Llantwit Major.
Llantwit Major was fantastic, the weather was lovely and sunny, and I wandered around looking for blue plaques before seeing a church and going in to have a look. There were a couple of very enthusiastic volunteers inside waiting to tell people all about the church so I let them take me around. I’m really going to miss all these old buildings when I go home, we don’t really have anything that compares. It’s also really interesting seeing evidence of things I studied at school in history, it makes it more real somehow! While I was in the church, a woman (Rosemary) came in and we started chatting about what I was doing. When she found out I was going around photographing historic/listed buildings, she told me that she was off to collect the rent for one of the buildings that was on my list, and would I like to come and have a look around. Obviously I said yes (less dangerous than it sounds, unfit as I am, I could have outwalked her easily!), and she took me around. She had said the tenant was a bit grouchy, and was sick, which made me a bit uncomfortable, the last thing I wanted was to barge into someones house because it’s a listed building, especially if the person living there doesn’t really want me, but I think she must have been kidding about the grouchy part, as he was super friendly! He showed me the inside, and there were some fascinating plaster panels that date back to the original Elizabethan house!
The following day I caught the train to Aberystwyth (I later realised I went around the long way, you can actually get the bus to Aberystwyth from Cardiff!). The train out was gorgeous, probably my favourite part was between Dovey Junction and Borth where the train goes along some absolutely stunning wetlands. I’m pretty sure I saw a couple of red kites too! Sadly I don’t seem to have taken any pictures, I guess I was too busy admiring the view.
After getting off the bus in Aberystwyth, I got on the bus to Aberaeron and was picked up by M there. We drove up to the horse farm, and I was left on my own for a few minutes while Maggie (my coworker also from New Zealand) finished up her jobs for the afternoon. When Maggie came in she made dinner and we chatted.
This helpx experience was completely different to the one in Hawick (not bad, just different). We worked from 9am till 11am, then had a 20 minute or so tea break, and then went back to work till 1pm. Then we were given a tray of food to eat for lunch in our little flat and had time off until 4pm. Usually M and I (her husband) were going in to town and gave us a ride, which was really helpful as we weren’t able to use the wifi at the farm. In the mornings we mucked out the stables, and gave the horses hay (I got quite adept at using a pitchfork during my stay!). After that we did a whole range of jobs, I got to do some more gardening, respread the gravel over the drive for the winter, did a bit of painting and sanding, and lots of cleaning of tack. I don’t feel like I got to know M and I as well as I did the people at the previous place, but they did have some fantastic stories to tell about other people they had had to stay, as well as their own stories. I did get to know Maggie a bit better, and we had a good time! We had a really good time inventing meals to make out of the ingredients supplied. I had a particularly memorable carbohydrate soup featuring rice, potato, onion, garlic, carrot, and a few stock cubes!
On our days off (Wednesday and Thursday) we did a couple of day trips, and a couple of days just hanging out on the internet at the library (I got lots of things booked those couple of weeks). I also had a haircut, which I’d been wanting to do for a while now! The first week we did a trip over the New Quay. They had really cheap dolphin tours (about £12 per person for an hour long one) leaving from there, we decided not to do them though as I’ve seen dolphins before several times, and I’d rather save my money to do things I haven’t done yet. We did have a bit of a wander around, and I took some pictures.
The following week we caught the bus in to Aberystwyth and had a mooch around. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t particularly great, but I had a good look around the castle, and we went up to the National Library of Wales which is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area! My particular favourite was a totara chair carved in New Zealand bequested by the Bledisloe family (who are originally Welsh).
On the final couple of days we were given the not particularly fun jobs of both sanding a window that had about 500 layers of old paint underneath, all of which seemed to have started peeling before being painted over again, and of cutting back some brambles/blackberries that had started growing out of the side of one of the barns and had gone unnoticed for some time. I don’t even want to think about how many times I got thorns in my fingers, despite wearing my gardening gloves (wearing 2 pairs seemed to work a bit better!). Thankfully, M and I were really nice about it and gave us a bottle of wine, some crisps, and some maltesers to say thank you! On the sad front I wasn’t supposed to be drinking thanks to antibiotics (you’ll all be happy to know my fungal nail is basically healed now!), but I made a really nice winter pasta with vegetables and some of the wine!
Reviews: my review of them: “I’ve just completed a great couple of weeks with M and I. I thoroughly enjoyed their home baking and their stories! The work was generally pretty easy, I helped out with a bit of weeding, some cutting back of brambles/blackberries, a bit of painting, and lots of mucking out and feeding (I can now add proficiency with a pitchfork to my repertoire!). I and M were kind enough to drive me into town most days (when they were going), as well as being happy to drop me into town on my days off. Thank you again for all your hospitality!”
Their review of me: “DL spent two weeks with us and has a cheerful and pleasant personality. She joined in all the work and activities with willingness and good attitude. She got on well with our other volunteer and we wish her well for the future.”
TL;DR: Worked in Aberaeron on a horse farm with another NZer (who I didn’t know before arriving). High points: making up ridiculous meals with limited ingredients, 2 hobs, a microwave, and a kettle (which couldn’t all be plugged in at the same time!); eating honey ice cream in Aberaeron on nice days (the passionfruit one was amazing!), going on day trips, lots of funny stores. Low points: sanding a grungy windowsill; cutting back blackberries growing out of a barn, making up ridiculous meals with limited ingredients, 2 hobs, etc, etc, etc.
I left Edinburgh Monday morning and other than having had way too much to drink and needing the loo about an hour into a two and a half hour bus trip, got to the Borders with no problems. I was met by L, the Mum of the family I was staying with outside the supermarket in Hawick. Thankfully the supermarket had a loo I could use before heading out to their place about 10 minutes away.
When we got there, I met J, W, and their son, A, from Australia. We all had some lunch (toast), then had a look around the property. Unfortunately because it had started to rain we didn’t really want to do any work outside, so J, L, and I made jam inside. I’d never made jam before, but it was surprisingly easy! I’ll definitely be having another go when I get back home. I even got to try a new fruit, damsons!
Once we’d made the jam and put it into jars, L went to pick up her 2 kids E and M from school. When they got back, we all introduced ourselves, and then E and I hung out and made loom bands (there was quite a bit of that over the 2 weeks!).
Here you can see the various stages of putting in the vegetable patches. First we had to dig out the area to put the frame in (you can’t really see it here, but the plot is on a slope), then put in the preassembled frame. After that we put the soil back around the frame to hold it in place, and then W would put supports around the frame to hold it in place. Then we would either fill it in with soil, ready for planting, or put layers of cardboard, manure, and dirt into the frame. You can see me right in the background shovelling manure! We did that until Thursday (until we ran out of wood to build the frames).
Friday we started to build a polytunnel. Well, I say we! I mostly moved dirt around (lots of fun, really!) for the day, with short breaks to help measure things out.
Over the weekend I mostly hung out and went for a couple of walks.
Week two I tidied up an area next to the chicken coop. This mainly involved digging up some grass, planting two blueberry bushes, and laying some paving stones down to walk on. Then I covered the other half (where the remaining grass was) over with carpet to stop weeds growing up over the winter.
I also did a bit of weeding (which I actually really enjoyed, with the exception of fairly consistently putting my hands into stinging nettles!).
Thursday evening I went for a bit of a walk to have an explore. I managed to convince myself that I was lost, but had in fact been following the roads I intended to go down all along.
All in all, I was sad to leave. I had a really good time here!
My review of them: “I’ve just finished my first helpx here with L and her family. I had such a wonderful time, they were all SO friendly, welcoming, easy to get along with, and generally fantastic hosts. I was there with an Australian couple and their son and we probably worked about 5 or so hours a day leaving heaps of time to explore the area (Tom has maps of walks you can do), or hang out with the kids! L, T, and the boys were also kind enough to include me in their outings on the weekends. I couldn’t have asked for a more awesome group of people to start off my helpx experience.”
Their review of me: “DL has just left us after her 2-week stay on our smallholding. While she was with us she built raised beds, dug and prepared ground for planting, planted blueberry bushes, cleaned out chickens, cooked dinner, looked after the kids and, boy can she make delicious desserts!! It has been a real pleasure having DL come to stay. She is easy to be around, hard-working and good fun too. Good luck with your onward travels DL. X”
Worked in Hawick! Things I enjoyed: playing with the kids, putting vegetable patches in (it’s so exciting working when you can see the results as you go), cooking. Things that weren’t so great: constantly putting my hands into stinging nettles unintentionally, weeding the driveway!
Leaving Edinburgh seemed like a very gradual process. When I left Wellington although I knew I was going for ages, I only had 4 weeks in which to pack up most of my stuff and pack, but as I was moving out of my flat before actually leaving Edinburgh it seemed like I had ages to get rid of stuff, send things home, and then finally have another 5 weeks to hone down what I was actually taking with me. Of course huge thanks need to go to all the people who put me up (you know who you are!), and the amazingly awesome Sid who not only forced me to accompany her to every stately home with tearooms (all but one!) reachable by public transport from Edinburgh, but was the voice of reason in helping me debag a lot of things I really didn’t need to bring with me.
Going back to where I left off last time, the book festival was pretty good. Alexander McCall Smith was as fantastic as ever, and I really didn’t regret going to see him a second time. David Levithan and Cat Clarke were my (unexpected) favourites though. I was there early and had an interesting conversation with the people sitting behind me about feeling too old to be at these kind of events (which I know is ridiculous!). That’s probably what I love most about events for teens/kids though, I always feel like there’s less pretense, people are there because they enjoyed the book (it’s entirely possible that I feel less awkward talking to people at those events though and so am more likely to do so though!) and are happy to talk about it.
Here’s the traditional picture, I think Cat got a bit of a shock when I asked them to say six though!
I haven’t read anything by Cat Clarke, but am planning on doing so after hearing her read a bit of one of her books.
Michael Morpurgo was a delight to see. I’m SO glad I bought a ticket (not that there was ever a chance I wouldn’t), even if I ended up with a seat in the second row thanks to my tiny, tiny bladder. He was really nice when I met him in the signing queue too :)
John Boyne was also really interesting!
After the book festival ended, I finally used up my last groupon voucher to go out on a ferry tour on the Forth of Firth with a stopoff on Inchcolm Island, which was great. It was a pretty windy day, but the Abbey on the island was gorgeous, and it was sunny enough to not be freezing cold! We also got to go out to where they’re building the new Forth Road bridge which was interesting, and they even answered two of my questions about how they build bridges over large bodies of water!
After that there was just lots of saying goodbye to people. I only properly cried once, but that was mostly because we had also been playing Settlers of Catan and someone (who will remain nameless) stole the port I wanted, and had absolutely nothing to do with me being sad! It did feel really weird saying bye to people, partly because I know I’ll probably see most of them again before I actually go home, but also because it made me realise that when I do go home it’s going to be goodbye for a while. When I left Wellington I knew I would only really be gone for 2 or so years, and it felt different.
I’m currently in the Scottish Borders, and have been having a great time (I’ll write about that separately probably next week), but have been thinking about whether or not I should try and do a similar thing as I’m doing here in Iceland when I’m there in January. Two of the three reasons I want to go to Iceland are for snow and hopefully to see the Northern Lights, and my reckoning is that the longer I’m there for the higher the odds, but I’m not sure if it would be completely sane to stay in Iceland in basically complete darkness! I’m also not sure about how easy it will be to get around places via public transport. Someone has said that it’s Iceland and that they’re presumably used to the sort of weather I’m expecting so it won’t be too difficult! Anyway, feel free to chip in on the comments (I can’t seem to start a poll for some reason) if you have something to say :). At the moment I’m on the yes side of looking into it because it would definitely be an adventure!
I’ve been super busy since I last posted! The summer job is going pretty well, and I’ve only got another 2 days left with them at the beginning of next week before the kids head back to school. The summer seems to have gone by very quickly, but I guess it’s only 6 and a half weeks.
In the 4th week of the holidays I had a trip to Cardiff which was absolutely perfect. I stayed with a bookcrossing friend, Cassiopaeia. I seriously had the best time, helped of course by the awesome weather (highs of about 28 degrees every day, and beautifully sunny as well!). We did lots of snarfing, visited the Doctor Who experience (fully worth the entry fee), visited one Historic Trust building, and Saint Fagans (an open air museum featuring buildings that have been reconstructed within the museum grounds). I also had a morning to myself where I explored Cardiff Castle, and the National Museum. You can see my pictures from the whole trip here.
I’ve also been looking for work on the helpx website, and have so far managed to book myself in to work for 2 weeks in the Scottish Borders, 2 weeks in the west of Wales, and 1 week in Devon (98% confirmed)! That’s all starting up midway through September, and going through until almost the end of October, which only leaves 2 more months or so to find, and gives me a bit of a buffer which I’m really grateful for.
Until then I’m couchsurfing around various friends in Edinburgh! I’ve been having a good clean out of my stuff (with help from an awesome friend who would probably prefer to remain nameless!). Mount To Be Read is at an all time low of 6 (including the one I’m currently reading), and my chocolate stash is greatly depleted, and now totally bereft of Tim Tams!).
I’ve also seen a few shows at the Fringe Festival. Only one so far has been a complete dud, which is pretty good going (especially since it was a free one)! Noteworthy things I’ve seen include Black Faggot (all about being a gay Pacific Islander) and Outings (true stories about coming out), both of which I thoroughly enjoyed). Still got one thing booked, I’m off to see Potted Sherlock (60 Sherlock stories in 70 minutes by the people who did Potted Potter), and there’s still a few free things I would like to do, including Always Be Rolling (the poster has Settlers of Catan on it!).
The Book Festival starts tomorrow and I’m SO looking forward to it! I managed to get tickets to the 5 authors I wanted to see, so I’m off to see David Levithan (writer of gay teen fiction), Witi Ihimaera (of Whale Rider fame), Alexander McCall Smith (who I saw last year and obviously enjoyed!), John Boyne (he of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), and Michael Morpurgo (one of my favourite authors, he writes mostly historical fiction for kids).
Hi everyone! Yes I know it’s been a ridiculously long time since I’ve written anything (as usual!). Life seems to be changing very quickly so I thought I better write about it.
The first change was that I was made redundant from my highest paying job at the beginning of last month. I’ve got a summer job, so finances are ok, but I’m dubious about how likely I’m going to find a job for the remaining 4 or so months after my summer job ends.
Secondly, the shit hit the fan at my flat (thankfully not between flatmates), and so we’re all moving out at the end of the month. It was supposed to be the end of last month, but as we were all having enormous difficulty finding anywhere to live, our landlord has been extremely nice and said we can stay for another month.
Thirdly, E and I have broken up. I’m ok about this, sad obviously, but we had a good talk about it, and we both feel it’s the right thing to do. Happily, we are remaining friends.
This however seems to leave me in a situation where I don’t really have a lot tying me to Edinburgh after the summer holidays end. I would like to stay here until after the festival ends (I’ve already got tickets to a few things at the book festival and I’m still wanting to go to those!), but after that I’m planning on leaving Edinburgh and helpxing or wwoofing (working in exchange for food and accommodation) in other parts of the country. I’m planning on staying in the UK as I can’t really afford to be moving between Europe and the UK, and I’m still keen to do my 3 month trip around Europe before the Oxford BookCrossing Convention at the beginning of April. Plus as I’m still legally able to work here, there won’t be any visa issues.
This leaves me with the possibility of either trying to find somewhere to live just for August (which might happen still), or attempting to couchsurf around Edinburgh friends places (I’ve had 2 possible offers which I’m hoping to firm up at some point) for a few weeks. (If anyone is willing to host me for a couple of nights/shorter/longer I’m happy to pay for food etc, please feel free to get in touch!).
This has all happened rather quickly in some ways and not in other ways, and I’m slightly scared about the future (what’s new there though!), but also excited about what I hope will just be the next step in my adventure. I feel ready to leave Edinburgh, although I’ve had WONDERFUL time here.
In other, unrelated news, I’m off to Cardiff on holiday in a couple of weeks! I’m really looking forward to it!