ewein2412: (osprey nest)
SCOTLAND seems to be a hot tourist spot for writers on vacation this summer, and I am kind of stunned and flattered at the luminaries who have purposefully put “Connect with E Wein” on their itineraries. Or maybe the word is leaking out that I am an excellent tour guide, having had previous experience as the “Infomistress” at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire over a quarter of a century ago (I wish I had paid more attention to the rivalry between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots that was the theme that summer).

ANYWAY, here’s who’s come to see me in the space of two months:

Kim Brubaker Bradley, Newbery Honor winning author of The War that Saved My Life was here at the end of May – her husband and son were golfing at Gleneagles, so I whisked Kim and her daughter Katie away for a single delightful morning to Stirling Castle. It was Kim’s desire to see the reconstruction of the Unicorn Tapestries that were made there and now hang there in the restored state rooms. We also had tea and cake in the Stirling Castle café. Much discussion of current projects occurred, and Katie was gracious in putting up with the Writers’ Craft stuff.

Then in June I had a much-anticipated and all too brief visit from Ellen Kushner - of Tremontaine & Riverside fame - and Delia Sherman, most recently the author of The Evil Wizard Smallbone, both of them old friends and mentors in many ways. Ellen and Delia, who had a bit more leisure time than Kim, got a proper afternoon cream tea at the Gloagburn Farm Shop and then a tour of Huntingtower Castle (both just outside Perth) - Sara came along for the authorly banter. And before they took the train back to Glasgow, they got served an actual evening meal by yours truly IN MY OWN HOUSE, something of a wonder, and in addition to catching a glimpse of the elusive Tim and Mark, they even got to meet my father-in-law! And they left a souvenir pencil from their 20th anniversary party, which I did not discover until this week. I very stupidly did not think to give them the Francis Crawford Tour of Perthshire (it was pouring), though we did whiz past John Buchan’s birthplace in the car.

In July, I spent most of a day with rising star (or maybe just plain old STAR) Emily Kate Johnston who’s probably most famous for her Star Wars young adult novel Ahsoka but is most recently the author of That Inevitable Victorian Thing and writes something ridiculous like 10,000 words a DAY. SHE got whisked away for lunch at the Winter Garden of the Crieff Hydro, then a tour of Drummond Castle Gardens (where they were selling small but perfectly formed fruit from the walled garden hothouse, including grapes off a vine that is certainly 100 years old), and then a trip to the wonderful Innerpeffray Library, c. 1680 and appearing in The Pearl Thief as “Inverfearnie,” which is currently my Favorite Place In Perthshire. Sara and Mark joined us for our final tour venue of the day, Elcho Castle. All this within 20 miles of home - we never left Perthshire.

And finally, last week I had dinner in Edinburgh with Steve Sheinkin and his family – partner Rachel and their two young children. Steve’s awards and honors for non-fiction are too numerous to mention here (his latest book is Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team) and I do kind of feel like I am in the presence of genius when I’m around him – modest, friendly, dedicated genius. We ate at a restaurant on the Royal Mile, walked up and down a ton of stairs and closes, and rode the Ferris Wheel in Prince’s Street Gardens. Rachel filmed us as Steve interviewed me for his occasional “Walking and Talking” feature on School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 Production blog. Ok, that was really hard work because I was JUST SO SELF-CONSCIOUS and in awe of Steve and his many talents and also I was trying to do my Edinburgh Tour Guide thing AND not be boring to the kids. I hope he pulls it off because I reckon that being made into a comic is true immortality.

A feature of these visits was the children in attendance – plus or minus theirs or mine. Coincidentally, none of the Author Children ever managed to meet each other. Everyone will have to come back.
ewein2412: (e vane)
My latest YA novel, The Pearl Thief, was released in the USA on 2 May by Disney Hyperion and in the UK on 4 May by Bloomsbury. To celebrate the UK release, we had a belated launch so close to home that we were able to walk to the venue. Mark and our neighbour Betty came along with me and Helen – my college roommate to whom the book is dedicated, who’d travelled up from London for one night so she could be there – it was a gorgeous evening for walking. Tim joined us when he got home from work. (Poor old Sara the film student was stuck in Salisbury.)

Helen & E Wein

The event was held in the Perth Museum. The Pearl Thief, a mystery and a coming of age novel featuring the title character from Code Name Verity, is set in rural Perthshire, and it felt most appropriate to connect the living and real local heritage to the fictional cultural landscape of the book. There was a little reception gearing up when we arrived at the museum – Lizz Skelly and Charlotte Armstrong from Bloomsbury Kids’ had set everything up ahead of time with cooperation from the museum and Waterstones. At this point a ton of people I knew began to arrive – other writers, SCBWI folks, my book group from Perth, friends and neighbours, bell ringers – and Jess Smith, my co-star.

Left to right - a true assortment of guests: Alex Nye (author), Bess (student & reader) & her mum Lara Haggerty (Keeper of Books at Innerpeffray Library), Joan Taylor (Secretary for Friends of Innerpeffray and Mark & Sara's voice teacher), me, Gavin Lindsay (Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust), Lizz Skelly (Marketing, Bloomsbury), and Jess Smith (author & Traveller)!

For the launch, we’d dreamed up a panel event framed as a conversation between me and Jess, whose many books and whose background as a Scottish Traveller had proved invaluable to me in the creation of The Pearl Thief. Held in the museum’s lecture hall, the event was moderated by Gavin Lindsay of the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, whom I’d met as a result of volunteering at the Moredun Top hill fort dig in September 2016. Jess and I had spent literally hours on the phone last year, but we’d never met in person, so this conversation in front of an audience filled with our friends and family was the first time we’d ever spoken face to face! We had complementary slide presentations – Jess’s showed photographs of Travellers in the past, and mine showed contemporary Perthshire landmarks and vistas. The soundtrack to Jess’s images was her poem “Scotia’s Bairn,” a lyrical tribute to a Traveller childhood in its difficulty and its beauty. We talked about history, and landscape, and the difference between writing fiction and non-fiction. Jess spoke of the prejudice she’d been subjected to as a child, and to which Travellers today are still subjected.

The conversation was thrown open to the audience toward the end to invite questions, and I was struck by the comment made by a cousin of Jess’s, about how the cultural legacy of your heritage can affect you even when you aren’t raised in the traditional circumstances or land of your ancestors.

Afterwards Jess and I both signed our books and were given many floral tributes from well-wishers and from Bloomsbury – I feel obliged to single out fellow writer and SCBWI member Sheila Averbuch. Not only did she grow her bouquet it in her own garden, but she has now been shortlisted for Scotland’s Gardener of the Year. She included lilacs specifically with Rose’s VE-Day lilacs from Rose Under Fire in mind. Sheila, incidentally, wrote a very thoughtful blog post of her own after the event, bringing together threads from her recent reading and themes that came up during my discussion with Jess.

Sheila's flowers

The thing about the launch that really, really appealed to me in a million different ways was how self-referential to The Pearl Thief it was – often in ways I wasn’t expecting. Gavin, who’d just begun reading the book, told me in such a deadpan voice that he’d driven over from Brig O’Fearn that I almost didn’t catch that he was talking about a place I'd made up, having so accustomed my own ear to the place names of my imagination (the real village is called Bridge of Earn). Through a series of coincidences, one of the guests who came along was Lara Haggerty, the Keeper of the Innerpeffray Library – the oldest free lending library in Scotland (circa 1680) – and the one on which I based the imaginary Inverfearnie Library of the novel. (Also, coincidentally, Lara featured in one of my slides). And, in another complete coincidence, the Carpow Bronze Age log boat – on which the significant log boat of The Pearl Thief is based – had returned to the Perth museum for the first time in five years, where it is now on permanent display – Jess and I posed for many pictures in front of it!

E Wein, Gavin & Jess with the Carpow Bronze Age log boat

I am so grateful to Bloomsbury, the Perth Museum, Waterstone’s Perth, the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust, Jess and Gavin and Lizz and Charlotte for pulling it all together – to Helen and everyone else who came to enjoy the buzz and the banter – and to Debby Harris and Elizabeth Kerner Ewing for wearing their pearls.

I really couldn’t have dreamed up anything more appropriate if I’d been 15 years old again and wishfully imagining my future as a Scottish author.
ewein2412: (osprey hair)

My husband Tim is in the computer games industry, and since computer games are, yanno, a form of film art, he's joined the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, aka BAFTA. It is, incidentally, a charity; and they give out the British film awards. As a member Tim got tickets, kind of just for fun, to the Scottish BAFTA Awards, which were held last night.

I knew it was going to be black tie, which meant putting Mark in a suit (his first), and digging out one of my long-disused EVENING GOWNS (last worn in 2001, I believe). But I think we clean up rather well.

I'd kind of glanced over the list of nominees without taking any names in and I certainly didn't expect to spot Peter Capaldi (for those of you who don't watch: Dr. Who) straight away. Which just goes to show you how unprepared I really was.

Mark spotted Steve Moffat about 5 minutes later (again, for those of you who don't watch: he's the Dr. Who writer, and writes for a bunch of other BBC shows including Sherlock. Well I wouldn't have recognized Steve Moffat!). At which point Tim mentioned that Peter Capaldi and Sam Heughan were both nominated for Best Television Actor and I was like...

Well, those of you who know me as an Outlander fan can guess what I was like. And then it turned out that Catriona Balfe was nominated for Best Television Actress, and suddenly I was ALL OVER this evening, which I had previously assumed was just going to be fun but that I wouldn't know or recognize anybody because I never go to any movies or watch any television and apparently the Scottish BAFTAs are sort of looked down on for being "provincial." AYE RIGHT.

It turns out - why had I not realized this? - that basically all my favorite actors are Scottish!

And they were ALL THERE - either receiving awards or presenting them or both.

Catriona Balfe & Sam Heughan

same, because they are essentially EYE CANDY #jamie

Catriona Balfe accepting her Best Television Actress award

Peter Capaldi as presenter

Steve Moffat

Moffat was a great presenter, funny and personable, and said a lot of excellent things about how writers don't get enough credit in the visual arts business because WE ARE THE BEST. ;)


James McAvoy

The funny thing was, neither Tim nor Mark knew who most of these people were (apart from Dr. Who), so every time I had another flip-out over who was up on the stage, they were a bit baffled.

So, you'd have thought I'd have already had a great evening, right? No, look who was ALSO HERE PRESENTING AWARDS. Oh, you don't recognize her? MAYBE YOU'D RECOGNIZE HER VOICE.

Morven Christie #julie

Morven Christie happens to be the Scottish actress who voiced Julie for the audiobook of Code Name Verity.

I'd had absolutely no idea she'd be there and I couldn't have been more excited - if NONE of those other people had been there, meeting Morven Christie would have absolutely made my evening.

So of course after the awards were over I had to go introduce myself. She was lovely and just as excited to meet me as I was to meet her. She told me how much she'd love CNV, how she'd read it in one day the first time, and then when she was reading the audiobook it was like Julie was speaking through her, like she was reading her own words aloud -

And then we both had a huge rant about Brexit and the American election.

Morven Christie & E Wein!

(There was a lot of Brexit-bashing. The most sustained round of applause all evening, indeed, was when one of the awards acceptance speeches included the line, "Up yours, Brexit!")

The full list of awards is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-37893926

It was an absolutely fabulous event in so many ways. And I am SO INCREDIBLY LUCKY I LIVE IN SCOTLAND.

ewein2412: (osprey hair)

You know, I have lived in the United Kingdom for over 20 years. Cumulatively, I have lived in the UK for longer than I have lived anywhere else in my entire life. Osprey-like, I raised my children here. Now, OFFICIALLY, I am as much British as American. (It was bound to happen some day!)

Of course I did this for a bunch of practical reasons as much as, and maybe more than, deeply emotional ones. The process was such a grind – my friend Tina and I have been going through it together, comparing notes and interviews, helping each other with forms, etc. We started filling stuff out in February and YES, we had to take the “Life in the UK Test,” which incidentally I think is easier than the one they make you do for US citizenship – it’s kind of like the Great British Pub Quiz, and indeed, I have been calling the whole process the Great British Scavenger Hunt, because it’s required trips to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk, and ultimately Perth, as we gather signatures and official stamps and pass certificates.

So the very last thing you have to do is make a pledge of loyalty to the Queen, and I had kind of just viewed this as another Scavenger Hunt Item, and was TOTALLY unprepared for how much fun it was.

For a start, I’m so glad it happened in Scotland. I ended up having a private ceremony, to expedite it, as they only do them once a month in Perth and I wasn't going to be here for June or July. They do it in the Old City Council Chambers, in a beautiful Victorian high-ceilinged room all wood-panelled and with ornate stained glass windows overlooking the Tay.

They got out the Saltire & the Union Jack and a portrait of the Queen up on the altar where they usually do weddings.

Because it was private, I was allowed to invite random guests – the Council actually sent me invitations, which was lovely, and I was “attended” by my great friends and (both of them) former next-door-neighbours Betty and Kathryn. Tim came too (Sara is still in Salisbury finishing up her first year at university and Mark was at his Duke of Edinburgh award qualifying weekend on a 50 mile hike). Betty and Kathryn were UBER-EXCITED and got all dressed up and brought presents. Kathryn got tearful while I was doing my pledge of allegiance! “Accustomed as I am to public speaking,” I, you may know, managed not to tear up.

At the end we all had to stand up while they played the national anthem. I loved the speech about diversity and making a contribution. I do try.

Afterward the Council gave us coffee and shortbread and the presiding official, Rhona, revealed that she’d been at a Girl Scout camp (as a Guide leader) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, near Ephrata, in 2011. So that was a funny coincidence. Later, Betty and Kathryn and I had a girly lunch in the sun in St John's Square in Perth, while Tim ran away to nurse his latest round of dental anesthesia (he had already been to the dentist in Edinburgh and to Ikea by the time he met us at the Council Chambers at 11 a.m.).

“Do you feel different?” someone asked me.

I do, kind of. It feels right. It was time.

The Recall

I am the land of their fathers,
In me the virtue stays.
I will bring back my children,
After certain days.

Under their feet in the grasses
My clinging magic runs.
They shall return as strangers.
They shall remain as sons.

Over their heads in the branches
Of their new-bought, ancient trees,
I weave an incantation
And draw them to my knees.

Scent of smoke in the evening,
Smell of rain in the night -
The hours, the days and the seasons,
Order their souls aright,

Till I make plain the meaning
Of all my thousand years -
Till I fill their hearts with knowledge,
While I fill their eyes with tears.

--Rudyard Kipling

ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
This was our Sunday afternoon excursion on 8 May. I was kind of charmed by the pictorial record including our flight path! I did most of the actual flying, but not the take-off or landing – or indeed, any of the radio work. We were amused by the French accent that called in to let Edinburgh know they were going to put “a wing” into their airspace. (Just one!)

We took off from Glenrothes in Fife and headed for the Forth bridges. We followed the M90 and the M9 nearly the whole way. The plane’s path tracks to the right of the motorway going out and back on the flight map! And see how nicely I can hold my altitude?

It was a very hazy day and I’ve had to touch up the photos for brightness and contrast, but you’ll get the idea.

Here are the bridges from the ground, taken on our walk across the Forth Road Bridge last January:

And here they are from the air, two weeks ago. The Queensferry Crossing is really starting to look like a bridge! It is scheduled to open to traffic later this year.

It’s not all scenic, but it’s jolly impressive even when it’s not scenic. Here’s Grangemouth, a bit further inland:

And what’s a tour of the M9 without a glimpse of the Kelpies, “the largest equine sculptures in the world”?

The water visible in the photo is where the Forth & Clyde Canal meets the River Carron, just before the Carron enters the Forth.

A couple of minutes (by air) beyond the Kelpies, the Forth & Clyde meets the Union Canal via the Falkirk Wheel – “the only rotating boatlift in the world.”

(I LOVE THE WAY SCOTLAND ALWAYS HAS THE BIGGEST OR THE ONLIEST THING IN THE WORLD OF ITS KIND: “World’s narrowest hotel” “Fastest mascot dressed as fruit” “Largest open air salt water Art Deco heated swimming pool in the world.”) (NOT MAKING IT UP.)

We headed back the way we’d come, but as we approached Fife Airfield we were informed that there was a parachute drop going on. You don’t really want to come anywhere near that in a small plane, as humans are actually very difficult to see in mid-air. So we set the GPS for Dollar and took a detour to find Castle Campbell. We’d been there in October:

And this is what it looks like from the air – it’s the shining roof in the center of the wooded valley, right in the middle of the photo. The castle was originally known as Castle Gloom, apparently from an old word meaning “chasm.”

That killed exactly the right amount of time. We flew back over Loch Leven, which is just the other side of Vane Hill from Fife Airfield, and buzzed Loch Leven Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner in 1567/1568, during the time she was forced to abdicate.

Last October (not quite 550 years after Mary Queen of Scots escaped dressed as a servant girl) I had my birthday picnic here with my friend Kathryn.

This could have been a Mary Queen of Scots tour if we’d thought about it, as she once stayed at Castle Campbell, and we also flew right over her birthplace at Linlithgow Palace. But we were distracted by poor visibility and Edinburgh air traffic control at that point and forgot to look down!

ewein2412: (harriet writing (no text))
Apparently my OWN CHILD checks my blog hopefully for new posts and is always disappointed.

So I am going to try to rectify the situation by giving you a single week’s update. A Week, a typical one (last week). Because I kind of take these events for granted, but looking at them from the angle of Not Me, some of them are pretty cool.

Cut for long-windedness )

ewein2412: (verity text)
I wrote this 15 years ago today - before I'd learned to fly, before I'd written anything other than The Winter Prince, ten years before I wrote Code Name Verity. We hadn't been in Scotland for a full year. It seems appropriate to share it this week, 75 years on from the Battle of Britain.

We went to the Leuchars Airshow yesterday. It was fun - Sara went on a bunch of fairground rides, we watched lots of noisy flying displays and incredible team aerobatics, Mark and Sara took turns in the backpack. But the best part was after we left - old Lancaster bomber, a Hurricane & a Spitfire swooping in and out of the air show. They kept making these long circles, parting and coming together again, over the golden stubble of the mown corn fields, in the long northern afternoon September light. No sound but twittering birds and the low whirr and chug of the aeroplanes, swooping low over the yellow fields, the old warriors, the survivors, remembering sixty years ago.

"...and the old men still answer the call
But year after year
the numbers get fewer...
Someday no one will march there at all."

But this, I think, we should not forget. It scares me that we may forget.

-E Wein, 17 Sept. 2000

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Leuchars Air Show, 2010

ewein2412: (Dancing Creme Egg)
[The giveaway connected with this post ended on 5 April 2015. The lucky winner was Sophie Jordan.]

Hi there from your itinerant online friend E Wein! And for those of you coming here from other blogs who don’t know me, I’m Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and just this month, Black Dove, White Raven. I'm reviving my half-dead blog so I can participate in an online treasure hunt organized by author Teri Terry to introduce readers to a wide range of Young Adult authors writing in the United Kingdom.

Our lucky winner has received a fabulous grand prize of signed books by over thirty young adult authors[ who write and live in the United Kingdom. As a participant, I’ve donated a set of the UK editions of all three of my recent books, signed and personalized.


Although the egg hunt is now over, you should still be able to follow the links at the end of our posts for the blog hop and explore a variety of UKYA authors.

I’m American by birth, but I’ve been living in the UK for over 20 years, and in Scotland for the last fifteen of those. I have been here so long that I now qualify not only as a UK writer, but technically and specifically as a Scottish writer. I really love this. In times of yore, when I was a more dedicated blogger, I did a lot of posting about what it’s like to be an American living in Scotland. So just as a taster, here are some photos taken this month. It really is this beautiful. (Even when it's raining.)

Glen Quaich

Glen Quaich

dead phone box

Abandoned phone box, Kenmore

crannog on loch tay

Crannog on Loch Tay

snowdrops at scone palace

Snowdrops, Scone Palace, Perth

snowdrop cookies

Snowdrop Tea at Cambo House, Fife

The UKYA Egg Hunt closed at noon (UK time) on Sunday, 5th April 2015 (yeah, Easter day), but here’s the link to the next UKYA blog if you're interested in exploring – meet Clare Furniss, author of The Year of the Rat, which has just been shortlisted for the prestigious UK Literary Association Book Award. The UKLA book award is fondly known as the “teachers’ Carnegie” and honours excellence in literary fiction aimed at children. Jump to Clare's blog at clarefurniss.com/blog.

You can find out more about me and my books on my website at www.elizabethwein.com. I tweet far more regularly than I blog. My Twitter handle is @ewein2412.

So enjoy meeting some awesome UKYA authors and their books!

ewein2412: (osprey hair)
Sara (the 16 year old) is making fun of me because I am sitting here wearing my Twilight Sparkle Stealth Bronie hat as I type. ’Cause she spent all summer watching My Little Pony on her iPod and decided that I needed to watch it too, and as a sort of cultural phenomenon it is curiously addictive, and while Pinky Pie is my favorite, I relate most to Twilight Sparkle – the writer, the scholar, the resident alien. (On the other hand, I really detest Spike, her hideous sidekick house elf slave baby dragon.) Sara said, “You should write, ‘Today what I’ve learned about friendship!’” – as though I were filing a report to Princess Celestia … and you know, I feel like that is kind of what I am doing.

It is really a half-baked report on my weekend at the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Midwinter conference in New York. I helped run a day-long “Plot Intensive” workshop, including 16 synopsis critiques and a session on alternative plot structure, and I gave a keynote speech (my first!) on Authorial Responsibility, because I am pompous earnest like that. Lee Wind wrote a very nice summary of that speech for the SCBWI Midwinter blog, here. In a surprising aside that really delighted me, Susan Brody also gave a riff on my speech called “Practice What You Preach” on her own blog, “The Art of Not Getting Published.”. I’d met Susan last September at Children’s Book World in Haverford PA, and I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hi to her again at this conference. But MY GOSH it was big! There were over a thousand participants. I don’t think I’ve EVER given a speech to a thousand people before.

So, that was the working part of the event, but the really wonderful part was the networking (hence “Friendship is magic!”). First there was the Illustrator’s Showcase cocktail party on Friday night, then the Gala dinner party on Saturday, and trust me to find myself a sort of afterparty event on Sunday night, hanging out with a small group of extremely kind and welcoming Regional Advisors and the stellar Ellen Hopkins (who has the dubious honor of being the most-censored author in America). In fact, it feels to me like I spent the entire weekend crashing parties, including being taken to lunch at the Yale Club. This is what the SCBWI is all about, people – making these wonderful connections. If you have any aspiration to writing children’s books whatsoever, I highly recommend joining this vibrant and helpful organization. Here’s their website: www.scbwi.org. And here’s their website in the British Isles: britishisles.scbwi.org. Conference recaps are here.

I also went to see a wonderful exhibit of Antoine de St. Exupéry’s manuscript pages for The Little Prince at the Morgan Library. This is terrifically curated and made me sob for a number of reasons. I highly recommend it for WWII buffs, pilots, and children’s book writers, and fans of The Little Prince! It’s on till 27 April 2014. Alas, there is no printed catalogue for the exhibit, but there are a number of related lectures coming up (details on the website) which I would go to hear if I were in New York. Being a desperately adoring admirer of St. X as I am.

I should also mention my visit to the Bank Street Center for Children's Literature, where I received possibly the warmest welcome I've ever been given in a literary context. I spent three hours chatting, eating lunch in the school cafeteria, drinking coffee and tea and eating more lunch with members of the Bank Street Children's Book Committee, and then had a tour of the Bank Street Library. PEOPLE. If you ever get a chance, GO VISIT THIS LIBRARY. It is totally devoted to children's literature and contains a subcollection of elderly classic children's books that have been pulled from the main shelves for various reasons. "Do you recognize any of these?" they asked. "Do I recognize these!" It was like time travel. It was like being transported back to 1976 and standing in the beautiful old Walnut Street library in Harrisburg. EVERYTHING I read as a child was there.

When I looked up the library link I was charmed to see that they have mentioned my visit in their website notes.

And I went ice skating in Rockefeller Center.

I spent my last two days stateside visiting Gramma in Mt. Gretna. It was extremely picturesque in the snow. (I might have sung “Let It Go” till the Frog Pond echoed… literally… hoping I was alone in the woods… Just sayin’.)

mt gretna dining room 2014

Dining room in Mt. Gretna cottage with Gramma at the table!

mt gretna former ghost house 2014

Maple Lodge in Campmeeting (formerly The Ghost House) (not our cottage)

mt gretna frog pond 2014

Frog Pond

mt gretna lake 2014

Mt. Gretna Lake (that is our very own canoe, the Millennium Flocken, on its side)

mt gretna library 2014

Mt. Gretna Library! (to end where I began, on a literary note)

And finally. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed how I keep boasting that Eve Muirhead, the captain of the British women’s curling team, is a local girl? Well now I have the photo to prove it. EVE MUIRHEAD AND MARK. She and her coach came to show off their Olympic bronze medal at Dewar’s Ice Rink in Perth!

eve and mark
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
We had our bank holiday early and are working today, but on Friday we drove a couple of hundred miles across the country to see THIS PLANE in flight.


It is a Catalina, a flying boat (you pronounce that like one word, with the emphasis on the first syllable: “FLYingboat”), the oldest airworthy amphibian plane in the UK. It can land on water or land. This one was built in Canada in 1943 – it spent part of its life as a waterbombing firefighter! (Full details of its history here). It was in Oban on Friday as part of a five-day tour around Britain to commemorate, and indeed to recreate without incident, the 100th anniversary of the Circuit of Britain Race flown by Harry Hawker in 1913. (More on its progress here.)

I once had a lesson in a seaplane – this Piper PA-18 Super Cub, which also happens to be the oldest aircraft I have ever flown, built in 1954 – I flew it from Loch Earn to Loch Tay and back again, and used the experience (with added spice) in my short story “Chain of Events” (in Rush Hour: Reckless, edited by Michael Cart). I have a secret desire to become an accomplished seaplane pilot, buy my own amphibious aircraft (possibly a Teal), and spend the rest of my days loch-hopping. So when I heard the Catalina, one of a dying breed, was coming to Oban, I put the date in my diary and Tim and I took the day off work to go see it.

We arrived at Oban Airport just as the Catalina was finishing its flying display and coming in to land!

catalina in flight

There were a ton of people out taking pictures (where did they hear about this, anyway?), and there was a little craft sale going on in the hangar. The flight school was open and… well, one of the instructors, Graham Dawson, used to work at Perth so we knew him, and Tim had brought his flight bag and his license is current, so we hired the school’s Cessna 172 and went for a flight around the Inner Hebrides.

catalina and cessna 172

Like you do. Because you’re there and the plane’s available.

Guys, it was just unbelievably beautiful, and one of the coolest spontaneous days off we’ve ever had. We flew over the grass airstrip on Mull.

glenforsa airfield

We saw Staffa


and Fingal’s Cave

fingals cave

[cue Mendelssohn] all from the air. We flew over Iona and saw the abbey.


iona village

iona abbey

There is a whole lot of nothing out there, just sea cliffs and inaccessible white beaches and green mountains and ruined castles.

beaches on mull

castle on island

And all within a hundred miles or so of home—accessible if you know how and if you are careful.

I was so glad we had Graham along, partly because he was extremely conscious of where the good fields were to glide to if the engine failed and which passes to avoid in case the clouds closed in, but mainly because he knew this landscape like the back of his hand and could point out things like the Dutchman’s Cap and the Atlantic Bridge.

We landed just as the rain started and then stood in line for about forty minutes to get a look at the interior of the Catalina. The “blisters” are an original feature (though the glass has been replaced) and were used for loading and unloading crew when the plane was parked on water. We climbed in just as a pair of nonagenarian former Catalina crew were climbing out. They were awesome. (Very agile, too.)

Bonuses: Catalina and pipe band.

bagpipes and catalina

Also, I just love this shot of them refueling - so many caring hands crawling all over this old plane.

refueling catalina

We got home just in time for me to make supper for Mark before driving out to Jane Yolen’s house in St. Andrew’s for Bob Harris’s book launch—his hilarious The Day the World Went Loki has just been released by Floris Books.

A pretty darn awesome day of skiving.
ewein2412: (verity text)
I wanted to make this post kind of special, so I am writing it from a High Place. Which is in fact the Knock in Crieff, Scotland, and I have taken pictures of the surrounding view for you. And the fact that it is blowing a gale will maybe make me keep it brief.

knock 3

knock 1

knock 2

It probably hasn’t escaped a lot of you that Code Name Verity was named a Printz Honor Book by the American Library Assoication in their Youth Media Awards announced on Monday for the year 2012. For those not savvy with the ins & outs of the ALA: the Printz is like the Newbery except it’s for young adult books. This is the highest literary honor ever given to anything I have ever written.

Remember back in May 2010, here, when I said this was the Best Damn Book I’ve Ever Written? Well, I have been writing and publishing under-the-radar books for twenty years - TWENTY YEARS - and it feels so very, very good to have one that is out there flying in the sunlight.

The full ALA Youth Media Awards list is here. There were a lot of surprises this year, and I feel extremely lucky and SO GRATEFUL to the Printz Committee for selecting CNV to be listed as one of this year’s honor books. The other honor books were Terry Pratchett's Dodger, Beverly Brenna's The White Bicycle, and Benjamin Alire Saenz's Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. The winner of the Printz Award for 2013 is Nick Lake for In Darkness.

printz sticker

I knew that one of the perks would be SILVER STICKERS. But I didn’t realize there would be so many flowers involved!

printz flowers
double roses

And now my hands are frozen, so I’m hiking back down the Knock to continue revising the next book.

Love to all.
ewein2412: (christmas)
IrnBru seems to be inextricably linked to Christmas here for some reason, and ice rinks, so my holiday photos run in an endless loop of ice and light and bubble-gum flavored soda. Or whatever the heck that flavor is.

The supermarkets are ready!!


And the ice rink at Dundee. Every. Single Item. on this menu just cracks me up.

dundee hockey menu

If the ice rink cafe is closed (which it often is at 7.30 a.m. when we turn up for Sara's lesson), you can still get IrnBru in the vending machines:

irnbru machine

We spent a lot of time at the Dundee ice rink in December, because the Ice Skating Club was gearing up for their winter extravaganza, Shrek on Ice (Sara was a soldier). Here's the background. I stared at it for a long time, trying to figure out which mythical country it was supposed to be, till suddenly I recognized the castle. It's EDINBURGH.

shrek on ice backdrop

OK, moving on then? Here we are back at home. I have ordered old-fashioned glass bulb Xmas lights from Noma, the oldest worldwide distributor of Xmas lights, est. 1926. These lights are so freaking beautiful they make me cry. Not a single picture I can take does them justice. But anyway here's our tree with just the lights on:

xmas lights

... And here it is fully decorated:

xmas tree dark

... And here it is in daylight, with Playmobil Christmas Tree Village added by Mark (at my request):

xmas tree & village

It is a SCOTTISH Christmas Tree Village, with a CURLING POND. Surely someone is drinking an IrnBru in that chalet.

xmas tree village

... Interior of chalet:


AND THE CURLING POND. (though the figure in the back is an ice skater):

curling pond

Sara's contribution, created in Home Ec. Even our gingerbread house is Scottish - yes, that is a Saltire!

gingerbread house

Have a happy holiday season - don't worry, we're enjoying it without IrnBru despite the pressure.
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
In the last week I have tried two things I never did before - gliding and curling. Yeah, I know, call me THE RANDOM WOMAN! Or maybe not so random. Tim gave me the gliding voucher as a Christmas present last year and it has taken me this long to get around to redeeming it (I have been trying, but the weather has not been cooperative). And curling… why? I don’t know. Because it is Scottish.

My gliding “mini-course” took place at the Scottish Gliding Centre at Portmoak a couple of days ago - one of the clearest, coldest most glorious winter days we can ask for in these parts, perfect for flying in a powered aircraft, but not quite windy enough for good gliding. I got to take over the controls and practice my soaring skills for about an hour but that was pretty much it (which means I get to go back and have another go!). I did get to go up twice, but the second time we had a rather interesting experience alongside this lump of rock...

benarty hill

... where it was pretty obvious to me that we weren’t going anywhere but down, and it also felt like we were being blown closer and closer to these crags (I don’t have my own pictures of being up-close-and-personal with these crags, because I figured at this point the pilot really didn’t need the distraction of me being a casual tourist). All was well in the end, and we even managed to land in the right place, but my instructor, Chris, willingly pointed out all the “Plan B” landing places.

This is the plane I flew:


(It is a Schleicher ASK-21, and it makes me ridiculously happy that the first glider I have ever flown is a state-of-the-art training glider from Germany.)

There was another guy on the course taking turns with me, and he got lucky with the wind, which is why I didn’t get more gliding action. So I spent most of the day on the ground working as a gopher. Which was HUGELY fun. I did the radio to the winch operator at the other end of the field, telling him when a glider was ready to be launched - the radio is in the little caravan you can see behind the plane. You can’t really see it in the photo, but there is also a 4x4 jeep-type vehicle with tractor tires parked behind the caravan, used for towing gliders from the hangar to the launch site and back. It is a measure of my supreme geekiness that the most thrilling thing I did that day was DRIVE THE 4x4 TOWING A GLIDER BEHIND ME. (The glider remained on the ground, people, on the ground. I towed it across the field-turned-ice-rink from the hangar to the launch site and back.) Actually, part of the thrill of towing the glider was the matter-of-fact way they roped me into doing it - “You need to drive, because I have to walk beside the plane and hold the wing. Just keep it in second and take your foot off the clutch and it’ll go at walking speed.” You have to hang your head out the window to watch the guy behind you in case he wants you to stop - the 4x4 is too muddy to see out the back window or in the wing mirrors. “Thanks, mate.” (“Thanks, mate.” Maddie hugged herself with pride and pleasure. I’m one of them.)

I was absolutely frozen afterward. It was actually colder flying the plane, because you’re not moving (or only moving your hands and feet), than it was running about on an open field for 4 hours in below-freezing temps. My hands, which were gloved the whole time, are chapped. If I were to do it again I would wear long underwear, snow boots, and ski gloves. Although I’d dressed warmly, of course I’d dressed as I would for powered flight in a marginally heated cockpit!

You know what’s neat about gliding? You wear a glider. It’s an accessory, like skis, not a thing you sit in and drive, like a car. You can steer it with your head under the right conditions. And you can see absolutely everywhere, all the sky above and around you. It is much more like flying than any flying I’ve ever done.

I don’t know if I will take up gliding. Everyone I talked to at the gliding club confessed to being autistic. (I think they were joking.) Hanging out with bell ringers does prepare you for this type of personality, and they were an incredibly friendly bunch of people, and I really liked the way everybody on the airfield had to jump in and help each other - when you’re flying a powered aircraft you’re very much on your own on the ground unless you pester people. But my gosh, the amount of fluffing about involved. What a time suck. You don’t just go for a buzz for an hour. I think I need to retire if I am going to get serious about this.


Back on earth, I have now had two curling lessons at the ice rink in Perth, and I think I have finally found my winter sport. Every single bit of it is fun. Even when you aren’t doing anything, sliding around on the ice is fun. (There is an art to walking on the ice in your curling shoes - or rather, Mark’s curling shoes - that I was previously unaware of.) It is incredible how sweeping can keep a stone going. And once you figure out what is going on, it is all so strategic. I am really hoping it will enhance my shuffleboard skills for next summer...

It’s also cheap and convenient (I can walk to the curling rink); and, as winter sports go, fairly low risk. Plus it is WARMER THAN GLIDING.
ewein2412: (Default)
My kids have grown up with the story of this exchange I overheard between two old geezers on a bus in Perth, sometime in the past ten years, but so long ago we can't remember when it happened:

Geezer 1: "Upon a hill I saw a coo.
It's not there noo.
It must have shifted.

"That's poeyetry, that is."

Geezer 2: "What planet are ye on?"

This story has been around so long that both my kids recite it as examples of 1) funny old guys on buses, 2) amateur poeyetry, 3) randomness. (Often, the "What planet are ye on" response gets quoted out of context.)

Well, last week we were discussing this ditty at length for no real reason, and pretty randomly, Mark counted up the syllables and discovered that it is in fact 17 syllables long, and therefore technically a haiku, especially if you write it like this:

Upon a hill I
saw a coo. It's not there noo.
It must have shifted.

So actually (and we cracked up at length over this) it *IS* poeyetry.

Yesterday, Sara commented, "That coo on the hill haiku is about a HIGH. COO."

And suddenly the whole thing clicked - and we realized that in fact the geezer on the bus had been trying to tell a JOKE, not a poem, and he GOT THE PUNCHLINE WRONG ten years ago or whatever it was.

So the joke goes like this! (And you have to be very, very deadpan in the way you tell it.)

Upon a hill I
saw a coo. It's not there noo.
It must have shifted.

That's a HAI-KU.

[thunderous applause]

I think we have set a record for the Longest Time it Takes to Get a Joke.

Also, it doesn't really work in English.
ewein2412: (Sara)
My "aftermath" post is 4 days late because Life, nevermind racing, interferes with LiveJournal. Can I just say that yesterday was Mark’s last day of primary/elementary school, my last day of a 10-year-long association with Viewlands Primary School, Sara’s last day of her beloved Guides/Scouts troop who are now DISBANDED because they are all too old, AND our 12-year-old goldfish died. The goldfish was as old as Mark, possibly older, and we have had it since we moved to Scotland. When I left the house to meet Mark at the end of his last day of primary school, Fizz was breathing - when I came home, Fizz was dead. Definitely, all things considered, the end of an era.

We have also been to Mark’s "Leavers’ Assembly," Sara’s senior school play, cricket practice, the supermarket, and the shortlist launch for the Scottish Children’s Book Award. Which Code Name Verity is on, along with (in the Older Readers category) The Prince Who Walked with Lions by Elizabeth Laird and The 13th Horseman by Barry Hutchison. (I am so pleased to have finally met Elizabeth Laird, author of The Garbage King and Crusade. Given that The Prince Who Walked with Lions is a book I wish I’d written - so much so that I actually have a folder labelled "Alemayehu" in my work-in-progress folder - I am extremely pleased about sharing the list with Elizabeth Laird. Also, we had an awesome rushed Ethiopian experience swap and we think she probably crashed overnight with my aunt & uncle (Susan & Rog) in Woldia in 1968.)

But I digress!

Yes, Sara and I completed the Race for Life without incident - the weather was only marginally more cooperative than last year, and I didn’t end up carrying Sara’s hoodie and water bottle like I did last year, either. I finished in 38 minutes and Sara in 34. So we were both slower than we were a year ago. I wasn’t really expecting to be faster as I was much more cautious about training this year, due to an achy knee which I do NOT want to encourage.

[livejournal.com profile] lauradi7 discovered that we are in Photo 23 on the Dundee Courier website - we are the woman in blue and the teen in the navy sweatshirt!

But here’s a couple of close-ups.

race for life 2 race for life 1

Here's our cheering section. The beak is from his school play parrot costume from last week:

race for life 3

Late donations still gratefully accepted - our online donation page is here:

ewein2412: (sara for obama)
Hey everybody, next Sunday is the Race for Life again, and Sara and I are both running in this 5 k women’s only race to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Last year we were inspired to do this (Sara’s idea) because my friend Amanda had just had a double mastectomy. To all our delight and relief, she is now considered fully cured, and less than a month ago had the final surgery of her “rebuilding” (from which she is still recovering). It’s not over yet and we’re running again in her name!

Our goal is to raise £200 and we’re still £45 short of that, so if you’ve got even a couple of £ (or $) to spare, please consider sponsoring us! It’s safe and easy to contribute online here:


If you’re a UK taxpayer, please tick the GiftAid box as well.

Many thanks for everybody’s support and good wishes - I don’t think I’ll beat my last year’s time!
ewein2412: (snowicon)
I am compelled to report on our participation, because Mark was marching with the Scouts in the 1000 Pipers Parade in Perth (which culminated in an ACTUAL PERFORMANCE by all 1000 of them).

PKC info re 1000 Pipers Parade
(I've decided not to subject you to the videos.)

We did not participate in the Kilt Run which followed, and so you can blame MARK for being one of the 16 kilted non-participants who caused this race to fall short of being the LARGEST EVER KILT RUN. The record is currently held by Perth, Ontario, with 1089 participants. Only 1074 crossed the finish line in Perth, Scotland. I AM ASHAMED.

PKC's Kilt Run info

Most of our Jubilee weekend was pretty low-key, but on Monday I started getting beacon-itchy. I mean, I kept hearing how they were lighting all the beacons and then some, and starting them on the other side of the globe, and I thought… wouldn’t it be cool to go see a beacon alight?

So I did a little web-surfing. And I found the most wonderful, ridiculous website EVER - The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Beacons website.

(To fully appreciate true nerdy amazingness of this website, I have to give you a little background here. I call myself the Queen of Google. Even my geeky kids acknowledge that if I can’t find it, it’s not on the Internet. But when I first started hunting for Jubilee beacon info I actually used too many search terms. It turns out you only need One. Beacons. That’s it. If you do a Google search simply for "beacons," this website is your number one hit! I seriously recommend you poke around on this site. It includes a flame-covered interactive map, insurance forms, a PDF guide that shows you how to construct a beacon, and the wonderful, mysterious "Lighting Times" schedule. It is so slick and yet so specific - an expensive, user-friendly, beautifully designed site that’s good for ONE DAY.)

Well, using their Beacon Locator, I figured out that the nearest beacon whose site-location I actually recognized was East Lomond Hill in Fife. Sara was at music camp and Mark had no school the next day because of the Jubilee, so even though Lighting Time was after 10 (it doesn’t get DARK till after 10), it didn’t matter if we were going to be up late… (also, we had champagne to drink when we got home, for reasons unrelated to the Queen’s Jubilee).

So we drove up to East Lomond Hill not really knowing what to expect, but kind of figuring on sitting in the car and watching a bonfire from a distance. ([livejournal.com profile] katranides, you were there with us on Christmas Eve once - do you remember?)

What we GOT was a trail of 60 pairs of fire baskets marking the path to the summit, minor fireworks, and a procession of 200 people (including us!) carrying lighted flambeaux. And a very jolly bonfire on top.

Our Lighting Time was 10.26 (the Lighting Times are specific and appear to be extremely random), which means that the East Lomond beacon was one of those run by "All other charities, organisations and individuals etc, including hospitals, clubs, pubs, Lions, Round Table and Rotary Clubs, Masonic Lodges, Caravan Club, Trinity House, commercial companies, Private Households and others etc." I don’t know which of these was running the show, but there was some historic connection with the mining communities of Fife, because one of the tableaux fireworks they set up was a Davy lamp - a safety lamp created in 1815 specifically to reduce the risk of explosions in coal mines.

There was also one guy carrying an actual Davy lamp - Tim, who grew up in the coal mining part of Kent, was quite excited about this. Fife, too, is coal mining country - since the 16th century. They still do open cast coal mining in Fife (I love Fife. The county is still called the Kingdom of Fife, you know).

The Davy Lamp... now you know.

The torchlight procession to the beacon site is quite possibly the most pagan event I have ever participated in. Nobody sang "God Save the Queen."

The tune stuck in my head was "Sumer is icumen in," although it was freaking FREEZING (note how everyone is wearing winter coats). From the top of the hill we could see 7 other beacons and some distant fireworks. (It was fun trying to guess where they were. "Crieff Knock! Berwick Law! Arthur’s Seat!" Clearly, we have gone native.)

The poem stuck in my head was A.E. Housman’s "1887." Yes, HONESTLY, I had Housman’s "1887" stuck in my head as we watched the Jubilee beacons burning all around us. From Sound and Sense in Randy St. John’s 10th grade English class back in Harrisburg, PA in 1979. Nothing is wasted. So it seems entirely appropriate to finish with it here.


From Clee to heaven the beacon burns,
The shires have seen it plain,
From north and south the sign returns
And beacons burn again.

Look left, look right, the hills are bright,
The dales are light between,
Because ’tis fifty years tonight
That God has saved the Queen.

Now, when the flame they watch not towers
About the soil they trod,
Lads, we’ll remember friends of ours
Who shared the work with God.

To skies that knit their heartstrings right,
To fields that bred them brave,
The saviors come not home tonight:
Themselves they could not save.

It dawns in Asia, tombstones show
And Shropshire names are read;
And the Nile spills his overflow
Beside the Severn’s dead.

We pledge in peace by farm and town
The Queen they served in war,
And fire the beacons up and down
The land they perished for.

"God save the Queen" we living sing,
From height to height ’tis heard;
And with the rest your voices ring,
Lads of the Fifty-Third.

Oh, god will save her, fear you not:
Be you the men you’ve been,
Get you the sons your fathers got,
And God will save the Queen.

- A.E. Housman

ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
It is 10 years this spring since I started taking flying lessons, and 5 years since my license was current. For the past six months I have been working on revalidating my currency. I am SO SLOW, partly because of my persona as ‘The Flying Housewife’, partly because of the dratted weather. I was slow to get my license in the first place and I am slow to recover it. However, I do a practice test on Thursday. Today I was working on navigation and a diversion. In the rain. What fun! (My instructor said, ‘I love clouds. I really love clouds!’)

Honestly, I spend so much time working on handling, on practicing steep turns and stalls and forced landings - i.e., what to do in an emergency - that it always takes me by surprise when I find myself flying straight and level in the cruise, in trim, hands free, holding a heading toward a destination which won’t appear for another 15 minutes or so. Take a deep breath and look around! The sky is gray and full of cloud, but you can see the squalls and the hills and stay away from them. The fields of eastern Scotland are unbelievably green, except for the bright gold patchwork of oilseed rape here and there.

As I was doing the outside aircraft checks before take-off, a lark was singing over the runway, and I stopped to watch it - rising higher and higher, trilling constantly as it went, until I lost it. They seem to fly straight up.

I have been re-reading some of my notebooks in real time, from 10 and 20 years ago. I hardly wrote anything down during the first six months of 2002, and that is because I had a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old AND I was learning to fly. But sometime in August I did comment on the flying. Bear in mind, reading this, that I hadn’t even soloed yet when I wrote it.

You know what’s missing from this notebook? My flying lessons. Partly I feel like having a few measly old flying lessons doesn’t actually qualify you as learning to fly, and partly I am so swamped with learning it all and studying the books and doing the lessons that I haven’t got time to write anything down, and partly I am just scared out of my wits by it. Although I am not actually scared of the flying: I am scared of doing it wrong, of being on stage, of performing, of Looking Stupid. Isn’t that weird?

My flying is
nothing. I have about 15 hours behind me. I can’t navigate, I can’t work the radio, I don’t know the law, I can’t do anything by instinct, I grip the control column in a death grip. But two things: steering the plane on the ground (I mean, how dull and prosaic can you GET?); and landing. They give me enormous satisfaction. In the last two lessons I have actually caught on to landing; and now I’ve been kind of walking around occasionally marvelling to myself, ‘Hey. I can fly a plane.’

Because it’s not cool; it’s massive hard work, and concentration, and boring reading, and humiliation, and disappointment (rain, failure) - and then, suddenly, ‘I can fly a plane.’

A bit like writing a book.


And here’s part of my notebook entry for 20 years ago today. No kidding:

8 May 1992, Park Town, Oxford. I dreamed that I caught Loki at the tail end of my father’s funeral and, while not exactly outwitting him, managed to make a deal with him. He said, ‘I don’t make deals,’ and something to the effect of, ‘You’re playing with fire and you’re in over your head,’ and I said, ‘I happen to know that you made a deal with the Lord of the Dream World and that he took your hand in exchange for your freedom. Well, I can give you back your hand’ - which I had, right there, this disembodied hand - ‘But it’ll cost ya’ - thinking, Not a bad thing to have Loki in yer debt! …Hmm. I suspect that my part of the bargain has something to do with this short-story I was going to write. Note that my soul was NOT part of the bargain.

I want to say something like… Really, I just write the same thing over and over and over, don’t I?

And no, I’ve no idea what the short story in question was.
ewein2412: (snow)
I feel like we have gone completely native now.

Mark played in his first curling tournament on Sunday, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s ‘Newcomers’ tournament (for junior players in their 1st or 2nd season of curling). We spent the night near Irvine on the west coast in order to be up in time for his first game at 10.00 a.m., and a good thing too, because the ice rink was in the absolute middle of nowhere (though not far off the beaten track) and caused us some bewilderment in finding it - despite our printed directions from the AA, GPS on Tim’s phone, a Google search and 2 traditional Ordnance Survey maps. The fellow we asked directions from commented, ‘You’re not the first to ask.’

The teams were scratch teams - players mostly from the ‘Central Belt’ of Scotland, though a few were from as far away as Aberdeen. Each team was made up of 4 kids who’d never met each other before, and, in Mark’s case, who’d never played a serious game before. They played 4 ‘games’ of an hour each, which consists of 3 ‘ends’ (rounds, basically) - and then semi-finals and then finals - so by the end of the day they’d actually been on the ice, playing, for 6 full hours, with an hour’s lunch break.

Mark’s team came THIRD out of 18! They were all awarded chocolate Easter eggs as prizes.

The semi-finals were nail-biting. I wouldn’t have believed it, but they were. Each team won an end, and then the third end finished in a TIE. So they had to have a play-off. It was phenomenal. The finals were NEARLY AS BAD. I had no idea curling was this exciting.

I also didn’t realize that it is such a busy game. All four team players are pretty much at work the whole time, and they’re working hard - it’s cold on the ice, the curling stones weigh no less than 17.24 kg / 38 lbs., and when you’re not taking a shot yourself, you’re racing up and down and sweeping as hard as you can. The kids did all their own scoring and organizing, too. It was a fabulous event.

We had supper in the pub down the street from us. Where everybody does really know our name.

So, that’s the curling season finished. Now it’s spring break. ‘Snow Forecast’ said all the variable message signs on the M8 and A9 on the way home, but there isn’t any in Perth, THANK GOODNESS.
ewein2412: (snowicon)
Meanwhile, back in the land of the Immortal Haggis…

Burns Night has come and gone and so has Mark’s P7 Burns Supper, which they held on 30 January. They are 11 years old and the two classes put on a REAL Burns Supper - it lasted THREE HOURS, beginning at 6.30 p.m. with a small string orchestra and the whole school brass band playing a selection of Scottish songs including ‘The Dashing White Sergeant’ and ‘Scotland the Brave.’ Then, not quite but nearly the highlight of the evening, the entire P7 year recited the whole of ‘Tam o’ Shanter.’ The way they did this was for each of the 60 kids to recite 4 lines of the poem - they took turns coming to the front in rows of half a dozen to have their say.

Mark doing his part. Yes, he is wearing a sporran. The table decoration is hiding it.

And then they sang a couple of Burns songs including (appropriately, since it was the day before the UK taxes were due), ‘The De’il’s Awa’ wi’ th'Excise Man.’ Also, ‘Scots Wha Hae,’ essentially the Wallace fight song. WHICH MAKES ME CRY. (Well, to tell the truth, ‘Scotland the Brave’ does too. But I am a little strange that way. Of course it is not for the same reason that ‘Highland Cathedral’ makes me cry. The sound of five dozen earnest young voices singing their hearts out for home and beauty always makes me cry.)

Sorry, have I mentioned that the dress code was what we call ‘Touch of Tartan’? Essentially this means you can wear whatever you want, but you have to include something Scottish in your outfit. Most of the boys were in kilts. (It just kills me that when my children go to a party, as many boys as girls are wearing skirts.) The girls were in shiny, skimpy party dresses with tartan sashes over their shoulders. The parents all had tartan ties or shawls (one woman was wearing her son’s boyscout troop neckerchief!) I had my silver thistle kilt pin with the Cairngorm amber flower, which I bought in the Portobello Road market in 1984.

The 120-some parents were seated around tables which had been cunningly arranged by Mark’s math class to provide everyone with a clear view of the stage as well as giving fire access (Mark, as one of the MC’s, was responsible for the ‘safety announcement’ which included a word for word recital of what to do in the event of loss of cabin pressure — that’s my boy) — and also to provide a clear path for the Piping in of the Haggis!

This was the highlight of the evening. Honest to glory, I really cannot do this justice in mere words.

A pretty, [understandably] blushing young dinner lady clothed head to toe in white came marching out of the kitchen carrying a haggis on a paper plate. She was PROPERLY accompanied by a piper, the real thing, playing ‘Scotland the Brave’ again on the bagpipes and dressed in kilt and Jacobite shirt (the casual look—the kind of shirt that laces up at the collar). The piper was in his mid-teens, a cousin of one of Mark’s classmates. Marching with them were the three or four kids whose duty it was to Address the Haggis.

Note charming collection of haggis pompoms...

They marched round and round the assembly hall about three times and then up on the stage, where the kids recited the WHOLE of the Address to the Haggis — ‘Great Chieftain o’ th' Puddin’ Race’ — and plunged a knife into it, and then marched back into the kitchen, and then we got served a full meal of haggis and neeps and tatties, followed by coffee and shortbread decorated with a thistle motif and made by Mark’s teacher, with our children waiting on us. They cleaned up afterward, too.

During coffee the kids performed ‘The Immortal Memory’ where they detail Robert Burns’s life. They had all researched and written these pieces themselves. The entertainment took a nosedive (or an upturn, depending on how you look at it) after that with the ‘Toast to the Lassies’ and ‘Reply from the Lassies’ which got VERY. SILLY.

And then there was dancing.

Scottish country dancing, of course — it was in the gym hall and was also rather silly, but UTTERLY charming. The two classes took it in turns to demonstrate each dance and then to dance with their parents. I am devastated to have to admit that when Mark and his father were dancing together, my camera was in Tim’s pocket. Grrrrr.

Mark dancing with his mother

The evening finished with all 180 of us holding hands in a circle and singing Auld Lang Syne (why yes, Auld Lang Syne makes me sob too! I might have to take a break from Scottish narrators for a while).

Sara disdained to come along to this event and Mark was fairly happy not to have his older sister heckling him, so I had to go next door when we got home to collect her from the neighbors’. When they heard I’d been at a non-alcoholic Burns Supper they were, at first disdainful. Then the questions started coming:

‘I bet they didn’t pipe in the Haggis.’

‘They did! They piped in the Haggis and marched with it round the hall three times! And then they did the whole of the Address to the Haggis from memory!’

‘But they didn’t actually serve you Haggis, did they?’

‘Yes! And neeps and tatties and the children all waited on us!’

‘Did they have other entertainment?’

‘They had a string orchestra and a brass band and dancing and they did the whole of Tam o’ Shanter!’

Everybody wished they had been there.

It was the Best Burns Supper EVER. ever ever.

You know, the kids did the whole thing themselves - all the entertainment, arrangement, table decorations, menus, programme, planning, 'hire' of piper and kitchen staff, set-up and clean-up, figuring the cost and giving out the tickets, and I just have to say hats off to the teachers and the school and the Council and the Scottish Government. This was really the Curriculum for Excellence and Cooperative Learning at their shining most successful, I think!

I found the pervasive prevalence of Irn Bru in the decor, as a representative of All Things Scottish, quite hilarious. There was no Irn Bru served at the meal. But it was There In Spirit.


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September 2017



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