Posts Tagged ‘UK Trip’

There are two, basically.

1. We just got back from the UK last week, and although I’m not jetlagged, I’d like to plead Temporal Disorientation While Having To Find A House And A Job And Get All Our Stuff Out Of Storage.

2. Books. Specifically, my books. Behold!

So shiny...

Squee!

So, it seems that 2010 – the dawn of a new decade which may or may not be called the tens, teens, tweens or tweenies – is finally upon us. Huzzah! This was the first New Year’s Eve I’ve ever spent overseas, and the only one where it’s been cold. Toby and I put forward a few suggestions as to how we might celebrate, but in the end, a 24-hour virus/flu on his behalf saw us stay in by ourselves and have a pleasant, if very quiet, evening of geekery. I bought us a box of Indian food from Sainsbury’s, which actually wasn’t bad, and courtesy of our hosts – or, more specifically, their DVD collection – we watched Stigmata, which was very 90s, but not unenjoyable, paused to have a discussion about the apocryphal Gospel of St Thomas, and then watched The Lawnmower Man, which was sort of hilarious, but which made up for it by featuring a young, sometimes shirtless Pierce Brosnan wearing hot glasses and an a gold earring as the Rogue Scientist. Then we caught up with a bit of the classic Doctor Who we’ve been watching recently – Tom Baker in Pyramids of Mars – and went to sleep. Also, I may have done some writing.

Speaking of which: the first draft of the Ambush Novel is now complete. There’s one more scene I want to add in, a made-up word I want to change and a conversation to be fixed, but these are all little things, and otherwise, I’m extremely happy with the results. So if nothing else, I’ve managed to achieve my crazy goal of finishing it before we returned to Australia. Yay!

Finally, re my predictions for the second part of Doctor Who: The End of Time, I was right about some things, and wrong about others. I’m happy with that. It was, by and large, a good episode, although in all honesty, I’m keen to move on from the schmaltz of Russell T. Davies and see what Stephen Moffat can achieve – especially given that he’s been responsible for all my favourite episodes.

Rock on 2010!

Much to my astonishment, while we were still in St Andrews, I managed to write roughly 45,000 words of the ambush novel in just over two weeks. This is a little bit scary, but also served as justification for my decision to take a break from it while we were in Leuven. That was four days off; since we’ve arrived back in Surrey, I’ve had a few more days of rest, and although Christmas loometh large, I’ve now decided to try and jump back in, albeit at a slightly reduced pace. The current total is 47,000 words, and my feeling is that the whole work will come out at somewhere between 85 and 100 thousand, depending on Reasons. In accordance with the fact that I am a Crazy Lady, I’ve set myself an impossible goal: to reach the end of the first draft before we return to Australia – that is to say, by 10 January 2010. Or, put another way, to write another 40,000-odd words in less than twenty days, days which contain Christmas and New Year’s Eve and trips to Bristol and London. I also plan, as a sort of New Year’s present to myself, to submit the polished earlier sections to a particular agent.

Did I mention I was insane?

What’s remarkable about this project is the extent to which the whole story is planned out – a much more organised approach than my usual scattergun habit, and one I’m going to try and harness in the future. Thinking on plotpoints as we flew into Belgium, I realised a need to return to earlier scenes and add in some extra detail so that the bit I’m up to now makes more sense, but other than that, I’m confident that the narrative is flowing well. There’ll be exposition sequences to trim down, of course, and overall editing to do, but it says something about my current levels of madness that I have also jotted down titles, key plot points and progressive storylines for a subsequent three books featuring these current protagonists.

‘Tis the season, I guess!

Leuven Walk

Posted: December 18, 2009 in UK - 2009
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ ve just spent the past two and a half hours walking around Leuven, taking photos of pretty things. We arrived in Belgium yesterday in the middle of a snowy afternoon – everything was blanketed white, and the few locals we spoke to told us that it rarely snows so much over here, as evidenced by the fact that 400km of traffic was backed up in neighbouring areas as a result of the weather. As the plane touched down, we saw rabbits darting along beside the tarmac; one peeked up at us over the top of a bush, ducked back down as we rumbled closer, then tentatively began to re-emerge, ears first. On the train from Brussels to Leuven, everything outside was a white blur, and once we alighted, it was tricky to find a cab, because of the snow and the number of outside roads that were closed. Once we arrived at the hotel, though, everything was fine, and we went for an afternoon/evening walk through the falling snow. The lights from the churches, Christmas trees and shops turned everything golden.

Today, I walked through a Christmas Market, through parks and sidestreets, and was everywhere amazed by how beautiful a place this is. Perhaps it’s just the lingering snow and the bright blue sky, which conspire to make even mundane sights extraordinary; but it’s also the architecture, and the fact that everyone is friendly, with children, students and adults alike all stopping in groups to throw snowballs at one another. When I went to the ATM, I heard a familiar accent and realised that the woman in line behind me was also Australian; we chatted happily for a few minutes, and discovered that both our husbands were here to visit the university. Slush, slurry and ice cover every scrap of path and road; when I slipped, a random stranger travelling in the opposite direction stuck his arm out and kept me from falling backwards.

I bought a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream and a proper European sauasge in a roll for lunch in the Christmas Markets, and listened to carols being piped through a soundsystem at just the right volume. There are evergreens everywhere, covered with lights and clumps of snow; it’s the first time, I think, that Christmas iconography has ever made sense to me, or seemed appropriate, or done anything to generate a sense that This Is Christmas in a way that doesn’t relate to commercialism. Cars, bikes, rooftops and benches are all covered with layers of snow, and in the markets, every second stall is selling Stella Artois, Irish coffee, Italian spirits, European beer and mulled wine to keep out the cold – when I bought my hot chocolate, even, it was a struggle not to ask for the version which came with Baileys and Amoretto, a temptation I resisted only because I hadn’t yet eaten anything. Later, when Toby has finished giving his paper, I intend to investigate it more closely, in conjunction with the many chocolate and waffle stalls.

There’s something I’ve heard people say before, that you can visit a place and leave part of yourself behind. I feel like that about Leuven. Everyone here seems to speak at least two of the four ambient languages – German, French, Flemish and English – such that it’s impossible to feel like an outsider, or anything but welcome. We’re only here for three days, but hopefully, we’ll be able to return at some point in the future – if only for another helping of the delicious Flemish-style rabbit I had for dinner last night.

Yesterday invovled a rather interesting trip to Oxford – not just the town itself, but the actual university, as the whole point of going (apart from the opportunity to ogle the stonework) was for Toby to meet some logicians. This meant visiting New College and, once we’d taken in the atmosphere, dinner at the high table. I hadn’t really groked that this would be the case, and despite the abundant evidence supporting the notion that England Is Cold In Autumn, I also neglected to take a jacket. Combine this with a limited travel wardrobe, and the result was me sitting at table on a raised dias in a 600 year old building, drinking expensive wine and talking to academics while wearing a ‘Joss Whedon Is My Master Now‘ t-shirt.

Not surprisingly, this left me feeling a tad underdressed. The fact that the mathematician sitting opposite was a Buffy fan and promptly initiated a conversation about favourite episodes and seasons was both startling and a relief; learning that the Dean was a devout fan of The Wire may actually have caused me to do a double-take. I’m not sure why, though. It’s not like I’ve never had dinner with academics. It’s just, you know, Oxford. Had I gone in with any assumptions about probable topics of conversation, they would have involved a discussion of neo-Platonism, arguments about Rousseau and a lecture on transfinite infinities, not how much of a shame it was that Firefly was cancelled. (Which, totally, it was.)

We also discussed the hibernation rituals of tortoises and the appointment of an executive committee to choose a name for the college’s new kitten. Seriously, on both counts. The logician Toby was there to see has three pet tortoises, one of whom is called Xeno. Apparently, once they start trying to hibernate by digging into the garden, they are gathered up, shelved in an old refridgerator in the garage and left alone for five months, to eventually awaken from their prolonged stasis without having lost so much as an ounce of body fat. There was absolute certainty on this last point, as they are weighed before going into the fridge, and then again on removal. As for the kitten, some of the students have taken to calling him Socrates, but as some of the academics were concerned as to whether they might dislike his eventual, official name, steps have been taken to ensure that it will be chosen from a short list pre-approved by the faculty. Neither is Socrates the first ever resident cat: the previous incumbent had no sense of direction, the Dean said, and was frequently getting lost in the pharmacology department, which was far enough away that money was regularly spent putting him in a taxi back to the college.

So, Oxford. Beautiful place!