Maybe this is the downside of working through the trip backwards, but I forgot a castle! Poor Dunnottar Castle got left out. It should have sat between Manchester and our Aberdeen arrival. Oops.
It was our last day in Scotland and we hopped on a bus from Aberdeen heading for the lovely sea-side village of Stonehaven (great name, huh?), which is famous for being the original home of the deep-fried-Mars-Bar. No that’s not why we went. In fact we only passed through on our way to the castle.
Yet another bright, sunny day gave us off-shore mist almost the whole way, which cleared about the time we got off the bus at an edge of the highway stop and trekked along a turn-off road. Can you see the ghost ship? Hint: it’s toward the right of the image…
The funny thing about visiting Dunnottar was that the scenery was more impressive than the actual castle! Though full marks for hard to attack location.
But this is what I mean about the scenery. How gorgeous is that?
There were beaches and cliffs either side and such lush greenery – also because it was spring there wildflowers everywhere. And there was haggis, yes haggis. In honour of it being the last day in Scotland, I got the only haggis I could find, which happened to be deep-fried. With chips.
Despite appearances, it was delicious.
My favourite things about the castle itself were that you can still see the cistern (7m deep) where everyone got their washing water (they made beer, so didn’t drink it directly) and the huge chimney at the smithy. I love those little bits of life writ in stone.
Our last stop in Scotland was Aberdeen and what a gorgeous city! What an amazing beach!
Aberdeen is a lot about ships, so I’d picked a hotel both because it was near the harbour where our ferry was going to arrive and because it was on a street called Shiprow. Love it! The great thing about being on Shiprow was looking out at the harbour (I love ships), and it turned out we were also right opposite the Maritime Museum which made for an easy afternoon visit.
Our first day, we got off the Ferry from Kirkwall (in the Orkneys) at 7am, so we had a whole day to (after a nap) go exploring. First stop was the beach:
A beautiful day at the beach
Then we wandered around the city and I thought it was jaw-droppingly lovely. All the buildings in the heart of town are old, as you would expect, but they are also made from this amazing pale, gray granite. In the sun it just makes the place so bright and beautiful to look at. I find it pretty awesome that the masons carved the granite into beautiful shapes (granite is hard) and there’s so much detail everywhere you look.
Probably the best statue of Robert the Bruce we saw (outside the Marischal College buildings)
The city isn’t big, but it’s very walkable and there were so many lovely corners to bump into, including a tiny fishing village on the river Dee and a shady park called Bon-Accord Tce Gardens…great name!
I loved the Maritime Museum. All manner of ship, sea, oil drilling, whaling and lighthouse stuff there to geek out about! Including message bottles that had spent decades drifting in the sea, a whale’s eardrum and everything you ever wanted to know about oil platforms. Plus a block of tea. Yes tea. So important to trade in Japan at one point it was used as currency.
I was in Manchester last weekend and it was a curious thing to be out in the city where everyone was going about their lives on warm spring days as though nothing of note had recently happened there, and yet the bombing the previous weekend did cast a shadow… of defiance and love.
The very fact the athletic carnival and fun run went ahead on the days we were there, with big crowds cheering them on, was defiance, but there were many other instances too. The buskers were wearing “I love MCR” tshirts, as were all the charity collectors, and there were messages of love and support at the memorials around town. And this outside the Waterstones book store:
In a strange way, what had happened that night in Manchester was almost less present in Manchester than it had been for us before we got there, because in a pub in Kirkwall a few days earlier, where everyone had been hoping Man Utd would win the Europa League Final (which they did), when the stadium in Sweden fell silent before the start of play out of respect for Manchester, so did the pub.
After a busy day in the Orkneys visiting as many things on Mainland as possible, my travel buddy and I got on a midnight ferry to Aberdeen. It was a weird thing to go to sleep in one place and wake up in another! Made stranger by it having been cool and very wet on Mainland while we woke to amazing warm, sunshine in Aberdeen. For a moment we thought we’d been blown off course in the night!
Don’t you love their logo?
Coincidentally, we visited the Cairn that is the inspiration for the place thee heroine in Outlander timeslips… I can totally see why an author would find the place inspiring!
Today, I was strolling around the children’s area of a department store. It was all very shiny and they have an animatronic dinosaur I’d happily hire a crane to steal, but overall it was one of the most depressing places I’ve been in a while. Everything was the opposite of what childhood seems like it should be (to me).
I mean I grew up with a bunch of friends who had every brand name doll, every brand name truck and some toys that were book or TV inspired, but this place was literally wall-to-wall “you’ve seen the movie, now buy the toys”. There was almost nothing there that didn’t have its own TV show or movie.
What I wondered as I moved from branded shelf to branded shelf, was whether there were any toys there that inspired kids to use their own imaginations and not just piggy-back off something some adult wrote. Does that actually inhibit kids from developing their own stories? Or do they just use it as a jumping off point for their imaginations?
I don’t know. I think about my space-alien-necklaces and figure that you probably couldn’t dent the imagination of a kid like me, but I don’t worry about those like me. I worry about the kids who don’t have an over-abundance of story in them. I worry that, between all this pre-packaged stuff they’re fed and the way virtual is replacing real in their lives, they might be the poorer for it.
It actually disturbed me more than seeing a Harley Quinn costume for a pre-teen girl. (Who in their right mind thinks a tween should dress as a character who is a hyper-sexualised victim of domestic violence? There’s a role model for you. Though, in fairness, the costume itself wasn’t at all sexy.)
Today, I spent a couple of hours sitting chatting with my writer friend Ellen. We had met to write, but it was just a day for talking about writing, publishing and various other related things so we went with it.
In a sense it was the perfect example of something I’ve been thinking about recently; what productivity means for a writer.
I’ve been on a holiday from work for nearly two months now and I have been massively productive in a range of areas that have nothing to do with writing. For a few days this bugged me. Then, I started to think about what I’d actually achieved on Blurty and the novellas and realised that it hadn’t been unproductive it had just not been as productive as other areas.
There’s that niggle that always tells me I should be doing volume but the reality is that sometimes explaining your project/s to someone is as useful as spending an hour editing. Just like getting necessary house maintenance done, or immersing yourself in other people’s wonderful fiction (i.e. living a life) is important to not burning out.
It’s true that I’m easily distracted. And distracted by many things. This week it is mucking about with photographs…