Sep 2013


This is the fifth in a series of posts describing my recent trip to England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Wales, from writing course to school reunion and more.

This is where I get to tell you something amazing.

I met Nicola Morgan!

Yes, I did. Really! She had 45 minutes free before she had to catch her train back to Edinburgh and she spent them with me. And she is even nicer than her Internet persona. I was a little nervous at first, but she put me at ease and the minutes flew by. Wow! Thank you, Nicola!

After that, I had planned to go on to meet the travel writer, Jo Carroll. That didn’t work out because she had scaffolding problems. Although I’m really sorry we didn’t get to meet this time, it would have been hard to be ready in time. As it was, I had time for a proper night’s sleep the night before (needed even more after I was scratched by the cat), and I was able to return after meeting Nicola to organise my suitcase, leaving behind stuff that I could meet up with later, before making my way to Staines. S, whom I knew only through folk dancing, had very kindly invited me to stay with her and her husband. One of her daughters was there, too, and they all made me feel very welcome. The heatwave was still on, so we ate outside in the garden. The evening air was pleasantly cool and the food delicious.

The following day, I used the time I had alone to go for a surprisingly beautiful walk by the river. I say “surprisingly” because I lived near Staines for three years while at university and never realised it was worth visiting. Since I was alone, I was able to jot down notes describing the scenes, making me feel like a real writer. I even wrote the rhythm of a cuckoo’s song:

Cuckoo sound in Staines

On hearing a cuckoo in Staines
(with apologies to Frederick Delius)

At least, I assumed it was a cuckoo, but I’m no bird listener.

In the evening, S took me to her folk dancing group in Slough, which couldn’t have been more different from the one I’m used to. There were about seven people, instead of over a hundred. They were all very friendly, but obviously the atmosphere was very different – much more calm and sedate. And at the end I didn’t feel as if I’d had much exercise, whereas usually I struggle to go up the stairs. Still, I recognised most of the dances and had a lovely time.

To round off their wonderful hospitality, S’s hubby drove me to Heathrow’s Terminal 1 early the next morning (but not early for him) for the next stage of my trip.

This is the fourth in a series of posts describing my recent trip to England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Wales, from writing course to school reunion and more.

A free day! I didn’t have many of those on this trip. In the morning I went to “Ripping Yarns” bookshop, which I’d heard about through Jen Campbell (who works there) and Catdownunder.

Ripping Yarns Bookshop

Ripping Yarns Bookshop

Unfortunately, Jen wasn’t there that day. In fact I was lucky anyone was there because I’d forgotten the shop wasn’t supposed to be open that day. It’s a fascinating shop and well worth a visit if you’re near Highgate Station. I’d have loved to have bought up the whole shop, but I made do with a signed copy of Jen’s book: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops.

Later, I went to sit in  Hampstead Heath with an ice cream in the continuing heatwave. I sought out the shade, but I noticed a lot of people sitting under the burning sun. I also noticed a lack of sun hats. Mad dogs and Englishmen?

The next day, I took a train and a bus to the Hilton in Watford, so I can say I didn’t go north of Watford on this trip. I’d recently discovered that my A level Applied Maths teacher attends the swimming club there along with her husband, and they invited me to meet them there. They even invited me to breakfast with them afterwards, but I had to refuse because of a prior engagement.

She and I had a very pleasant conversation until near the end when, as old people sometimes do, she said something that upset me, so although they were both very nice, I was glad I wasn’t able to take up their invitation.

From there I went straight to King’s Cross where I met Jean Davison and her husband, Ian, for the first time. We ate in Pizza Express and visited the very interesting Propaganda exhibition in the British Library. In both of those places, the air conditioning was turned up too high, but it made a pleasant change from the heat outside and in the Underground. Afterwards we had tea outside.

With Jean Davison outside the British Museum

With Jean Davison outside the British Library

Ian surprised me by sprouting some expressions in Hebrew. He’d spent two years on a kibbutz some years ago and had remembered them.

A lot of the conversation centred on social anxiety. Jean had always thought of herself as shy until she read about social anxiety on my blog and realised that it describes her much better than “shyness.” In fact, during our conversation, we discovered that she and I have a lot in common.

I enjoyed my afternoon with Jean and Ian very much. I’m so glad we finally met, and hope we can meet again in the near future.

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