Category Archives: characters

Day 15 – Glasgow to Toronto

Day 15 – Glasgow to Toronto – August 25, 2013


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We were checked out of the hotel and over at the airport before 8:00. When I booked the room, I went with room only because I knew there were plenty of places in the airport to go get breakfast.

The Air Transat desk opened at 8:15 so we went and got checked in so we could get rid of our two big bags. After passing through security, we found a place reasonably close to our gate where we could have a meal (and me, a coffee). We decided on the Beardmore Bar and Restaurant. After all the huge, cooked breakfasts I’d eaten in the two weeks, and having already mowed down a packet of Prawn Cocktail crisps, I only had fried eggs on toast.

I’m not sure how it happened, but when I went to fasten my belt in the WC, the buckle came off in my hand and a belt without a buckle isn’t much use to anyone, so the entire thing went into the trash. At least for the time being, we didn’t have a lot of walking to do so I didn’t have to worry about losing my pants… LOL.

While we waited in the departure lounge for our flight to arrive, I took advantage of the free wi-fi and checked my email. I discovered that an interview I had done with Stacy Claflin before our trip went live the day before. I went to her blog and thanked her for hosting me before my half hour expired.

Before our plane arrived, a fire engine arrived and parked by the gate. It doesn’t exactly inspire a warm, fuzzy feeling. Shortly after that, an ambulance arrived and parked next to the building below where we were sitting.

Our plane at arriving at Glasgow Airport
Our plane at arriving at Glasgow Airport

We waited and watched to see what would take place next. Once the plane taxied in to location, the fire engine went out and parked by the left, rear emergency exit. Once the gangway was in place, two paramedics sprinted up the outside stairs.

For the longest time, nothing happened. Well, there was likely a lot going on in the plane but from our vantage point, we couldn’t see.

Eventually, a paramedic descended followed by a man carrying some cabin luggage and a purse. He was followed by a woman and a paramedic. She and her ‘husband’ were bundled into the ambulance.

When hubby came back from a walk, he told me he’d overheard a couple of flight crew members saying that they didn’t know exactly what happened but the woman was taken to Royal Glasgow and would be spending the night there for observation. Not a very nice way to spend the beginning of your vacation or arriving back home.

The flight boarded and left on time. We thought for sure it would be late with all the earlier excitement.

Except for hitting a few patches of turbulence, one severe enough to suspend beverage service – it was rough – but other than that, everything went to plan and we landed in Toronto on time and I phoned my cousin who was picking us up to let her know.

Walking through the airport, I had to continually tug at my pants to keep them from falling down. I thought for sure, my actions would create suspicion but we had no problems at all, well except for the self-serve customs scanners not reading our passports or declaration form the first time. It wasn’t until the girl started towards us that it worked. I told her it had to be her aura.

When we finally got our bags, which seemed to take forever (trouble with checking in so early – bags are the last to come off the plane), we headed outside and found a place by one of the posts and called my cousin again. Within minutes, she and her husband were there and our luggage loaded into their car.

Back at her place, we transferred our stuff from her vehicle into the trunk of mine. I had bought something for them to say thank you for letting us leave the car at their place for the two weeks and for putting us down at and later uplifting us from the airport, so got it out of hubby’s CPAP machine bag so I could give it to them when we got inside. I quickly discovered the price tag was still on it so I had to get it off and into the garbage without them seeing. I was successful.

So what was the gift you ask? It was a wee sign with a picture of a cat and wording to the effect “household staff here”.

We visited with them for a while before leaving for home and pulled into our driveway shortly before 9:00 pm.

What a trip! I can’t wait until we can do it again… so I guess I best get my second book finished and published so I can take it on a UK (or maybe elsewhere) book tour.

Day 14 – Largs to Glasgow

Day 14 – Largs to Glasgow – August 24, 2013

What a difference a day makes. Late yesterday afternoon when we arrived in Largs, it was dull and overcast, not to mention, cold with showers. This morning, it was bright and sunny. Over breakfast, I chatted with Pica, the lady who runs Tigh-An-Struan Guest House. She knew I was a writer from my email signature and asked about my book and could she buy a copy. Since I still had some in the boot of the car, I was more than happy to oblige. I gave her the price and told her I would even sign it for her. While I was at the car getting a copy and the book swag to go with it, I made a note to myself to tell hubby I wanted to go back down to the beach and take pictures since it was so different than when we arrived. Book signed, bill paid, hugs from Pica (especially after I showed her the page I had signed on), we headed to the car only for me to have to go back because I’d left my warm poncho in our room. She handed me the key and I dashed upstairs. Not only had I left my poncho on the bed, but hubby had left his shampoo and body wash in the shower. Before we left, we put as much of our stuff as possible into the suitcases since for the most part, any extra bags from purchases had just been tossed into the boot. Our rental car would be going back later today and the fewer items we had to contend with, the easier it would make our lives. Before leaving Largs, we walked down to the beach so I could take pictures.

Seaside at Largs
Seaside at Largs looking towards Great Cumbrae
Seaside at Largs
Seaside at Largs looking towards Great Cumbrae
Ferry at Largs
Ferry at Largs

As we’d done the day before and back on Day 8 when we headed south, I wanted to stay along the coast for as much of the drive to Johnstone where we would catch the train into Glasgow as possible.

River Clyde near Langbank
River Clyde near Langbank

Same day return tickets purchased, we went out onto the platform to wait for our train. We weren’t there more than ten minutes before it pulled into the station.

Train arriving in Johnstone
Johnstone Station platform

As soon as we were off the train and out of the station, we immediately headed for Argyle Street where we turned left and made our way to the High Street and up to the Necropolis.

Corner of The Trongate and Albion Street
Corner of The Trongate and Albion Street
The mercat cross in Glasgow
The Mercat Cross
The Tolbooth Steeple and McChuills from High Street
The Tolbooth Steeple and McChuills from High Street

Call me weird, but I love cemeteries – especially old ones. The stonework in these older monuments is amazing, not to mention the architecture of the mausoleums.

Me on the Bridge of Sighs
Me on the Bridge of Sighs
Necropolis from the Bridge of Sighs
Necropolis from the Bridge of Sighs
Grave of William Miller author of Wee Willie Winkie
Grave of William Miller author of Wee Willie Winkie
Grave in the Necropolis
Headstone in the Necropolis
Grave in the Necropolis
Mausoleum in the Necropolis
Grave in the Necropolis
Headstone in the Necropolis

We had barely scratched the surface of this amazing ‘City of the Dead’ when it was time to move on. From here we went to George Square where there used to be a tourist information shop but was closed and relocated to Buchanan Street. So off we went but not before taking a slight detour down to Royal Exchange Square to see the Duke of Wellington Statue.

The Duke of Wellington statue
The Duke of Wellington statue

Yes, that’s a traffic cone on his head. If my murky memory serves, back in the day people would climb up and put it on the statue only to have the city come along and take it down. Finally, once it was up there it was left as is because the statue was being damaged. Now it’s illegal to remove the ‘jaunty chapeau’. Buchanan Street was alive with bands playing and buskers on almost every block.

Clanadonia playing on Buchanan Street
Clanadonia playing on Buchanan Street

We stopped in at the tourist information looking to see how far out the new transportation museum was, only to discover it was far from being within walking distance. I had toyed with the idea of buying the guys something from here but that didn’t happen. From here, we walked down to Argyle Street and went into the St Enoch Centre where I visited my favourite department store – Debenhams along with a few others but didn’t find what I was looking for. On our way back to the train station, we went into The Glasgow Kilt Company on Union Street. Much to my delight, they had the tartan corset I’ve ogled and drooled over for a few years and decided that buying online wasn’t an option. There was no change room here, and with UK sizes being different than North American, I needed to be able to try it on. One of the staff was extremely helpful. He told us of their other store on Hope Street which had more tartans to choose from plus, the needed change room. He even came out onto the pavement with us and told us how to get there so off we went. What a score! It took some time trying on various sizes (hubby was even allowed to come and help me) until I found the right size. I got my corset (one that fit and less expensive than online), a couple of fridge magnets and ‘Glasgow’ hoodies for the guys. Here it is, what do you think? I’m seeing some new author photos done wearing it. Maybe up at St Lawrence Park after the leaves change since it’s gorgeous up there in the the autumn.

tartan corset
tartan corset

When we finally got back to the airport complex to return the car and check into our room, we decided to return the rental car first. It wasn’t a long walk between the two places. We made sure all of our loot was out and got one of the baggage carts to put most of the stuff on to go back. They were quite pleased at the condition the car came back in, and surprised when hubby told them that one of the back-up lights was out. I guess they don’t get a lot of people fess up?

Our room at the Holiday Inn
Our room at the Holiday Inn
Our room at the Holiday Inn
Our room at the Holiday Inn
Our room at the Holiday Inn
Our room at the Holiday Inn

After we got checked into the hotel, the first thing we did was re-pack up the suitcases ensuring they weren’t overweight and that said weight was relatively equal, and a few pounds below the maximum allowable so that we’d have the wiggle room we needed in the morning to put our ‘can’t pack until the end’ stuff in. Despite having a well stocked mini-fridge in the hall just inside the door and a bottle of wine on the desk, we steered clear of them (well, I used a wine glass later so I could finish up the bottle of red wine I’d brought with me from Earlsfield Farm) and visited the bar downstairs where we had a bite to eat and a few well-deserved pints of Becks, and toasted a very successful trip. It’s really hard to believe it’s gone by so fast. Tomorrow morning, we’ll be trundling our luggage over to the airport and flying home.

But one last time before we leave Scotland, let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

Day 13 – Gretna to Largs

Day 13 – Gretna to Largs – August 23, 2013

Our first stop this morning after getting checked out was back up to Smiths Hotel to see if my lens cap had been turned in. We did a cursory glance as we walked through the area we’d sat in the night before but saw nothing so went to reception and asked if one had been turned in. When the girl on the desk heard where we’d sat the previous night, she said check with the bar staff because it would have likely been turned in there. We did and were told to go to reception which we replied we’ve already done that and were told to come here. Then the girl asked if we’d had a good look around where we sat, which we hadn’t. I mean, going through the area, patting down chairs, looking under them without anyone knowing why would look rather suspicious. She then told us it was okay to have a good look so we did. Hubby ran his hand down between the side of the chair and the cushion where I’d made myself comfortable the night before and voila, he came up with the missing lens cap. Before we left, we made sure that reception and the girl in the bar knew we’d found the elusive contraption hiding in the chair. Yay!

Now that the lens cap mystery had been solved we could get on with our day starting with our stop at Caerlaverock Castle. I wanted to go here when we were last in this area in 2005 but time didn’t permit so I ensured a visit on this trip.

Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle

What an impressive ruin! It’s likely to be the most intact of the ruined castles we’ve visited in all of our visits to Scotland.

Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle

While we were inside one of the chambers here, a couple of kids were throwing stones down from one of the upper levels. Hubby, stinker that he can be, said to them in a ghostly sort of voice, “Do you want me to throw them back?” Funny, they quit throwing stones. Go figure.

Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle

After our visit here, well worth waiting for I might add, we headed to our next stop Sweetheart Abbey but driving along the Nith Estuary, I had to stop. Not only was it at low tide but one of the signs we’d seen at a lay-by mentioned quicksand. How can a body resit such a photo op?

The Nith Estuary
The Nith Estuary
The Nith Estuary
The Nith Estuary

By the time we arrived at Sweetheart Abbey, it had started to spit rain. Just what one needs when you need a WC. Thankfully (tongue in cheek), there were public toilets in the car park. I don’t know who maintains ownership of these ones but they were functional and that was all.

Sweetheart Abbey
Sweetheart Abbey
Sweetheart Abbey
Sweetheart Abbey
Sweetheart Abbey
Sweetheart Abbey

The story behind this abbey can be found at Historic Scotland. Talk about true love…

Lady Dervorgilla's resting place with a cast of her husband's urn
Lady Dervorgilla’s resting place with a cast of her husband’s urn
Sweetheart Abbey
Sweetheart Abbey from the churchyard

As we did after leaving Kennethmont, I wanted to drive along the coast, despite the weather being grey and gloomy with occasional showers. Our trip was coming to an end so maybe that was the reason behind it. Still, I wasn’t nearly as weepy as I was during the drive from Kennethmont to Kelso.

We passed by Cardoness and Carsluith Castles vowing to put them on the next trip. By taking the coast road, our trip was longer, but despite the cloud cover and occasional showers, far more scenic than the more direct inland route.

Near Girvan, we stopped in one of the lay-bys (part of the old road) for a photo op.

Ailsa Craig shrowded in fog
Ailsa Craig shrowded in fog
mainland scenery across the firth from Ailsa Craig
mainland scenery across the firth from Ailsa Craig

By now we really had to make tracks since we wanted to go over to Quarriers Village and see our friends there who had made the journey up to Kennethmont for my book launch. Off and on during the entire day it continued to rain – sometimes harder than others. “Sat Nav Sally” took us to the M77 (not a bad thing since we needed to make up time) and onto the M8… in rush hour. No worse than driving across Toronto, but still not the easiest. Knowing where we were and where we had to exit helped immensely so it wasn’t the end of the world.

After a visit with our friends, we made tracks for Largs, taking the ‘back’ roads. Looking back, we probably should have gone and checked in first, then headed over to Quarriers Village but seeing our friends was far more important at the time than getting to our room.

Tigh-An-Struan Guest House
Tigh-An-Struan Guest House
Our room at Tigh-An-Struan Guest House
Our room at Tigh-An-Struan Guest House
Our room at Tigh-An-Struan Guest House 2
Our room at Tigh-An-Struan Guest House
Our room at Tigh-An-Struan Guest House
Our room at Tigh-An-Struan Guest House

Before going off for a bite of supper, we walked the other way to the beach and I was able to get a few pictures.

Seaside at Largs
Seaside at Largs
Seaside at Largs
Seaside at Largs

We went up into the town and had our supper at an Indian Restaurant next to the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was an excellent meal, and although the onion bhajias we had weren’t on the same level as the ones in Kelso, they were delicious and served on a bed of fresh, sliced onion. Yum, yum! And no heartburn later!

So before I fall asleep after a long yet fulfilling day, let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

Tomorrow will be our last full day in Scotland and the plan is to drive to Johnstone and take the train from there into Glasgow to go shopping and visit the Necropolis. Fingers crossed the weather cooperates.

Day 12 – Harrogate to Gretna

 Day 12 – Harrogate to Gretna – August 22, 2013

Before we had breakfast, we looked up some of the possible things we could do between Harrogate and my friend’s house just outside the Lake District. One option was to take the steam train that stopped at, among other points along the line, Haworth which is home to the Bronte Parsonage Museum

the former home of the literary sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne.

This idea was soon dismissed when we discovered it would be better to have a full day for the journey so it’s now on the bucket list for our next trip. My friend expected us after lunch and had we done this, it would have been after supper, if at all, since we had to get to Gretna.

We debated on driving straight through to Drybeck but a signpost along the road got our attention. Bolton Abbey. Since we like poking around ruins and what not, we thought why not? We weren’t disappointed.

Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbery from across the River Wharfe
Bolton Abbery from across the River Wharfe
Bolton Abbey from the churchyard
Bolton Abbey from the churchyard

We spent a few enjoyable hours here before making our way back up the hill to the car park. Along the way, we stopped in at a used bookstore in the village then in the Bolton Abbey gift shop. I bought a bracelet here (among other things) but haven’t worn it yet.

Back on the road, with another bag of loot stuffed into the boot, we began the trek to Drybeck. Soon after taking the exit at Penrith, we were on narrower roads (not that I mind) going over the mountains. We passed over at cattle grid and soon after, had to be on the lookout for sheep. Some were grazing well away from the road’s surface, others next to it.

The narrow road into Drybeck was extremely so with virtually no place to get over if you met an oncoming car. Thankfully, we didn’t. Once we got into the hamlet, we had no idea which house was my friend’s. We drove right past it! Anyway, a lady was riding her horse a bit ahead of us, so when we got close, Don put his window down and asked if she knew where our friend lived. She did and pointed us in the right direction – except we counted cottages wrong. One, which looked like a semi-detached, we counted as two so ended up at the house next door. Being in a valley, cell phone reception was the pits, but after losing Pam trying to call on Don’s mobile, he finally got a signal and got her back. He suggested she come out into the road and she did. She was so close to where we were, we heard her door close! I had backed the car into the driveway next door so I didn’t have far to drive to get into the proper driveway.

The weather was gorgeous – warm and sunny and perfect for sitting in the garden. My friend’s dog, Sid, loves to play ball, but he doesn’t like to give it up when he brings it back all slobbery and slimy.

Sid
Sid

In addition to her dog, her ‘grand-dog’ Zen was there. Not as into playing ball as Sid, but he was more into wading in the pond, much to my friend’s chagrin.

Zen
Zen

After an enjoyable afternoon abeit much too short, we began our drive to Gretna. This time we weren’t as fortunate to not meet cars on the narrow road with no passing places. This time we met oncoming cars and had to back up down the road until I could slip into the driveway for a farmer’s field. Nae fun.

We made one final stop before we hit the Scottish border to see if we had the directions to Barrasgate House from back in 2005 when we stayed there. I didn’t have anything in my emails on my laptop but after some searching, hubby found the information on his iPad. Not that it mattered, “Sat Nav Sally” got us there in the end, just brought us in from the other direction so that it was on our right instead of our left. Now we were back in familiar territory. I didn’t need the sat nav or the atlas for the rest of today.

Our room at Barrasgate
Our room at Barrasgate House
Our room at Barrasgate
Our room at Barrasgate House
Our room at Barrasgate
Our room at Barrasgate House

Once we got settled, we did a quick online search for a place for supper and decided on Smiths Hotel at Gretna Green just up and over the road from the historic Blacksmith’s Shop.

There had been mixed reviews about the restaurant but we had an excellent meal, the service was great so our only issue was this modern place (and if memory serves, it was under construction in 2005 when we were in the area) so close to the Blacksmiths’ Shop. It just seemed so out of place.

Once we got back to Barrasgate House, I realized the lens cap for my camera was gone. I’d had it all along and even at supper so we decided that since the hotel wasn’t too far out of our way, we’d stop by there before our leaving the area and see if it had been turned in.

Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

Tomorrow we’ll be off to Largs with stops at Caerlaverock Castle and Sweetheart Abbey and more if time permits. It’s really hard to believe that our holiday is almost over.

Day 11 – East Kennett to Harrogate

Day 11 – East Kennett to Harrogate – August 21, 2013

Today is going to be another fun day. After checking out, we headed the short distance to Avebury to see the stone circle and the avenue of standing stones leading to it. Alongside the West Kennet Avenue, is a small lay-by you can park in with a permanently parked police car with banners in all of the windows reminding folks to take their valuables or put them out of sight and lock their cars.

West Kennet Avenue
West Kennet Avenue
Me at West Kennet Avenue
Me on West Kennet Avenue

With the way the avenue sweeps up and over the hill, some of the stones wind up on the other side of the road.

One of the West Kennet Avenue stones on the other side of the road
One of the West Kennet Avenue stones on the other side of the road
Don at West Kennet Avenue
Don on West Kennet Avenue
West Kennet Avenue from the top of the hill
West Kennet Avenue from the top of the hill

After our time on the avenue, we went in to Avebury to see the other stones. There was a great car park along the way – pay and display (not a problem) – but the machines were all locked down or wrapped in bin bags. Was it safe to park? Not being sure, we moved on and went to the car park at The Red Lion, yet another pay and display. I hopped out and got some photos whilst hubby attempted to program “Sat Nav Sally” for our next destination but she was having none of it.

The stones across from The Red Lion in Avebury
The stones across from The Red Lion in Avebury
One of the stone circles at Avebury
One of the stone circles at Avebury

We went back to the lay-by alongside West Kennet Avenue, hoping that our ‘electronic travelling companion’ regain her satellite signal and find herself. I left hubby to it and got a couple of interesting pics of things I hadn’t seen before but when you really stopped and looked, it couldn’t have been more obvious.

I think this stone looks like a shark. When we were walking along the avenue earlier, I never gave it a thought. But a second look and… well what do you think? A shark? Or something else?

The shark stone
The shark stone

Here’s another one with different appearances depending on the angle you view it from. This first angle looks like a face with a rather large nose.

From this angle a face
From this angle a face

And from this angle, perhaps a chess piece? I’m thinking the knight. What do you think?

From this angle a chess piece
From this angle a chess piece

“Sat Nav Sally” finally found herself and our final destination was programmed in along with our stop for lunch. There were a number of other ‘white horses’ in the area and one on our way to Tewkesbury. We thought that since it was a short drive we’d have time to go check it out… that was until we hit a construction tailback and we were in it for what seemed to be forever. We were sat for at least half an hour. So much for a side trip to photograph another white horse.

If not for the motorway, we would have been late for our lunch date at The Bell Hotel (another place I found on google maps) with Linn B Halton and her husband.

Linn was one of the winners of my book swag pack from my e-launch splash so we had agreed I would bring it with me since we were getting together anyway. Much to my surprise, she gave me a pink, agate angel related to her Angels series (being published by HarperImpulse as Falling). I can spill the beans now about her publishing deal because she’s made it public.

Me with Linn Halton at The Bell Hotel in Tewkesbury
Me with Linn Halton at The Bell Hotel in Tewkesbury

It was great to meet Linn and her husband but yet again, too much to talk about and too little time. Still it was a brilliant time and I know we’ll do it again in the future.

Back onto the motorway, we headed through the West Midlands and saw places from the opposite side as we did the day before on our way south.

Since we had a lot of driving to do, stops for photo ops weren’t included in the grand scheme of things – at least until we got to Harrogate.

We passed some interesting castle/abbey ruins but will have to add them to our bucket list of places to visit.

Even with arriving in the area at rush hour compounded with the festival at Leeds, traffic wasn’t unbearable. Okay, it took a bit to whoa down the wee rental car, or perhaps it was my lead foot, as I’d been cruising along at speeds up to 80 mph. What can I say… keep up with the flow of traffic or get run over.

Maybe it was just the map but I thought when we arrived in Harrogate, our accommodations would be on our left, but it was on the right. A quick turnaround at the first set of traffic lights and I found us a place to park on the street a few doors down.

Fountains Guest House
Fountains Guest House

We were quickly made comfortable and shown our room. A bit of finagling and I could get our rental car into the car park, or take advantage of the complimentary pay and display badge. The badge won out.

Our room at Fountains
Our room at Fountains Guest House
Our room at Fountains
Our room at Fountains Guest House
Our room at Fountains
Our room at Fountains Guest House
Our room at Fountains
Our room at Fountains Guest House

After the obligatory room photos had been taken, we went out for a walk about looking for a place to grab a bite to eat and a bevvie.

Royal Hall Harrogate
Royal Hall, Harrogate
Council offices in Harrogate
Council offices in Harrogate

The impressive Royal Baths building is now host to a number of other businesses. The centre section is home to what appears to be an upmarket Chinese Restaurant. We got that impression from the attire folks who were coming and going from there. Definitely not a t-shirt and jeans venue.

The Royal Baths
The Royal Baths

We walked up Parliament Street and found the entrance to Wetherspoons through the former Turkish Baths/Winter Gardens entrance to the building. Very impressive! We found a table downstairs and sat for a bit before ordering a beer each and our meal. Unbeknownst to us, we had to do the business at the bar and let them know our table number. Hubby brought our drinks back to the table and our meal was brought by the staff. It was supposedly a 20 minute wait for food because they were busy but neither one of us think it took that long.

Fed, watered (okay, it was beered) and content, we made our way back to the guest house and got settled in for the night.

Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

Tomorrow, we’ll be back in Scotland but not before a visit with a friend who used to work for Quarriers who we’ve not seen in ten years. Will be brilliant to see her again and get caught up on all the goss(ip).

Day 10 – Market Rasen to East Kennett

Day 10 – Market Rasen to East Kennett (near Avebury) – August 20, 2013

See I told you it would be a long day, although it wasn’t as long as we expected it to be.

In the back of my mind, I thought we would do Stonehenge AND the Avebury stones the following day but we arrived early enough that we had time for at least the former and this was before we even found the B&B where we’d be spending the night!

Stonehenge
Stonehenge
Me at Stonehenge
Me at Stonehenge

The next two photos are of The Heel Stone. Don’t you think it looks like a face? A creepy face, but a face nonetheless.

The Heel Stone
The Heel Stone
The Heel Stone
The Heel Stone
Stonehenge with the Slaughter Stone lying in the foreground
Stonehenge with the Slaughter Stone lying in the foreground

After we left Stonehenge, we came up on a tailback for something. There was a road off to the right and I took it not having any idea where we would end up. Obviously, the others either thought I knew where I was going or they did because they followed me.

This detour from our planned route paid huge dividends because we came across this…

The White Horse at Milk Hill
The Alton Barnes White Horse on Milk Hill

Next on our quest for the day was to find the Old Forge B&B. The first time we drove by, we missed it but once we turned around and came from the other direction, it stood out – especially the green B&B sign in the grass verge across the road from the house.

Like when we stayed at Fernbank House at Dufftown, we had a private bathroom. Not quite so close to our room but our own.

The Old Forge B&B
The Old Forge B&B
Our room at Old Forge
Our room at Old Forge B&B
Our room at Old Forge
Our room at Old Forge B&B
Our room at Old Forge
Our room at Old Forge B&B

We walked to The Bell only to find it didn’t open until 6:00. This was about 4:30 so we walked back to the B&B by way of the back roads (much safer). One of the fields along the road was home to rabbits. We counted less than ten but think there were more.

Horses near The Bell
Horses near The Bell

After a short rest and WC stop, we wandered back towards the pub. This time we took advantage of a footpath that took a good chunk off the walk if you stuck to the road.

Walking path near East Kennett
Footpath near East Kennett

The pub still wasn’t open when we got back but it was close enough to 6:00 and we were parched enough that we waited. Whilst we ‘loitered’ about the car park, a family arrived so we waited together, although when the doors finally opened, they went to the restaurant while we were content to sit in the bar.

The menu we had seen at the B&B was the lunch menu so we couldn’t get any of the dishes listed on it. So, we had fish and chips and mushy peas. I had mushy peas. They were served in a small sealer jar. I ate mine and hubby’s as they didn’t do a thing for him.

After all the walking we’d done during the day but especially before and after supper, we were tired so had an early night.

Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

If you think you know where the pictures were taken, leave a comment with your answers or email me at melanie@melanierobertson-king.com You could win a 2014 A Shadow in the Past calendar!

Tomorrow is going to be another long day as we’re back north to Harrogate with a stop in Tewkesbury to meet another online author friend, Linn B Halton. Woo hoo!

Day 9 – Kelso to Market Rasen

Day 9 – Kelso to Market Rasen – August 19, 2013

Today’s the day I meet Nicky Wells. Squee!!! We’ve planned this for ages and I found a location near Whitby where we could meet for lunch that was convenient for everyone. But that’s getting ahead of myself. After all, we’ve got to get from Scotland into England.

Before breakfast this morning, we went out for a short walk. First to the Bank of Scotland in the square then dropped in to the newsagent’s on the way back for copy of today’s The Scotsman.

We sat in the lounge at Duncan House while we waited for breakfast to finish cooking. While we were there, the owner came in from his walk, although we didn’t meet him straight away, we did meet his black lab who charged into the lounge and practically turned himself inside out getting someone to pay attention to him. At one point, he did a backwards somersault.

Jeff, the owner, greeted us at the breakfast table where we were served yet another hearty start to the day. He felt bad about leaving the note on the door for me the day before but to us, that was part of the charm.

When we were finally ready to check out, not only did I get a handshake from our host, but also a wee kiss on the cheek.

At the Scotland/England border we stopped so I could take photos. There’s a huge lay-by with parking for cars and buses (and whilst we were there a bus filled with tourists pulled in).

Scenery at the Scottish border
Scenery at the Scottish border

Beyond here, you’re in England. On the small table that was set up beside the boulder marking the border, were CDs you could buy for £5.00 and a tray with a paperweight where you could put your money.

English border
English Border

I crossed into England and got this photo of Scotland. The red car in the background was well and truly in Scottish lands as was ours although with it being closer, it got cropped out of the picture. Was it difficult leaving Scotland? Sort of, but I had a number of adventures ahead of me and I knew that I would be returning to Scotland before we came home.

Scottish border
Scottish Border

While we were at the border, the piper arrived and soon he was playing. I bought one of his CDs and when I asked hubby to take a picture of me with the Scottish border sign, the piper turned so that he was facing the camera along with me. It was windy here as you can tell from my hair. I wonder if that’s why my Robertsons all had such wild curly hair?

Me with the piper at the Scottish border
Me with the piper at the Scottish border

After spending some time (too much) here, we had to get on the road. The plan was to meet Nicky and her family around 12:00 ish. Well that wasn’t going to happen and I texted or had hubby text and advise we were running late. I think it was about 1:15 when we finally blew in at The Cross Butts Stable Restaurant.

I really had no idea exactly how close to Whitby the restaurant was but as we crested the last hill before there, Whitby Abbey came in to view. We’d visited the abbey when we stayed in Whitby back in 2005 but this view of it was totally different than what we had seen on our previous trip.

I had brought two wee (not sure of the scale) die cast models for Nicky’s sons since they love “all things lorry” and the TV program Ice Road Truckers. They went down a real treat with the boys.

Really hoping that our hubbies had the chance to at least talk to each other because Nicky and I were so involved in talking writing, publishers and the like that we rather neglected them. I really like the phrase Nicky used over on her blog – “we talked nineteen to the dozen”.

Nicky and me at the Cross Butts Stable Restaurant
Nicky and me at the Cross Butts Stable Restaurant

It was so much fun finally meeting the entire family that it was sad when it came time to say our goodbyes and go our separate ways.

The initial part of the trip over the North Yorkshire Moors to Market Rasen was so familiar – partly because we had travelled these roads in 2005 and partly from watching the TV programs Heartbeat and The Royal.

When we reached Beechwood Guesthouse and checked in, we had the same room as when we stayed there in 2005. Other than Earlsfield Farm at Kennethmont, this was the first of two repeat accommodations from previous trips.

Our room at Beechwood Guesthouse
Our room at Beechwood Guesthouse
Our room at Beechwood Guesthouse
Our room at Beechwood Guesthouse
Our room at Beechwood Guesthouse
Our room at Beechwood Guesthouse

After getting settled in our room in Market Rasen, I gave my cousin who lives in Dragonby a call so we could go meet him. He gave me his post code so we could program it in to “Sat Nav Sally” and off we went. I knew this cousin existed but had only discovered where he was living in the last 3-4 years and made the initial contact. Since then, it’s been via email and/or Facebook that we’ve gotten to know each other.

One of the cool things that the hamlet of Dragonby has going for it is the Dragonby Dragon – a rock formation that resembles, you guessed it – a dragon.

The Dragonby Dragon
The Dragonby Dragon
Don and Eric at the Dragonby Dragon
Don and Eric at the Dragonby Dragon

After visiting the dragon, which is almost in my cousin’s back yard, we went back to the house for a cuppa and a chinwag. The photo albums came out and I was able to identify some of the people in the pictures that were taken on this side of the pond.

Eric and me
Eric and me

Since we had a long day ahead of us, said our goodbyes and hubby and I returned to the Guesthouse in Market Rasen.

Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

As I said earlier, tomorrow is going to be a long day. We’re headed south to Avebury.

Day 6 – A free day?

Day 6 – A free day? (August 16, 2013)

It wasn’t actually a “free” day but more a “what shall we do today?”. Better still – an “open” day. Earlier in the week, we had taken advantage of the gorgeous weather and visited the churchyards in Gartly and Insch that we wanted to visit.

We decided that after breakfast, we would walk down to the village and the Old Kirkyard where my grandparents were buried.

Tap O Noth from Earlsfield Farm
Tap O Noth from Earlsfield Farm
Ruins at Earlsfield Farm
Ruins at Earlsfield Farm

Before we reached the junction of the road our B&B was on and the B9002, this sign begged for a picture. I’d seen it when I drove past it but never had the opportunity to get a good look, until this morning.

pheasant crossing sign
Pheasant Crossing Sign

In order to get to the footpath to the Old Kirkyard, we had to walk past the Rannes Hall where I would be launching my book the next day. I did take a couple of photos but as it was trash day, there was a huge wheelie bin out front. I decided then, I would try the next day or Sunday (depending on the weather) to get another photo.

Look who is in the Rannes Hall’s outside announcements board. You’ll likely have to click on the picture to get the full-sized image to be able to see, but my event is in there.

Rannes Hall bulletin board
Rannes Hall bulletin board

We continued on up the road to the footpath. It starts out as a lane up to a couple of houses, then becomes the footpath to the Old Kirkyard and on to Leith Hall.

Scenery from the footpath to the Old Kirkyard
Scenery from the footpath to the Old Kirkyard
Approaching the Old Kirkyard
Approaching the Old Kirkyard
Robertson stone in the Old Kirkyard
Robertson stone in the Old Kirkyard

From what I’ve read, this used to be the Old Kirk at Kennethmont. The door was padlocked shut but I was able to peek in the windows.

The Leith-Hay vault in the Old Kirkyard
The Leith-Hay vault in the Old Kirkyard

We continued making the most of our day and carried on along the footpath.

Aberdeen-Inverness railway line from the footpath
Aberdeen-Inverness railway line from the footpath

Despite being near the railway line close to train time, I missed being able to stand on the bridge and photograph the train as it approached. And there were two trains! One to Aberdeen and one to Inverness and I missed both of them.

Leith Hall from the footpath
Leith Hall from the footpath

As we still had other things we wanted/needed to do, we didn’t walk any further but turned and made our way back along the footpath, this time taking a different route and coming out at the B9002 at the opposite end of Kennethmont.

One of the things we needed to do was laundry, and even though the wash machine at Earlsfield was offered, with it being so close to when we’d be leaving, I needed a tumble dryer to ensure everything washed was dry by the time we packed up to leave. My luck, had I hung them on the line, it would have poured rain and there I’d be with a load of soggy clothes.

Laundry in the car, we drove up into Huntly to the launderette which had since moved from its location known to us (Bogie Street) right onto the main street going into the town (Gordon Street). This location was far more convenient. After our laundry was washed, dried and folded, we walked up to the square and the Brander Library. They were the only one I sent a book launch poster to that acknowledged receiving it. I asked if they would like to purchase a copy of my book for their branch and was told that all acquisitions had to go through the branch in Old Meldrum. She did take some of my postcards and bookmarks. I thanked her for her time and we went back to the car.

The rain that had fallen earlier had stopped. No bright sunshine yet but at least no rain. Since I had wanted to see Auchindoun Castle for years and it wasn’t too far from Huntly, that was the direction I pointed the car in.

Sign post for Auchindoun Castle
Sign post for Auchindoun Castle

When we arrived at the small car park (essentially just a wee lay-by) along the A941, it was spitting rain again. We grabbed our outerwear and started up the footpath which is actually a road up to two farms. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the steel beams running across the road at regular intervals to keep it from washing out in heavy rains. The photo doesn’t really show how steep the incline was but trust me, it was.

Footpath to Auchindoun Castle
Footpath to Auchindoun Castle

I think the fact there were some ominous, black cloud looming when we got to a vantage point where we could see the castle added to the atmosphere of the place.

Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun Castle

Now that we finally reached the last of our journey up the hill, we still had some climbing to do. We didn’t realize it until we were leaving but if you walked along the fence line, there was a far less steep approach to the castle. Oh well, this was all part of the experience.

Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun Castle
Me at Auchindoun Castle
Me at Auchindoun Castle
Scenery from Auchindoun Castle
Scenery from Auchindoun Castle
Scenery from Auchindoun Castle
Scenery from Auchindoun Castle
Farm at the end of the road to Auchindoun Castle
Farm at the end of the road to Auchindoun Castle
Guard ram
Keeping a watchful eye on the two-legged intruders

By now we had seen and done everything we wanted to at the castle, so we picked our way back down the hill to the road and our car. Our next stop was the Walker Shortbread Company where we picked up some shorties to bring home and some to have whilst we were away.

After getting stocked up, we headed to the Aberlour Distillery. Hubby had enjoyed the sampling the night before so we thought we would take their tour. It was a bit disappointing to find out they only do two tours a day and they had just filled the final two places for the 2:00 pm tour fifteen minutes before we arrived. Still, we were told we could walk about the property and take pictures… so I did.

Aberlour Distillery
Aberlour Distillery
Aberlour Distillery
Aberlour Distillery

The cemetery at Rhynie was one of the stops we wanted to make today since we hadn’t got there yet. We could have taken the main roads into Huntly and down the A97 to get there but what fun is there in that? Instead, we went down the A941, waving as we went past Auchindoun Castle.

I had an ulterior motive for taking this route even though the road in the middle section isn’t the widest or affords the best places to pull over when meeting traffic. The small Essie Cemetery is on this road and Essie is mentioned as places my ancestors came from. So I had to investigate, now didn’t I?

All along the road the heather was blooming on the hills and until this point never in a location where a body could pull over. Then, the opportunity presented itself and I didn’t let it pass.

Heather along the A941
Heather along the A941

When we arrived at the small Essie cemetery, we tromped around but found no one related. Or if they were, I’ve not come across their names in my genealogy – yet.

The Essie cemetery
The Essie cemetery

After our short prowl here, we carried on to the village of Rhynie and the cemetery (where I do have relatives).

The Rhynie cemetery
The Rhynie cemetery

This is my great-grandparents’ (on my dad’s mother’s side) grave and one of their children, although we’ve never been able to find a birth or death registration for him. Things that make you go hmm…

The Macdonald stone in the Rhynie cemetery
The Macdonald stone in the Rhynie cemetery

Probably the most interesting thing here at Rhynie is the Gordon vault built into the back wall.

Gordon vault in the Rhynie Cemetery
Gordon vault in the Rhynie Cemetery

Oh yeah, and a lean-to at the far end of the car park where three Pictish, sculptured stones are on display protected from the elements.

From here we went on a bit of a cross-country adventure where we drove past the restaurant in Auchleven (The Hunters Moon) where we would be having supper the next night and before we knew it, we were in Alford. Unfortunately, we were too late to tour the Grampian Transport Museum properly as they were closing in fifteen minutes at 5:00 pm, we did get to see a Dalek in the Tourist Information and museum gift shop.

Dalek
Dalek

Right after I took this photo, it came towards me shouting in its Dalek voice, “Exterminate!”. Not every nice…

Dr Who's Tardis

For a day that was free, we managed to do a great deal – and we weren’t done yet! We went back to Huntly, this time by way of the two main roads – the A944 and the A97 where we stopped in at the Tesco for an Indian takeaway, bottle of wine, another poncho and a long-sleeved sweater for me. When the sun was out, it was lovely and warm but when it wasn’t it got cool and long sleeves were nice, especially in the evenings.

After eating our supper, we decided to take advantage of the fact that the sun came out and we walked up to the stone circle on the farm. Our hosts gave us each a pair of wellies and off we went up the road to the top of the hill and through the five-bar gate at the top.

The cows were at hoot on our way up. When we got what they thought was too close they ran off, but it wasn’t long before they were hanging around and following us – the nosy parkers.

The Welcoming Committee
The Welcoming Committee

They scattered shortly after this picture was taken.

See what I mean about being nosy? Had to see exactly what we were doing up there.

One of the ladies
One of the “ladies”
Earlsfield farm from the stone circle
Earlsfield farm from the stone circle
Me at the stone circle
Me at the stone circle
the stone circle with outer rubble pile
The stone circle with outer rubble pile
The stone circle
The stone circle
The stone circle from behind
The stone circle from behind

See, it really is visible from the stone circle if you know where to look.

Wardhouse mansion from the stone circle
Wardhouse mansion from the stone circle

We started back towards the gate and the cows closed ranks between us and it. As we moved closer they parted – slowly – and allowed us passage. Even the bull didn’t move any faster than need be and we didn’t see him at all on the way to the stone circle. I think before he got bored with us, I was only about four feet from him. When he sauntered off, the rest of the herd took their cue from him and off they went.

The gate might not have been chained quite the same way, but I made sure it was secure and we started down the road, this time to be greeted by the “ladies” in the field across the road from the stone circle.

The "ladies" across the road from the stone circle
The “ladies” across the road from the stone circle

Now it’s time to play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

Tomorrow is a big day for me, not because we’re travelling but because it’s launch day for A Shadow in the Past at the Rannes Hall! Wish me luck!

Launch Day for Sophie’s Encore!

It’s time to Rock And Roll in earnest! Yes, Nicky Wells is here to celebrate the upcoming launch of Sophie’s Encore. Three cheers for the third book in her Rock Star Romance Trilogy!!!

Says Nicky,
“I’m so excited to share with you, finally, this third installment in Sophie and Dan’s epic romance! Thank you for coming to celebrate with me. Read on for:

The blurb!

The fantabulous giveaway!

But most of all, enjoy yourself and party hard! Are you ready?”

Sophies_Encore
Sophies Encore

Her rock star is waiting in the wings, but will he get a second chance?

It’s all change for Sophie Jones—only this time, there is more at stake than just her happiness.

Rock star extraordinaire, Dan Hunter, has been her patient and caring friend through the highs and lows since her wedding day, but now he figures it is time for her to start over. By stealth, the rock singer draws Sophie into the behind-the-scenes work for his band’s latest album. Through the days and weeks spent together at the mixing desk, Sophie discovers whole new horizons for her life, yet before she can even begin to explore them, she faces the very real threat of losing her rock star for good.

Join Sophie and Dan in Sophie’s Encore to find out how their journey will end…

Amazon.co.uk Kindle | Amazon.co.uk Paperback | Amazon.com Kindle | Amazon.com Paperback | Barnes & Noble Paperback | Nook

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy, exhilarated, bereft. Or: how it feels to finish a Trilogy.

It’s done. My third book, Sophie’s Encore, has hit the virtual shelves. The long-awaited conclusion to the epic romance between my girl-next-door, Sophie, and rock star extraordinaire, Dan, is written and published for the world to see. I’m not saying how it’s gonna end but… You wanted to know how it feels to get to The End. Well, let me see….

The beginning of the end: the writing of Sophie’s Encore

Monday, 8 October 2012. 9:30 am.

Cup of tea—check.

Laptop at the ready—check.

Plotline tacked to the wall—check.

I start typing. “So how is Dan?”

To my great surprise, I find that my hands are shaking. This is it. I’m going to bring the story to an end. I’m starting on the last leg of the journey, and I’m frightened. I know where I’m going, of course, but what will I do when I get there?

Sophie, Dan and me: Long-time friends

For eight years now, Sophie and Dan have lived in my head. For the past two years, they’ve been my and my family’s constant companion. Between us, we have talked about them as though they were real persons. But when I’m done, I’ll have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes.

Still, there’s nothing for it but to forge ahead, so I start writing fast and furiously. As I’m working my way through my meticulous plan, I make some astounding discoveries.

The devil and the detail and all that…

First of all, chronology matters. Doh, right? Evidently I’ve planned the Trilogy in great detail, and still things trip me up. Ages, mostly. Sophie was 28 when the Trilogy started, and Dan was 38. They had birthdays ‘in between’ books and also quite prominently in Sophie’s Run, when Sophie celebrates her 30th birthday with astounding consequences, and Dan his 40th with ditto.

But time’s moved on. More birthdays have been had and other life-changing events have transpired. I find myself referring back to Sophie and Dan’s early romance as having been seven years ago. Oh, hang on, wasn’t it eight? Or maybe nine? *Cue nail-biting* Turns out that counting back in years yields a slightly different answer than counting back in ages.

My solution? More planning. I make a large table with twelve columns for months and several rows for years passed. I mark birthdays. I make the start and end of each book. I mark key events. I figure it out.

Next up, I’ve grown. My outlook has changed, and my perspective on Sophie and Dan’s fate has changed. Moreover, narrated time between books has passed, so Sophie herself has grown. I decide to tackle that issue head-on by having Sophie, Dan and Rachel reflect on how things are different for them, now.

I get so involved in fine-tuning these last details that I completely forget about the pain of goodbye as I feverishly approach the finishing line.

Done, done, done!

It’s end of January 2013 by the time I finish Sophie’s Encore. While I don’t exactly write the words, “The End”, I definitely know that this is the end, and do you know what? I shed a little tear or three. Happy tears, I hasten to add. And proud tears. I feel bereft and exhilarated at the same time.

Onwards and upwards

To stem the floods, I move on immediately. I start planning book 4; a new book, a new story, new characters, a fresh start. I mock up a cover for Sophie’s Encore. I launch Sophie’s Run. I conceive of a completely unscheduled mini-project that gets planned, written and completed in the space of four or five weeks. I edit Sophie’s Encore. I start writing book 4. See? There’s no standing still here, the only way is forward. I’ve dried those tears and launched myself headlong into new adventures.

So watch out, here I come! I have a surprise for you later this year, and my fourth full-length book, Fallen For Rock, is scheduled for release in the summer of 2014. Meanwhile, happy reading of Sophie’s Encore! I’d love to hear what you think!!

ROCK ON!

Party Time — The ENCORE PARTY!!

Join in the release day fun!! Come on and party with Nicky —
On her blog
On Facebook
On Twitter — #SophiesEncore

Moreover! In honor of the launch, the first two books in the Rock Star Romance Trilogy are available on Kindle for only $0.99/£0.77 for a limited time only!

If you haven’t already got them, go get them here:

Sophie’s TURN: AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM
Sophie’s RUN: AMAZON.CO.UK | AMAZON.COM

If you’ve already read them, share the joy and spread the word!

Party Time — The GIVEAWAY!!!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 x signed Sophie’s Encore Poster
2 x Sophie’s Encore Mugs
1 x Sophie’s Run Mug
1 x $10 Amazon Gift Voucher (or equivalent currency)
2 x Sophie’s Encore Key Ring
1 x Sophie’s Run Key Ring
2 x “Swag Pack” featuring 2 postcards (1 signed) each for all three Rock Star Romance books, and 2 bookmarks each for Sophie’s Turn and Sophie’s Run

ENTER HERE: a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway closes 30 September at 12 midnight BST.
Entrants must be 18 or over. Giveaway is open internationally.

About Nicky Wells

Nicky_NEWAuthorPic_April12_useforwebsiteNicky Wells is your ultimate rock chick author. Signed to US Publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing, Nicky writes Romance That Rocks Your World, featuring the rock star and the girl next door.

Nicky’s books offer glitzy, glamorous contemporary romance with a rock theme ~ imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting Hill!

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln. In a previous professional life, Nicky worked as a researcher and project manager for an international Human Resources research firm based in London and Washington, D.C. Like her leading lady, Sophie, Nicky loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and regular contributor to The Midweek Drive show on Lincoln’s Siren 107.3 FM. Rock on!

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Romantic Novelists’ Association | Sapphire Star Publishing | Amazon | Goodreads| Pinterest

NickyWells_Border_

*Nicky waves*
Whoa! What a party! I hope you enjoyed yourself. Thank you again for stopping by Celtic Connexions today to help me celebrate. Happy reading and rock on! And don’t forget to say ‘hi’, I’d love to hear from you and I will come back to chat later!

Day 5 – Day trip to Aberdeen

Day 5 – Day trip to Aberdeen

The idea of driving into Aberdeen didn’t thrill me even though I’ve done it on previous trips but not all the way into the heart of the city. It probably wasn’t so much the idea of driving as it was the idea of finding a place to leave the car relatively close to the library for the entire day without having to run back periodically and pay to stay longer.

Even before we left Canada, we had pretty much decided on driving from Earlsfield Farm to Insch and catching the train there.

The station isn’t manned but there was a self-serve kiosk outside where you could purchase your tickets (in 2000 we bought our tickets on the train) so we did then hung out on the platform while we waited for the Inverness to Aberdeen train to arrive.

Signal Box at Insch Station with Dunnideer in the background
Signal Box at Insch Station with Dunnideer in the background

If you look really closely at the mountain in the background, you can see the tip of the hillfort just poking up.

Platform bridge at Insch Station
Platform bridge at Insch Station

The train arrived a few minutes before its scheduled departure time to allow folks already on the train to get off and those of us waiting time to board and get settled. It appeared that seats were at a premium because the majority in the carriage we were on had reserved tags inserted in the slot in the top of the seat back. We found a couple of empty seats reserved for stations the train had already passed through and took them. Who would book passage on a specific train then not turn up at the station? I know I certainly wouldn’t.

We passed by Aberdeen airport and as we did, a helicopter was landing. Seeing that sparked me to look for Bond’s headquarters (used in another manuscript in progress) as I had Google street-viewed them before. Knowing roughly where they were located and the colour of their building made it easier and I spotted it almost immediately.

The Central Library was a short walk up from the train station so we made our way there. I wanted to soak in some Aberdeen atmosphere and didn’t want to cart books about with us. I had already made arrangements to drop them off on our arrival.

Poster outside the Central Library
Poster outside the Central Library

On our way to the library, we saw this street sign and I just had to take a picture of it. It would have been better with hubby in the picture, too, but this will have to do… for now. Besides with the steps and the railings, I’m not sure how well I could have framed the entire shot with him in it.

Donald's Way
Donald’s Way Close near the Central Library

After relieving ourselves of the bag of books and using the facilities, we went on a short tour of Aberdeen – across Rosemount Viaduct, which changes names to Schoolhill (where it passes over Denburn Road, and latterly Upperkirkgate. Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate were streets I mentioned in previous drafts of my novel. Then it was down Broad Street in front of the magnificent Marischal College building (now home to the Aberdeen City Council). Even on the opposite side of the street, the building was so massive I couldn’t get all of it into the frame at once, not to mention we were on a bit of a time constraint to see the things I wanted to and photograph them and get back to the library on time to go on our lunch date.

Marischal College
Marischal College
By TFDuesing (http://flickr.com/photos/tfduesing/457006873/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
From Broad Street, we continued on Queen Street past the Grampian Police Headquarters then Shoe Lane where we reached King Street and turned right heading for the top of Union Street and the Castlegate.

The Salvation Army Citadel in the Castlegate
The Salvation Army Citadel in the Castlegate
The mercat cross in Aberdeen
The Mercat Cross in the Castlegate
The Town House from the Castlegate
The Town House from the Castlegate

Aberdeen in the sunshine is a truly, beautiful place. The granite buildings sparkle. After this brief photo session, we quickly returned to the library via Union Street and Union Terrace, alongside the Union Terrace Gardens.

We were a bit late getting back to the library, but not everyone who was going out to lunch was available. Once everyone was gathered by the main desk, we set out to this as yet undisclosed location. I remember we walked up Skene Terrace then kept going at the end of the street. I’m pretty sure we ended up on Huntly Street at Mi Amore (confirm with library staff) a lovely Italian, Mediterranean restaurant.

When we returned, I was given a tour of the local studies department which was the area that helped me so much with my research and will also play a role in the sequel to A Shadow in the Past.

My friend, 2009 Dundee International Book Prize winner, Chris Longmuir, came up from her seaside town by train to be there for me. We had a wee natter and I signed the copy of my book that she had bought from amazon.co.uk earlier in the year.

Another of my online writer friends, Bill Kirton popped in, too. It was brilliant to finally meet him in person. We chatted briefly before it was “show time”!

Only ten people had pre-registered for the event with the library so I was well chuffed to see more like twenty people filling the seats. I chose what I hoped was an enticing segment from early in A Shadow in the Past and began.

Reading at the Central Library
Reading at the Central Library

When I was finished my reading, I fielded questions and answers related to A Shadow in the Past and my friends, Chris and Bill, encouraged me to write a book on Home Children – possibly from the child’s point-of-view.

signing the copy for the library
Signing the copy of A Shadow in the Past for the library
Presenting the book to the library
Presenting the signed copy of A Shadow in the Past to the library

As if I hadn’t already been treated like royalty by the library staff, they presented me with a tote bag filled with books from their Local Studies Department and two Waterstones giftcards.

Receiving a gift from the library
Receiving a gift from the library

It was an amazing day. Everyone in attendance enjoyed by presentation but best of all, I sold and signed three copies of A Shadow in the Past.

When it was finally time to leave, Bill walked with us as far as Union Street where we said our goodbyes. Chris accompanied us as far as the train station where we parted company when she discovered there was a train home that she might be able to make.

Our train left shortly after Chris’s so we headed towards the platform and waited. It felt good to finally relax on the train and recall the day’s events. At the Insch station, we doddled about waiting for the car park to clear before we got in and headed for ‘home’ with a detour up to Huntly for a bite of supper (not that we needed it) so we grabbed a couple of sarnies and packets of crisps from the ASDA and a bottle of wine to replace the one mine hostess at Earlsfield cracked open when we arrived.

Later that evening, the guys cracked open mine host’s bottle of 18 year old Aberlour (after having our 18 year old Glenlivet the night before) and I carried on with wine. More than once, we toasted a successful day.

And before I forget… wait, I did forget… my bad. Anyway, better late than never, let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand