Oh I do like to be a côté de the seaside!

31 May The Cote d'Azur

After a very long winter I finally managed to get away on holiday to somewhere hot and sunny – which means that you are in for a photo post. You can revel vicariously in my photos of sun, sea and quirky ceramics, or you can just skip this one if it would make you too envious.

Continue reading

Don’t give up the day job

3 May

I’ve just had an article accepted in principle by a history magazine. How much will I be paid for this meticulously researched piece of work (once I’ve actually written it)? Nothing, nowt, nada and nil. This isn’t as unusual as you’d think, and in this case I don’t mind because it’s on a subject related to Rambles Round Glasgow, so it counts as free advertising. But it’s another example of the complaint I increasingly find myself making: there’s no money in writing.

Continue reading

Being professionally interesting

23 Mar

I sometimes think I should get business cards made that list my work as “professionally interesting”. Part of being an author means that I always have a random fact or interesting anecdote about anything that comes up, and it also means that I spend time at events, on the radio or in print, talking about the most interesting aspects of my books, my research or even just myself. (I have had an unusually full, interesting and long life for someone who likes to think she’s in her early 30s.)

Continue reading

The romance of the railways

20 Mar

I was listening to an audiobook of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes yesterday when there was a line so intoxicating that I had to stop in the street, rewind it, and then quickly google it before I forgot it (because it’s hard to mark a page in an audiobook).

There are lots of arresting lines in Something Wicked – more than there are events, so far (it seems to be more of a mood piece, although the newly arrived carnival has promise). But this one struck me particularly because of the romance that it conjured up about trains in the night, a romance that I am susceptible to myself, nighttime or not.

To be clear, I’m not a big steam train enthusiast and I don’t hanker for the ‘golden age’ of the railways (although ‘Railway Fever’ will be a chapter in my distantly forthcoming book about Glasgow’s bridges), but I still feel the pull of the rails. I’ve quoted a poem about trains before on this blog, and I initially wondered if Bradbury was quoting a poem, too.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes see the destinations of long-distance trains on the board, or hear their calling points being announced (“Exeter St David’s, St Austell, Truro”, “Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Loch Awe, Oban”) and want to just jump on them instead of going wherever I’m meant to be going. And of course, I went on my big Interrail adventure last year.

All of which, I think, justifies a whole blog post just to quote a few lines about trains;

“Way late at night Will had heard – how often? – train whistles jetting steam along the rim of sleep, forlorn, alone and far, no matter how near they came. Sometimes he woke to find tears on his cheek, asked why, lay back, listened and thought, Yes! they make me cry, going east, going west, the trains of far gone in country deeps they drown in tides of sleep that escape the towns.”

Ray Bradbury

Why Ashes? Why Wednesday?

22 Feb

I’ve just had a wee explainer piece published on Premier Christianity all about Ash Wednesday. As its origins lie in early church history (which is ancient history), it’s very much my field.

Continue reading

Rambles Round Glasgow – new and (hopefully) improved!

13 Feb

After being somewhat secretive about it last year (it was a surprise for my father), I am now making a screeching change of direction and telling all and sundry that I have a new version of Hugh MacDonald’s Rambles Round Glasgow coming out.

Continue reading

A Blaise of Glory

31 Jan

If you read my review of 2022, you may remember that it wasn’t a great year in reading for me. This year, however, has started with three absolute bangers – although I actually started reading them in 2022. The other two were The Martian and Wool, both of which I started in December, but this blog post is about Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, which I read slowly over the course of the year.

Continue reading

My year in review – 2022

31 Dec

Objectively, this has been a bit of a bad year for me healthwise, relationshipwise and careerwise. Subjectively, though, it’s doesn’t seem like a bad year, mostly because I finally managed the mega interrailing trip (see the Travel section) and I spent the whole year working on a project that really interested me.

Continue reading

Catching up with Christmas films

20 Dec

Last year, I came across a list of Christmas films (I think it may have been one of those cheap-to-make countdown programmes that they fill schedules with, but I don’t remember) and was surprised by how many I hadn’t seen. I mean, I have seen a lot of Christmas films, and deliberately avoided a lot of others (anything Hallmarky) but there are still quite a few significant gaps, apparently.

Continue reading

Escape from Ward 66

12 Dec

I was planning to blog about Christmas films round about now. I was planning to do a lot of things this month, but ended up spending the start of it in hospital instead. That really messes with your diary and your to-do list, I find. Anyway, I’m still feeling very wobbly, but I’m out of hospital now, and I thought I would share with you all the things I like about not being in hospital, so that you can appreciate them too. Unless you’re reading this from hospital, of course, in which case you have my sympathy.

Continue reading