Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Home Is Where The Heart Is?

Some of you may not know I am actually Scottish by birth, not Australian.

True, I sound like an Australian when I speak (although my accent is not as strong as many I know), and I prefer AFL and Vegemite to Soccer and Marmite, but I was born in the highlands and emigrated to Australia as a small child. I've been naturalised, so I have Australian as well as my British citizenship.

As a child I wondered what Scotland was like. We didn't have the internet then, so my knowledge was limited to encyclopedia entries, pictures on postcards, and wild imaginings based on stories by relatives. This, of course, led me to believe such things as all Scots children walk 16 miles to school each day in snow 6 feet deep. I think I had my dad to thank for that one.

As I grew older, Scotland continued to call to me. I was proud of my homeland and its history. It was an almost mythical place, and I yearned for any connection. From books and movies to music and food, I lapped it all up. And then, in 1985, I returned for the first time since leaving as a 'wee bairn'.

I was not disappointed.

Scotland was truly beautiful. It was a gentle, peaceful country with generous, funny people. I felt at home, and I remember telling my parents that one day I would return to live in the UK.

I am pleased to report, that after spending the past two weeks on a road trip, Scotland is just as beautiful and the people are still the same.

We drove from Aberdeen, my father's hometown, through my grandparents (both sides) hometowns (Buckie and Cruden Bay), saw the house where my mother was born, caught up with second cousins, visited a fantastic museum which has photos and information on the trawlermen on my mother's side (including my grandfather and his brothers) and stayed for a couple of nights in Inverness, the city where I was born. We toured through the highlands, lonely, desolate, magnificent mountains dominating our landscape.

We drove past Culloden, where the Camerons fought exhausted after marching 50 miles in two days, and Cawdor, which is only a few miles from my birthplace. I guess I could have been a thane.

Macbeth too (in the play, anyway) was based in Inverness. I could have been a king.

And, of course, Loch Ness. Don't even mention I could have been a monster. You don't think I spent half my childhood hearing that one?

This has been an important time. A time of reflection and appreciation for my relatives and ancestors. A time to consider what was and what could have been. A time when I felt a connection with the land around me.

Mostly, though, it has been a time of gratitude.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sherlock Holmes Down Under.

I've had to keep this one under my (deerstalker) hat for a while, but I'm thrilled to announce my inclusion in this fantastic anthology.

'Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook' is due for release later this year. Edited by Christopher Sequeira, this collection includes stories by some fantastic authors. I am privileged to be alongside so many great names, including Lucy Sussex, Kaaron Warren, Kerry Greenwood, Lindy Cameron, L.J. M. Owen and Narrelle Harris.

The development of this project took quite some time, and I'm indebted to Chris for his determination to see this book published.  The cover is fantastic, and I can't wait to see the internal illustrations.

Keep watching this space for further details closer to its release in November through Bonnier/Echo.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

So Is This How It Ends?

Finished work at LCHS yesterday. And, for the most part, it's an odd kind of feeling.

Disappointment in not being able to follow students through their entire academic year, but a relief that the end date has been reached. It's certainly been busy over the past few weeks, both at work and at home. Lots of marking and assessment to ensure no extra work is left for my colleagues who remain at the school. And we had a visit from Ofsted.

For those who don't know Ofsted (and until late last year I didn't know much about it), they are the inspectors who visit schools and classrooms to determine their teaching and administration standards. And, certainly within the teaching world, they have achieved a myth like status for being brutal. Teachers rip their own heads off rather than face them, administrators wail at the merest mention of them, and principals become blubbering, thumb-sucking wrecks from their visits.

Yes, it was terrifying, and for someone like me who is rather new to the system, stressful beyond belief. But somehow we survived their visit. All we have to do now is await their report, and they weren't giving any clues away. Anyway, I won't be around when it's delivered. For my colleagues' sake, I truly hope it is favourable.

Last night I had a few drinks with my colleagues. My friends, actually. The English department has been wonderfully supportive, and I know I'll miss you all. And to the others who are moving on from LCHS, I wish you nothing but the greatest successes.