Change: as good as a rest

Well, Iceland is beautiful.The landscapes you find there just by driving down the main roads is amazing. It’s not even something you have to hunt for off the beaten track. I mean, look at it…

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We decided that this year we’d do something different for a holiday. Rather than find somewhere hot and read by a pool for a week, we would go for an adventure. Iceland is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit. Partly for the scenery, and largely for the Northern Lights. Seeing the Northern Lights is one of my bucket list items. I can only imagine what it must be like to see them in person, dancing in the sky like ribbons of light. So flights and a hotel were booked, warm clothing was purchased, and off we went!

And did I see the lights?

Of course not.

Every single website and travel magazine on visiting Iceland repeatedly takes pains to point out there is no guarantee of seeing them when you visit. Unfortunately for us, we weren’t lucky this time. The weather wasn’t too bad, we had clear nights, it was just that the Lights didn’t show up for our week there.

Am I bummed? A little. How could I call the trip wasted when it consisted of views like this…img_0028

Or this…img_0070

Or this…img_8122
The entire country, at least the bits we saw, is breathtaking. We at least got snow, which covered the landscape in pure, white brilliance that didn’t melt for the entire week. It froze instead, which make walking an endurance test in most places, but that was a small prize to pay for the crystalline beauty that covered the world.

But my god, the wind! We were getting 46km/h gusts at points. We traveled down to Vik on the south coast on the Thursday and nearly lost one of the car doors to a gust. Literally. It almost came off the hinges and wouldn’t close. We had to call our emergency breakdown service and then drive to a garage whilst holding the door shut so they could fix it.

(Let this be a lesson in getting full insurance when renting a car, as doing so saved us over £1000 in repair fees for that one.)

But one thing this holiday lacked, in comparison to a beach holiday, was  reading/writing time. Normally I take a bag full of books with me, along with the Kindle App loaded onto my iPad. And I also fit in a large chunk of writing as well. This time the only reading I had time for was a little before bed. It felt odd. I don’t think I’ve ever had a holiday where I didn’t spend a large amount of my time reading. At least since I’ve been a teenager. One of the main points of a holiday has always been to relax and read.

The other thing way this differed from a traditional “summer” holiday is that by the end of it I was exhausted. By the time I got home I could literally barely think. I actually got quite worried that this trip wouldn’t have given me the rest I’d been needing, and would go back to the day job even more drained than I had been before, which in turn would lead to no energy for writing in my free time. Before I’d left I’d hit a wall with my new book and simply couldn’t see a way past, and was hoping the holiday would allow me to break through.

But it looks like I worried in vain. Yesterday lunchtime I sat down, and while I didn’t write any new words I was able to open up my notebook and start spilling out plot summaries and ideas, breaking down the first half of my new book in a way which seems to be allowing me to begin seeing past the block and into the second half!

So it looks like a change is as good as a rest. And even if you’re exhausted after your holiday, a week of sunrises like this really will refresh you mind.

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International Women’s Day

It’s International Women’s Day, so let’s take a moment to share and celebrate some of the awesome women writers out there. And having looked through my bookshelves I’ve decided to share a series by one of the authors my mother introduced me to way back when I was a teenager; Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark is Rising Sequence’.

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‘The Dark is Rising Sequence’ is an award winning contemporary interpretation of ancient celtic and Arthurian legends. Consisting of five novels written between 1965 and 1977, the Sequence tells the story of several children drawn into an ancient conflict between good and evil that dates back to the time of King Arthur.

This series really stuck with me when I first read it. So much so that it became one of those series that, once I had moved out and begun building my own library, I immediately looked out and purchased my own hardback copy. Cooper pulls together aspects of traditional Arthurian stories, celtic myths and legends, Welsh and British history and weaves them into a story that acts as both a wonderfully realised adventure story in its own right, and also as a perfect introduction to British fantasy traditions and stories that encouraged me to continue on into these stories that have been around for so many centuries, and how different writers now interpret them.

(Just avoid the film adaptation. Seriously, don’t even try. It’s not even bad enough to be good. You’ll regret both the wasted time and your life choices.)