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We were invited by SF fans James and Fionna to come visit Dublin and Drogheda. It was so lovely to be invited and they looked after us so well.

I bought some plum and vanilla flavour gin liqueur to go with the handmade boomerang and Australian made Womat. On arrival we went with James to a giant Tescos! OMG! There I snaffled a bottle of aromatic gin, which tasted quite good. Beans bought some French red wine. It was a bit of a treat seeing the local produce and prices. I find supermarkets are really cultural that way. Maybe it’s the economics and accounting background.

Then we picked up some Indian takeaway for a late dinner. It was so yummy and be bought too much but that was fine because left overs. Fionna had found a recipe for vegan bread. It was delicious and had chopped hazelnuts in it. Tea and toast is an excellent breakfast for me! We used the last of our vegemite there.

We also met the best fannish dog, Leia, as in General Leia Organa. There was also Lego! Lego daleks!

 

On our first full day we went into Dublin for the day. It was sunny and lovely and mild. A fantastic day. We visited the Glass…cemetery which had a museum attached. Visiting Dublin you can’t help to discover the political history and the 1916 uprising. In the cemetery a number of the 1916 martyrs were buried. The museum also contained illustrations of different religions approaches to death and burial.

We had lunch at the Brazen Head pub for lunch. The photos above were from the Brazen Head. It was meant to be the oldest pub in Dublin. It was pretty touristy but we had no trouble getting a table and fed. OMG! I tried boiled bacon and cabbage. So good.

We also visited the Leprechaun museum. That was more about curiosity and it was fun but again a bit touristy. Here are some silly shots from the Leprechaun Museum.

Here is a few shots from walking around Dublin.

We ended up at the British…pub and that was a lovely place. Classy and quiet. SF fans who were coming pulled out but we had a nice drink. Then we headed back to Drogheda, a bit tired after a long day.

Sunday was going to be a our big sightseeing day, but Fionna had this cool idea to break it up as we were leaving late on Monday. She had booked us into the Kilmeianhan Gaol for a tour there at 4 pm on the Sunday. This is also linked to the 2016 uprisings as the guys that surrendered were executed in the days after for treason. It was really sad and moving. Before that she invited for a walk in the Wicklow Ranges, up the Sugarloaf Mountain to be exact. Unlike Saturday the weather turned typically Irish, light misty rain, grey clouds and not too cold.

The walk.

I did not complain! Well I don’t think anyone heard me. I did berate myself for not bringing a change of clothes. The first part involved walking through waist high ferns, which were wet from the overnight rain. The drizzle wasn’t bad at all. There were blackberries everywhere so I kept snacking. From the beginning of the walk I had no idea where we were walking. Beans said she was worried about me because I’m not a walker. I did buy hiking boots in Bergen so I can now say they have had two serious outings.

It was so beautiful there. The ferns and the mist and the view. We walked and walked. Leia came with us and the dog had so much fun, really so much fun. We did have a few worries finding the right path. I seriously earned whatever bad food I was going to eat that night. I saw the way to the summit and thought I wasn’t going to make it. After a few hours my feet were protesting. I sat down as a cloud rolled in and the others went up. I’m glad I sat the last bit out because it involved a bit of climbing. Not bad on the way up but a bit scary coming down. I took a great panoramic shot of the view when we got off the track. It shows Fionna and James and Leia while they checked the map.

The Kilmainham gaol photos. This was a very moving place where people who surrendered after the 1916 rising were executed. Here us a link to the gaol’s website. http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/dublin/kilmainhamgaol/

 

Monday

Monday was for Knowth and Newgrange, these chamber tombs. I’ve been in a chamber tomb before in Okney, but I really didn’t understand it. The guides here gave some good insights and I felt that I understood more. I think doing both together is a nice fit because there are different aspects to them. One you can look in the central chamber. We had lunch in the museum café and then it was time to collect our bags for the trip to the airport. Fionna took us up in her little, zippy Skoda and it was time to stay goodbye to Ireland.

Man these places were awesome!

Some thoughts

I will definitely come back to Ireland. I’m mostly Irish so it was good to go there for that reason. I’m glad James and Fionna invited us because it showed me how convenient it is to go there. For some reason it always seemed too hard.

Also, Ireland got me thinking about how British Australia is and how my perspective is shaped by that. We have “Give Way” signs where Ireland (and the USA) have “Yield” and in Ireland the postal boxes are green and so are the postal vans and ours a red like the UK. It got me thinking about how the victor writes the history books. While I have very Irish ancestors, their nationalism didn’t get passed on to me, the Catholicism did, although I am so lapsed, I consider myself not any religion. So Ireland got me thinking that I need to learn more about it and also come again and learn about the history, the myths and the politics.

Also, our hosts were so cute. They made me homesick for Matthew. They are as Dweebie as we are but I consider they had more books and we don’t have Lego so maybe they have way more geek cred than we do. I heart Fionna and James!

For the next few days I’m taking a break. We are staying in the Manchester region in a cute little cottage. Tomorrow we head to York for the day. I’ve been there about four times but it will be Beans’ first. Thursday I’m heading to London for the monthly SF fan meet up, the Ton. I’ll probably blog again soon. Today was meant to be a rest day, but Bean’s got restless so we decided to walk to a nearby town. On the way, besides being distracted by all the ripe blackberries, we saw a sign for a public access walkway and decided to try it. It was hilarious. We didn’t know where to go. Nothing was marked. We started fighting over which way to go and whether to reverse our steps. So our trip to Sandbach took twice as long as it should have. This is not a tourist town. They do have Heritage listed buildings and Saxon crosses and a good bar/pub for lunch.

 

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This post combines two days on daytours out of Reykjavik. The Fire and Ice Tour booked through Iceland Tours and the Grand Golden Circle Tour booked through Busland.

We had booked a Fire and Ice Tour which included a three hour trek on a glacier. I was a bit worried about this because you know I’m old, I have bad knees and I’ve got a problem with my foot. It was a pricey tour around $450 Au so probably $350 US but the description was very cool and because it was hands on we went for it.

In Bergen I had inadvertently invested a fortune in hiking boots. I thought I was spending under $200 but ended up spending just over $300. They are great boots btw. I will have to take up tramping or hiking to get my money’s worth. Doh! I had currency conversion blindness. Anyway, you can hire them from the tour company along with wet weather gear. I didn’t know this before hand. Oops!

Anyway, once in Reykjavik we got to know our way around. Our tour was picking up from BSI but the local bus doesn’t go there. I tried to change the pick up place but the office was shut. Then I discovered that on Sundays the buses don’t start until 9.55am and our tour pick up was 8 ish. So it was a taxi anyway. We waited at BSI and lots of tour buses pick up from there, Icelandic horse rides etc.

It was an effing miserable day. Raining and cold. We had only just thawed out and we were going out in that! Sigh. Our bus arrived. We were the only ones on the tour. My god we had a personalised tour!! I thought they would cancel if only two but no, Ingimundur said he was taking us.

A few things of note. Icelandic is a very musical and delightful language. I wish I had the tongue and ear  for it. We had to ask Ingimundur quite a few times to repeat his name. He gave us a very informative tour and our conversations ranged from Iceland’s economics, history and geology. On the way back he played Icelandic music for us. Beans likes a few Icelandic performers.

The Icelandic landscape is many things at once. It’s a young land geologically speaking. Mountains thrust up out of lava plains, moss covers lava fields range next to the coast near Reykjavik, clouds obscure volcanoes and glaciers blanket a large part of the country. The landscape is sometimes bleak. I thought of descriptors but words fail really to communicate what the Icelandic landscape is and also the camera really fails to deliver what the eye sees. I only had the iPhone so I apologise for that. Rugged, spectacular, raw, primal, dramatic, awe inspiring, amazing, beautiful, stark, breathe taking, breath stealing…

This post is mostly going to be photos with interspersed comments. This top one is of other people abseiling into a great effing hole in the glacier. Crazy! The second one is a Hollywood pose. I do have my feet stuck in the ice though so technically I am hanging there.

We did drink some of the water on the glacier. It was pure and cold. The guy talking to me is Ingimuntur, our guide. The view down to the river was taken on the glacier. Truly amazing sight. This glacier is Sólheimajökull glacier tongue, so just the tip of a really big glacier. It’s has ash and grit in it. From the distance the other glaciers looked white.

The bottom line is that we were both so glad to have done this tour. Walking the glacier was a pivotal moment for us, a defining moment of our trip. We had ice shoes fitted (crampons?), a harness and a ice pick thingie whatsit!

I want to say one thing. I did not complain the whole trip across the ice. I did not whinge. I did not want to spoil it for my daughter. My inner dialogue though was something else. A snippet for you. “Oh God we are not climbing up there are we?” And “OMG! We are still going up?”  And “Thank god we are going down hill! Yay!” “God I’m tired I don’t think I can lift my feet”. I did nearly tip myself into a moulin. hahaha!

These are some distance shots of the glacier.

We also saw a couple of waterfalls on the way. This one we got to walk behind (Selfoss). You did this at your own risk. There was some slippery rocks to climb over and the spray was so cold and wet too. There were other waterfalls nearby.

These other pics were of the landscape. Not good taken from the bus. There was just so much.

The hot stream was entirely bone warming despite the walk to get there. I giggled as I walked down this incredible hill, because I knew I had to walk up it. By then I was bone tired.

Moss covered lava. This lava was laid down in the year 1000. Apparently it is called Christian lava because after they converted to Christianity there was this massive eruption and they thought the old gods were angry. Iceland also has many kinds of sheep. This black sheep looked huge looming out of the mist but when we got closer it looked smaller. Ingimundur took these shots for me. My phone had run out of charge by this time. He took these of us in the stream. It was really close to nature as it had chunks of moss floating past. I thought we were crazy walking all that way in the cold and rain but when we got there there were lots of lunatics already there. And despite my laughing on the walk down, the trip back up the hill was not as bad as I expected. I suspect it was the warm bones from the hot stream.

Ingimundur dropped us back to our accommodation. We were cold, wet and tired and so incredibly happy.

The next day we had booked the Grand Golden Circle Tour. A much cheaper tour but one where we could sit on our tired butts all day. Or so we though. Our tour guide was called Aesigir and we booked with a different company.

This tour included waterfalls, geysirs and the national park, which has the continental drift space of 7000 metres in it. This was much more touristy than our glacier tour but that can’t be helped. You have to see these places. Really you do. This was an amazing waterfall, Faxi and next to it was a salmon ladder because the waterfall is too strong for the fish so they get help.

Then there was the Geysir and what looks like the bog of eternal stench. It did not smell bad at all. We got video of the geysir, Stokur, I think it’s called, going off. My daughter was taken by surprise as she wasn’t expecting it. Then it went off with three blows, then it sort of just gurgled a bit why we waited to film in and then I got film of a double whammy.

 

Then there was Gullfoss, the most famous waterfall, the Kerid crater and the National park that contains the continental drift. Part of Iceland is part of Europe and the other is on the Atlantic plate and you can see this. There is also a huge lake there.

 

And lastly, I wanted to say that Iceland is a must visit place. If you are in the north you should come see it. The culture is amazing too, being so isolated and I think the efforts to maintain the language and culture totally worthwhile. I hope in sharing this amazing country that it doesn’t change it. Here you can be close to nature, take some risks in seeing them, and be up close. The Fire and Ice Tour took us to some unspoiled places and the guide was very careful that even our footsteps did not disturb anything, particularly plants as they take a long time to grow.

Lastly a few shots of Reykjavik, taken on our last day. There is some amazing graffiti/wall art so we took a few shots.

I would love to come back and do the hiking/tramping tour to the centre. That whole area shuts down for winter. They close the roads in a couple of weeks and they don’t open until June. Next time I want to explore more widely to the Westfjords as well. Thank you Iceland!

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After partying at the Hugo Losers party, it was a slow start to Saturday at Worldcon. Thank you to WorldCon 76 and George RR Martin for a great party. Saturday for me was a panel on Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. I received an email from program ops saying the moderator for the panel was sick and could I take over as moderator. I said yes, but then put myself in stress mode. It is much easier to answer questions than it is to ask them. So while we had slept late and I did the blogging for post #6 I was hard pressed to get to Mesukeskus in time for my panel. I managed to get on the tram and brainstorm. Then I realised I left my bag of koalas and chocolates at the hotel.

The panel went really well I thought. I went to the green room first but couldn’t see any fellow panelists and we hadn’t talked beforehand. When I got there the panelists were already assembled. They were Delia Sherman (USA), Russell Smith (UK) and Elina Rouhiainen (Finland). The panel were mixed in their writing on paranormal romance and Urban Fantasy. Only Elina and I wrote paranormal romance and urban fantasy. It was interesting but in my brainstorming I came at the topic from a  romance side of things and it was good that Delia and Russell reminded me there was/is a different style, genesis of Urban Fantasy starting from Mary Shelley, but also, Charles De Lint an more recently Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. I was able to clarify the paranormal romance/urban fantasy divide from the romance perspective. It was an interesting panel for me, particularly learning about the other panelists’ work but also Elina, whose work is not translated/published in English. It was sad for me because her work sounded so interesting. Apparently it is in Finish and also translated into Chinese.

We finished that panel on time and my next assignment was the Fan Fund Auction, which as GUFF delegate I needed to attend and I had donated quite a bit of stuff. First up I have to say the fan fund auction did not go off as I expected. I had expectations that it would be fun and entertaining as they are done in Australian conventions. I also thought it would be more organised. But a few things went wrong, particularly the last minute change of venue. Jukka Halme did take time out of his busy schedule to do some auctioning but he couldn’t stay long and as there were 4-6 auctioneers it was a bit chaotic from my perspective. However, we did sell at lot of stuff and that makes it a success! I did hear that the Brits do auctions differently. I thought it was odd that I had culture shock, but that’s my fault for having expectations. A learning experience all round. As the auction took a few hours and I was on my feet, I had serious issues with my feet.

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A shot of Paul Weimer selling stuff for the Down Under Fan Fund.

IMG_8426[1].JPGMy daughter had come to bring me my Koalas and chocolates and she urged me to go back to the hotel. By the time I got there I could hardly walk and my feet were so sore and swollen I was in agony. This meant that I could not go back into worldcon in the evening for the parties. I really should have sat down instead of standing up. Again, my own fault!

My daughter made me lie down and she went out to get us take away dinner. However, just after she stepped out a massive storm hit. It was the weirdest thing. The air just went horizontal and swept over Helsinki bringing rain and lightening and wind and thunder. A nice Finish man on the tram warned us the storm was coming and told us to stay safe, but we could hardly see it and then it just hit. There were sirens and trees were blown down. I turned myself around on the bed so I could lie down and look at the sky.

My daughter came back safely but wet. She said it was rather dramatic being out in the storm. Anyway, I had an early night but was rather sad about missing the last night of parties.

The next day, the last day of WorldCon75, was walking stick day. My only seeming duty on Sunday was to be at the closing ceremony as it was on my schedule, but I had not been informed if I was to do anything so I sent a query to Events. Eventually I found out that I didn’t have to do anything, but I was invited to sit up the front in the reserved seats.

My daughter and I did the hop on hop off tour around Helsinki, before heading to the con. I got to sit on my butt which was good for my feet.

So I spent my time meeting some fans in the fan lounge and checking out the dealers room before it shut down. We caught up with our Finish friends, Thomas and Alex 11, Craig Cormick (Aus) and Robert Hood (Aus) and Lawrie Brown (Aus). I also caught up with and said goodbye to Paul Weimer and met Cora (Germany) again. I met another lady but I’m sorry to say I can’t remember her name. Forgive me!

This meant that I didn’t get to any panels as the last couple were few. I caught up with Sam Hawke as she was taking some Finish coffee and sweets back to Canberra for me. They will be sold in the Fanfund Auction at Conflux when I get back. She sent me a message this morning that she made the allowable weight by .14 of a kilo. She just scraped in.

We have weight issue because two of our flights have 15 kilo limits. One to Iceland and one to Ireland. To get some stuff home we had to beg space in other Canberran’s luggage. I was lucky that Rob Porteous and Sam Hawke came to my rescue. Now that I have been raving about Finish Blueberry flavoured coffee my daughter wants to buy some.

When the time came we went to the closing ceremony. It appears someone didn’t get the memo about being invited to sit up the front and we were tossed from our seats. My daughter went outside and I found a place somewhere else. They were very pressed for space again. The closing ceremony was full. The numbers were so encouraging because usually a lot less people go to the closing ceremony.

There were dead dog party details which was to be held in a nearby hotel. It was being sponsored by another convention. Well that was a really sad thing because we walked over there and were refused entry. Some not quite nice guy had the tough job to tell us to bugger off. It was a mistake he said. The venue was only expecting 400 people and we couldn’t go in. That’s it. So the plans to say goodbye, to celebrate a wonderful convention were destroyed. It was a sad, brutal cutting off of a lovely convention. What was said to us and how we were treated was not good. I don’t know who he was but it was so badly handled. I can’t begin to express how hurt I was feeling and how upset people were.

Really bad planning. If the closing ceremony has 1000 people then clearly you are going to have a lot of people come to the dead dog party. So heartbroken we trailed off into town.

Then I had the absolutely brilliant idea to try the Viking restaurant that Thoraiya had recommended. We found it once we had wifi access and we got in. You see there was only one waitress when we turned up. Another came to help out. We had a fab meal. We had picked up some other fans along the way but getting a table for six wasn’t going to happen quickly. So three of them peeled off leaving Lawrie Brown, my daughter and me.

Some pics of the Viking meal. Haralds was very cool. We had cider with cranberry in these cool mugs. I had beef stew in bread (like a trencher I suppose), ligonberry relish, baked garlic in tomato, parsnip mash and baked root vegetables. It was delicious and rich. My daughter got a vegan vegge/bean thing. We tried two desserts and shared them. There was also a vegan dessert by my daughter was too full. We tried tar and bramble ice cream. I will tell you a secret. It tasted like tar, or how tar smells.

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Later on Twitter I saw that the venue for the deaddog opened an upstairs bar and people were allowed in and they had a wonderful time. I am trying not to feel bad about this. I’m glad people got to go and have fun but I’m said we were turned away so callously, with no information no alternative, just go away. This was not the Worldcon 75 people doing this by the way. They were awesome. I messaged Jukka Halme about it and he was very sorry and distressed to hear what happened.

Now this morning, we are packing up. We had walk in the gardens and then a Finnish Sauna, which was quite nice. I don’t normally do sauna but I managed okay.

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I’m sad to be leaving Helsinki today. Such a great place, such lovely people, such a fantastic convention. I’m really looking forward to going to Stockholm on the ferry. I am not looking forward to moving our luggage from the hotel though. Who likes moving their luggage while on holiday? No one.

 

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I thought this post would be delayed. My head is not feeling too good. It may have something to do with the two long gins I had last night while I was at a party. I think it was the Dublin party but it was hard to tell. Or it could be the dreaded con lurgy.

Thursday I went to Messukeskus on my own. My daughter could not be brought to attend. However, she did do my hair for me. I love it. She took a photo while I was blogging yesterday and I said ‘Don’t I have resting old bitch face.’  Here are some shots of my hair. Totally frivolous of me. Usually I just have boring hair and I’m not an elegant person, but I felt it after this.

 

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I had two panels that I was appearing on so I made sure I arrived in time for those. I decided to try the tram. From our hotel it is route 9. I waited on the wrong side because that’s what my daughter and I thought was the right direction. However, I saw people with worldcon name tags on the other side so I skipped over the tracks to the otherside.

I managed to tag on with the free transport card that the city has given to all the worldcon attendees. This is a wonderful thing. Kiitos Palion to Helsinki!

I was sitting there staring into space (as you do) when I hear an Australia voice at the next stop. “How do you use your ticket?” Or something like that. I recognise the voice. It’s Cat Sparks and Rob Hood. We greet each other and then I face forward and see Janeen Webb tottering down the aisle as the tram had pulled away. So we had more greetings and I met Janeen’s friend Dena. It was a happy little group setting out to Worldcon. The tram drops us right out the front of Messukeskus. It’s a wee bit more convenient than the train, but the train is great too.

I had arranged to meet Paul Weimer before our Fan Fund panel, but first up I sat down and put my feet up in a lovely collection of easy chairs. There was an American woman doing the same so I joined her. My feet are still swelling but are thankfully not too painful.

I met some Danish fans while I was waiting for Paul by the bear. We chatted about fanfunds, I gave away chocolate koalas and I also told them about my other panel, Romance and the female gaze in science fiction. They were very keen to see that panel. I did see them there and they waved. My Finish geekgirl ribbon continues to be of interest. I think they have run out.

Paul showed up so went to grab something to eat and a coffee. We tried this little cafe, Street Food I think it is called. It had a few options and all seemed to be regional/Finish. I had a baked potato stuffed with shrimps in a dill mayonnaise. Paul had the crum chicken drumsticks with a coleslaw and the other option I saw was potato salad with bratwurst sausage. These were about 8 Euro each. Coffee was 3 Euro. The coffee (Kahvi) was filter I think. Sometimes that stuff is like sludge. My daughter tells me that Fins drink the most coffee per capita in the world. She reads the guide books. Well I think that means that Fins have caffeine in their blood. You would think that would make them quite tense but they appear quite laid back.

Paul chatted about his DUFF trip report. (He visited Australia from the USA and visited us in Canberra). He pulled out this massive document with great pictures, including the kangaroos near my place and the yummy pavlova. The fanfunds require a written report and these are sold to raise money for the fanfunds. Paul is selling his for $7US. I thought that was too cheap because it is a massive document, really. I mean really big. So I paid $15US for it as I had some money in my Paypal and it’s for a great cause and I’m really, really looking forward to seeing all those pictures of waterfalls etc. If you see Paul you should ask him how to get a copy.

We went to the Green Room to meet our other panelists. It’s a smallish room and I found it a bit overwhelming because it has people in it, people I don’t know and you are there to meet people you don’t know and that can be hard when you don’t know what they look like. However, Paul knows people and we met some people and Jonathan Strahan and then we met Ben, our chair and then the other people. We had a bit of a run through of the order of business and went to our panel. Luckily, this panel had a small audience and that made it cosy instead of daunting.

You know I’m an extrovert but maybe I lost my extrovertness somewhere. No that’s a lie! I had no trouble talking on the panel. In fact I had to stop myself from grabbing the microphone. I met Claire, who I am meeting up with in London and also Marchin from Poland who wants to run for GUFF. He said he was disappointed I did not choose to visit Poland on my GUFF trip. I said I’d like to visit Poland in my next visit to Europe.

Here is a selfie shot of the fanfunds panel, Paul, Mira, John, John and Ben.

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We were chased from the room after the panel as there was a huge crowd waiting to get in. With such a large number of people it is a huge job moving people in and out of rooms and you need to queue early if you want to get into a panel. I had another panel around three and now that I’m writing this blog post I fear I have lost time. I had more books and chocolates to drop off for the FanFund and I was lucky enough to bump into Kylie Ding who took them off my hand.

Oh now I remember, I went to the dealers room and the fan lounge because I saw there was NZ ribbons. I caught  up with Maree, who I haven’t seen for years who is representing the NZ 2020 worldcon bid. As an aside, I’ve met people who are looking forward to coming to NZ 2020 worldcon and who would like to visit Australia too, so we need to have a convention just before or after NZ 2020. I also picked up a mini Whittakers Hokey Pokey slab. Eat your heart out Russell!

I gave away more chocolates and clip on Koalas during the day. However, it was a bit of a whirl so I don’t recall. I saw some kids in costume and gave them one each. One had a Kylo Ren costume and at the Welcome to Finland Party last night we met Nina who said she had been commissioned to make two costumes. I asked if the costume had been made by Nina and the girl said yes. I think she thought I was rather strange…but that is okay.

The Romance and the Female Gaze panel was full. There were probably 10 seats vacant. That was an interesting panel. I met Carrie Vaughan beforehand in the Green Room, but we didn’t spot the other panelists or more importantly the moderator. We had not chatted via email about what we were talking about so there were a few anxious moments until Fiona turned up. She was a great moderator and had some hard and interesting questions. The panel sessions are only 45 minutes long so there wasn’t time for questions after. I had some lovely feedback afterwards and one lady came up to me and said thank you. The gist of my argument is. Why can’t we imagine a world where women can initiate sex as equals? Where there isn’t slut shaming. Maybe I was a wee bit passionate!

And the deed was done!

I went for a walk and took a shot of Gillian Polack doing her book signing. I didn’t get a chance to say hi as she was talking to a reader. I met Houston, a fellow Australian, in the queue.

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I met up with Robert Hood in the small collection of comfy chairs and he was going to see Cat Sparks in an Australian literature panel. I thought I’d join him and support my fellow Aussies. We were amazed that there was already a line forming and we were about number 70 for a room with 100 people and it was half an hour before. As the queue kept growing, I realised that I was taking the space of someone who really wanted to hear about the Australian scene and I already knew about it. So I left to go back to my accommodation and to see my daughter. On the tram, Robert said hello. He’d also had the same idea. We had fun on the tram. We didn’t have a clue where to get out. We struck up a conversation with a Belgian who was married to a Fin and they gave us advice. It all turned out well, Robert spotted his hotel and I found my stop.

I managed to convince my daughter to come back into the convention centre to the parties. An essential part of Worldcon for me is the parties. They are fun. You meet people. You perhaps drink a little or eat strange foods. At first my daughter was no, I’m not coming. I’m tired, she said. So I resigned myself to going alone and said. I really wish you were coming with me. And she changed her mind.

On the way to Messukeskus we saw a police bust. We were quite surprised. A man was stopped and pulled out of a car and placed on the ground and more police arrived. It was strange. People in the street were drinking coffee and gawping at the goings on. Helsinki, according to my daughter, is the safest city in Europe and one of the safest in the world. We had not seen a police bust before.

I thought I should take steps to meet Einar, the Icelandic fan I had made contact with. As it happened we got there early. The parties hadn’t started. We bumped into John Morris and watched him eat dinner while we drank tea. Then we hit the parties. Like the panel sessions you need to get in early. There were lots of people, the free vouchers for drinks and the food was gone. The bar started running out. Apparently there was only one type of beer left and the queue was so long.

After a bit of phone tag, I met Einar and he joined Thomas and my daughter. Einar and I went to get a drink and it was surprising the but the queue moved quickly. The bar staff were very efficient. Then John Morris and Sara Lindberg joined us so we were very multicultural. So with all the crowd around us we talked stuff. I talked convention running and Iceland with Einar. Then when it came time to leave, I called Thomas, James. OMG! Then he told me I called him something else earlier in the day. I’m so embarrassed.

Here is a shot of us.

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I must remember to call him by the correct name. Einar had left and it was then we realised it was 11.30 and there was a mad panic about whether the trams were still running. All was good though, as there were people waiting and the board said the number 9 was due.

We made it home in good time and went to sleep. I’d had two long gins and maybe…that was too much. I am slightly hungover or at least have a headache today.

My daughter asked if I mentioned the green smoothies she makes every morning. You see she had this goal of making me slimmer, healthier and possibly converted to veganism on this trip. As I normally gain weight when I travel I did not fancy her chances on any of her goals. But I do drink the green smoothies she makes. Actually, she stands over me until I drink the last drop.

Here are some photos of the smoothies my daughter lovingly prepares. They contain baby spinach, cucumber, broccoli, apple and banana and water.

I told my daughter about my blog post. She says. ‘I don’t want you to become a vegan! I want you to go on a plant based diet of six months and lose weight.’

I laughed so hard. A plant based diet is vegan!

Before shot because my daughter says it’s pretty.

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The after shot

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The me drinking the smoothie, in bed, in my nightie with my normal hair. The normal, raw me with hangover.

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Also, I should mention that one of my books, Argenterra, an epic fantasy, is free on all eretailers (Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble etc)  so if you want to try some of my fiction then help yourself.

And if you see me today at Worldcon 75, stop me and I’ll give you a koala or chocolate. Until I run out. Also, if you see me with glamour hair, that’s because I’m presenting a Hugo Award later on tonight.

 

 

 

 

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Today was the big day. Time to find the way to Messuskeskus (the convention centre) on the train, register and then hang around a meet people while waiting for the opening ceremony.

We had another hotel breakfast, but this time I went for the porridge instead of meatballs, franks and eggs. I also indulged in one of the bread rolls. The Fins really do bread in a big way.  So many kinds of bread. Also, this morning there are more fans here at the hotel. Beans and I made the train okay. It is only one stations and all the trains go to that station (Pasila). We could have taken a tram too.

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As part of our registration we were given a travel pass for free travel for the week. So excellent! First up, I didn’t have a membership. Somehow wires were crossed and it wasn’t processed whatever. It was sorted pretty quickly after I chased down Jukka Halme who was able to vouch for me. All my program stuff was fine so just a glitch. Registration was pretty efficient and I was able to get my badge printed out how I liked.

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There are many Australians at this conventions and also many Canberrans. You could say that there was an infestation of Australians here.

I was pretty overwhelmed at first at the con today. My job as GUFF delegate is to meet people. Preferably people I don’t know. So I can’t just hang with people I know although I can chat and stuff. It was good to have the support network there from the Australians and I really appreciate them and also my daughter to look out for me. Eventually I settled down and was able to meet people. I have a bag with the Australian flag and I have caramel koalas, cherry ripes and clip on Koala bears to give away. They make a nice ice breaker I guess.

So after registering we went in search of tea. Not much was open before 10 am but we found a place and I drank tea. Tea is my life’s blood so I’m finding the lack of tea disturbing. I may have mentioned this in a previous post. Then we walked about checking out the place.

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I pointed out George RR Martin, who was just sitting there by himself to my daughter. I think of myself as an extrovert, but I have fits of shyness. I’ve seen George around at all the worldcon I’ve been to. I’ve not been introduced so I can’t just rock up and say hi. Although I did work up the courage to give him a clip  on Koala and then slink away.

I caught up with Paul Weimer, the DUFF delegate, and handed over some books I promised and a bag of caramel koalas, a few NZ chocolate fish. We also took a bag full of books, Tim Tams and NZ chocolate to Gillian and Kylie’s room so they can be auctioned off on Saturday at the Fan Fund auction. Must earn back the $ spent on bringing me here. Then we had lunch, checked out the dealers room and met people.

I met Rikka, who told me there is a Geekgirl group in Finland. She have me a Fake Geek Girl ribbon and a Feminist ribbon and told me I could get a Finish one. I had to find it and after tweeting and asking about I found their table next to the Dublin World Con Bid table. I was so pleased.

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Meanwhile I was chatting up Finish people and asking how to say things like…how do I say I come from Australia? Olen kotoisin Australiasta.

After checking out the place, I met up with Joshua, who is involved with running the Hugos and with John Purcell, who is the TAFF delegate. We are presenting a Hugo together and Joshua wanted photos for the Hugo Booklet. Also, Joshua wanted to make sure we had the script for the ceremony and our Hugo’s ribbon. We chatted for  a bit and then as John and I were involved in the opening ceremony we had to make our way there. I was making my way to the prep room and I was stopped by a woman who demanded I get to the back of the line. I had to explain that I was participating in the ceremony. I can understand people’s frustrations in queues when people seemed to be pushing in. As it was we were sorta in the wrong place. However, it couldn’t be rectified because the section reserved for us was full anyway so we missed most of the performances as we were backstage.

Here is a shot of Jukka Halme in horns backstage.

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I talked to this Finish lady called Vanessa and she taught me out to say ‘I love Helsinki’ and I gave her chocolate. Then it was our turn to be called out on stage. The Fins have been lovely to us fan fund delegates. They included us in the opening ceremony so we got to stand up there in front of a thousand people with the guests of honour. Amazing. Then we got to say a few words.

I have to admit as soon as I got the email saying we were expected to say a few words it worried me. What few words should I say? My daughter had been teaching me to say “Good day, my name is Donna Maree Hanson, pleased to meet you in Finish. She suggested I say that. During the day and last night we added more Finish to my repertoire and rearranged it. So I was pretty nervous and Finish is a hard language but I gave a little speech in Finish. (I was told I was understandable!). I was supposed to translate it too but forgot as I was nervous.

This is the English version of what I said.

Good day. My name is Donna Maree Hanson. I am from Australia. Pleased to meet you. I am happy to be here. Thank you very much. I love Helsinki!

Pretty standard but I practiced and practiced it. There was cheering. I hope I did not say anything rude!

I was still shaking ten minutes later. The room was packed out and I understand people missed out on the opening ceremony, which is sad. It is also strange I think because often people don’t come to the opening ceremony.

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After the opening ceremony was a tea and chat session with George RR Martin and Peter and Emma Newman. It was called Live Tea and Jeopardy. It was fun and clever. Emma was hilarious.

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After that for me it was catch up with people, then have dinner, then hang around for the parties, which I did. We met more Fins, chatted, drank a long gin and then folded pretty early and was home by ten. Tomorrow I might be later. I’m not sure.

 

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Sunday we moved from the wonderful Hilton at the Airport (with its tea and coffee making facilities) to Hotel Arthur via the train. But first, the buffet breakfast at the Hilton was to die for. My daughter who is vegan was amazed. They had seeds and nuts and she was over the moon about them. I discovered a local specialty-rice pancakes.

So to prepare for out trip to the city we did a reconnoiter sans luggage. Pushing and carrying that much stuff is exhausting to getting the lay of the land first was a good plan. Also we didn’t need to check out to 12 and we were awake and in need of exercise. We walked back to the airport terminal and spotted one of the little supermarkets I had read about in the Progress report. There I bought a SIM for my phone that gives me phone and internet access. Yay! I did not need to sign a register or give out all my life secrets to obtain a SIM card. So different to Australia.

Then we went looking for the train. We had to get directions being brain dead with jetlag. We discovered we needed to use the lift to get down and found that too. Then we had more tea before doing the deed. The trip into Helsinki was lovely and smooth on very new looking trains. Our accommodation was within walking distance of central station. I admit to getting lost but fortunately my daughter, Beans took control. The Hotel Arthur is a quaint old place. Our room was ready early and we negotiated the lifts, which looked like fridges and were as big as a fridge too and found our way to our room.

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Lift that doubles as a fridge

The room is as cute as a cupboard. Inside is just right for us and the shower is really good once you figure out the handwaving technique to get it started (it has a sensor switch) and stop crying when it turns itself off.

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Our little room at the Hotel Arthur

The only downside is there is no hot water jug or tea making facilities. I find the lack of tea making facilities disturbing…

We went downstairs and begged for some hot water which we transported in paper cups to our room. I feel now that I am getting acquainted with my uncaffeinated self. I’m telling myself while I sip water that I shall be improved in health after I have totally got used to not being able to sip tea in bed in the mornings. Meanwhile, I’m pouncing on coffee as I find it.

Our big plan was an outing to Tallinn, Estonia, which is a couple of hours by ferry from Helsinki. Our first plan was to look around but at the same time work out where the ferry left from and time how long it would take to walk there. So we headed off. It was quite a walk, around 35 mins. Longer going there because we didn’t know where we were going.

Helsinki is so lovely. We walked down to the docks and we bought giant mutant black cherries grown in Holland. Actually, probably not mutant but so big, they were like small plums and so yummy and also blueberries. There were lots of things to buy but we didn’t. Mostly because our flights to Iceland involve 15 kilos checked bags and it’s going be tough with what we have. Looks like no shopping until UK in the last two weeks of this odyssey. I’ll put up some photos of the walk. We found the Viking Line Terminal and then timed the walk back with some adjustments for time out for photos. We figured we needed 30 mins to walk to the ferry, allowing half an hour for check in time.

Cue photos of Helsinki

 

 

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Then we went for dinner at a Nepalese place close by. It was so good and so much food I was fit to burst. Then we went to bed early. Like 9 pm. It was still light outside.

Man, that night was the longest of the longest nights. I woke up at 1.30am thinking it was 5 am. Then I woke up on the hour and couldn’t really sleep. By the time Beans woke up I was exasperated. We had breakfast at 6.30am so we could start our journey on time. We had booked breakfast on the ferry so we planned two breakfasts, mostly because we didn’t know breakfast came with the room.

The hotel breakfast is not as luxurious as the Hilton but it is still pretty good. Rice pancakes, little franks, meatballs, scrambled eggs etc. Loads of bread of all kinds. You could seriously eat yourself to death with the bread. Coffee. Tea! Cheese, salami, fruits, yogurts, porridge etc. I took a food photo so beware.

Then we set off at a quick pace for the ferry. It was faster than we expected, but it was weird. The terminal was pretty quiet. We arrived to find our ferry cancelled. OMG! Cancelled? Something we had not anticipated. Technical fault the Viking Line said. And the next trip was 11.30 am and already fully booked. So we were told to find one of their competitors. So we sat in terminal thinking up what to do next. In the end we went walking on the other side of the docks looking for an alternative. It did not help that there were no people. Everything was closed. Then we realised that you need to book online that people did not come at 9am. We also couldn’t read the signs so we just couldn’t work it out. It was very frustrating and disappointing. Finally we tried booking online as there was a 10.30am ferry. But the Direct Ferries site wouldn’t let us book for a ferry leaving that day. Then we tried direct to the provider site but it wouldn’t let us book that one, only the 1.30pm one and we tried that but didn’t work either. Then I googled Catamaran and found the Linda Line. We’d been at the Linda Line terminal earlier but didn’t understand the signs and didn’t think they did Tallinn (but they all do we realised later). So we tried booking a 10.00 am trip and we got it almost booked then my bank wanted a netcode to authorise the transaction. I was on my Finland sim. Oh no! We were so close.

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Spotted this while searching for a ferry to Tallinn. Thank you Helsinki!

We decided to hurry to the Linda Line terminal to book in person. Only one person there doing check in. No sales booths. I’m nearly in tears, Beans tries to book with her credit card. Meanwhile people are queuing to board the 10.00 am and we are in the check in line. The transaction goes through and we could line up.

Yay! Celebrations. We were on our way to Tallinn and we could meet up with Cat and Jonathan and Aidan after all. It was a bit choppy. The catamaran is small. All was doing fine and I checked the time 11.18am. I thought it will be over soon as the advertised time was just over 1.5 hours. That was highly optimistic. About this time, the catamaran turned into vomit fest. Kids puking and the poor parents. Then a guy behind us starts to go and the smell hits us. Beans and I leap out of our seats. Me being sympathetic and all start to feel unwell. Beans can’t sit down. I go out the back. It’s a bit bumpy and wet but it was better than heaving. I spent the rest of the journey clinging to the rail and watching the horizon. I visited the loo before disembarking and there was vomit on the carpet and the walls. Oh dear.

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The Karolin-Catamaran

Tallinn

What a lovely place! I could have bought such cute souvenirs but as stated previously baggage allowances prevented it. Here we had lunch in middle eastern food.

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Me at the restaurant

It was so good. Beans enjoyed hers and I had beef with peanut sauce. I tried to contact Cat but my internet didn’t work in Estonia and there was no wifi as far as I could tell.

 

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The old town in Tallinn was so pretty and quaint. Cue photos. Then near the Tourist Information Centre I found free wifi and found Cat and the location of the public loos. OMG! The loos from hell. They weren’t quite the worst in the world, but they public loos consisted of two Portaloos with like an open container of sewerage. There was no water to wash your hands. I’m so white privileged. When Beans had to use them it was hilarious. She went in and came back out again, hyperventilating. She couldn’t but then the other one with a broken lock was in better form so it got sorted in the end.

We met up briefly with Cat, Rob, Jonathan, Francis, Aiden and Alex and walked around with them for a bit.

IMG_8291[1] By then my foot was paining me so I had to get out my walking stick. I haven’t quite worked out how to use it yet. We went up to get a good view and then parted ways. Our catamaran was leaving at 5.00 pm. Our previous plan was to catch a 8 pm ferry back and have dinner there. We were grateful for our time in Tallinn. Even though it was an adventure and a half getting there.

The trip back was smooth as anything and no vomit! So the weather must have been bad then in the morning. I heard that it rained in Helsinki but it was very pleasant weather in Tallinn.

Finally, we made it back to Helsinki and then walked back to our rooms. There we both discovered we had swollen feet, mine sore foot was really swollen. It is probably just the flights combined with cobble stones. We bandaged up my foot and crashed out.

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Pear shaped ankle

I can say that we both slept really well and our body clocks have caught up with us.

 

 

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I was bright eyed and bushy tailed yesterday.

This morning not so much.

Of course there are a number of reasons for this. Yesterday afternoon I sent off Ungiven Land (The Silverlands Book 3) for proofreading after quite a while working through the toughest edits yet. It was going to take me a lot longer but on Sunday I hit of spot of chapters that had light edits and I pushed through them and built up some momentum. That left yesterday morning to finish it off. I had some family obligations during the day, but after that I did some more tinkering and sent the book off. It’s a bloody long book at 145,000 words.

Then yesterday evening, I picked up the revision I was doing of Bloodstorm (Dragon Wine Part 4) without much recollection of how much more I had to do. Well, I was further along than I thought so I pushed through and sent that book off to the editor last night. It’s a shorter novel at just under 90,000 words. I think I have more work to do on a battle scene but the edit will help with that I think. It gives me a month to think about it and make notes. I needed to push it off my plate as I have important PhD stuff to do.

So you would think after an excellent sleep that I’d be ready to roll and full of vim and vigour. Obviously my stories are still in my head. I was thinking about both of them while driving and drove right past two turns offs to my university and didn’t realise until I made a t-junction. Oops! So I had to go to another entry and park in a different spot. Then I realised I hadn’t brushed my hair. This called for emergency coffee and I hope  it kicks in soon.

After having these deadlines I don’t think I like them. I had listed Ungiven Land for pre-order on Amazon. For some strange reason beknownst only to my back brain I put down 31 May 2017 as the delivery date. However, I had not allowed enough time for processing proofreading changes so I had to push it back by two weeks. Amazon lock you out of the file about 3-4 days before release btw. I have had now had my pre-order privileges revoked for one year because I pushed back the date. Thank god for that. I can’t be tempted to put in hard dates that give me stress. I don’t want to do that again because that deadline plus the ones I had with the editors really put the pressure on.

As I don’t have more fiction planned other than putting up books of which I have the rights back, I’m going to give deadlines a miss for a while. I have my PhD novel to think about.

Fingers crossed I get some covers this week because Shatterwing and Skywatcher are ready to go. Deathwings and Bloodstorm the next two parts of the Dragon Wine series are coming soon.

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