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Posts Tagged ‘SF fans’

This is a hodgepodge post. Warning it is a photo fest!

I haven’t written a post for a bit and everything flows together and making it difficult to recall everything. I was recently arrived in Manchester last post. Since then I’ve visited London for a night, then Bath for three nights and I’ve settled near Brighton with a day trip to London, a day before the terrorist bombing at Parsons Green.

On GUFF related stuff I went to London to meet up with the TUN, who meet on the first Thursday of every month at the Bishop’s Finger, London Circle. The lovely Claire and Mark put me up for the night. I caught a Virgin Train from Manchester Piccadilly. I had prebooked it so it was 22 pounds, but the train ticket from Holmes Chapel to Manchester Piccadilly was 11 pounds. I don’t know how the Brits bear it. The cost of train tickets here is ridiculous and it’s not even that good.

Claire met me at the train at Euston Station and she took me for a walk to the British Museum. I only had a day pack so that worked well. You have to line up to be searched to enter the museum these days and they don’t allow big bags with wheels. So we didn’t have too much time so we did a quick raid on the Egyptian exhibition. The Rossetta Stone was four deep in people so I only got a passing glance at that. A lot of the exhibitions were crowded with people either taking photos or standing next to the exhibitions. I had a quick fix of mummies and amazing statuary and then we headed to Holborn to the pub. It was great  walking around the streets of London. I wanted to stay in London for a week just to walk around and get acquainted with the place but time ran out when we were booking things.

Claire bought me a pint of cider and we headed upstairs to where the Tun meet.

The TUN meeting was pretty amazing really. So many people coming in and it was quite vibrant and alive with talk. The room they meet in is upstairs and quiet, until it is filled up with SF fans. I met up with Kylie Ding, met Caroline, who I had not met and Patrick McMurray, who I hosted as a GUFF delegate years ago. Fiona Moore showed up and we hugged. We met at Worldcon and were on a panel together.

I wasn’t meant to be meeting there but Patrick’s plans to be in Ireland were tossed on the scrap heap. I met more people, like Nicholas who sounds like Liam Neeson and others but I can’t remember everyone’s name. I had a meal of bangers and mash. The bangers were pork, apple, mustard and were very nice. Here is a pic of me and Fiona Moore.

This is Kylie and another expat Aussie, who embarrassingly I can’t remember her name.

Caroline took this shot of me and Claire.

And I took a room shot later when it filled up.

A side note here. After keeping my weight reasonably under control, I seemed to have ballooned. It must be because my daughter isn’t making me green smoothies anymore. It could also be the presence of so much roasts and bangers and mash.

After the Tun meeting we got on a train to Claire and Mark’s place, where I had a loft room and a great big bed. I was a bit sleepless and I don’t know why. I have had a few of these weird nights on this trip and then after some cold brewed coffee and toast and jam I was on my way back into London to meet up with my daughter in Bath.

I’ve been to Bath a number of times and this visit was to meet up with Cheryl Morgan who lives outside of Bath and for my daughter to take in the sights. Bath was a totally weird experience this time, mostly because we are stupid!

We booked an AirBnB which we found after a post from Craig Cormick. We loved the pictures and we didn’t read any of the fine print. After staying near Manchester in that lovely little cottage that sadly was without WifI or a washing machine, we were hanging out for the next self catering Air BnB with WiFi and a washing machine. This quirky BnB was in a small village about 7.5 miles out of Bath. I arrived by train and found a bus to meet them out there. I getting stressed messages from my daughter. She doesn’t want to stay at the AirBnB and asked me to book her and N another one. I’m like What? And can’t you wait till I get there and at least look at it first.

The AirBnB was a lovely quaint cottage with creaky floors, very weird plumbing and was not self-catering and we couldn’t use the washing machine. I read all the fine print belatedly and realised it was more like a traditional Bnb with cooked breakfast. My daughter is vegan so I hadn’t even communicated that. Anyway, it got sorted. There was a shower in one of the bedrooms, sort of a cupboard space really and our loo was by the kitchen. It was a pump thing so every time you went and flushed, a massive sound clanged through the house that you have just been. One morning we all couldn’t bring ourselves to do serious business because the landlady was in the kitchen cooking and we had to go into to town and find a café. Breakfast was served in conservatory, very pretty, but there was no mobile phone coverage but there was wifi. The landlady said she didn’t cater for vegans. A bit sad really because she didn’t ask what she could do but because I hadn’t read the fine print I take the blame. She did let us put food in the fridge though and we could have asked her to cook my daughter the mushrooms we brought. But basically we spent as little time there as we could. A shame really, I thought it was pretty.

I met Cheryl Morgan on Saturday for lunch and we had planned to take in the Dragon Exhibition as a thing to do. We met at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. I bought a book for my granddaughter, Madds, Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. From there we found a nice café for lunch. Cheryl thankfully requested an inside table as she thought it would rain and it did, quite heavily. Being Bath it fined up again pretty quickly. We caught up on stuff. We were both at the Worldcon in Helsinki but didn’t get to talk much. Cheryl had been busy organising the web text feed for the Hugos. Cheryl talked a bit about her radio spot she does in Bristol and how busy her work as been. I was very privileged to be a social outing for her as she had to come into Bath to meet me. Thank you Cheryl! Cheryl has come into town on previous visits and has always been a wonderful native guide.

A shot of cider from lunch, a selfie with Cheryl and the lovely view from her special spot under the Pultney Street Bridge.

We walked down to the Victoria Gallery to see the Dragon Exhibition. There was some wonderful work there. The exhibition was centred on children I believe and a lot of the illustrations were from children’s books. As it was raining when we finished, we took in the permanent exhibition too. Here are some of the art that was painted on the wall. There was an app that went with this exhibition where you find eggs. We hunted around for a couple and found them. I later found all but one before leaving Bath.

Meanwhile my daughter and N had done the hop on hop off bus and been to the Roman Baths. There had been a queue at the Bath’s which was off putting. They told me they pulled up in the bus just have the rain and the queue had disappeared so they got straight in. Cheryl and I walked around to the Putney Street Bridge and Cheryl showed me her favourite spot where I took these lovely photos. Cheryl also took me to an independent  craft beer place where I bought some cider before we said good bye. I met up with my daughter and N and then we did more sight seeing before heading back to the village and the pub for dinner.

Here are a few shots from around Bath and the Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms. Also it was the Jane Austen Festival so I got a few shots of the parade. It was huge, all the way up Milsom Street.

N had to leave us on Sunday to go back north for work. He dropped us to our bus tour, which was going to take us to Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock and Castle Combe with a few things inbetween. My daughter woke up sick and it was a close call whether we would go, but she rallied and we went. We had a bit of an issue with Beanie’s sickness at Avebury and despite this Beans had a fab time. I’ve been to all these sites before but I hadn’t been to Castle Combe. It was a delight to see that and also to experience these places with my daughter. Here is some photos from all of these places.

I hope you don’t go crazy seeing all these photos. There is so much to see in the UK and it’s impossible to do it all. This first lot are from Stonehenge. It looked smaller than I remembered. There is also a new set up now that you park and shuttle buses take you to the stones. There is a museum and cafe now. Apparently visitor numbers have skyrocketed to millions. Soon they will build a tunnel so you won’t see the stones from the road. People slow down for a look and it causes traffic jams. They were right we saw one.

These next are from Avebury. I love this place. We didn’t get to go to the manor house which is worth it, but we did get to walk among the stones and the guide was good too. The last two shots are of the shop.

It was quite cold so I invested in another set of beanie and mittens.

Next stop Lacock. We didn’t get to go into the manor, not enough time and they were filming in there. Also there is the Talbot museum which I’ve seen before but not this time. We did the film tribute thing having a tour of the town. Some of the buildings are very old.

This street shot above is where Harry and Dumbledore materialise in Godrick’s Hollow.

The oldest house in Lacock.

This house has witches crosses on the roof.

These are from the small village of Castle Coombe, with the small market cross and the Norman knight buried in the church.

When we got back to Bath after the tour we wondered around for a bit, not for a moment thinking we should check what time the buses left. It turns out that the last bus departed at 6.00pm and we were stuck in Bath unless we caught a cab, which we had to do. It was $26 pounds plus a tip. We then rocked up to the Butchers Arms for dinner to be told they stopped serving food at 3.00pm. We were over it by this time and just went back to the BnB and bed. Next day checkout. So checking out is always a hassle.  You have to pack, gather up your crap, check that you have your crap etc. Complications include being in a remote village with a less than frequent bus service and schizo rain storms and wild winds. We sat in the observatory and watched the weather and formulated plans. We were to check out at 12 but our train didn’t leave until 2.36 from Bath Spa. We had our massive bags so no chance of doing anything. Watching the weather we both decided it was a cab job. Unfortunately we had not counted on the lack of mobile phone coverage. Eep! Just as I said this to Beans, I had one bar on my phone. I dared not move so I sent Beans running for the taxi’s phone number and booked a cab. Phew!

We arrived in good time with a nice, chatty private taxi driver who delivered us to the door of Bath Spa train station. Then we tried to sort our tickets. Beans noticed that our taxi driver couldn’t restart his car. He still hadn’t started his car when we moved upstairs to the station. We felt bad for him. There is this little café called Dashi on Station number two at Bath Spa. They have vegan sushi and their sandwiches aren’t bad either. We settled in there. Bean’s tummy was still a bit unsettled unfortunately. Lots of acid pain for her. Me I enjoyed my chicken and corn sandwich that was so fresh. We stocked up at that café for the journey, a lucky thing as none of our trains had food services on them.

We had reserved seats, supposedly near the luggage racks. When our train was on the notice board it said no reserved seats and that the train was formed of two coaches. It was the Portsmouth service and we had to change at Fratton. I’d never heard of Fratton so looked it up. It’s near Portsmouth. I was concerned about the two coach train and the number of people on board and the no reservation notice. When the train came it was every man for himself and every woman. I was surprised how aggressive people were getting on the train. The woman in front of me was trying to push the train conductor out of the way to get in. Obviously he stood still for two long. We had two big bags and other luggage and it was hectic getting on board. I made a comment about Brits and queues and this old lady turned around and sneered. Not likely. What has happened here? I looked up the population statistics and the population had increased by 6 million. That can put pressure on infrastructure.

Anyway, on the train we tried to move along the aisle to put our luggage in the little space. There was a Japanese man with his bag in the aisle and I couldn’t get passed and he wouldn’t move his bag. I had a crowd of people behind me so couldn’t move. A man switched seats so I could sit down but basically there were three huge bags blocking the aisle. People could squeeze past which worked but basically it stayed pretty packed behind me with people standing. Beans was standing and I wanted her to take my seat because she was sick but she wouldn’t. Eventually the ticket inspector came and said we couldn’t block the ailses with our bags. By this time I was pretty cranky. This is a private train company. Why on earth were there only two coaches for all these people? What the actual? This is a joke. It’s expensive and it’s bad. Great Western Railway sucks donkey balls.

Then we missed our connection. We had seven minutes to climb up the platform and change trains. I stressed about that but we were ten minutes late. Then we were told the train was coming, then it was cancelled and we were told to go to Barnham. We were on a Southern service so Great Western Railway weren’t interested in us. There was a big issue with the trains due to a breakdown so it was chaos everywhere. We rang Nick to tell him where we were and where we were being sent. We weren’t alone so that was actually comforting with other passengers equally bewildered.

Once in Barnham we caught a Brighton train and all went to plan. We arrived and then collected by Nick. Nick is Mathew’s cousin and he is spoiling us. It’s wonderful and relaxing just to be hanging here near Brighton. We’ve been to the Laines, the Brighton Museum and I had a prebooked sewer tour. Beanie bailed on that so I went alone. Here are some shots from around Brighton, then London.

Big storm brewing over Brighton and Hove.

This is where I climbed out of the sewer.

We did a day trip to London on Thursday and walked from London Bridge to St Pauls where we got on an tour bus, then we walked from 221B Baker Street to Marble Arch via Marks and Spencer. Marks and Spencer is bra heaven. It was also cold so I bought a jacket and a scarf. I could not bring myself to buy another beanie and gloves. We did not use the metro but we did see lots of police activity.

We saw the Tower Bridge Open from the Thames.

Next morning there was a bombing at Parsons Green on a metro train. We watched that on the news for a bit but it gets too overwhelming so we turned the tv off and continued with our plans.

We went to the Bluebell Railway in nearby by Sheffield Park. Steam trains! It was an amazing set up. They have a train station, actually they have three and the trust bought up the tracks and restored them. We took a steam train to East Grinstead. We checked out the shed with all the old engines and the museum. We were a bit confused about the time the train left and I heard the whistle and said what’s that? We went outside and saw the train pull away. You should have seen our faces. So we went back to the museum and then had lunch as there was a later train. I now have a book on train history. It’s a very broad overview. The bookstore there had so many books on different lines and trains and well my half price overview book suits me fine.

These are some photos from the Bluebell train day. Today we are off to Eastbourne and an art exhibition and probably a nice lunch. Tomorrow I meet a long lost, newly found half cousin and we are heading into Brighton.

I have one more SF fan related thing. I am meeting Patrick McMurray and possibly Claire on Wednesday in London to see the Sloan museum. Nick lent me a book on the Sloan Museum so I’m all up on that collection. We are then meeting some SF fans at the Old Cheshire Cheese Pub in Fleet Street. I went to this pub in 2000. I remember this because Tony was on the phone and I was reading a book. I read in the book that the people were meeting at the Old Cheshire Cheese at the same time Tony said to a friend, Okay we’ll meet at the Old Cheshire Cheese. And the next day I’m catching up with Barbara, who I have known since the old Purple Zone days on the Harper Collins Australia bulletin board. Takes me back. Barbara moved back to the UK a few years back.

This may be my last post on this trip. I’m not sure. I head back to Australia on the 24th of September.

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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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It was a long day when we arrived in Iceland. We were both so excited. We didn’t make it to our accommodation until after 6.00pm and I had arranged to be at the Loft Bar by 7.30 pm. I was a bit pressured to be there.

The Kevlavik Airport which serves Reykjavik, is about 50 kilometres out of town. A taxi is probably around $250 (more than our actual flights believe it nor not) so we had booked a bus transfer, which is probably more around the $30 mark. That was fine. We caught the bus, saw a massive power station and deduced it to be geothermal. Research later indicated that this was so. We were deposited at the BSI bus station. Our AirBnB instructions said to catch bus 11 or a taxi. After going to a couple of bus stops and my daughter enquiring inside the terminal we found that bus 11 was a good ten to fifteen minutes walk away from the BSI station. A long walk in a strange city with no internet access had not been figured into my plan. It was only five kilometres to our accommodation and around 4000 ISK so around $60 AU. I think. The mental arithmetic for currency conversions are killing me. Actually the Commonwealth Bank is converting at a much higher rate than the internet says the rates are and charging fees on top so the credit card price gouge is killing me. I think I’m going to change banks. My daughter says Citibank does not charge fees so maybe I will try that. Banks are bastards! (I will cut this rant right here).
So we made it to our Airbnb out in the burbs. It’s a great place. A whole bottom floor, with one bedroom, big lounge dining area, kitchen, drying room etc. Weird thing was we didn’t meet our host. We still haven’t met her. We did a self-check in. We never did meet her.

We decided to find a bus and thankfully the Airbnb had wifi so we were able to work stuff out and catch a bus into town and search for the Loft Bar. It took a bit of orienting ourselves but we managed it. I had hoped to be meeting a local SF fan or SF fans there but they were a no show. Sad really, but interesting. Apart from the taxi driver we had not met an Icelandic person. All around us were tourists. It was weirding me out a bit. It also turned cold. For us least ways. We hung around the bar for an hour and then went in search of some dinner. I had drunk a big glass of red wine on an empty stomach, (The Loft Bar (on top of a backpacker place) did not sell food at all) and well I was slightly tipsy afterwards. My daughter had to rug me up, drag me somewhere to get food.
You might recall that I said Norway was expensive. Well Iceland is more expensive, particularly food. I looked at some menus and some lamb in a restaurant was 4990 Isk. That’s around $75 Au. Some meals were more than that and some were cheaper. I settled for two slices of pizza in an el cheapo place that was across from the backpackers. That might have cost me around 1000 ISK or $13.50. Don’t quote me on the conversions. I use google. The next thing was catching the bus home and working out where to get off. Lucky, even though my phone is not connected to the Internet, the gps worked and we just watched the little blue dot getting closer to our AirBnb. We also went to a little convenience store and bought some bread, milk and butter and a can of baked beans. I’m living the high life I tell you.

These photos are from our first evening in Reykjavik, a view up the street to the huge concrete church. And a street sign in Icelandic.

We made it back without any problems and went straight to bed. Iceland is two hours behind Oslo time so body clocks are skewed/screwed.
After all our excitement to be coming to Iceland, we were a bit let down. I can’t really put my finger on why. It was a grey day. Maybe we were tired.
We decided to have an easy morning, which was kind of good. I got my previous blog post up. We rested. Found we couldn’t find the black tea and maybe left it in Bergen. Major crisis. And it was raining. When we checked the forecast we realised it was forecast for rain our entire stay. The temperature was 12 degrees Celsius all day. At first there was no wind. I remember Einar (Icelandic fan guy I met at Worldcon) said it was windy here and other people saying forget the umbrellas. Well it wasn’t windy but by the time we got going sometime after lunch it was windy and we missed the bus. We actually saw it go passed us and bugger! The next one was in half an hour. One of our silly selfies.

Beans wanted to go back in the apartment but I figured if I did that I might not leave at all. I had a mission. I was going to the Nexus book and toy store as a pilgrimage and I’d told the owner I was coming. Also, I wanted to find a yarn store as my next pilgrimage. So we checked out a shop across the road. It was sort of shaped like a tent. They didn’t have much. It was a ecigarette shop and they also stocked candy and softdrinks. We felt a big weird going in there (to take shelter as well as find out what was inside) we bought some local candy, then ventured into the wind and rain. We sat in the bus shelter taking selfies and making each other laugh for half an hour. The bus did come. We weren’t too wet, and only a little cold. I had thick tights and jeans on and three layers under my coat.

We sort of knew where the Nexus book store was but we overshot in the bus and had to walk up through the centre of town, a tourist haven I think. We kept detouring into souvenir shops. I bought some socks in the Thor store. Not much of Thor in there but the socks were cute. Beans decided she needed gloves or mittens because we were going on a tour, which involves walking for three hours across a glacier. I thought it was a good idea and bought some too. Godsend!
See the picture of me in my tea cosy beanie and fingerless gloves. There was also yarn for sale and some lovely stuff, a lot hand made like what I bought.
We walked and walked. We scouted out a noodle joint which had food for under $20 (I think) and a supermarket so we could buy some food for sandwiches. Although we paid $450 for this day tour there is no food included. They take you to places where you pay lots of money for food if you are so inclined. Beans is vegan and there is not likely to be food for her to eat. I’m allergic to fish so not a lot for me either. Traditional Icelandic food involves fish and shark. So we have to be prepared.

 

I name checked Trudi Canavan and Dan Abnett in this book store. The last pic is of Sven. Hi Swen! And check out Game of Thrones in Icelandic. George RR Martin is very popular here along with Robin Hobb.

I am not sure but is Nexus the most northern SF bookstore? If you come to Reykjavik you should totally visit here.

If you think about the economics of this place, the high food prices make sense. There are around 300,000 people here and over two million tourists. Most of the food has to be imported and some is locally produced. Think western food and Tahiti-so expensive because it is flown or shipped in. Eating out pricey for locals too btw.

Nexus bookstore. I was so proud of myself for finding this place. I know I had a gps but so…I can’t read maps! We also learned a bit more about the place and our way around.

What a haven for geeks! I love this store. It has toys, merchandise, LARP clothes, dvds, games-so many games- books-jewellery. Most of the stuff is imported from the USA and the UK. There were local books too, fantasy in Icelandic. So cool.

We met Sven. Local SF fan who works in the store. He was so nice to us. Talked to us for ages, talked about the store, Reykjavik, Iceland, worldcons, Australia. This guy came to Aussiecon 4 in 2010! And he wants to come again. I told him about the NZ worldcon bid for 2020 and that Dublin won the 2019 world con bid. He wants to come back to Australia so badly! I was so happy to meet him and talk fan stuff and about GUFF. He also told us a bit about the Harry Potter Experience in the UK. He said it is booked out every time he’s been to the UK and he goes twice a yar. We haven’t even tried booking for it. So after a long browse around the store, some purchases we headed off to get our cheap noodles for lunch. It was about 4 pm by this time.

Here are some pics from Nexus.

I name checked Trudi Canavan and Dan Abnett in this book store. The last pic is of Sven. Hi Swen! And check out Game of Thrones in Icelandic. George RR Martin is very popular here along with Robin Hobb.

My haul was a Mary Robinette Kowal book. I’ve not seen one of these in Australia and a bling Captain America pendant. Beans bought an C3PO pendant.

I am not sure but is Nexus the most northern SF bookstore? If you come to Reykjavik you should totally visit here.

We were both cheered by our Nexus experience. And we were inured to the weather by then and so happy that we had left the house.
We took some shots of the bay. We saw some sunshine and went to capture it. The mountain range looks amazing. We hope to see it up close on one of the tours we booked.


There are some amazing rocks/boulders by the shore. Breakers I think. I took some photos. There was lava and red granite and some black stuff that Russell K might be able to identify.

We found this bakery in the main drag and bought this ash sour dough bread and pastries. OMG! The bread was so good. We have Iceland inside us.

We made it to the bus and then realised that there are no buses early enough to get us to the tour pick up point the next day. We have to take a taxi. So I tried to get my phone working to call one but to no avail. Some quick research and I downloaded an app. I’ve booked a cab and if it doesn’t come we are totally screwed.

Note! The taxi app was very good. Taxi came.

More on the tours next post. Warning next post contains glaciers, geysirs and waterfalls, lots of waterfalls.

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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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Last month I posted about my Indie Publishing experience from a beginner’s perspective. That post is here.

There I discussed coming close to earning $100 in that month from my Indie publishing efforts. I did notionally make $100.

Well this month I’m over that amount. Earnings figures are notional by the way, because the money comes in at a different time. For instance Kobo calls them estimated earnings.  So this month notional earnings are around $140 $150.

Mind you I had to work hard for those few dollars!

I also gave away heaps of books this month but more on that later.

Sales

I used Kobo promotions a lot this month and that where I had most of my sales. Kobo are really easy to deal with and they offer a wide range of promotions, about half have no upfront costs just percentage of takings. I wasn’t successful in getting all that I bid for but I did okay. It takes time and I think getting my name seen will mean eventually people will buy. It also helps to have a number of titles.

Next biggest sales were iBooks, surprisingly. It is not easy to promote on iBooks. There is no easy way for Indies to promote on iBooks. I hope one day they will adopt the Kobo model.  Then Amazon was the next chunk of sales. Nothing earth shattering but better than a big fat zero! You cannot bid for promos on Amazon. Amazon put together their Daily Deals by themselves.

Promotion

As mentioned above I have a promo tab on Kobo. I directly list with them to access this. I had two or three promos with different books through the month: paranormal romance and dark fantasy.

I tried for a Bookbub a couple of times through the month with different titles and met with rejection so I decided to do something with another provider. It can be dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket, particularly when the basket holder is swatting your eggs away!

I used Freebooksy to get the word out that Argenterra was free on 28 July. I made it free earlier than that and it’s currently free. Interestingly, this means I won’t be able to tout for a Bookbub for this title for three months as Bookbub exclude books that have been discounted for three months. Freebooksy is not cheap. It was $100 US to list for a day. However, they are a great group to work with and they have been very considerate of my other efforts with Bargainbooksy.

I find it interesting that Amazon doesn’t let people promoted except by AMS ads which I don’t find effective at all because these email services are making heaps of money from marketing specials and freeboots to their subscribers.

Listing Argenterra for free is a loss leader tactic used by many vendors since forever. Technically I don’t like giving books away for nothing. I think it lowers the value of your work. On the other hand, giving away book one with the hope that:

  • the person downloading will read it (preferably sooner rather than later);
  • having read book one they will like it enough to buy book 2 and 3;
  • after reading books 2 and 3 will like my writing enough to try another series, and
  • after reading my work they become a fan of my writing and stick to me like spat gum to a shoe!

I don’t know if there are any figures out there, but from past experience and my own behaviour I know that free books downloaded may never get read, but as I said before I’m looking to find my audience so one must take a chance.

Before the Freebooksy promo I let people know it was free. Not in a big way. Patty Jansen put it on the Facebook page for Ebookaroo and I asked some people to include it in their newsletter. I don’t know if people did but about 60-70 copies had been downloaded before promo day. On promo day, I got about 1700 downloads on Amazon and about another 100 on iBooks. No figures from Kobo as their freeboot counter is out. But I had a tail, next day more books downloaded. This could have been due to late email opens and people clicking and finding the book still free, or because with the 1700 downloads I had reached #123 overall Amazon freeboots and #1 in three sub categories of Epic, Sword and Sorcery and Coming of Age. Then Patty Jansen included Argenterra in her regular newsletter and then more downloads happened. So far maybe an extra 300-400. I just had another look at the figures, maybe that’s closer to 500 downloads from a newsletter. That’s so fab. I’m so grateful for the little leg up.

I didn’t see a lot of buy through to the rest of the series. Maybe one or two. If only one percent of those 2400 people (maybe more) go on to buy the series that’s still 24 people who might go on to buy the series. The promo will pay for itself eventually. Also, people have my book so there is always a chance.

Newsletters and Instafreebie

Technically sending newsletters and listing books on Instafreebie are promotion too. Shatterwing was included in a group Instafreebie/Bookfunnel promotion and wow! It was the best yet. Probably 700 new subscribers who downloaded Shatterwing, Dragon Wine Part One over four days. I think the covers have something to do with that.

I think some of my sales come through my newsletter subscribers. Not heaps as yet, but I get a lot of people checking out the buy links on my website.

I also had a few deals going for newsletter subscribers. Not exclusive to them but being a subscriber allows them to find out about it.

Escape Publishing kindly discounted Rayessa and the Space Pirates and Spiritbound (Dani Kristoff) to 99 cents. The announcements for these were included in my newsletter and there were some sales. I don’t know how much because I can’t see because the books are controlled by the publisher. These books were included in Ebookaroo (Patty Jansen’s general newsletter) and there were some sales as a result. I was happy to give something to the newsletter subscribers and I don’t often get discounts from my traditional published books.

Also, to broaden things a bit and have something new to keep my subscribers interested, I published Beneath the Floating City, a sci fi, short fiction collection and put it on Instafreebie, mostly with a private link for my subscribers but it is also there for anyone to download. All bar one story has been previously published over the 17 years of my publishing life. I’m going to put together other collections. The next will be Compost Juice, magic realism and fantastical tales. I won’t do that until I get back from overseas. Maybe for Christmas. I also published this collection to all the eretailers.

Print versions

A major suck for my energy, time and dollars this month has been laying out books for print. Indesign gave me a kick up the butt and my photoshop skills are Neanderthal level, but I managed.

Shatterwing, Skywatcher, Deathwings, and Bloodstorm are out in print with the new covers. These are available on Amazon through Createspace and elsewhere as distributed by Ingrams. So yes, technically the library or your books store can order them in.

booksAlso, Oathbound and Ungiven Land join Argenterra, in print.

The Sorcerer’s Spell is in print too, but just through Createspace. It will appear in bookstores as well as Amazon over time, such as Book Depository. Opi Battles the Space Pirates was already in print, same deal through Createspace. You can buy a copy on Book Depository no problems.

This means that for the book launch at Conflux over the long weekend, 29 Sept to 1 October, I have books all to hand.

I have done all the things!

Phew!

Now to take off on Friday for nearly two months. Worldcon 75 and Helsinki here I come. I am the GUFF delegate, taking Australian fandom to Europe. See previous post for where I’ll be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m heading off next Friday!

The GUFF tour begins.

I thought I should put up my itinerary so you can anticipate where I’ll be blogging from.

Friday 4 August, depart Canberra on a bus to airport. Fly Sydney London and arrive 5 August. Take a rest for the day in swanky hotel then fly to Helsinki arriving near midnight. Book into Hilton at the airport. (long story and daughter is not happy with expensive hotel).

Sunday 6th Helsinki move into con hotel, get to know Helsinki and meet locals.

Monday 7th take ferry to Estonia for a day trip and arrive back late.

Tuesday 8th to 14th is Worldcon activities.

14 August take ferry to Stockholm, Sweden. Catch up with local fans.

19th August fly to Oslo, Norway. Catch up with local fans.

21 August take train to Bergen. Hope to meet local SF fans but not confirmed.

25 August fly to Reykjavik, Iceland. Hope to meet up with fans (in progress). Also hope to get a day trip to the geothermal area)

29 August fly to Glasgow (also my daughter’s birthday). Catch up with friend and fans. Train to Edingburgh 31 August for day trip to meet a fan or fans.

1 September fly to Dublin to be hosted by lovely local fans James and Fionna and fan meet up in Dublin on 2nd September.

4 September fly to Manchester (just hanging and being tourist)

7 September train from Manchester to London to meet fans at Ton meeting. Still to organise where I’ll be that night. Daughter will stay in Manchester.

8 September going to a cottage near Bath/Bristol because Craig Cormick showed pictures of this place on Facebook and we fell in love with it. Also, catching up with Cheryl  on the 9th hopefully.

11 September Nottingham

12 September Nottingham

13 September Brighton. I have booked a tour of the sewers.

Then I’ll either be hanging around Brighton or London visiting friends and family until I leave on Sunday 24 September arriving home in the early hours of 26 September then a bus to Canberra…Ug!

 

 

 

 

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