Every week the folks at WordPress set a weekly challenge. I’ve not taken up the challenge before, but this one inspired me. It is to write about a time I learned something new.
In January 2015, aged 58 and a half, I learned to swim.
Now teaching and learning is something close to my heart. I was a primary school teacher for 36 years and I met all sorts of reluctant or struggling pupils. It’s easy to teach someone who’s ready to learn, who’s receptive to what you’re showing them. However, it’s not so easy to coax someone’s who’s afraid to even give it a try, who has decided in advance they’re not capable of learning. But I thrived on such challenges and persisted and tried everything I could think of to persuade reluctant pupils to just give it a go.
Then, nearly eighteen months ago, the tables were turned. I was now the reluctant learner, the one of was afraid, who didn’t believe myself capable. I had never learned to swim. But I’d set myself some personal challenges when I retired from teaching and top of the list was ‘get in the water and swim, woman!” An additional motivation, on top of the personal challenge, was that I wanted to be able to swim with my grandchildren on a family holiday to Cyprus later in the year.
So I booked a one to one hour long session with the swimming teacher at my local pool.
Now, I should say I’m not afraid of water. I’ve always liked bobbing about in the (warm) sea and when my children were wee, I’d always go in the pool with them when we were away on our annual holiday. I made sure they learned to swim – by delegating the task to my husband.
So, no, not afraid of water. It was just I believed I was the only human being in the history of our species who couldn’t float.
But I was wrong. With the confidence building teaching of my wonderful teacher, Yvonne, during that one hour in the pool I eventually took my feet off the bottom of the pool and with a few feeble and styleless strokes I swam. I swam a couple of widths. I went out of my depth and I treaded water. Me! the least buoyant human ever – could both float and swim.
I walked home through the January snow, oblivious to the cold, wrapped in a coat of smugness and pride. An Olympic medallist couldn’t have felt more proud.
I’ll never be a water baby, but yes, I swam with my grandchildren last summer.
I did it. I took the plunge and learned something new. And boy, did it feel good.
We’ve been home now for four days. Our stint as booksellers-in-residence at the Open Book second hand bookshop is now over for the husband and me. It was a great adventure. We hope we’ve left the Open Book slightly tidier and the stock a bit better organised – having built on the hard work of our predecessors in the project. Now it’s over to our successors-in-residence to continue the process.
You’ll have seen from my earlier posts on our time in Wigtown that we met all sorts of interesting and lovely people – both local and visitors to the town. We did a bit of exploring of this corner of Scotland and liked what we saw. It was good to visit the other bookshops in Wigtown as well. How wonderful to have them all, and to have people who are so committed to selling real books in real independent shops and who are prepared to work so hard to do so. It was an eye-opener as to how much goes into running a successful bookshop and it’s definitely a labour of love. More power to all independent bookshops!
During the fortnight, although there wasn’t a lot of spare time to write, I did get to do a bit of thinking and planning in connection with my writing. And I met several local authors and we shared experiences, thoughts and ideas – this in itself was such a valuable opportunity.
So thanks to the Wigtown Book Festival Company and all those behind this unique project, especially to project manager, Anne for the chance to be part of the Open Book. Thanks, too, to Joyce from the Old Bookshop, to the owners of the Glaisnock Cafe, (yummy), to Jayne and to Sarah from the writers’ group, and to everyone else who made us so welcome.
And most of all thanks to the Open Book shop. It was fun getting to know the best wee bookshop in the world.
END OF CHAPTER
It’s a long drive from Scotland’s National Book Town to our home in the Hebrides, so we broke our journey north on Saturday with an overnight stay in Glasgow. We stayed at a hotel in the city’s vibrant west end and so were able to enjoy a walk in the Botanical gardens and along the River Kelvin walkway, as well as a lovely dinner out at a nearby Italian restaurant.
Then on Sunday we drove the rest of the way home. And what a drive home it was. It was a beautiful day and the west of Scotland was looking stunning. Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Kintail, to name just a few of the places, were all showing off their full glory – Scotland was at its most jaw-dropping and glorious best.
It’s nice to be home. The weather has continued to be good and I’ve already had the chance to enjoy one of my favourite local walks.
Since getting back, I’ve also been catching up on all my own writing jobs and looking to further the plans I finalised while I was away.
There are two deadlines tomorrow.
One is for my contribution to Words with Jam, the online writers magazine that I’ve been on the staff of since its inception around four years ago. The theme of April’s issue is History and I got two pieces off to the editor yesterday.
The other deadline is for an application to be included in an opportunity being offered to writers by XPONorth. Below is an edited extract from the organisation’s publicity for the opportunity.
XPONorth (Writing & Publishing) is delighted to offer seven independent, self-publishing authors living in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the chance to sell and promote their work at the Indie Author Fair 2015. The Fair takes place at Foyles Bookshop, London, on Saturday 17th April 2015.
The Fair is part of the London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe Festival, run by The Alliance of Independent Authors/Indie ReCon, and Triskele Books are hosting the 2nd Indie Author Fair at Foyles Bookshop.
Authors selected for the showcase will be offered support and mentoring in developing their marketing and promotional materials and platforms in readiness for the Fair.
Indie authors living the Highlands and Islands can apply to participate in this showcase either to be present in person with their books at the Fair (books, plus promotional materials), or to have their books available on the XPONorth display forsale and with promotional materials.
Whether for readers, writers, publishers or observers of the publishing scene, this will be an unmissable event – an opportunity to say hello to the best indie authors in the business, meet suppliers, talk to experts, buy/sell some books. The event will be FREE to the general public.
( XPONorth Wrtiting and Publishing is delivered by Emergents Creatives CIC Ltd, and the programme is funded by European Regional Development Fund and HIE.)
My application is away. I’m not planning to attend in person, but it would be good to have my books promoted and on offer there, so fingers are crossed.
A week from today I’ll be off back down to Glasgow. I’m attending the annual, weekend conference of the Scottish Association of Writers. So I’ve got travel arrangements to finalise and promotional materials to gather. This is a great opportunity to meet other writers, to catch up with my fellow members from the Edinburgh Writers’ Club, to network, attend workshops and to see if I’ve had any success in the Association’s conference competitions. I’ve entries in a few categories so maybe, just maybe…
Then, after I get home, it will be all systems go for the April publication of my first children’s novel. More of that in a later post.
As I said in the post previous to this one, the Open Book was quiet yesterday and the weather was good so we closed the shop early yesterday and went for a walk.
We headed for the pretty town of Gatehouse of Fleet and walked in the Cally forest there.
On our way to Gatehouse we stopped off at Mossyard beach. It is one of the smallest but prettiest beaches I’ve ever been on. And it had the most amazing assortment of rocks. Geologists look away now as I’m about to describe said rocks and I know nothing of geology. There were what I think was large piles of basalt, chunks of marbly granite and pieces of sandstone. There were rocks with layers, with marbling, with folds; some were smooth, some were jagged; there were grey ones, black ones, pink ones and creamy ones.
In the Cally forest the ground was carpeted in snowdrops, the river was running high and the trees were just beginning to bud.