May 23-June 4, 2011:

What a wild ride the last almost two weeks have been. And they began with a trip under the volcano. Cast your mind back to Monday, May 23rd. That was the day after one of the regular Icelandic volcanoes had a blow. From all that was reported on my way down to NYC by train, there should have been no problem with the flights to Scotland, at least for another couple of days. I got some good work done on the revisions of B.U.G, about three chapters’ worth. Got a cheap van to Newark airport driven by a guy I dubbed “Captain Sparrow” because of the wild shortcuts and dashes across the berms that he made to get us there in record time.

I was three and a half hours early to the airport, and stood in line for about an hour and a half of that because  when flying internationally, one’s passport has to be viewed by an actual person, not just an online machine. By the time I was within three people of the check-in counter, an announcement over the intercom said that both the Edinburgh and Glasghow airports had been closed because of volcanic ash in the air.

So off we E&G passengers dashed across the terminal to the re-booking desk. I was about 4th in line. By the time I made it to the desk, I found out they were rebooking everyone for Thursday or Friday which would have meant either 1. I had to go all the way back to Massachusetts (3 1/2 hour train ride away) and come back again on Thursday or Friday, maybe, or 2. Find somewhere to stay in NYC though by this time I think every friend with a guest room in the city was well tired of hosting me! So I said, “Can you get me to Heathrow?” which is the London airport. I figured, worst case scenario, I could take the train up. Expensive to do that last minute, but a possibility. The agent looked appalled. “We can’t guarantee we can fly you up to Edinburgh from there.” I said I understood. She booked me, with a fingers-crossed ticket on British Midland from Heathrow to Edinburgh on which she scribbled “Patron understands if the plane is cancelled we will NOT pick up her train fare.”

And off I went. The trip to Heathrow was full if uneventful. The food predictably awful. Turns out that if you are simply changing planes, beside a twenty minute bus ride to the other terminal, the customs line at Heathrow is tiny. Mine had only three people on it, though if I’d actually been terminating in London (scary word to use when speaking of airplane flights, don’t you think?), the wait would have been interminable. (Wow, another pun!) The Brit Midlands folks were sure their plane was going, then not so sure, then worried, and then the plane came in from Edinburgh and the passengers getting off told us they were the last plane out of Edinburgh. We worried. We worried a lot. Then a flash announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, please get on the plane NOW.” We raced in, waited with bated breaths, finally took off, and landed an hour later in Edinburgh, the actual last plane in for almost two days. Right after that, planes out of Heathrow as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh were shut up tight.

But my friends Debby and Elizabeth, having been warned by me through a Heathrow internet cafe, and the night before by my phone call to Heidi who contacted them, were there to pick me up. I stayed awake and chatty all the way to St Andrews, found myself too jazzed to nap. Had dinner with Debby and Bob Harris, went to bed at 9:30 p.m., and awoke the next day with nary a sign of jet lag.

And then my summer in Scotland truly started. I did some banking, some grocery shopping, bumped into friend Janie Douglas at the grocery store and returned (weather overcast, gales rainy) to the house where I settled in to work on 1. the rest of the chapter revisions of B.U.G which were to take me the next week and a bit. And went over the poems in the Ekaterinislav book one more time.

A couple of days later, friends Susan and Mike came down from Aberdeen and stayed over night. We went to a rather amateurish production of “Tosca” in Dundee, though their friend who played the eponymous starring role was great. Had lunch with friend Claire at the Cheese Farm, dinner at friend Vanessa’s house, afternoon tea with Janie Douglas at Rufflets, another dinner at Debby and Bob’s. And got in several good walks on the non-rainy days with the least gales.

I also met my new gardener taking the place of my dearly missed gardener of over 15 years, the lovely Judy Waring who had also been my friend. She’d died suddenly of a brain tumor this past winter. Imagine a children’s book writer who’s garden is over-run by rabbits. And what would be the absolute best name for that gardener? Why Mr. McGregor of course! And there he was, “Call me Callum” McGregor, white haired, well-muscled, handsome, charming, and I said, “What can you do about bunnies?” envisioning him with a rake in hand running after blue-waistcoated Peter Rabbit. “Kill them,” he said. Most satisfying!

And by the rest of the time, I finished the B.U.G. revision, or at least my part and sent it off to Adam; finished the retellings of folk tales (and revised them thoroughly) for WEE TALES and sent them to that editor; finished (for now) the revisions of the poems for the Ekaterinislav adult poetry book and sent that to its editor; kept up my poem-a-day habit; put together a possible book of poems about writing (t’will be a tough sale); wrote a short piece about Ruth Sanderson for her Guest of Honor stint at an sf convention; wrote a poem for an SCBWI convention; revised a picture book for Jason called “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Morning in a Salt Water Marsh.” Call me Worker Bee. And that’s how it’s done, boys and girls.

Boy! are my wings tired.

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