Saturday, August 20, 2011

JK Rowling was here

In real life, the Hogwarts Express is the steam train on the West Highland line. I have rarely seen a group of grown-ups as excited as everyone was when we went over the viaduct. Pictures to come -- I could either look or take pictures, and I chose to look. Two students I'd been chatting with DID take pictures, lots of them, and promised to send them to me when they get back to school next week.

They also showed me the pictures in their Guide book (written in Mandarin!) of the cafe in Edinburgh where JK wrote -- which now has a painting of her writing on the wall. I was very annoyed at myself for not going there -- I was in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival and the only "sight" other than that I visited was my great-great-grandparents' house, from the outside. People say I should have knocked on the door; if I go back to Edinburgh, I will do that and sit in the Elephant House, too, as the students did.

One of them said, though, that her favorite place in the UK was Winchester, where Jane Austen died -- and after that, we talked excitedly about favorite writers. When we said good-bye, we all said how glad we were that we loved so many of the same ones -- even though we're from different generations (my comment) and cultures (theirs).

And even though JK Rowling isn't one of my favorite writers, it's fun to see how proud of her people here are. Someone told me excitedly that he'd stayed in a hotel in Mycenae (sp -- in Greece, where Agamemnon was murdered by Clyemnestra) and the hotel had a board where famous people had left their comments. JK Rowling had written:
"Simply wizard!"

The house where I stayed on Coll had literary associations, too. Boswell and Johnson stayed there and wrote about it, and "drinking whiskey from a seashell, as is the Hebridean custom." My host had done that the night before, and when, after reading the book, I asked if he thought maybe the Hebrideans had been pulling Johnson's leg (the only seashells around are cocckle and scallop shells, TINY -- from what I've seen of island drinking habits, this wouldn't be the way they'd do it). He looked so disappointed when he said,
"Probably," that I wished I hadn't said anything. He added,
"It was still fun, though."

I bet it was -- he and his family were as charming as their house. The house where Boswell and Johnson stayed is now a grey stone ruin -- they left that, so the view from the road would be the same, and added a very modern, mainly glass extension, keeping the feeling and proportions of the ruin, behind it. That's where my room was and these are the views from two of my windows.

I didn't want to leave! But, I already had reservations on Iona, where I am now, and it's beautiful, too, in a different way. I could write MUCH more about the family on Coll, but I have a feeling they may show up in a's that sort of trip, even if I;m not getting inspiration by sitting in The Elephant House.


storyqueen said...

Such lovely pictures. I am completely envious.

May your trip bring you lots of inspiration!


Meghan McCarthy said...

That's very cool. You know, I usually use my camera as a way of looking and seeing. I tend to watch things casually but with my camera I see things in more detail and focus my attention better.

Libby Koponen said...


And that's interesting, Meghan. I think if I had a camera I liked and knew how to use it, that might be true for me as well -- but often when I'm trying to catch something on the fly half the time is spent getting my phone to its camera setting or something. So I tend to be distracted by mechanics if I'm hurrying. When I can take my time and focus, I do look carefully -- but not the same way I just LOOK. When I take pictures I'm trying to frame a shot or composition; when I look, I'm reall just concentrating on things as they are.

One of the many interesting things about this trip is that almost all the time I'm taking things IN, rather than (as often at home) trying to block them out. Here, the beaauty and silence make me want to soak in as much as I can; at home, the noise and ugliness make me expend a lot of energy blocking things out.

The almost total silence here (I'm on one of the islands now) is incredibily restful.