The Kist – Wigtown

Having enjoyed years of following the life and times of Scotland’s International Booktown, Wigtown in Galloway’s south-western border region, and having spent a heart-pumping visit to its streets pre-COVID, I was super excited to see that its Autumn Festival – The Kist, was being held in October, and that my Bucket List Book Adventure itinerary could easily accommodate a visit! Memories of Reading Lasses’ home made cakes, and children’s bookstore Foggie Toddle, as well as the wit and cynicism of Shaun Bythell’s The Bookshop online sessions had helped through the dim isolation days, and the chance to return during a positive festival was too much to pass up.

So I found myself and my highschool chum from Queensland Australia, J, now a Glaswegian resident, tootling down from Dumfries on a mizzling Scottish day (which became a wild and windy day) in her shiny red sportscar. Sadly the GPS decided the scenic route through the forestry logging road was more our style, so it was more of a heart-thumping drive for the valiant J than was anticipated. Bloody great pothole and some racing driver manoeuvres later, we sat in the Riverbank Cafe in Newton Stewart watching the river rise rapidly, and enjoying a calming brew – very reminiscent of Australian comfort food and decor of the Country Women’s Association (CWA).

J’s nerves had not been calmed by the search for my pre-booked accommodation at Barholm’s at Creetown, a short distance across the water, but a more circuitous route by land. Having found the friendly Jenny to let us in to the digs, and the intrepid J set on her way back to Glasgow, NOT via the logging route, I watched the rain pelt down in this tiny corner of Scotland and settled into the cosy room. But how to get to Wigtown the next day for The Kist? The information that a fellow festival goer was also staying there sparked hope, and a note on the door of Number 4 yielded a great result. Liz, the potter, was exhibiting at the festival and was so generous in extending a lift the next day. Public transport in Creetown is like chasing unicorns, so this was a fabulous solution. Liz the Lifesaver! What a fun, talented potter, and a lover of previously lived experiences in Australia, and a lively conversationalist…..BINGO!

Wigtown boasts a wonderful array of bookshops which cater for every genre and taste for book lovers and to have access to them as well as the Farmers Market and the quality Craft and Artisan Market (The Kist) all on the same weekend was a treat of huge proportions – and almost overcame the disappointment I had when I realised that this was the closest I would get to running the hottest bookstore in the world….The Open Book. This phenomenon where you can run the shop for a week as part of the airbnb deal has seen the waiting list blow out to 3 plus years, so I had given up on this.

So to enjoying every minute of The Kist!

Seeing the absolute top quality of the goods inside the marquee was quite dazzling and my purchases were only hampered by my backpack weight limit. Congratulations to the organisers and the exhibitors…what an absolute joy to wander around the town, watch the views across the countryside, admire the architectural highlights and of course escape into its many bookshops.

Even the cancellation of a couple of my pre-booked sessions and the lingering yellow-warning weather didn’t dampen my spirits. I dropped in to see how Liz’s sales were doing during the day, admired her beautiful handcrafted pottery and its subtle cobalt blue, and found some classic silver ear rings for my family back home. The standard of the artists was outstanding.

My sessions with great authors and performers were very different across the day. The first and the last were the absolute standouts. The rush of being in a Yurt with Dan Richards listening to the frailities of human endurance and hearing Jack Kerouac’s voice come through Dan’s work, The Outpost, was such an inspirational start to the day’s program. HIGHLY recommend his works. Nice to be warm in the yurt too.

Everything throughout the day was very entertaining and thought-provoking. From the analysis of the perils of today’s political slides towards Facism Sarah churchwell’s comparison to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind , to Mairi Kidd ‘s We are all Witches lead me to seek out more writings around the witch hunts and male misongyny.

I also slipped in a pre-arranged interview with Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop. Shaun was unwell, and on his birthday too, but was very generous of his time. I had my fan-girl moment, but that is all in the next blog…..

The final session I attended made my day. Harry Baker is an acclaimed poet and nationally awarded poetry slammer. I had a keen interest in this as a Poetry Slam is going to be a potential item in our Word Fest Toowoomba program for 2023. Harry is sensitive, funny, super-talented and engaging! He had overcome public transport and weather challenges to get there and was humble and appreciative of the mesmerised audience. I loved it! Once I get home I will be contacting him to see what online options we might be able to create.

Both Liz and I had bought tickets for the night time Open Mic session, but chose to eat dinner at Cobwebs cafè and our conversation over the seafood chowder and traditional battered fish and chips meant we chatted and missed the session before driving back to Creetown.

What an amazing day! Outdid all my expectations and I met an amazing new friend!

My Favourite Railway Station – Dumfries, Scotland

Having become a quite adept solo traveller….despite nerves and a distinct lack of sense of direction…. I have seen many railway stations on this BLBA (Bucket List Book Adventure).

No beating around the bush – Dumfries is a standout!

With a quality monthly Sunday Farmers market, a sense of history and a great little café and beautifully tended garden, clean facilities and a very helpful staff member, this is a 5 star station.

Short and sweet….Dumfries wins hands down!

Same Time Next Year…….fingers crossed

If proposed plans to bring a book/garden/food small group tour eventuate as planned this will be a surefire part of the itinerary……the underlying purpose of the Bucket List Book Adventure.

Dumfries House south of Glasgow in Scotland is an absolute treasure. Whether you are pro-Royals or not, King Charles has worked a minor miracle in getting significant supporters on board to establish The Princes Foundation here. To restore the house, find and reestablish the original furniture and collected pieces in the house itself, and bring training of young people to the local area has been no mean feat. So this stands as a great example of fully integrated skill building and a finished, yet evolving, product which will endure long into the future.

A very special House Tour

As well as the publicly guided tour of the Blue Room with its unique Chippendale Boudoir piece, its chandelier and blue brocaded chairs and sofas; the various bedrooms and the reception areas used by the Earl of Butte and the generations of family inheritors, we were given exclusive access to the Library with the generous Evan Samson – Events Manager – immaculate and so accommodating. This is part of the quest to provide a very different small group tour to 12 or 14 adventurers late August/ early September 2023.

The interest areas of food, gardens and books are all integrated in this quite stunning venue, and already the ideas for guest talks by local chefs, gardeners, authors and house guides within the stunning setting is underway. Accommodation and food are 5 star.

Making contacts with the popular Boswell Festival Curators and the local providers is a delight I am much looking forward to.

Exciting idea are flowing and working with Wendy Allen, the expert in the travel industry, will mean something absolutely unforgettable in a UK itinerary. Word Fest Toowoomba is proud to be offering this opportunity as the culmination to our forthcoming 2023 festival of storytelling and oral literary gems…….the full festival program and the invitations (and itinerary) to be part of this exciting tour will be released by December.

Here is just a taste to whet the appetite. https://dumfries-house.org.uk

Wye, Wye,Wye and Welsh Life Village

Hay on Wye has so much to explore

This blog is to encourage others to visit and enjoy it as much as I did. Having beautiful cousins Babs and Derek to drive me from Rhoose was such a bonus. They were not as keen on the book side of things, but found a cosy cafe for a rest and cost-free toilet while I ambled around.

Booktown Books, Antiques and Collectibles, Historical Monuments etc……images are very powerful and I need to regather my energy for the days ahead, so here is the picture gallery.

Tribute to Richard Booth for his vision, stickability, castle above and progress…

Off the back of the King of the Castle’s vision are the other quirky, cute, hard-working businesses and architecture. Great town to visit!

And more….

Bucket book list #3 done.

Next it was off to St Fagan’s Welsh Life Village………closer back to Barry and the south coast of Wales.

From replica houses in 50 year increments of chronological changes in size, lighting, furniture, hygiene and food raising, to larger village structures such as the Unitarian Church with its minimalism, to the imposing Workmens Institute, and all the infrastructures needed for families of bygone ages to thrive. Really needs many hours to take it all in. The local blue brie and typical oatcakes were very welcome from the store. Enjoy the village visit.

Wye oh why?

The first Book Town was the brainchild of Richard Booth, igniting interest and visitors back to the flagging town of Hay in the beautiful River Wye valley close to the English border. Now it is a vibrant creative arts town with a beaut bookish vibe. AND the first Book Town on the Bucket List Book Adventure.

Even the car park invites visitors to recycle their books.

With his Castle and the Richard Booth Book Store, his impact on the revitalisation of the town can’t be overstated. History meets his story.

I lost count of the number of specialty bookstore, antique and collectable shops, cafes and cosy accommodation offerings……yes, it is book heaven. I’ll let the images build the picture….and the Why of my visit.

Made it!

Word Fest Toowoomba – Street Libraries

Thanks to the vision of book lovers to recycle their books, and to the physical creations to house these gems, Toowoomba has a wonderful selection of FREE books available 24/7 in community locations….and mostly on the fences of local city streets. Some little street libraries promote the reading tastes of the owners, some are built by organisations to cater for different reading tastes or age groups, and some just serve as a repository for loved or rejected books which others may see as treasures.

In 2022, thanks to the assistance of Cracker Print and Paper’s design team and general support, Word Fest Toowoomba took on the task of compiling a brochure to guide tourists and locals alike to the various street libraries around the community.

Although there are many businesses and organisations such as doctors, hospital and The Lighthouse where books are on hand to share and take for free, the advantage of fhe Street Libraries is their accessibility all day, anyday or night.

One such community-minded household, which has come on board since the brochure was published and quickly ran out of copies, sits at 21 Ascot Street at Newtown and is the result of UniSQ library resource officer, Sharon Geitz and her handy husband, Gary, who have created a home for books and seed exchange. With the brief that the library on their front fence needed to be made from recycled material, the challenge was on. The results speak for themselves!

Congratulations to ALL the Street Library makers and custodians!

The fact that their talented daughter Bronte works at Dymocks bookstore in Grand Central means there are always books in the house, and filling the street library was a doddle. From this humble beginning, neighbourhood dog walkers and locals have exchanged books and seeds, cared for the integrity of the little home for the books and the neighbours have all benefitted from the initiative.

Of course, mindless vandalism by a very small minority, has seen heartbreak for those like Peter Howard at Rangeville where recent arson saw the damage to his Street Library and fence. Rallying to quickly rebuild has the hallmark of everything neighbourhood communities stand for, and with donations of lots of books, this spirit will not be hampered.

Please get in touch if you know of new additions or removals, or would like to know more. Jump on to our Wird Fest Toowoomba Facebook page or contact admin@wordfesttoowoomba.com.au

Word Fest Toowoomba’s 2023 program of wonderful storytelling, books, authors and a variety of charity fund-raising events around the theme of WORD OF MOUTH, as well as the map and details of the Street Libraries can be found online on the website at http://www.wordfesttoowoomba.com.au

Thames swans are smart

Learnt that the queues lined up near the London Eye on The Embankment for the ‘lying in state viewing’ were feeding the swans and the swans are now hanging around ready to be bread-bound and bloated long after the queues have gone. We did learn many intetesting pieces of information on our Greenwich River Cruise.

Actually the queues are lining up at Westminster Abbey again (though our tour was cancelled because of the mourning period), and we did a respectful walk around Westminster Park under the watchful eyes of Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, and Churchill et al.

The river reminds me of Brisbane’s murky colour, but the busy traffic and many uses of the Thames were entertaining. We even learnt that WHARF is really an acronym for WareHouse At River Front from the early trading days….and saw the huge shift in industry away from the wharf areas to the varied, and often brutalist, architecturally designed apartment blocks around Canary Wharf. COVID and BREXIT have impacted mightily on foreign investment, and many of the larger international banks and companies have moved over to the EU. Lots of the empty apartments are now quite affordable b&bs.

Nestled in amongst these steel, glass and concrete beasts are the historic pubs and houses which cling to the traditions of affordable drinking houses thanks to the efforts, and money, of the likes of Sir Ian McKellan. The luxury homes of Helen Mirren and Judi Dench were surrounded by greenery……and plenty of security. The bridges are fascinating…each has a different story to tell.

And so on to Greenwich. The constant attention to preserving the naval history of London is to be admoured. The Visitor Learning Centre is a fine introduction to the complex. Bearing in mind the daily ritual of the falling of the time clock at the hilltop Royal Observatory, we took on the challenge of the steep gradient up to top and the walk was well worth it. The view is stunning, and we were gifted with the chance to observe the historic painting of the One Tree Hill before its present tourist status in the Queen’s House. (a familiar Toowoomba reference to Meerwah, also known as Table Top back home).

The ship in a bottle is always a fascination and the large example near the Old Naval Museum is certainly a big one. It stands near the Titanic Memorial garden on the walk to the Queen’s House. As well as allowing an insight in to the lives of royalty past, the naval exploits and prominent figures included Prince Phillip.

The Tulip Stair was the bucket list item for this trip….and it didn’t disappoint! No words needed to describe this triumph of engineering and design. My heart was full.

As we happened to be there on a Saturday, the intrepid climbers on the rigging of the restored Cutty Sark were fascinating to watch while we sampled a gf burger and marvelled at the costumes of those entering into the Alice in Wonderland Treasure Hunt…….on mobile phones of course in this digital age. Artisan crafts and global food tastes and smells…..much people watching!

While the day was rain-free, the sneaky breeze on the top deck of the boat meant zipping up the coats, but the Waterloo Sunset over Westminster Bridge made it such a perfect end to the wonderful day.

Waterloo Sunset

Then it was back to Earl’s Court YHA Hostel for their yummy nachos tea.

Arrivals and Departures

With an arrival into the UK which was relatively hassle-free during the 23 hour transit, a troubling sniffle while gawping at the lights of late-night Paddington Station (no sight of P Bear though) turned into a head cold. Apologies to the other 8 females in the dorm at the student Staysafe Hostel in Kensington’s Hammond Walk…..the sniffle had become a chesty cough by night 2. Not the C virus, but a painful start to the Bucket List Book Adventure……sigh!

Arrival to the creative arts in London….as close as the licorice theme in the hostel…loved the bright dorm entry.

The Design Museum….what a great walk.

Kensington High Street…the old and the new

Arrival at West Dulwich

So it was a solace to rid myself of this condition to meet my house hosts for the cat sit for the week. Park Hall Road is a mixture of cottage gardens, unit blocks and a small village set of shops….and interesting, trusting hosts and two very different Burman cats to care for.

So the garden, cats and quiet isolation were just the shot in the arm I needed….as well as the cough medicine. As the UK quietly shut down into deep mourning and outpourings of respect, I adjusted to the differences in hot water systems, a house full of organic products garnered from their community allotments, and the arrival to the UK was off and running.

Departure of HRH ELIZABETH II9

My all day funeral broadcast in front of the BBC TV, was a bit disappointing not to be out there amongst the throngs, but safe and warm with the furry friends.

Departure of the cold….yeeha!

Arrival at Dulwich Picture Gallery……and a great re-entry into the trip, and the arrival of my taste buds again. 🌻

And a wonderful interview with the lovely bookshop owner, Cathy and assistant Kitty at Dulwich Books…..and now the chance to start the Spotify podcasting soon…..stay tuned.

Belair House

And so we begin…….

Singapore never sleeps

As the first leg of a long-haul flight to London, the Brisbane to Singapore experience was quite a pleasant one. The relief of no delays, easy security and very short immigration queues was a welcome start to what promised to be a looong, long-haul. Bye Brissie!

Singapore Airlines service is always impeccable, and the food at midnight was extremely tasty….well as much as a passionfruit gelato can be when all you want to do is drift off. Movie selection was not enticing, but the music helped lull me into dreamland.

Masks were a definite, but not mandatory, positive. The numbers of coughing and snuffily passengers rang a few alarm bells, but the new travelling world offers “freedom with risks”…..so, the risk begins.

Arriving into Changi Airport in the dark was different, but the bright lights of the shopping precincts soon heralded the dawn of the Shoppers’ Paradise…..and for a non-shopper, the lure of a Fendi handbag was very fleeting – rapidly replaced with a few meanderings around the Terminal 3 halls.

If the midnight feast hadn’t still been making its presence felt I might have tackled a bowl of my favourite Congee…..but no! It was the Butterfly Garden and the beautiful tree-lined seating area which won the day.

With fierce competition from local producers as well as the International frachisees, the bigger, brighter and more creative advertising wins out! Louis Vuitton was definitely the winner!

From previous visits, the orchids have always been spectacular. Today the orchids are not as prominent. They tend to be mingled in with other flowers and greenery.

But I couldn’t pass up a bookstore 🤗

Congee calling.

So now 12 plus hours to Frankfurt………catch you then

Beyond Eggs Benedict….

Michelle and Claire, new kids on the block in Toowoomba’s food scene, have transported a little touch of Oo La La to Neil Street. French-themed decor and a French-inspired menu make a visit to Googs Cafe a fresh experience…..and the food reaches way beyond eggs benny.

If you are looking for take-away coffee and light fluffy scones you are in for a treat. These delicious scones were highly recommended by one of the regulars who just dropped in while we were there.

Or relax and whileaway some time in the classy, comfortable coffee and chat corner – books and a sophisticated hangout…….it’s calling you to try it!

If you are wondering about the name GOOGS, then, yes, definitely a reference to eggs (the googie eggs of childhood), but the origin lies in the pet name Michelle was called growing up as a young child in Yorkshire. Googie……..and with the rich yellow yolks of the New England Free Range Egg Farmers eggs, and the different crepes and omelettes on our plates, the name is right on the money.

The young staff are eager to please and happy to recommend treats to take away with the coffees. The Strawberry Ambrosia meant my dinner party dessert was sorted with no fuss or effort. Nothing was too much bother, and the very different backstories of the partners are fascinating and definitely the reason for return visits. Stay tuned!

As a new business in the city, there are exciting menu items, special menus for Father’s Day this weekend, but also a wonderful Spring Carnival Menu with something for everyone on Friday and Saturday nights – pre-theatre or a special celebration treat.

We recommend you book soon so you don’t suffer regret!

Michelle and Claire are enjoying meeting their coffee drinking regulars, and it was lovely to see familiar faces supporting this new venture. Local suppliers are providing quality products and the choices are spoiling taste buds.

Looking for something with a hint of France…….look no further. Breakfast business meetings, friends for a cuppa and chat, light and cheerful lunches or popping in for a take-away……..Googs is calling.