Through an Oxford Shaped Looking Glass

Latimer: Last week we finally managed to go on our long anticipated trip to Oxford!

We had planned to go as a treat to ourselves after Legend Unleashed was published. But well, it took much longer than we thought, because life and work got in the way, but FINALLY we went… and it was glorious and freezing, haha.

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It’s spring and you wouldn’t think it in Ireland, or England as it turns out. But, we didn’t mind, we were there to enjoy the place, rain or shine.

The Oxford Odyssey will probably take a few posts 🙂 For today, let’s take a short trip down the rabbit hole!

Myself and Ridley were staying in Christ Church College, which I continuously referred to as the Harry Potter College! I felt a bit bad reducing the 467 year college to the ‘Harry Potter College’; but well, currently it is… But it’s actually also the Alice in Wonderland College 🙂

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Alice Liddell’s father (Henry) was the Dean during the time that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was teaching there. Dodgson is the real name of writer Lewis Carroll.

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He was a lecturer in Mathematics at the college, and he befriended Henry Liddell and his children. Alice in Wonderland was born from the stories he would tell to amuse the children. While his book was very popular in the 1800s when it was published, he was a very shy man and he didn’t want to be ‘known’.

Supposedly fans of the book would write to him at Christ Church, addressing the letters to Lewis Carroll. When people tried to give him the letters, he was look at the name, then back at the person, replying with a smile; ‘oh, I don’t know this man’. And so, he managed to duck away from the fame.

Walking the corridors and cloisters of Christ Church, I found myself trying to picture Dodgson walking with the Liddell children and dreaming up Wonderland. In the grand meadow that surrounds the college, you could just picture the little Liddell’s racing through the icy mists chasing white rabbits.

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Across the road from the meadows, there is a small shop called Alice’s Shop.

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Alice Liddell used to visit the shop to buy her favourite barley sweets. And became the inspiration for The Old Sheep Shop in Wonderland.

We had fun poking around the shop and taking some sneaky pictures; well I say sneaky, sometimes I don’t know if people don’t like customers taking pictures… I just always assume they don’t, so it was sneaky to me (I do it all the time though! Got caught in Tokyo… one of the guys in the shop came up to me and crossed his arms in an ‘x’ sign, basically telling me ‘uh-uh, no pictures!’ hehe).

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While I was taking some pictures, Ridley hissed, ‘Tá sí ag feachaint!!’ (Irish for she is looking’). Sheepishly I withdrew my phone. Basically the girl in the shop thought I was stealing, oh crumbles, that’s embarrassing.

Anyway, we both ended up finding lots of nice things to buy in Alice’s shop.

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Book marks, for the marking of books 🙂

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Note pads and lovely mug 🙂

We both bought one of the Cheshire mugs! I love mugs.. I really really do! I constantly pause while drinking tea and will hold up my lovely cup and turn to the person in the room and say, ‘isn’t this a lovely cup?’ (haha :)) 

I love mugs! some are now pencil holders due to cracks, wahh :(

I love mugs! some are now pencil holders due to cracks, wahh 😦

The Cheshire one has this great trick… when you put hot water in it, Cheshire disappears leaving only a grin. You have no idea how much fun I had showing that off to people… yes, Latimer is easily amused 🙂

Find more of our Oxford Tales here 🙂

Forging Magic (Harry Potter-style!)

– Time for Tea! 🙂

Where Giant’s Roam

Latimer: Last weekend, I journeyed north – to the rugged and jagged cliffs of the county Antrim coast (Game of Throne’s country! :)).

Winter is Coming… Right?!

The Dark Hedges Antrim

I’m just after realising… I thought ALOT of the places I saw as we drove around the coast looked like the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones… and we ended up, having missed a turn, at a tiny, tiny harbour – and!- AND I just looked it up (it’s called Ballintoy) and it was a location for the Iron Islands on Game of Thrones!

Ballintoy Harbour

Iron Islands, Pyke… but actually Ballintoy… I’m in awe

Yo, Theon Greyjoy spin around, Latimer is waving at ya!

It was the back of beyonds. Wow, I’m actually just going ‘damn, I should have gotten out and ran around or something!’ (over his shoulder on the left-hand side facing us! up there near the cove… yep :)!). I even took note of the place, thinking, I must remember this place!

Anyway, going to Antrim was a first for me. It’s not that far from home, nowhere in Ireland is in fairness, but sometimes it takes a few years before we end up going to the places that we’ve always meant to go.

I’ve always meant to go to the Giant’s causeway; it’s one of those ‘on the list, but never seem to go’ sort of places (like Sceilig Mhichíl, the tiny rock monastery out in the Atlantic ocean; but that’s another story!).

Sceilig Mhichíl… another ‘on the list’ place

As we journeyed to the tip of Northern Ireland, I started thinking back on the story of the causeway, or what I remembered of it. In school I remember that we learned lots of the old Irish stories; children of Lir, Deirdre of the sorrows, Fionn and the Fianna (band of warriors) – I even remember learning about all the tests a young warrior had to do before he could join the Fianna; we had to draw a picture for each task and I think there were 12? I remember one of them was run through the forest while picking a torn out of your foot (and another task was to run through the forest without breaking a single twig!).

We learned a lot of Irish stories; we even did plays ‘as Gaeilge’ (in Irish). Children of Lir was a popular one (I played Fiachra? I think! In the act where the children are turned into swans… I play a child being turned into a swan very well, as it turns out! HA!).

The story of the causeway was a little fuzzy for me. The giant’s name was all I really remembered: Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

When we got to the causeway visitors centre, the story started to come back to me as I watched the CGI Fionn (known as ‘Finn Mac Cool’ in Northern Ireland, but ‘Fionn Mac Cumhaill’ in Irish) on the explanatory video they played.

This story, and the one that I remembered, was where Fionn was mocked by a Scottish giant who he could see beyond the sea in Scotland (jumping up and down and making gestures – the Scottish giant wanted a fight).

Fionn was enraged and threw stones into the sea to build a bridge to get to Scotland (one of the sods of earth became the Isle of Man – that’s a side-story!). He built the causeway, and traveled all the way to Scotland to confront this would-be foe.

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Fionn crept along the final steps of the causeway. He started to haul himself up the Scottish cliffs then paused. The Scottish giant, Cuhullin, was far bigger than Fionn. So, like any sensible person (and giant!), Fionn fecked off back home and shut the door. As his wife stared at him, with a ‘what have you gone and done?’ look on her face, the ground beneath them started to tremble! BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! Cuhullin was racing across the causeway to fight Fionn!

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Fionn’s wife, proving the clever one, told Fionn to get into their baby’s cot. She dressed him up as their baby and pulled the curtains to hide him from view.

Cuhullin banged on the door and she let him in. Fionn’s wife told Cuhullin that her husband was out. The giant pulled back the curtains and saw Fionn ‘the baby’ in his cot. What a massive baby, he thought, shaking in his boots – how big would his father be?! Fearing for his safety, Cuhullin raced back to Scotland.

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I remembered the name Fionn Mac Cumhaill as also being ‘Fionn and the Fianna’, the story of an Irish warrior and the fearsome Fianna warriors. As it turns out this Fionn and the giant share the name, but the two have very different stories.

If you have ever heard the story of Tir na nÓg (the land of the young) and the young Oisín who journeyed there on a white horse with a girl called Niamh; well, Fionn Mac Cumhaill (of Fionn and the Fianna fame) was Oisín’s father.

The causeway was beautiful, despite the typical Irish bad weather (winds that would whistle right through your bones and icy cold rain!). The rocks were a little dangerous, because of the wet and the wind, but never one to care I scrambled across them and out as far as I could go – by law! The rocks of the causeway are made of basalt, which is solidified lava. It was caused, in reality, by a volcanic eruption.

Apparently at one point in its life (around 1901), it was rumoured that the causeway was going to be moved to a Philadelphia park (stone by stone and rebuilt there). Thankfully it wasn’t, but lots of the stones were taken away and can be found all over the world.

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This box shows some of the places where you can find some of the Giants causeway! It’s very unlucky to remove stones and you are definitely not allowed anymore (my Mam kept saying; ‘wouldn’t you love some of those stones for your garden?’).

Back at the visitors centre we saw a collection of postcards from years ago, from people who visited the causeway (some would have been from the early 1900s). Very interesting to read voices from the past 🙂

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We also saw some lovely jewellery made from buttons by a woman called Jane Walsh (Button Studio) in Athlone Ireland. I couldn’t leave without one!

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The things you can do with buttons!

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Button rings!

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My button necklace

Also lots of Irish fudge and chocolate, yummers!

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Chocolate and fudge! Yummy! (That bench read; ‘can you fit in a giant teaspoon?’ and had a teaspoon drawn on it 🙂 )

We had another site to see while on the Antrim coast, the Carrack-a-Rede rope bridge. It’s a short rope bridge that leads over to an island where fishermen used to cast salmon nets (back in the old days they would cross the, then, one-rope bridge to collect their catch and haul it back over the nauseating cliff gap).

Not my picture, but this is clearer I think

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A view from a parallel cliff of the bridge. That island/rock is what you are crossing the bridge to get to.

I really, really wanted to cross the bridge (even though I was afraid). But the winds were far too dangerous and the bridge was closed for the day. The sharp, icy winds would have swept you right off the bridge, so no good, we weren’t getting across. It was annoying, but being that close to the cliff, I felt pretty scared anyway. I kept saying I would have done it anyway, and I would have, but it looked really scary.

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Uh-oh… the long way down! Eek

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Be brave Latimer… you will return to cross one day!!

There were steel steps leading downward to the bridge itself at a very steep angle. If I have a fear of something, it is the sea. I really don’t like it. But heights aren’t great either, and it was high up over the waves crashing violently against the cliffs, so… I’ll put it back on the list for a later date!

We saw a lot of stunning views of the rugged coastline and also stopped by a small ‘village’ (I’m not sure it was a village exactly, maybe a small collection of private houses right on the coast more like?).

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(I notice these pictures look like the place was warm… hmm, it was freezing and the wind would cut right through you!)

This was home to what is called (apparently) the smallest church in the world! It was basically in someone’s garden.

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Smallest church in the world

They had a gorgeous view of the sea and the loveliest little place to sit and watch the wave’s crash along the pebble-dash shore. It was very beautiful.

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This was a great trip – the causeway, the bridge and the Antrim coast should definitely be on the list of places you have to visit if you ever come to Ireland 🙂

The trip really made me think of all the old stories I learned in the past and I had this nice re-connect with my Irish-ness – all in perfect time for Lá Fhéile Pádraig (Paddy’s Day) this week 🙂

(also if you are interested in winning that kindle fire – the competition is still going on!)

Kindle Fire Giveaway!

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There’s a fantastic giveaway happening over at I Am A Reader, Not a Writer! We are one of the sponsoring authors for the Kindle Fire Giveaway for March. Go quick and enter, you could be in to win that beautiful gadget above! 😀

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Giveaway Details
1 winner will receive their choice of a Kindle Fire HD (US Only), $199 Amazon Gift Card or $199 in Paypal Cash (International).
Ends: 3/31/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW

Go HERE to enter.

Sponsoring Authors

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From Books to Television

Latimer: I just saw the Game of Thrones Season 3 trailer this week. God, it looks good! Mostly it reminded me of the brilliance of Tyrion Lannister.

He must be the top reason for watching Game of Thrones. He’s my top reason at least. He’s witty, intelligent and calculating. He’s not good by any means, he’s in it for himself, but you have to respect him like you can’t respect many of the other characters, because Tyrion knows how to play the game. 

His dwarfism makes him an unsuspecting player, it defines him a little at the start, but eventually he just becomes one of those characters almost Sherlock-like in his quickness. He’s got the best comebacks and in Peter Dinklage’s hands he is portrayed in such a cool way. Every moment he’s on screen, you find yourself screaming; “You rock!”

I’m starting to think about the quality of TV shows lately and how some books and comic book series make excellent TV shows.

I heard that Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series (which shamefully I have but haven’t read yet! Grr, bad Latimer!), is being made into a TV series instead of a movie.

Supposedly there is a lot in it that is more suited to TV than a movie. I think Game of Throne’s is the same, it makes an excellent TV show, but lots of the richness (and grim roughness) would have been lost in a movie.

And of course The Walking Dead is a comic book series that makes a fantastic TV show (that I have yet to fully watch, I’m so behind! :()

I wonder what Harry Potter the TV series would have been like? In a parallel world where it was a TV series, maybe produced by HBO with astronomical financing and effects (and I bet it was epic!).

The Vampire Diaries makes a good TV series, but it would have been a bad movie. And then I do think that Hunger Games and Twilight make better movies (the TV series’ would have been a bit too drawn out). 

And then there’s The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I’m reading it at the moment (and enjoying it, but that’s a later post!), and I keep thinking… ‘this would be a great TV series’. Apparently it’s one of those ‘it’s on, it’s off’ series. But… wow, seriously, watch out for it if it ever comes!

It seems to be a good time for TV! I can’t wait to hear of the next series to make it onto the little screen! Derek Landy’s Skulduggery, or Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl maybe? They might be fun to have running through our weeks 🙂