A fairytale trip, NaNo and a little bit of news

I’ve been a bad bad writer, not keeping you all up to date.¬† But I have also been very busy.

So I give you a brief report of our Halloween trip, something about NaNo and some news. The news is at the end. Yes, I’m making you wait. I’m mean like that!

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Some time ago, while torturing myself with the websites of places I want to visit I came across a deal at the beautiful Ashford Castle in Cong, Co. Mayo for a family one or two night stay with a Harry Potter theme. We decided to go for it. We hadn’t done anything in particular to celebrate the sale of May Queen to Dial Books and it seemed like the perfect treat.

We wildly underestimated that.

As we didn’t tell the kids it meant I was the one getting more and more excited until I thought I would burst. I think I said at one point if it didn’t meet my inflated expectations I’d be devastated! Luckily it exceeded them!

It is a beautiful place. Lots of the estate is wooded so right up my alley. There is a falconry centre there. It’s a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group, and probably the best in Ireland. But what made it wonderful was the welcome we got, the gentle humour that permeates everything and the friendliness of all the staff, from management to the guy manning the gate. They were fantastic. Little touches, like the assistant manageress who was running the Hogwarts event introducing herself to each of our kids and making sure they knew they could come to her for anything, jokes from the barman, or the speech about the cheese board from our waiter. The Harry Potter outfits were laid out on the kids’ beds when we got there, and they went off for their 6 1/2 hours of visiting owls, flying hawks, arts & crafts, dinner and watching Harry Potter films in “the common room”. Our dinner that evening was a five course banquet of fairly epic proportions. So was breakfast. We couldn’t really eat again until Monday!

We booked ourselves in for the falconry school too. OMG what an experience. The birds were beautiful, and strangely cat-like (must be the predator). Our guide & handler was Diego who was fab–really interesting and well informed, taught us SO much about all aspects of falconry. It dates back 4,000 years to Korea (apparently) and has something of ritual about most aspects. We flew two Harris Hawks, Seancha√≠ (a young male) who was to be my bird for the day and the matriarch of the school Rua, who hates Dingle the Owl and frequently, if bored on a flight, goes back home to try to kill him. EWH had her. For a while. She decided to come to me most of the time instead. I have no idea why!¬† Nevertheless, we bonded.

Wonderful does not cover the experience. I’ve never felt so exhilerated as for that hour and a half. One of the best things I’ve ever done. They are just incredible creatures.

There are more pictures on my facebook of the Castle, the grounds, the hawks and of Cong Abbey which we visited the following day. And one or two of us.

Like this (Note the cheesy grin)

All in all one of the best decisions for a night away we’ve ever made. I came back feeling like I’d been on holiday for a week.

I decided to do NaNo this year having not really done it before but occassionally joining in with other friends. I’m enjoying it so far, although I appear to wholeheartedly agree with the advice to allow yourself to write crap. It is indeed crap. I console myself with the thought that first drafts usually are and I will spend some time fixing it later. Not sure what the book is going as yet – I thought it was going one way, but it seems to have a mind of its own. Much like every book I’ve ever written. And Rua. I’m using the stunningly original name of RFLong on the NaNo site should anyone want to play along.

And finally

*drumroll*

I’m delighted to tell you I’ll be at Wexworlds at the end of the month. Lucky for me its just an hour or so down the road from my house! Very excited about this one. As soon as I can post details about the schedule I will. YAY!

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