Meeting up … Down Under and Up Over

My plans to immerse myself in the ‘the life I never lived’ — as I’ve come to think of it — are progressing very nicely. I’ve bought my ticket for the long journey on the A380 airbus. I’m officially leaving Down Under and going … Up Over (sorry!) at the end of May. 

I’ve already joined three London-based writing groups, signed up for a week-long writers’ retreat in Shropshire (I love saying that … Shropshire), and badgered (more than once) a literary festival in Stoke Newington about their ongoingly imminent program.

And today, I thought I might tell you a bit about the writing groups.

MeetUp logo To start of with, have you heard of Meetup? It’s an absolutely buzzing website, it almost sparks off the screen at you. Basically, it’s is a social media platform through which you can seek out groups of like-minded people anywhere in the world.

I found the London Literary Cafe, Write Together and the London ALLI Meetup group. (ALLI stands for Alliance of Independent Authors. It was nice to see that the London-based members of this important online group of indie writers catch up face to face.)

I found heaps of other groups too, but these are the ones I’ve joined and I’ll let you know about each of them in more detail when I actually get along to them. (Pictures and all, if the members will let me!)

Two other groups I joined are ‘London for Less’ and ‘London for Less than a Tenner’. Ha! I’ll let you know if I actually get along to any of their stuff. They both seem to get along to a lot of plays, musicals and comedy shows — and if you’re to go by the photos, they appear to have a very jolly time.

And while I was on the hunt for London-based groups, I suddenly thought, I wonder if there are any people using Meetup back here in my hometown? I was amazed! There are thousands of Melbourne groups on Meetup. Possibly more than London. Some fantastic-looking groups, and about all manner of things. I won’t tell you what’s there. Way too many. Have a look for yourself, if you’re interested. See what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Here’s the link (but if you go, don’t forget to come back!).

Warf Hotel reducedI’ve been along to two groups already. I especially enjoyed The Melbourne Writers’ Social Group who meet at The Warf Hotel on the Yarra River (in Melbourne, obviously). The group turned out to be just the way they sound: a laid back, welcoming bunch of writers (and interested others), who sit around with a beer or wine and chat about writing. (Me included, now.) A number of us read out short excerpts of our stuff and I was very appreciative of the quick and useful feedback I received from around the table. Their Meetup page is here, if you’re curious.

Now that I’ve made a song and dance about it, maybe have a look at Meetup and check out what’s going on in your own area? You’ll need to register (free, of course) if you want to join anything.

Meanwhile, because I like any opportunity to stick pictures into posts that I write, I’ll sign off with this pic of the tree in my front garden. (What the hell, why not?) Do you recall it from my previous post? This is how it looks right now, in Autumn, in Melbourne. They don’t call the tree Sunburst for nothing…

Tree1 reduced

Sampling the life I never had

I’m off to England for the summer. Their summer, that is. During Australia’s winter.

Let me give you a little bit of a background as to why this is such a big thing for me. My family migrated from England to Australia  over 40 years ago. And in that time I have been back once. Once! And briefly at that! And that was twenty-seven years ago. I think it’s safe to say I don’t really know a lot about the country of my birth and childhood. I listen to a heap of UK bands. I’ve watched MANY UK shows, everything from New Tricks and Downton Abbey to the oh-so-wonderful shows such as Scott and Bailey, Broadchurch and Last Tango in Halifax. But firsthand, I’ve only old memories, like a book I once read.

Aust-Eur mapSo I’m packing my bags and covering the vast distance from Melbourne to London, going back for a decent visit.

I want to sample the life I never had. Leastways, that’s how I’ve come to think of it. Over the years, I’ve often wondered what my life would have been like had my family not uprooted us — family of five, me the second youngest and with no real idea — and whisked us all to the other side of the planet.

What would the ‘other me’ have been like? The one that never left? OK, only I might be interested in the answer to that, but it has bugged me for years. There are three things I want to do in the UK, because I’m pretty sure the other me would have done something like them…

1. I want to immerse myself in writing in the UK. The other me would have been into writing — my love of writing predates my trek to this enormous country weighing down the other side of the planet. Probably from the time my teacher at junior school read The Hobbit to us at the start of school everyday. Marvellous, that was.

Heron LP2. I want to immerse myself in UK music. The other me would most certainly have been into UK music in a big way (punk and new wave, no doubt). Before we migrated, I thrashed to death After the Goldrush and Abbey Road as soon as they came out. And an especially wonderful record by a band few remember anymore called Heron. I’m talking, like, when I was nine or 10.

3. I want to live in London. The other me would have lived in London, of this I’m sure! My family migrated to one of Australia’s smaller cities, Geelong. As soon as I could, I moved to the more cosmopolitan Melbourne.

So, come UK summer, I will relocate to London (and explore beyond, as much as I can afford to), where I will hopefully meet the kind of people that might have been my friends, had I never left. And walk the streets and visit the kinds of places I might have frequented…

In the meantime, it feels appropriate to finish up this blog post by telling you a little bit about where I am right now. The life I do have.

I’ll do it in pictures. Why not! My hope is to give you many more picaroonies from the other side of the planet, when I at last set out in May.

Here’s the front of my house. A 1932 (erh, I think) Californian bungalow. These houses are very popular in Australia and affectionately referred to as cal-bungs. Mine (mine and Gina’s really, my wife) is behind that big tree, a gleditsia triacanthos – isn’t it great that I actually know its botanical name? My daughter spent much of her childhood in that tree.

Front of my house (comp)

Here’s the back of my house. Just what you always wanted to see. Now you can. The picture includes the staunch defender of the house — Sparks the Incredible.

Back, with Sparks (comp)

Here’s the incredible canine house alarm in action.

And while I’m about it — what the hell — here’s where I work (doing social work stuff). At the top of town.

St Andrew's Square

Actually, the building I’m in is slightly to the right, diagonally behind those palm trees…

St As Place1

Here’s the old tram stop from which I used to catch trams into the main part of town. The stop is still there, but now we have brand-spanking new tram stops more akin to railway station platforms, smack bang in the middle of the road, where some cars and bikes forget to stop.

Tram shelter

And here’s a snap of my favourite building in Melb. Not far down the road from where I work. I couldn’t resist chucking it into this post. It’s quite something, isn’t it?

Manchester Unity Building

OK. I’d better sign off before I drive you mad with more random pictures (and dog barking videos) from my life.

I will be back to keep you posted about my UK writing and music plans as they progress. (Excitement everybody!)

Part 2 – Talk about it. Shout about it. Live it!

This is the second of my guest posts written for Silk Screen Views. I was invited by Silk Screen Views to write about my journey as a writer. Central to this post is a reflection on my family’s migration to the outer suburbs of an industrial town in Australia and the impact that had on my ambitions to write.

You can check it out here.

And, as I said yesterday, while you’re there, don’t forget to have a look around the rest of Silk Screen Views’ beautiful website.

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Like to find out more about my books? You can check out my Amazon pages here …

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