Edinburgh Zoo

A couple of weeks ago we decided to visit Edinburgh Zoo. I hadn’t been for a few years but going back reminded me of how conflicted the Zoo makes me feel. On the one hand it is great to be able to see animals that I would never have an opportunity to see otherwise, but on the other hand I can’t help but wonder how being kept in enclosures affects them, especially the bigger animals like the tigers and rhinos. I can only hope that they are well cared for and for the most part they certainly seemed to be.

First up were the meerkats and they are just as adorable as I expected them to be. One was on sentry duty as they would be in the wild and the others were having a great time digging in the earth. A couple of younger ones even had a little play fight.

Continue reading “Edinburgh Zoo”

Advertisements

An Evening with Laini Taylor

In the past year I have been lucky enough to meet quite a few of my favourite authors – Cassandra Clare, Leigh Bardugo and Rainbow Rowell. On Thursday night I added to this list when I attended a talk and signing by Laini Taylor, author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, at Waterstones West End, Edinburgh.

It was by chance that I found out Laini was touring the UK promoting her new book, Strange The Dreamer. I happened to see a tweet from publishers Hodder & Stoughton about it and I was thrilled to learn Edinburgh would be one of the stops on the tour. Since reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have been a big fan of Laini. Her writing is so lyrical and her stories are just epic.

There was quite a diverse crowd at the event. I am used to feeling a little silly for being surrounded by teenagers at these YA book signings, but surprisingly there were a few older people there and some girls who seemed to be about my own age. It is great to see that people of all ages are interested in a YA author and it shows that the genre has a much bigger reach than its intended market.

Moreover, I do genuinely feel that Laini Taylor’s writing is not your typical YA writing. To me, her books read like any adult novel. Now, I get annoyed when people claim that YA is less challenging than adult fiction because that is a terrible generalisation to make. There are so many challenging YA novels out there that are written very well. Laini Taylor’s books, however, have a particular maturity to them. Her language is prosaic and could rival any work of literary fiction.

It was great to hear her talk about how she writes such amazing prose. She confessed that she is a perfectionist and that this held her back from completing a novel for many years. The thing that struck me the most about her was how down-to-earth she was. She was very candid about her writing process and how self-critical she can be when it comes to her own work. I could relate to a lot of her issues regarding perfectionism with writing and I found myself nodding along when she described the frustration it causes.

After the talk we all had the opportunity to have our books signed. I always get slightly anxious when meeting authors. I usually end up blabbering a load of nonsense but Laini was so nice and friendly. It was brilliant to get to meet her and have my copy of Strange The Dreamer signed.

I am a quarter of the way through it now and so far I am enjoying it immensely. I can’t wait to see where it will take me, but I am certain it will be another epic adventure.

Practicing my Photography

My name is Annette Nimmo and I am obsessed with photographs. Ask my friends and family. Everywhere I go I like to have my camera handy to snap pictures of every little thing. It drives my boyfriend mad at times, especially when I shout ‘Selfie!’ for the tenth time. But the way I see it, photographs are lasting, tangible memories. I love nothing more than looking back on holiday snaps and remembering how much fun I had.

While I love taking pictures, I wouldn’t say I was a natural photographer. I tend to just point and shoot and hope for the best. I’ve been trying to improve, but my camera is a standard digital camera and doesn’t take the best pictures anymore. Last Sunday I got the chance to play with a proper, professional-style camera when my other half entrusted his camera to me on a family trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

Figuring out how to work the damn thing was my first challenge. With the man off at work there was no one to give me guidance. I’m used to pointing my camera at something and hitting the shutter. With this fancy piece of equipment I had to focus the lens and work out the zoom before I could even contemplate taking a picture. I soon discovered that simply aiming the camera in the general direction of a flower was not sufficient.

The Royal Botanic Gardens are brilliant for photo opportunities. With spring trying to make its mark, many of the flowers were in bloom, providing a perfect subject. There were a lot of rhododendrons and after some trial and error I managed to snap a few relatively okay pictures of them.

DSC_0121 Continue reading “Practicing my Photography”

Christmas Lights

Nothing shouts Christmas quite like a trip to a winter wonderland. With lights, rides and music blasting out all around you, it really does create a festive atmosphere that is impossible to resist.

Here in Edinburgh there is quite a lot of festive events. Arguably the highlight is the vast market in Princes Street Gardens. With a range of stalls selling all manner of handmade items, food and drink, it is the place to go if you want to inject some festive cheer into your life.

DSC04216

Unfortunately for us, the night we decided to go proved to be cold, damp and dismal. Winter in Scotland can be brutal, and this past week has seen one gale after another hit the city. Typically the rain was pelting down and the wind was howling as we ventured out. Were you insane, I hear you ask? Quite possibly, but with our work we couldn’t find any other day to go and for me it isn’t Christmas without a visit to the market.

Normally I love being surrounded by lights and Christmas tunes, but even I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm with my clothes sticking to my skin. Luckily we discovered the Bothy, an indoor bar where we warmed up over hot chocolate. We also managed to get a few almost-good pictures of the lights without having to brave the elements.

DSC04209

DSC04210

Somehow even on the stormiest nights, the sight of all those lights is still comforting. December would be a bleak month without Christmas. The days are so short and dull, the weather atrocious. Think about the last time you saw a house all lit up. Didn’t it make you smile even though you were having a bad day? It might have been wet and miserable that night, but I must admit that from the shelter of inside the sight of so much brightness and colour did make me feel happier.

We might have ended up like a pair of drookit rats, but we certainly made some memories that we can look back and laugh about. At the end of the day, that is what Christmas is about – memories that will last you a lifetime.

Botanic Gardens

After last week’s set-back we finally made it to the Botanic Gardens this week. As it turned out we were blessed with perfect weather – blue skies and moderate warmth. It was even nicer than when we’d originally planned to go, which made me kind of glad that our plans had gone awry the week before.

001

Set in 70 acres of parkland, the Gardens are visually stunning. Bathed in beautiful autumn sunshine the Gardens really were lovely. You felt as if you were out in the countryside and not in the middle of a city.

098

I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I don’t actually know all that much about flowers or gardening. I can identify common flowers like roses and lilies and I know the grass has to be cut when it gets too long, but that’s about as green-fingered as I get. Luckily the Gardens have little plaques telling you the Latin names of all the plants and flowers and the sights are so lovely that you don’t need to know anything about horticulture to enjoy them. Continue reading “Botanic Gardens”

Theatre Review: War Horse

War Horse_text

Monday just past, I was lucky enough to go to the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh to see the National Theatre’s production of War Horse. I bought the tickets as a Christmas present for my mum. Ever since we both read the book we have wanted to catch the stage version, and to my relief there were still seats available back in early December. At the time I didn’t realise just how close to the stage we would be. We were in the second row and our view was amazing. Our seats were also close to the ramp that Joey trotted down, so we had a brilliant close-up of him.

I’ve heard several people say that the show is stunning and the horses realistic, but I don’t think I was prepared for just how spectacular the whole production would be. The stage was very simply set up, with a canvas-cum-screen that acted both as a sketchbook and map at different points throughout the show. I was fascinated watching the moving sketch of Albert and Joey out riding while Lieutenant Nicholls drew them. There were several haunting songs that struck the right balance of emotion and story-telling. When the whole cast sung at the end I got a lump in my throat.

The horses, of course, are the heart of the production. I was very interested to see for myself how they were represented on stage. I’d seen news clips of how the actors worked together to make the horses seem as real as possible, but seeing it for myself was something else. Your brain tells you that it is not an actual horse, that there are actors inside the frame, but somehow you don’t notice any of that. Due to some very talented actors you feel as if you are looking at an actual horse. The movements and sounds are all so real, and the eyes of both Joey and Topthorn appear to glisten, so that when they look at you, you feel as if you are looking into a living horse’s eyes. There were many occasions when I felt that Joey had expressions on his face – sadness, weariness, contentment – and that for me made the whole experience fascinating.

High praise must be extended to everyone involved in War Horse. Every actor was beyond brilliant. They lived and breathed their parts, from the puppeters portraying the horses, to the Narracott family and the soldiers on the front line. Lee Armstrong was tremendous as Albert Narracott. You truly believed in the affection between Albert and Joey, and you shared in his growing despair and trauma as the war wore on. Martin Wenner was superb as Friedrich Muller, showing us a man disenchanted and sickened by a war that had torn him from his family. One of the best things about War Horse, both the book and the stage show, is the lack of bias. It could have been all too easy to paint the German soldiers in a negative light, but War Horse presents us with a generation of men, of all nationalities, forced to fight in hellish conditions, surrounded by horrors we cannot even imagine. We don’t see them as German or British soldiers, but as men trapped in a nightmare from which they cannot escape.

War Horse is harrowing. I remember how emotional I was while reading the book. This production has captured the emotional heart of the book perfectly. There were several occasions where I had a lump in my throat, and by the end the tears were streaming down my face. The man sitting next to me, who was in his twenties, was even sniffling. You know a show is powerful when it reduces grown men to tears!

I enjoyed every minute of War Horse, and I cannot recommend it enough. If you have a chance to go and see it, please do. You will be left stunned at the special effects, and moved by a story about love and friendship and the senseless suffering of war. It is a timely production, considering that this year is the centenary of the First World War. I certainly came away with a new perspective on what those men must have faced, and a stronger respect for them for sacrificing and suffering so much so that we could be here today.