September: A New Year, A New Look

September, for me, as it is for many, has always been the beginning of the year. Resolutions that come with September have more weight than those made in January. And they make more sense, too. Better to change your life in the fall, rather than in January when it’s thirty below.
I took a break from blogging over the summer. I needed the time to read, to write, and to be with family. I visited my daughter in Scotland, went to Lethbridge for a family funeral, visited family on Vancouver Island, and spent time with my eldest daughter who was home for a month from Australia. But the school year has begun, and my days are much more constrained: teaching, preparing classes, and marking will be the major features on my landscape for the next eight months.
I’ll eventually share some of what I encountered over the summer, but in the meantime, enjoy the new website, It will be a work in progress for a while. I needed the break from blogging over the summer, but building the new site kept me busy—among other things. Such projects have, for me, a steep learning curve, and I swore often and vociferously as I figured it out.
But summer is always the best time for trying and learning new things. Apart from learning something about website design, I learned some painful lessons about writing and submitting short fiction; I sat on Hadrian’s Wall; I tried haggis in Edinburgh and deep-fried pickles at Taste of Edmonton.
I read and read, not as much as I wanted, and not as much as you’d think. One of my favourite summer reads was The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I’m sure this series isn’t for everyone, but I was hooked before finishing the first book.
I hope you’ve had a summer that goes on feeding you as the days shorten into winter. For now, enjoy the fall. If you live in Edmonton, remember to get a look at the river valley, preferably from high up. The wash of muted colour with the river at its heart will remind you that that autumn, as brief as it can be in Edmonton, is a beautiful time of year.

More on Harry Potter, the Glasgow connection

many people argue about influences on the Harry Potter series. I mostly think of J. R. R. Tolkien or C. S. Lewis. You could argue for other literary influences on the series, but such influences extend to people and places as well. One of those places, I’m discovering, is Glasgow, Scotland.
I don’t know how much time Rowling ever spent in Glasgow, but she must have visited, at least. Edinburgh, where Rowling lives, is just a short train ride away. And interestingly, the two cities share a similar rivalry to that of Edmonton and Calgary. Both are interesting places, historically and architecturally; and both are home to lovely people.
Edinburgh boasts the elephant House, “The birthplace of Harry Potter,” which I wrote about earlier this week. There’s a view of Edinburgh Castle from the window where Rowling allegedly worked on the first three books in the series. The castle, more like a fortress, is forbiddingly positioned on Castle rock above the town, and it must have figured somewhere into the series—perhaps Harry’s first sight of Hogwarts castle in Philosopher’s stone. But Glasgow has something else—two somethings, in fact.
If you walk up to Glasgow cathedral, a gorgeous medieval structure in the gothic style, you will find right next door St Mungo Museum of Life and Art. Yes, St Mungo. Mungo is the patron saint of Glasgow, died 612, CE, and it’s also the name given to the hospital in the Harry Potter series.
St Mungo’s doesn’t appear in the series until Goblet of fire, but Harry visits the hospital in order of the Phoenix. In the same book, we encounter the Fountain of Magical Brethren upon Harry’s visit to the Ministry of Magic. Here’s the description:
“Halfway down the hall was a fountain. A group of golden statues, larger than life-size, stood in the middle of a circular pool. Tallest of them all was a noble-looking wizard with his wand pointing straight up in the air. Grouped around him were a beautiful witch, a centaur, a goblin, and a house-elf. The last three were all looking adoringly up at the witch and wizard. Glittering jets of water were flying from the ends of the two wands, the point of the centaur’s arrow, the tip of the goblin’s hat, and each of the house-elf’s ears, so that the tinkling hiss of falling water was added to the pops and cracks of Apparators and the clatter of footsteps …”
Tell me the fountain of Magical Brethren wasn’t inspired by The doulton fountain, located today on Glasgow Green, first constructed in honour of queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1887, and set on display for the 1888 International Exhibition at Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. Queen Victoria presiding over her colonies is too much like the fatuous wizard presiding over the witch and other magical creatures to be a coincidence. You may not agree, but it was the first thing I thought as my daughter and I walked round and round that fountain.
Glasgow is a fabulous city. It’s more like home in some ways than I ever thought a city could be. It’s known as the river city, just like Edmonton, except Glasgow boasts two rivers, the clyde and Kelvin. If you visit, you can spend time at the Glasgow Cathedral, St Mungo Museum, and take a walk on the Glasgow Green to check out the doulton Fountain. Many other sites await. Then, hop a train and visit Edinburgh, where you can find the Edinburgh castle and royal Mile, which, if you like castles, is the place to start. If you don’t, you won’t ever be without something to do. And don’t forget to drop into The elephant House for coffee or lunch—and bring a laptop or pen and paper so you can write in the back room and stare pensively at the walls of Edinburgh Castle as you do.