Saturday, 25 June 2011

Write on, Explorers

On Monday I went to a talk given by Sara Sheridan, author of Secret of the Sands and explorer of the archives. It was hosted by the Section for Specialist Repositories and I went along as a baby archivist and as a dabbling writer (I should really mention there was also a fantastic free lunch). Some of my inspiration for my writing has come from handling documents in the archives. The first story I wrote in years was based upon my work with Gartnavel psychiatric records called Weber’s Puzzle (which will remain in the dreaded ‘To Edit’ pile for some time). Historians can lean towards writing historical fiction; especially if their research covers time periods with large gaps in the records. I attended a talk given by Alison Weir a number of years ago and she stated that such writers have to make a decision: do I write a monograph or do I write a novel based on the facts? Sara mentioned that a lot of historians are jealous of her job of ‘making things up.’

Sara was a fantastic speaker and I wonder if she has some archival fever in her blood. She covered topics that are important to today’s archivists: access, digitisation, copyright, the dawn of e-book readers. She spoke of chasing people through the records which struck a chord with me. I have dealt with many enquiries about individuals that bounced in and out of Glasgow’s asylums in the early twentieth century. My heart would break as the records revealed the sad truth of someone’s life. Post-natal depression was a common feature. Today that would be treatable. Back then, women were kept locked away for years with a little note that said Cause of Insanity: Post-partum melancholia. Many times I have wondered what that woman’s story was. What was their house like? How many children did they have? Did they miss being around their family? What was their favourite food? and on and on.

I was fortunate enough to chat to Sara over lunch. I was touched she had looked at this blog after I said hello to her on Twitter. It reminded me that I have neglected it over the past couple of months. She gave me advice about publishing my work for the Kindle; something I had not considered. At times I felt guilty about the advice she was giving me: after all, she was here to give a talk about archives not fight off a plucky young writer. It made me realise that I need to do something with the things I make up.

With this in mind, I have managed to borrow a house for a week in July. I plan to use this week to fire through my ‘To Edit’ folder which holds at least twenty doc files. Hopefully I will end the week with a decent body of work that I can create a collection of short stories from. Perhaps I’ll find a character I can squeeze a novel out of during that time. I am in awe of people who can write novels or find characters that they want to spend that amount of time with. My character might be languishing in my C drive, waiting to be discovered.

So thank you, Sara, for giving me that push and tweeting a link to this blog.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Writing Wednesdays: Gusto and Relish

Gusto and Relish
729 – 731 Pollokshaws Road
South Side

Gusto and Relish is two doors down from Tapa, the first cafe I reviewed in this series. I had not visited Gusto before but had heard glowing reports of its food. As well as being a cafe, Gusto has a deli counter filled with lovely goodies to take home. Due to the on-going diet (upcoming post about that) I resisted the temptation today. Though I may return to buy some of the chilli chocolate bars as a treat.

For the newbies, I divide my reviews into the following categories:

·                     Feed me for a fiver
·                     Good coffee
·                     Table space
·                     Power outlets and Wi Fi access
·                     Friendliness of staff
·                     General atmosphere

Feed me for a fiver

Goodness me, Gusto certainly rose to this challenge. I was immediately offered cake by the friendly girl at the counter. As tempting as it was to have a purely cake lunch, I declined and asked for a look at their menu. The choice for a vegetarian was excellent with the lunch menu taking the humble sandwich and making it sound exotic. Eventually I chose the bruschetta with haloumni, olive tapende, red tomato and red onions at £5.65. Over budget by 65p but oh so worth it. I had a generous two slices of bread and hearty helpings of haloumni to chomp down. The plate came with a lovely salad and some delicious cous cous. You can find out more about Gusto and Relish’s menu here. They also have daily specials which you can find out more about on Facebook.

There’s table service and my order arrived rather quickly, despite it being busy with the lunch crowd. Extra thumbs up from me, especially as I was doing battle with my Wi Fi dongle (more on that later).

N.B. Gusto and Relish take credit/debit card payments but add a charge of £0.50 for transactions under £10.00.


A black coffee with milk on the side (I’m a fusspot) comes to £1.85. It tasted wonderful and much better than some of the watery concoctions that some chain coffeeshops offer. Excellent value for money.

Table Space

The tables at Gusto must be magic. At a table for two I could easily fit my netbook, A4 notepad, Kindle, glass of water, coffee cup and pencil case with plenty of room to spare. After all, they need big tables to accommodate the HUGE portions they dish out. The front of the cafe appears to cater for large groups (4 or more) while the back has more tables for two. Tables at the back have a mixture of bench and small stool seating which I can uncomfortable for long periods of time. Instead I decided to park at one of the tables for two with your standard-chair-with-back. The tables are well spaced out so you can spy on your neighbours or you can lose yourself in your work.

Power Outlets and Wi Fi

Alas Gusto seemed a bit short on power points. I spotted two but they were up the back beside the bench seating. Instead I decided to brave my netbook battery which seemed to behave for once.

There is no wi fi available at Gusto which is probably a USP for people. I had a wi fi dongle with me but it had run out of credit. Poor planning on my part so I decided to give up on the Web and actually do some work for a change. The battery on my netbook did last longer than usual and I spent less time refreshing Facebook pages. Still, this is a very minor negative and only affects writers that prefer the keyboard over the pen.

How friendly staff are?

As hinted above, the staff here are very friendly. Despite being busy, every customer got a warm welcome and a smile. Nothing seemed to be a bother and they seemed unfazed by the large groups coming through the door. They put up with my numerous questions and were apologetic about the lack of wi fi. My stay was not very long today but I didn’t feel under pressure to buy more coffee for the time I was there.

General atmosphere

I visited during the lunch period and it was very busy; especially with large groups. However the atmosphere was pleasant and I wasn’t distracted by the traffic coming in and out. There was quiet background music being played which become cancelled out by the chatter. I was working on some rather emotive material but I felt so relaxed in Gusto which took the edge off a little.

I have passed Gusto and Relish several times at the weekend and it has been packed out. After visiting today, I’m not surprised. Friendly staff, great food and a lovely atmosphere. What more could a writer girl (or guy) want?