“Someone’s going to blow that place up soon.”

Said to me, in 2004, by a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. It was a few days before I flew to London, England, United Kingdom.  I answered him, “That’s why I have to go see it now.”  I got to see Big Ben, and Southbank, and the Inns of Chancery.  The next year, London was bombed.

As I write this, I am in Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey.  Forty-five people were killed here two weeks ago, by terrorists who apparently believed the same things as those who attacked New York City, London, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Baghdad, THREE cities in Saudi Arabia, and as of TODAY, Nice, in the south of France.

I am in Istanbul waiting to catch a plane.  To Nice.

I have been teaching English for the last ten months in Southern China. Almost without exception, all of my students are from very wealthy families (and, obviously, because I’m teaching them, they’re learning a foreign language). Yet almost NONE of them has ever been outside of China, for a vacation, or to hear English. For Chinese citizens, visiting other countries is extremely difficult. My students are in awe when I’ve told them I have visited NINE places: Canada, the United States, England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Iceland, and China.

I’m not going to see Istanbul beyond the airport today, but I WILL. And I am scheduled to be in France for a month. I’m not changing that.

I speak English and Spanish. I’m learning Mandarin. One of my favourite books growing up, Mischief in Fez, was about Morocco. I adapted it into a play because I wanted kids to know more about Islam, because I think Islam, and Muslim people, and the places where they live, are cool.

And YOU will not change that. You don’t get to tell ME or ANYONE else what they are allowed to be.

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Busy busy Acting Writing WOW

So.  StageStruck, the Edmonton Regional One-Act festival happened this past weekend.  I stopped posting a while ago about how The Ugly Princess was going, because things very nearly went…pear-shaped, as they would say in Scotland.  (That’s one of my favourite UK expressions, after “mingin’ ” – stinky – and “bollocks” – self-explanatory).  BUT, everyone pulled together, ended up playing the title role in my own play…and I won an award for Outstanding Actor.  I’m still gobsmacked.  To everyone who donated to the Writeathon to get me writing this play, and to everyone who saw it and wants to see again, THANK YOU. AND.  My play Crushed will be getting two performances shortly – one at a high school in Lac La Biche, Alberta, and the other at a university in Kingston-Upon-Thames.  And I’m getting paid for them. :O

My show about endometriosis WILL be at Edmonton Fringe 2015!

Okay, it’s also about sex and drinking (when I could still do that) in Scotland, and cats, as well as uteruses (uteri…?)

It was confirmed today that my redux of It Started With an Allergy will be on at the Strathcona Edmonton Public Library for Fringe this summer.  YAY!

Heather Morrow in It Started With an Allergy.  Photo by Adrien Guyot & Alix Popescu

Heather Morrow in It Started With an Allergy. Photo by Adrien Guyot & Alix Popescu

This blog is not a diary.

My grandmother, whom I previously mentioned here, passed away three weeks ago.

I have tried, as much as possible, to maintain this web presence as my public/Writer face. I established this blog and website to discuss theatre, and plug my own work.  WORK, which indeed involves me.  It’s not a place to very publicly whinge about my private life.

Which is why I haven’t blogged recently. My life, and those of everyone in my family, have been consumed by very personal loss.  Even if I could have written about it sooner, it’s not only my loss to talk about.

And, I simply have no idea what to say about it, even now.  It was long – she first became ill in 2005 – and it was slow, for her to go through, and for us to see.

It’d be easy to say she was my grandma – everybody has grandparents, and when they’re gone it’s a hole in your existence. Perhaps, unfortunately – like me with my mom – you didn’t have your grandparents very long, or you didn’t know them at all. Nonetheless, because of them, you’re here. However, if you did know know your grandparents, and don’t have them anymore…then that’s not enough to explain the hole.

I could say factual things: the house of my grandma and grandpa – who died in 2002 – was where my sisters, brother, and I went for EVERY vacation while growing up.  They literally supported me while I went to university. My grandma let me crash with her again when I came back from Scotland.  None of that explains it either.

The best I can come up with is that my grandma was one of my anchors…in the good sense. I almost always hear of anchors as a negative metaphor, holding someone down. Well, if you want the ship to move, and you can’t weigh anchor, then yes. But of course the anchor is also what keeps the ship from floating away randomly.

Without my grandma…practically all of my anchors are gone. She was the major reason I came back to Edmonton in 2008. So… do I just bob around now? Or steer myself somewhere and build a new anchor for myself? I’ve already answered that – and to end cryptically, that’s where my WRITING comes back in…and I’ll talk about that later.

I can never go back to Scotland?

Faithful readers will notice I’ve been quiet for a while – I’ll explain why tomorrow: this must come first. It won’t change anyone’s mind, but I’ll say it:

I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland, from 2004 to 2008. Because my paternal grandfather was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, in 1900 (yeah), I was able to get a UK Ancestry visa. The rules have now changed: at the time, I was allowed to live, and work, anywhere within the UK, for up to four years – and after staying for four years straight, I could have applied for “indefinite leave to remain”…one step short of citizenship in the European Union.

I fully intended to take that route. Obviously, it didn’t happen that way. I could’ve settled anywhere in the UK, but the second I arrived in Edinburgh, I thought “Why wasn’t I born here?” I utterly loved it there, and I have harboured a hope that one day, I could move back. So I’m being utterly selfish when I say I hope Scotland votes NO to independence from the United Kingdom tomorrow. I’ll know by the time I wake up in the morning.

I could say – I did on Facebook earlier today – that independence won’t solve Scotland’s issues as many think it will. Scotland can’t deal now with the highest heroin abuse, teenage pregnancy, and knife crime in Europe. I know for a fact that Scotland has a separate legal system – I worked at The Law Society of Scotland, as opposed to that of England and Wales. However, not ALL the laws are different: immigration, for example, which I also know about, because I had an Ancestry Visa! And I can just imagine everyone in the Eurozone looking at Scotland, using the British pound, and thinking “Are you NUTS?” What’s it going to be like for artists to go to the Edinburgh Fringe next year? If they’re coming from the US or Canada, will they need a visa for the first time ever?

The government of the UK are twats – Canada has a conservative government too, we sympathize – but that government will end. And as for the animosity some in England have for Scotland? Too many Scots feel the same way about England. I lived there. I know.

Finally: Many people in Scotland are convinced that being a one industry economy will be fine, as long as that one industry is oil. Please, please, if you vote yes tomorrow, LOOK TO NORWAY. Everything Norway has done, do that. DON’T look at Canada for oil advice. We’ve cocked it up.

Slainte.

“So you want to be a writer?”

For various reasons, I haven’t been writing lately. I have a new(ish) day job, which I go in to early and sometimes stay late at…and occasionally, it’s going into the weekends. I’m enjoying it. It’s a lot of responsibility, and at 39, I’m beginning to feel like an… adult. I’ve rearranged a number of other things in my life, and that’s making me feel more adult as well (Note: NOT “grownup”). I have been genuinely busy, and when I get home, I’m content to have dinner and do laundry and go to bed. All of this has kept me off Twitter, and the web…and from going to shows recently. And…I’m finding I don’t miss any of those things.

Yet I’m also feeling very cut off.

I’ve signed up for the upcoming Playwrights Circle myself, to work on The Ugly Princess, and I’m entering Marathon/Sprint (from Skirts Afire last year) into the Act One program of APN. It seems odd to me that I feel I need to force myself to make time to write – after all, if I need to do that, maybe I don’t want to. I do want to, however, but I had another scary moment this week…the thought entered my head: “what’s the point?”

My wonderful Take a Bite director Amy had agreed to direct The Ugly Princess at the Edmonton Fringe this year…should we get in, which we didn’t. I (briefly) entertained the idea of doing a BYOV anyway – which I swore I would never do again – because the idea of going a year without a show was galling. But in the end it just didn’t pan out. I think “what’s the point?” snowballed from “not enough audience cares for what you write – no one is interested in doing your shows themselves…if people aren’t interested in what you do… you can’t force them.”

I convinced myself I don’t have time to write just now anyway – which I don’t. But it makes me feel hollow that I don’t. Even if no one watches, even if no one else wants to produce my work…I still have ideas and I still want to write them.

Right before I left for Scotland ten (yikes) years ago, I ran across a book of Charles Bukowski’s poetry, Sifting Through the Madness for the Word the Line the Way. The very first poem was titled: “So you want to be a writer?” It was harsh. And honest. Even though I was leaving the country with only a backpack, I spent $40 on that book and brought it with me for that one poem. The basic idea I got from it was: “will you do it anyway? If no one listens, if you’re never published, if you die with this never being heard, will you write anyway?”

Yes. So, I am still a writer. Just writing that makes me feel a bit less hollow.

What you DON’T need in Edinburgh

When I decided to upend my life at 29, I went to Scotland because it seemed the least scary for a big move. To wit – I wanted to GET AWAY, but I knew a fair bit about the UK and Ireland because lots of friends had been there – Winchester, Galway, and Glasgow were on my list. I had the first three months there planned – wow, adventurous – and arranged for a job at a venue in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, because I figured at least I’d be among my people.

Now. Ever since I had decided theatre was going to preoccupy my existence, I had heard about Edinburgh. When high school drama students in Calgary, Alberta, Canada are aware of an event…well. A mere two months before I went, I happened to meet a lady ( and she was a LADY) from the Fringe office itself – I think it was at an information session for Magnetic North. She showed me that year’s program for the Fringe… It was, it is HUGE. I was heading for C Venues – their listings took up two pages. She cheerfully told me I wouldn’t sleep for the full three weeks and would need a liver transplant in the end.

Everything I heard about it was true… times one million.

One night, I was walking home to the flat I was sharing with 6 Fringe co-workers, and a frenzied looking fellow asked me out of nowhere:

“Oi! Wan some Ecstacy?!”

At that moment, about half a dozen young people ran by us, shrieking with laughter, wearing nothing but strategically placed glow in the dark duct tape.

I turned back to the guy who’d just tried to sell me drugs and said “What for?”

Seriously. I know Edinburgh is the setting Trainspotting. But considering the walking pianos, giant fruit, and gigantic purple cow with its legs in the air I saw while there…. I honestly wondered why you’d ever NEED drugs in Edinburgh. Going for a walk and watching the show is cheaper!